After retaining a very controversial top spot in the College Football Playoff rankings for the second consecutive week, No. 1 Ohio State will play host to Michigan State this Saturday night (11/11/23) at 7:30 p.m. EST. Get Michigan State vs. Ohio State odds, picks and predictions below as our best bet is Michigan State Team Total Under 7.5.
Michigan State vs. Ohio State Prediction
Let’s start with a big positive for Michigan State: the Spartans picked up their first Big Ten win of the season, and their first victory of any sort since the dismissal of coach Mel Tucker. Between a 45-14 drubbing of Richmond on Sept. 9 and a 20-17 squeaker against Nebraska, MSU suffered a six-game losing streak against Power Five competition.
The win over Nebraska was a well-deserved triumph for a team that has been right there a few times. It’s a good thing they secured it, as they are not likely to have much to celebrate going forward. Yes, they face Indiana next, but that game will take place at the Hoosiers’ home field. MSU has yet to win a road game this year. That game is also in an unenviable sandwich, as it comes just before a season-ending game against Penn State, and on the heels of this week’s trip to Ohio State.
The only question for the Buckeyes is whether they can focus on football. The program’s leadership has had an incessant focus on Michigan and the sign stealing allegations against the Wolverines. Now the tables are turning as Ohio State is being connected to a new wave of potential rule violations. Ryan Day has not really shown any ability to block out the noise, or to ensure that his players will do the same. So it will be interesting to see how locked in Ohio State is for a game that it would be easy to mentally gloss over with so much going on around the program.
With or without off-field distractions, the Ohio State offense has been spotty this season. The transition from C.J. Stroud, who is tearing it up in the NFL, to Kyle McCord has not been a smooth one. These Buckeyes have relied on defense. That defense is of course a bona fide superstar unit, and will have no issue completely extinguishing an MSU offense that ranks a comical 129th in EPA per play.
Instead of the spread, which would require the OSU offense to show up in a way that I just don’t trust them to, especially once the game is clearly in hand, let’s play Michigan State’s team total. If the Spartans find the end zone once, it will be a major surprise. There’s next to no way they do it twice. This should be a shutout, so let’s put our faith in the outstanding Ohio State defense to do its job. That shouldn’t be a problem even once the backups come in.
Michigan State vs. Ohio State Prediction: MSU Team Total Under 7.5
Michigan State vs. Ohio State Best Odds
Ohio State is a massive favorite at home, with a spread of 31.5. Most sportsbooks aren’t offering a moneyline at all. But the Buckeyes have been listed as low as -7000, compared to just +2000 for MSU. The total is set at 47.5, with both sides at -110 odds.
Michigan State vs. Ohio State Key Matchups
Ohio State’s vaunted defense is just a touch more vulnerable when it comes to slowing down the run. The MSU pass defense will have its hands full with plenty of passes in store from the Buckeyes’ offense. Let’s see how these positional battles will play out.
Ohio State Passing Offense vs. Michigan State Air Defense
Despite plenty of talent in the backfield and an offensive line that PFF considers to be a top-25 run blocking unit, Ohio State has struggled tremendously in running the football. The Buckeyes rank just 99th in rushing EPA per play and average an even 4.0 yards per carry. The passing offense through Kyle McCord has been spotty, but grades much better – 10th in the country in EPA per play. McCord may be the quarterback, but he isn’t the star. That’s Marvin Harrison Jr., a fringe Heisman contender despite his position. He has already reeled in 52 catches for 914 yards and 10 scores.
MSU’s pass defense grades in the top-50 in the country EPA-wise, as does its run-stopping unit. So the Spartans could be able to snuff out the Buckeyes on the ground and run with all of the receivers not named Harrison. Derrick Harmon and Simeon Barrow Jr. have provided some nice push on the interior D-line. Linebacker Aaron Brule has been a blitzing force. But the edge talent is probably not going to be enough to disrupt McCord behind a sturdy o-line.
Michigan State Rushing Offense vs. Ohio State Ground Defense
If MSU wants to stay in this game, it will have to shorten it up by running the ball effectively to keep the chains and clock both moving. Lead back Nate Carter is going to have to carry the team. He’s had a nice year with 659 yards and four scores so far. But he’s going to need the performance of a lifetime to pull MSU into this one.
Ohio State’s run defense ranks 20th in EPA per play against the run, and should be able to give Carter a very hard time. Edge rusher Jack Sawyer has had a great year stopping the run alongside interior lineman Tyleik Williams. Williams owns an average depth of tackle of 1.4 yards, and has missed just 3% of tackles. Even safety Sonny Styles has a PFF run stopping grade over 90 on nearly 200 run defense snaps, highlighting the depth of this unit.