Monday, June 18, 2012

Against the Spread: Game by Game Predictions for Every Ohio State Game This Season

By Tyler WaddellBlockONation.com Featured Contributor

Beyond the Bets released its point spread projections for 798 college football regular season games less than two weeks ago, providing us fanatics and gamblers alike something to talk about. Big Ten-specific projections can be viewed here.

It has the Ohio State Buckeyes finishing 10-2 (6-2 Big Ten) and second in the Leaders division—behind Wisconsin—in Urban Meyer's inaugural season as coach.

Even if OSU was eligible for the conference championship on December 1, Beyond the Bets believes it wouldn't go.

Although Jim Tressel's style of play—"Tresselball"—was very kind to point spread gamblers, no one knows what they're now up against with Meyer at the helm.

Here's a look at Ohio State's schedule and spreads with some highly-subjective insight on whether to bet against them or not.

Week 1: Miami of Ohio at Ohio State (-27)

A year ago, the RedHawks were set to defend their Mid-American Conference championship. Instead, they backtracked, finishing with a 4-8 (3-5 MAC) and failed to beat a team with a winning record.

Miami returns standout quarterback Zac Dysert, who ranks third behind only Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Southern California's Matt Barkley in career passing yardage among active college quarterbacks. However, even he is unlikely to put up much of a fight in the season-opener.

It's difficult to bet on games like these where a blowout is inevitable, but Meyer will be testing the function of his new offense and could let loose on the Mid-American foe to find an early momentum. This is an easy one to agree with.

Prediction: Ohio State 41, Miami (Oh.) 6

Week 2: Central Florida at Ohio State (-16.5)

Central Florida ended last year as the Conference USA’s biggest disappointment, finishing 5-7 (3-5) and missing the postseason.

Coach George O’Leary is determined to bounce back with help from a trio of high-profile transfers: QB Tyler Gabbert (Missouri), RB Storm Johnson (Miami) and OT Phil Smith (Georgia Tech).

Still, it's premature to assume those three will make ground-shaking impacts as starters for the Knights, especially in the electric atmosphere of the 'Shoe. I'm taking the spread and going with Ohio State's number.

Prediction: Ohio State 34, UCF 13

Week 3: California at Ohio State (-14)

California owns one of the Pac-12's youngest, most talented offenses. Behind the arm of improving quarterback Zach Maynard, wide receiver and future high-round draft selection Keenan Allen, senior running backs Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson, and a solid offensive line, the Golden Bears could surprise many in 2012.

But it won't surprise Ohio State.

With the loss of numerous defensive playmakers, Cal could struggle to contain the many looks that Meyer brings with the spread-option. Braxton Miller could very well throw for 200-plus yards while tracking 100-plus on the ground.

I see the Buckeyes controlling this game, but I don't think the scoreboard will reflect the on-field dominance quite as much. I'm betting against Beyond the Bets and taking California.

Prediction: Ohio State 30, California 17

Week 4: UAB at Ohio State (-38)

Since appearing in their only bowl game in 2004, the UAB Blazers have strung together seven consecutive losing seasons. This includes a 3-9 (3-5 C-USA) record in 2011, where they were outscored by an average of 17 points and were beat by at least 39 on four different occasions.

Although UAB returns some decent players at various skill positions, it lost five seniors on the offensive line and returns a defense that got to the quarterback just eight times and ranked 119th nationally in tackles for loss.

If Tressel were still the coach, I'd take UAB's line here simply because he did not like to run it up on his opponents. But he's not, and I won't; Meyer takes a completely different approach to the game and will not hesitate to put 60 on the board.

Prediction: Ohio State 48, UAB 3

Week 5: Ohio State at Michigan State (-1.5)

Beyond the Bets features Ohio State losing to Michigan State in its first road game of the season. I disagree, but its prediction of a 1.5 point differential shows that it isn't sold on the Spartans yet, either.

Michigan State loses nearly the entire passing game with quarterback Kirk Cousins and receivers B.J. Cunningham, Keith Nichol, and Keshawn Martin all gone due to the NFL draft and graduation.

Fifth-year senior Tyler Hoover will be the man in charge of plugging the middle, replacing All-American defensive tackle Jerel Worthy. At 6'7", 295 pounds, size will not be an issue. However, pass rush may be an issue.

Winning in East Lansing is never easy, but I don't think the matchups are there for Sparty. Ohio State possesses more talent at the most important positions on the field, along with a superior coaching staff.

I'm going with the Buckeyes for both the spread and outcome.

Prediction: Ohio State 20, Michigan State 17

Week 6: Nebraska at Ohio State (-5)

Ohio State owned a 27-6 lead mid-way through the third quarter of last year's battle with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. However, when Braxton Miller went down with an ankle injury, all hell broke loose.

Quarterback Taylor Martinez dissembled the Buckeyes' shaky defense with his dual-threat abilities, while Rex Burkhead took 26 carries for 119 yards and a touchdown. Both are back in 2012.

However, Miller is healthy and Ohio State now has a high-flying offensive scheme to go along with a distinguished defensive unit.

I'm taking OSU's -5. If the Buckeyes can take a 21-point lead in Lincoln with last years many limitations, there's no reason to think they can't do the same—and actually hold it this time—at home.

Prediction: Ohio State 31, Nebraska 20

Week 7: Ohio State at Indiana (+21)

Since entering the conference in 1900, Indiana has won two Big Ten titles—and the only outright championship came 67 years ago.

Poor IU—while other Big Ten schools like Ohio State and Michigan already have reached double-digit recruits in their 2013 recruiting classes, the Hoosiers finally received their first verbal commitment (a 2-star WR from Fort Wayne) for 2013 just last week.

That pretty much sums up the Hoosiers' football program. It has only sent 12 players to the NFL in the last 14 seasons and hasn't had a winning record since 2007, combining for a 13-35 record during that time.

It's the bitter truth, but Indiana isn't going anywhere and it isn't going anywhere fast (wait, what?). I like Ohio State's number here.

Prediction: Ohio State 44, Indiana 16

Week 8: Purdue at Ohio State (-16.5)

After beating Ohio State last year, coach Danny Hope and the Purdue Boilermakers feel like they're making strides to becoming more competitive in the Big Ten. This could be the year to make some noise in what looks to be a relatively weak outlook for the conference.

The quarterback position is still up for grabs, but the two guys competing are all more than capable of getting the job done. Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve combined for 232-386 (60.1 percent) passing for 2,538, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2011.

Kawann Short could possibly be the best defensive tackle in all of college football with the potential to be a top-10 selection in next year's draft. He's the anchor of a solid front seven for Purdue.

They won't win, but the Boilermakers will beat the spread here. Hope seems to know how to play Ohio State and will keep his team in the game.

Prediction: Ohio State 27, Purdue 13

Week 9: Ohio State at Penn State (+6)

Penn State's football program has enough issues right now other than just getting back to playing good football again, but even that may be difficult at this point.

The Nittany Lions' quarterback situation is a mess—an above-average receiver has yet to emerge from the roster—the defense is suffering some huge losses at pivotal positions—and Bill O'Brien has no head prior head coaching experience.

It doesn't look good for Penn State this upcoming season, and the Buckeyes playing PSU in Happy Valley may not be as difficult of a factor to overcome as it might otherwise normally be, especially in closely contested games.

I like Ohio State's line here, giving the Buckeyes yet another victory.

Prediction: Ohio State 23, Penn State 9

Week 10: Illinois at Ohio State (-19.5)

Amid a coaching change and transition period, it's easy to say that Illinois will be going through a rebuilding stage in 2012. But if the Fighting Illini are ever going to win a Big Ten championship in the next decade, this is the year.

The Leaders division is up for grabs: Wisconsin doesn't look like it will be the same caliber team, Penn State could very well tread at .500, and Ohio State isn't eligible.

Coach Tim Beckman needs to be in "win-now" mode. It's unfortunate for him that he is inheriting a subpar roster, but his days of racking up the points at Toledo may rub off on quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and turn the offense into a legitimate scoring threat.

This may be one of the more difficult point spreads to predict on Ohio State's roster, but I just don't see drastic changes in year one for Beckman. I'm going with the Buckeyes' and the -19.5.

Prediction: Ohio State 34, Illinois 14

Week 11: Bye Week

Week 12: Ohio State at Wisconsin (-4)

Russell Wilson may be gone, but Wisconsin won't miss a beat in 2012.

It has yet another huge, talented offensive line ready to lead the way for running back Montee Ball, who led the nation with 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns last season.

Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien will fit in nicely in new offensive coordinator Matt Canada's offense, who uses the same philosophy as former O.C. Paul Chryst did.

The defense will look a little different with names like Louis Nzegwu and Patrick Butrym missing, but should remain stout as usual.

Oh, and the Badgers are 21-0 in Madison dating back to their last loss against Iowa in 2009. Forgive me Buckeye fans, but I'm not going to let my biased integrity interfere with my wallet. I like Wisconsin's line in this one.

Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Ohio State 20

Week 13: Michigan at Ohio State (-4)

Are you bursting with excitement yet?

Yes, Ohio State is favored at home over Mich—that team up north. This sparks some controversy, as many believe the Wolverines are favored to win the Big Ten championship this upcoming season.

Denard Robinson isn't the quarterback Brady Hoke would like under center, but right now, he's the only smart option and is arguably the best athlete in the NCAA. He'll continue to shred defenses on the ground while struggle through the air, which should be good enough to compile a 10-1 record heading into Week 12 (with a loss to Alabama).

The Buckeyes held their own and then some in last year's loss, fighting to the end in a surprising high-scoring affair (40-34). The close outcome—which was sparked by Braxton Miller's pure athleticism alone—shocked many, including Ohio State fans.

Thanks to the memorabilia-for-cash scandal in 2010, the Buckeyes are facing a postseason ban that will keep them from playing in January.

However, a regular season-ending clash with their hated arch rival in the 'Shoe screams bowl game. The atmosphere in Columbus will be like none other, glowing with an electrifying aura. This gives Ohio State a huge advantage, and it allows me to agree with Beyond the Bets that it will beat the Wolverines.

I'm taking OSU's -4 point spread in The Game.

Prediction: Ohio State 33, Michigan 28



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