Michigan Wolverines-Ohio State Buckeyes Picks Against the Spread

SportsLine analyst Josh Nagel breaks down one of the most important games of the college football season, as Ohio State hosts Michigan in what might be a play-in game for the playoffs. Here is an overview and spread selection.

 

MICHIGAN WOLVERINES AT OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (-6.5, O/U 45.5), Sat., noon ET

The stakes have never been higher in what is perhaps college football's most heated rivalry, as both the Big 10 title and a potential playoff berth are on the line Saturday when Ohio State hosts Michigan.

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Michigan +145 O/U 46
Ohio St. -175 -3.5
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Both clubs started the week in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings, but the loser is likely to drop out and become a longshot to reach the postseason.

If Michigan (10-1, 7-1) wins, it will represent the East Division in Big 10 title game, because it has a head-to-head win over Penn State.

If the Buckeyes (10-1, 7-1) win, they would need a Penn State loss to Michigan State in order to reach the conference title game because of their head-to-head loss with the Nittany Lions. Even so, their overall body of work would likely merit a playoff invitation should they defeat the Wolverines.

JOSH NAGEL'S TAKE

Much of the discussion for Michigan has centered around the health and availability of starting quarterback Wilton Speight, who missed last week?s game against Indiana and is listed as questionable Saturday.

Although the Wolverines would be more comfortable with their top signal-caller behind center, there shouldn?t be too much of a drop off with backup John O'Korn, the Houston transfer who in the off-season was thought to be the front-runner for the starting job.

O'Korn completed 20 of 34 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns last week in his first start of the season.

But Michigan's game plan emphasizes its power run game, mixed with intermediate passes and the occasional deep shot. O?Korn should be able to manage the game effectively.

The bigger issue for the Wolverines will be whether they can handle the most explosive and varied offense their defense has seen this season.

In their loss to Iowa, they regularly gave up chunk yardage on early-down run plays, taking the pressure off Iowa?s meager passing game on third down.

Led by quarterback J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes have a wealth of options in the run game and explosive playmakers on the outside. They will regularly provide problems for the Michigan defense.

LINE MOVEMENT

The Buckeyes opened as touchdown favorite in most markets, but early action on the underdog pushed the number down to -6.5, where it has stood for most of the week.

However, the total has seen significant action as many bettors anticipate a low-scoring affair. Totals that opened in the 51 range have been bet down to 45.5 at most shops.

Bookmaker.eu spokesman Scott Cooley said the action on the total has created concern for the sportsbook.

"The total is the real story with this matchup," he said. "Sharps have hammered the Under, and we're down 5.5 points from the open. We have major liability with this right now, as 92 percent of the money is looking for a 13-10 game."

LAST WEEK

In perhaps a look-ahead spot for both clubs, they both failed to cover three-touchdown-plus spreads last week.

Ohio State danced with danger against persistent nemesis Michigan State, which used its defense and some timely second-half drives to stay competitive.

The Spartans went for two on a late touchdown and failed, allowing the Buckeyes to escape with a 17-16 win after closing as 22-point favorites.

Michigan closed as 24-point favorite, but struggled with a similarly stubborn Indiana squad. O'Korn struggled early, but the Wolverines took control in the second half and managed a 20-10 win.

SPORTSLINE EXPERTS

CBS Sports producer Matthew Coca has a selection on this game. Get his and all other SportsLine expert picks by clicking here.

SELECTION

Urban Meyer's teams tend to come up big in crucial spots, and I expect we'll see this come to fruition again Saturday.

Michigan's defense should keep it in the game, but the Wolverines lack the firepower to hang with the Buckeyes.

A couple of explosive plays on offense should be the difference -- the Buckeyes win by at least a touchdown.