Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
The Buckeyes vs Spartans battle Saturday will be important in the Big Ten race, even though OSU cannot with the title. The Buckeyes hold the recent edge, but both teams have struggled with the point spread in 2012.
The Ohio State Buckeyes cannot win the Big Ten championship this season, but they can have a say in who does. Oddsmakers seem to be saying it doesn't matter what they do, because they will not beat Michigan State anyway.
They'll try to their the conference race Saturday when they visit East Lansing to take on the Spartans in the conference opener for both teams Saturday (3:30 pm ET, ABC).
As of Wednesday afternoon, most CFB betting outlets were listing Michigan State at -3 for Saturday's game, with an 'over/under' of 42. But they have covered the spread just twice in eight meetings with the Buckeyes since 1996 (2-5-1 ATS).
Ohio State, which returned 14 starters from a team that went 6-7 last year, opened this season with a 56-10 victory over Miami-Ohio. The Buckeyes then defeated Central Florida 31-16, but couldn't cover the spread as 16-point favorites.
OSU then beat Cal 35-28 on a late score, but came nowhere close to covering as 17-point faves. And last week the Buckeyes beat visiting UAB 29-15, but absolutely whiffed on the spread as 35-point chalk.
Meanwhile, Michigan State returned 13 starters from a team that went 11-3 last season. The Spartans opened with a 17-13 victory over Boise State, although even in outgaining the Broncos by 255 yards MSU couldn't cover the spread as eight-point chalk.
Then the Spartans visited Central Michigan and dominated the Chippewas 41-7.
But two weeks ago Sparty got held to 50 yards rushing by the Notre Dame defense and lost at home 20-3. Then last week, against an average-at-best MAC team in Eastern Michigan, the Spartans trailed almost the whole game until taking the lead late in the third quarter, and didn't put the game away until Le'Veon Bell scored with two minutes to go in a 23-7 win.
And it's hard to cover the spread when you're favored by 31 points but only score 23. In fact, while Ohio State is 4-0 and Michigan State is 3-1, they're both 1-3 ATS this season.
Last year the Spartans marched into the Big Horseshoe in Columbus and came away with a 10-7 victory. Michigan State outgained the Buckeyes 321-178 and didn't allow them to score until the final half-minute of the game.
Free Pick: In what could be a tough, low-scoring game, we'll take the three points with Ohio State to extend their ATS success against MSU. Follow Odds Shark on Twitter for line updates, injury reports and more.