The No.5 Ohio State Buckeyes and No. 7 Michigan State Spartans bounced back in Week 11 with massive wins over the Purdue Boilermakers and Maryland Terrapins, respectively, and head into this game with just a single blemish on each of their records.
Ohio State hasn’t lost since Week 2, but they managed just 26 points against Nebraska in Week 9. So, to see them drop 59 on Purdue last week, who actually beat the Spartans 40-29 the week before, says a lot about this offense.
The Spartans aren’t totally out of the playoff picture, but their hopes are shrinking. A win in this game could see the Spartans taking over that No. 5 spot from the Buckeyes, effectively killing Ohio State’s playoff hopes, while helping the Spartans leapfrog No. 6 Notre Dame in the process.
The Buckeyes currently sit one spot back of No. 4 Oregon, the team that beat them in Week 2. They may need some help to pass them and it starts with this week’s matchup against Michigan State. A commanding win could help convince the committee to allow Ohio State in the playoffs over a team like Oregon. I mean, hey, with this committee, who really knows, right?
This is also a pivotal game in the Heisman race between Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud and Spartans all-world running back Kenneth Walker III.
The stakes are high. Not only for this game but for your wallet. Let’s walk through this game and diagnose the best bets.
All NCAAF gameday odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook. All odds and lines are accurate as of 1:00 p.m. ET on November 15, 2021. All statistics are courtesy of Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
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Michigan State vs Ohio State Prediction
Let’s just get this out of the way: Without Walker III, the Spartans are a middle-of-the-road college football team.
Sure, quarterback Payton Thorne has over 20 touchdowns on the season and close to 2,500 yards, but a big part of that is having a guy like Walker III behind him. It wasn’t too long ago that Walker III had five touchdowns against the Michigan Wolverines. He’s managed three more touchdowns and has over 130 yards in his last two games.
The Buckeyes aren’t necessarily known for their defense, but they have more than capable players, headlined by EDGE Zach Harrison.
In coverage, the Buckeyes have allowed 16 touchdowns this season but also have 11 takeaways.
The Spartans arguably have a similar or slightly better all-around coverage unit, but it will be exploited mightily against the likes of wide receivers Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, tight end Jeremy Ruckert, and also running back TreVeyon Henderson.
The best chance the Spartans have is centering their offense around the running attack to help speed up the clock, keep the ball away from this Buckeyes offense, and allow Walker III to do his thing.
Unfortunately, though, when the Buckeyes do get the ball, there’s no sense of the Spartans slowing them down and we may see Thorne top his previous season-high in pass attempts of 32.
Betting Pick: Ohio State 42, Michigan State 21
Michigan State vs Ohio State Best Bets
Best Bet: Ohio State Buckeyes -19 (-110) at Caesars
According to Pro Football Focus, the Spartans rank 50th in coverage, 25th in pass rush, 82nd in tackling, and 21st in run defense, while the Buckeyes rank 71st, 20th, 51st, and 24th in those same categories, respectively. Yes, this is college football, where most defenses aren’t exactly the talk of the town.
The offensive units are what you need to pay attention to in this matchup.
Walker III is fantastic and deserves every consideration for the Heisman possible, but he’s just one person. We mentioned the weapons the Buckeyes have above. The Spartans are going to have significant trouble covering all of them in the passing attack.
Out of the Buckeyes’ backfield, Henderson is a competent pass catcher, yes, but he’s also a fairly slick runner, with over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Also, as mentioned before, the Spartans best shot at winning and/or covering here is doing all they can to slow the clock. Unfortunately, though, you can’t keep the ball away from Ohio State forever and when they do get it, they should score with ease and relatively quickly.
It may not be the near-60 burger they dropped against Purdue, but they’ll top the 40-point mark en route to a cover.
Best Bet: Ohio State Moneyline (-1100) at Caesars
Honestly, betting the moneyline here isn’t exactly worth it unless you’re building a parlay and you want just that extra bit of payout. Again, there’s just no way I see the Spartans covering all of Ohio State’s weapons and that will lead to a massive win.
Also, keep in mind that the more dominant the win, the better it looks for Ohio State looking to reach inside the top-four teams in the AP Top 25.
The road will end here for the Spartans.
Best Bet: Under 66.5 (-110) at Caesars
This total could be cutting it close. However, there are a few things to keep in mind here that should result in it going Under.
The Spartans will likely attempt to do what they can to keep the ball out of the Buckeyes hands. That will only last so long, but this has the makings of 10-0 or 10-3 first quarter. Mathematically, there may be a lot of catching up to do.
Walker III should find some success early, but there will reach a point where the Buckeyes just start to get out in front by multiple scores. This could lead to the Spartans continuing to utilize their best weapon in Walker III, but this will also drain the clock faster.
The other scenario is forcing the Spartans to throw, the Buckeyes sending pressure, and forcing Thorne into rough situations.
Against the pressure this season, Thorne is completing just above 40 percent of his passes and has four interceptions.
The Buckeyes will tear this one wide open, but it will be after a relatively slow start in terms of scoring. It will be close, but there just won’t be enough time to go above the 66.5 total.
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