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Ohio State opens as rare underdog in The Game against Michigan

Jack Westerheide, The Lantern

For just the second time in the last 14 years, the Ohio State Buckeyes will be underdogs against Michigan in The Game this Saturday barring any dramatic line movement. The scarlet and gray opened as 3.5-point ‘dogs against the Wolverines, according to Vegas Insider.

Prior to the season, the Buckeyes were listed as 9-point favorites over Michigan but quite a bit has changed as the season has gone on, including the Wolverines being on a 10-game winning streak and their lone loss being against undefeated (and No. 3) Notre Dame the first week of the season.

The last time Michigan was the favorite in the matchup was 2011 when they were 8-point favorites. That so happens to be the last time the Wolverines beat Ohio State. Then again, with that game in Ann Arbor, that’s somewhat understandable. You’d have to go all the way back to 2004 to find the last time the Buckeyes were home underdogs to Michigan in Columbus. Although Vegas thought otherwise, Ohio State won that game in 2004, 37-21.

Not only is it rare for the scarlet and gray to be underdogs against their biggest rival, but it’s quite rare for the Urban Meyer-led Buckeyes to be underdogs at all. They have been favored in each of the last 51 games, which is the longest streak in the country.1 The last time they weren’t favored to win a game was against Oregon in the inaugural 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship game when they upset the Ducks. It will be just the seventh time the Buckeyes have been underdogs and just the first time as the home team since Meyer arrived at Ohio State in 2012.2 They won each of the previous six games straight-up, let alone beating the spread.

Ohio State has won 13 of the past 14 meetings, including six straight. They’ve come quite close to losing since 2011, especially in the dramatic overtime thriller in 2016, but Michigan could never fully get over the hill. The Buckeyes’ dominance in the rivalry has been very well documented. As the fourth-ranked team in the latest Playoff rankings, the Wolverines are not only ranked higher than the Buckeyes but Vegas, along with many others, believe that Michigan is just that much better as well. Even though Jim Harbaugh hasn’t been able to beat Ohio State yet, it appears as though Vegas believes that will change this Saturday.

Over the last few years, many thought that if Harbaugh’s Wolverines had a legitimate quarterback, they could have beat Ohio State at least once over the last few years. They have a legitimate quarterback this season. With Shea Patterson transferring from Ole Miss to Michigan, he has not only taken his team to the next level but has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country as well. That, paired with Michigan’s dominant defense, has been a recipe for success for Harbaugh and Michigan.

Considering the Buckeyes’ dominance in The Game in the last 17 or so years, betting against Ohio State seems like the wrong thing to do. Then again, with how this season has unfolded, especially over the last few weeks, if any Ohio State team could lose to Michigan, it’s this one. Buckeye Nation just has to hope that the dominance continues, especially in Columbus.

With both teams 10-1, the Buckeyes host Michigan Saturday afternoon in a showdown and rivalry that will decide the Big Ten East and potentially a spot in the Playoff as well. Kickoff is set for 12:05 ET.

  1. Alabama now owns the longest streak as being favorites. The Crimson Tide have been favorited in 51 consecutive games and 123 of their last 124 games overall. The last time they weren’t favorites was against Georgia in 2015, when they were 1-point underdogs. []
  2. The last time a Meyer-coached team was a home underdog was all the way back in 2003 when he was at Utah, according to ESPN Stats and Information. []