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Ohio State opens as 4-point underdogs against Michigan

For the first time this season, the Buckeyes are not the favorite to begin the week.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 18 Minnesota at Ohio State Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is it. We knew before the season began there was a great chance both teams headed into this week undefeated, but now it is official: 11-0 Ohio State vs. 11-0 Michigan in Ann Arbor for all the marbles. The winner earns a trip to Indianapolis, where they will face Iowa in the Big Ten title game, putting that team in the driver’s seat for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes are coming off back-to-back losses in The Game, but the Wolverines will not have the added bonus of stolen signals this time around. Ryan Day will look to stop the losing streak as the underdog on the road against a really good Michigan team, scandal or not.

All lines courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

Spread: Michigan -4

Ohio State has played some of its best football over the past two weeks, beating Michigan State and Minnesota by a combined score of 75-6. The emergence of a healthy TreVeyon Henderson has been a massive boost for the Buckeyes’ offense, as the junior running back has totaled 664 yards of offense over four games since returning from injury with five touchdowns and three 120-plus-yard outings on the ground during that span. Kyle McCord has settled into a bit of a groove, throwing for a combined 547 yards and five TDs with no picks against the Spartans and the Gophers, and Marvin Harrison Jr. is still Marvin Harrison Jr. with his nearly 1,100 yards and 13 TDs this season.

Defensively, the Buckeyes have been without some of their best players on that side of the football, but it hasn’t stopped them from keeping both Michigan State and Minnesota out of the end zone. Ohio State held both the Spartans and Gophers under 200 yards of total offense, and have looked strong against the run and the pass all season long. The Silver Bullets should be almost back at full strength this week, with both Tommy Eichenberg and Mike Hall Jr. expected to return, but they will still be without safety Lathan Ransom. Sonny Styles and Jordan Hancock have stepped up in his absence, and Josh Proctor’s return helps in that regard as well, but it will take Ohio State’s best defensive performance of the year to slow down Michigan.

Michigan, playing in its second-straight game without its suspended head coach, played a closer-than-expected contest against Maryland on Saturday. It looked as though the Wolverines were going to run away with it, holding a 23-3 lead early in the second quarter, but the Terps cut it to a one-score game at 23-17 and then again 29-24 at the end of the third quarter. The Michigan defense held sturdy in the fourth quarter, keeping Maryland off the scoreboard while adding two points on a safety to close out a 31-24 victory and remain undefeated.

The Wolverines have been led on offense this year by star running back Blake Corum. While not quite as efficient as he was last year, Corum leads the Big Ten with his 20 rushing touchdowns while racking up nearly 900 yards on 180 carries. At quarterback, the Wolverines don’t ask J.J. McCarthy to throw the ball at ton, but when he does he has been efficient to the tune of just over 2,300 yards with 18 TDs and four picks while completing almost 74% of his passes. He has also added three scores with his legs. When he does toss the rock, his favorite target this season has been Roman Wilson, whose 10 receiving TDs rank second in the B1G behind Harrison Jr.

Even after a just-okay performance against Maryland, Michigan is still the No. 1 scoring defense in the country, allowing only nine points per game. The Wolverines rank atop the Big Ten in total yards allowed (234.8), sitting third in the conference in rushing yards allowed per game (90) and second in passing yards allowed (144.8). They’re also tied for the most interceptions in the league with 14, and have returned four of those for touchdowns. Mike Sainristil and Will Johnson have been the leaders in the secondary, while Jaylen Harrell and Josaiah Stewart have led the way up front. Junior Colton has a team-high 60 tackles from his linebacker position, as Michigan is strong at all three levels.

For all the talk of TTUN’s sign-stealing scandal, this is still a really good football team even when they aren’t cheating. It is going to be an incredibly tough task to go into the Big House and come away with a victory, especially with Michigan feeling confident coming off back-to-back victories in The Game. Ryan Day will have to be on his A-game calling plays, the defense will have to be extra stout against the run, and the offense cannot afford to talk the first half off as they have in a handful of games this season. These are two of the best programs in college football right now, and it could be one of the all-time great matchups in the history of the rivalry.

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