Urban Meyer is one of 16 college football coaches in NCAA history with at least three national titles. But Ohio State fans haven’t missed Meyer this season, and the Buckeyes haven’t missed a beat under rookie coach Ryan Day, winning their first five games by a combined score of 262-43.
“Their defense didn’t play anywhere near this level when Meyer was coaching them. It’s a completely different team,” said Ed Salmons, Westgate sportsbook vice president of risk management. “Ohio State reminds me of Clemson last year. They keep getting better and better and better.”
The Buckeyes rolled 48-7 Saturday at Nebraska — torching so-called sharp money on the Cornhuskers — and are 20-point home favorites Saturday over Michigan State.
“I know some people are going to go with (Spartans coach Mark) Dantonio as an underdog angle. But you won’t catch me betting Michigan State,” Salmons said. “It’s Ohio State or pass for me.”
Dantonio is on a 21-9 cover streak as an underdog but 0-2 ATS his last two games against Ohio State. CG Technology took sharp plays on the Spartans at plus 21 and plus 20½.
Ohio State (-20) over Michigan State
Handicapper Ken Thomson likes the Buckeyes (4-1 ATS) to cover behind quarterback Justin Fields, a Heisman Trophy candidate, and defensive end Chase Young, who has eight sacks and is a top NFL prospect.
“If I had one team to pick right now to win the whole thing, it’s Ohio State,” said Thomson, host of Sports X Radio. “Fields is 10 times better than any of us thought he would be, and Chase Young is the best defensive player in the country. I think he can be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. I think they’ll crush Michigan State.”
Spartans-Buckeyes (Over 49½)
The Spartans are coming off a 40-31 home win over Indiana, and handicapper Bernie Fratto likes Saturday’s game at the Horseshoe to go over 49½.
“Ohio State will be playing at home with a ‘Black Out’ frenzied crowd, led by a coach who clearly wants to not just win games but make dramatic statements with his prolific offense,” said Fratto, a Fox Sports Radio host. “Ohio State is averaging 526 yards per game and over 7.2 yards per play. And did I mention the Buckeyes are averaging 52 points per game?
“Meanwhile, Michigan State couldn’t keep Indiana from scoring last week. I have a hard time believing Ohio State would score less than 40. Let the track meet begin.”
Michigan opened as a 7-point home favorite over Iowa at Circa Sports, but sharp action on the Hawkeyes has moved the number to 3½. Wiseguys at CG Technology played Iowa at plus 5 and plus 4.
“Right now, it’s pretty much all Iowa,” Circa oddsmaker Matt Lindeman said. “Michigan laying a bunch of points against a good defense in a low total game is something sharper guys aren’t looking to do.”
Salmons said it’s a tough game to call.
“Michigan has played to a higher power rating than Iowa for years. But they’ve just looked so bad this year, it’s hard to trust them in this spot,” he said. “The game figures to be a close game either way.”
Auburn, 5-0 ATS this season, is a 2½-point road favorite over Florida after the line opened at pick and moved to 3.
“Auburn’s a team that’s tough to bet against on the road. They play such great defense, and defense tends to travel well,” Lindeman said. “They’re playing a Florida team with a weak offensive line, and Auburn’s defensive line is one of the best in the country.”
The concern is how Tigers true freshman quarterback Bo Nix will handle a hostile environment in Gainesville.
“Sometimes that’s difficult for a young quarterback. But if they can navigate that, I think Auburn will find a way to win,” Salmons said. “Florida is definitely overrated at this point and is going to have a hard time scoring here.”
CG Technology reported sharp plays on Baylor, Colorado and UNLV. The Westgate took sharp action on Cincinnati, New Mexico State, Texas Christian and Army.