Week 13’s college football map is packed with rivalry matches from coast to coast. But none are bigger, more hyped or dripping with more drama than Saturday’s undefeated battle between Michigan and Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio.
For the second year in a row, the Wolverines and Buckeyes place in the top five in “The Game”. And for the second consecutive year, the winner will claim the Big Ten East title, a berth in next week’s championship game, and virtually secure a spot in the College Football Playoff – regardless of the outcome of the conference title game.
If you’re an avid college football bettor, you already know that No. 2 Ohio State (11-0) has long been a big home favorite against the third-ranked Wolverines (11-0).
You also already know that the Buckeyes, looking to avenge last year’s loss in Michigan, have much less chance than the Wolverines of winning the national title.
But which of these two rivals has the better value in the 2022-23 National Championship betting market? It’s a question we ponder in this weeknight appetizer as we await Saturday’s main course at Ohio Stadium.
Note: Odds updated as of 2pm ET on November 22.
When FanDuel first updated Michigan vs. Ohio State, the Buckeyes were a 13.5-point home favorite.
From there, the number moved slowly toward the Wolverines, falling to 11.5, 10.5, 10 and 8.5 before bottoming out at Ohio State -6.5 on Nov. 14.
After a pair of surprisingly close wins by both teams in Week 12 – Ohio State narrowly escaped Maryland; Michigan needed a last second field goal to fend off Illinois at home – FanDuel re-put the number at Ohio State -9.5.
The betting market quickly jumped on the Wolverines, dropping the point spread to Ohio State’s current consensus number of -7.5.
All those line moves aside, oddsmakers are adamant that the Buckeyes are the superior 11-0 squad. That view is also reflected in the championship chances.
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Ohio State and Michigan have held onto the No. 2 and No. 3 positions, respectively, since the first College Football Playoff ranking was released four weeks ago. That won’t change when the final rankings are revealed Tuesday night – the Buckeyes and Wolverines trail fellow undefeated and No. 1 Georgia.
However, at FanDuel, the gap between Georgia (-140) and Ohio State (+250) is much smaller than the gap between Ohio State and Michigan (+1200).
The implications are crystal clear: the gambling market believes we are on a collision course for a national title game in the state of Georgia and Ohio. Anything less than that will be considered a huge upset.
Of course, setbacks happen. And of all the remaining legitimate national title contenders, Michigan is the most likely team to create chaos.
And here’s the thing: The Wolverines don’t even have to win in Columbus on Saturday to rock the proverbial boat.
History certainly won’t be on Michigan’s side as it walks into Ohio Stadium on Saturday morning.
Sure enough, the Wolverines finally ended an eight-game losing skid against their hated rivals with last year’s 42-27 win at home. But it’s been more than two decades since Michigan beat Ohio State in consecutive seasons (1999 and 2000).
And their 38-26 victory in 2000 marks the only time since 1996 that the Wolverines left Columbus with a win.
However, given how the 2022-23 college football campaign has turned out, whoever loses “The Game” will continue to chase the College Football Playoff (and thus the national championship). Because after Saturday we have no more than three undefeated teams: Georgia (currently 11-0), TCU (11-0) and the winner of Michigan-Ohio State.
That means at least one team with one loss will land an invitation to the College Football Playoff. The leading candidates: Clemson, USC and Michigan-Ohio State loser.
Well, as the Buckeyes and Wolverines head into Saturday’s showdown at No. 2 and No. 3, the team that falls short will have the “best” loss among the one-loss teams. (Clemson’s only blemish was an ugly 35-14 blowout at now-No. 18 Notre Dame in Week 10, while USC suffered a last-second 43-42 setback at now-unranked Utah in Week 7.)
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Another thing that works in Michigan’s favor if it loses on Saturday: Clemson (vs. South Carolina) and USC (vs. Notre Dame) not only need to win this week to keep their playoff hopes alive, but both must win their title matches next week as well.
Then again, if Clemson and/or USC win, they would have one win more than Michigan-Ohio State’s loser. Would the selection committee take the 12-1 Tigers or Trojans over an 11-1 Michigan or Ohio State?
If that 11-1 team is Ohio State, almost certainly not. If it’s Michigan, possibly.
Other questions also remain:
What if TCU loses one of the last two games? Answer: The Horned Frogs will disappear from the playoffs.
What if Georgia loses the SEC title game to LSU? Answer: Nothing will happen to Georgia – the Bulldogs will have a chance to defend their title anyway.
Would the commission take a two-loss SEC champion in LSU over a one-loss team? Answer: unlikely. While the Tigers would have outstanding wins over both Alabama and Georgia, no team with two losses has been invited to the playoff celebration in its eight years of existence.
In short: as big as the Michigan vs. Saturday’s Ohio State game is, the team that falls short on Saturday still has a way into the College Football Playoff. And that trail wouldn’t have many potholes.
Which brings us back to the original question: which team currently has more value in the national championship market, Michigan or Ohio State? Our answer is Michigan.
After all, if the Wolverines make the shocker on Saturday, their +1200 national title chances at FanDuel will plummet. And if they lose, those odds may not increase much, especially if Clemson, USC or TCU (where Iowa State is located) get upset on Saturday.
» READ MORE: Complete sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Inquirer is not an online gambling operator or a gambling site. We provide this sports betting information for entertainment purposes only.