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College Football Playoff preview: Handicappers side with Buckeyes

The last time bettors saw Ohio State’s football team, the Buckeyes were being steamrolled in the fourth quarter on their home field.

But don’t believe the recency bias, according to two handicappers who side with the Buckeyes in Saturday’s Peach Bowl against top-seeded Georgia.

Ohio State is a consensus 6½-point underdog at Las Vegas sportsbooks, and the line has hardly budged since the semifinal matchups were announced Dec. 4.

“This is probably one of the better semifinal games we’ve had in recent years,” said Wes Reynolds, co-host of VSiN Live Bet Tonight. “I think that the market probably overreacted, at least just a tad, to the Michigan loss. If you’re looking to buy on weakness here, it would certainly be Ohio State.”

The Buckeyes were one of the preseason favorites alongside Alabama and Georgia to win the national title and rolled to an 11-0 record behind quarterback C.J. Stroud, a stacked receiving corps and an improved defense.

In the final regular-season game on Nov. 26, Ohio State led rival Michigan at halftime but wore down and was outscored by the Wolverines 21-3 in the fourth quarter on the way to a 45-23 loss.

Reynolds, who won the Review-Journal College Football Challenge with a 40-25 record, believes Georgia went largely untested in the Southeastern Conference’s East Division.

Ohio State ranks No. 1 in yards per play margin and is 8-2 straight up in its past 10 games as an underdog, according to Reynolds.

“If I could get 7 (points), I would certainly be interested in Ohio State,” Reynolds said. “But you’re not seeing a lot of movement in the market.”

Handicapper Dana Lane (@Danalanesports) said Ohio State enters the playoffs in similar fashion to Georgia last season, when the Bulldogs lost in the SEC title game and went on to win the national championship.

He likes Ohio State to cover against Georgia and maintains faith in the Buckeyes defense, despite the fact it allowed 30 points to Maryland the week before it was trampled by Michigan.

“We tend to remember what we just saw. I just think once we get to the bowl season, I think it’s a completely different season,” Lane said. “I love teams that I feel like are the more disrespected, especially when I’m getting a good team behind that. For Ohio State, their defensive integrity has been questioned for weeks.

“This was (an Ohio State) defense that up until two games ago we considered one of the best in the nation. Let’s not forget that.”

Lane also recommends under the total, which is anywhere from 62 to 63 after opening as low as 60½.

“There’s no question how good Georgia is defensively, and the under has been a play for Georgia in bowl games,” Lane said. “It’s been a real good play for Georgia in neutral-site games.”

Fiesta Bowl

Michigan is Lane’s choice to win the national title. But he believes underdog Texas Christian will cover against the Wolverines because of Horned Frogs quarterback Max Duggan, the Heisman Trophy runner-up.

Michigan is a consensus 7½-point favorite after opening as 9-point chalk.

“I just think that this game is going to be a lot more difficult than people think,” Lane said. “TCU has a better chance of making Michigan one-dimensional than Michigan does to make TCU one-dimensional. And that really comes down to the athletic ability of Duggan.”

The Wolverines are without leading rusher Blake Corum, but backup Donovan Edwards gained 401 yards and averaged 8.53 yards per carry in the final two games against Ohio State and Purdue.

The total sits anywhere from 58 at Circa Sports to 59 at Station Casinos, and Reynolds leans to the under.

“This is such a step up for TCU in terms of the defense that they are facing,” Reynolds said. “We’ve kind of seen this too with (Michigan coach Jim) Harbaugh, he will run the ball. And he will kick field goals.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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