Ohio State vs. Michigan: Take Buckeyes to finish perfect

Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE

The Game has been the de facto national title game in years past and a nominal matchup in other years. But it always attracts hype and heavy betting and the same is true in 2012 with the Buckeyes favored by 3.5 points against the Wolverines.

The Ohio State Buckeyes are ineligible to win the Big Ten championship this season and can't play in a bowl game. But they have a chance at an undefeated season if they can just beat arch-rival Michigan Saturday afternoon at the Horseshoe in Columbus (noon ET, ABC).

If the odds makers have it right and if recent history repeats itself, that's what will happen. Most college football betting outlets opened Ohio State at -5, but as of Wednesday morning had seen the number bet down to -3.5.

Given the one-sided 9-2 ATS run for the Buckeyes in The Game going back 11 seasons, its small wonder that more than 61 per cent of the early betting was on OSU, according to the college football consensus data at OddsShark.com.

Ohio State, in its first season under Coach Meyer, started off with an easy win over Miami-Ohio, but then struggled a bit in beating Central Florida, Cal and UAB. The Buckeyes then began Big Ten play with a win at Michigan State, then trounced Nebraska 63-38. OSU continued on, beating Indiana, Purdue, Penn State and Illinois.

Last week the Buckeyes gutted out a tough one, beating Wisconsin in overtime 21-14 at Camp Randall. Ohio State got outgained and outrushed, held the ball for just 23 minutes and needed a punt return for one of its scores, but did what it had to do to stay perfect.

So OSU sits atop the Big Ten's Leaders Division at 7-0 in league play, but it will be the Badgers representin' in the conference championship game.

Michigan, meanwhile, opened this season with that bad loss to Alabama, then beat Air Force and Massachusetts, then lost at Notre Dame 13-6. The Wolverines then began Big Ten play with consecutive victories over Purdue, Illinois and Michigan State, before falling at Nebraska 23-9.

Along the way QB Denard Robinson got hurt, and Michigan had to go with junior Devin Gardner. But the Wolverines haven't missed D-Rob too much during their current three-game winning streak, scoring 35 points vs. Minnesota, 38 vs. Northwestern and, last week, 42 points in beating Iowa.

Michigan is tied with Nebraska atop the Legends Division, both at 6-1 in conference play, but the Huskers own the tie-breaker. So to earn a spot in the upcoming Big Ten championship game Michigan needs an Iowa upset of Nebraska Friday, and a victory of its own Saturday.

Last year Michigan broke a seven-game losing streak in this series, beating the Buckeyes 40-34 at the Big House. Robinson accounted for almost 340 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns.

Free Pick on The Game: There's a good chance Michigan will be out of the running for the conference championship game berth when this game is played, so while the Wolverines will still want to beat their hated rivals, they might not come out with the same spark. Meanwhile, this is Ohio State's bowl game, and chance at perfection. With that in mind, we'll given the points and back the Buckeyes. (Courtesy of PickShark.com.)

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