No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 14 Northwestern Wildcats Betting Preview

Saturday, December 19, 2020, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana, noon  ET

Buckeyes vs. Wildcats Betting Preview: Buckeyes  (-20.5), Wildcats (+20.5)

Buckeyes

No. 9 Ohio State is playing for more than just its fourth straight Big Ten title.

The Buckeyes (5-0, 5-0 Big Ten) are looking to cement their spot in the College Football Playoff despite critics contending they haven’t played enough games and weren’t impressive when they did play.

“Like I’ve been telling a lot of my teammates, we have to blow them out,” Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade said. “We have to come to play. … We have to show the world what we can do.”

The Buckeyes have had three of their last five games postponed due to COVID-19 issues, including last week’s game against Michigan. Day said he expects most of the 23 players who missed the Dec. 5 game at Michigan State because of COVID-19, injuries or other illnesses to be cleared to play against Northwestern.

The cancellation of the game against Michigan left Ohio State one game short of the minimum six the conference declared would be needed to play in the championship game, but the league then relented and gave the Buckeyes a waiver.

They were the only undefeated team in the conference and notched a 42-35 win over second-place Indiana in the East Division. The Buckeyes have played only once since the win over the Hoosiers on Nov. 21, routing Michigan State on Dec. 5.

Justin Fields has been the leader for the Buckeyes. Fields is 107-for-137 (78.1 percent) passing for 1,407 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, with three interceptions. All the picks came in the win over Indiana.

“The way that he carries himself, the way he leads that offense and the team, he makes such great decisions with the ball,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

A win over Northwestern should earn the Buckeyes a shot at their first national championship since 2014.

“This team can play with anybody in the country,” Day said. “To go undefeated and win the Big Ten championship, that speaks for itself.”

Wildcats

No. 14 Northwestern (6-1, 6-1) knows the odds are against it, just as they were in the 2018 conference title game, which the Buckeyes won 45-24. But this is a different group of Wildcats.

“I think last time we had the approach of we were happy to win the West,” Wildcats receiver Riley Lees said. “But I think our goals have superseded that, and our expectation now is to win the Big Ten championship, and that’s going to be our mindset going into this game.”

Ohio State is fourth nationally in scoring average at 46.6 points per game. The Wildcats want to keep that offense off the field by using drives like the 17-play, 64-yard march guided by quarterback Peyton Ramsey in the team’s 28-10 victory over Illinois last week. Cam Porter capped that long drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.

“Peyton Ramsey’s given them a shot in the arm,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “They’ve controlled the football, they’re smart and they really don’t turn the ball over. So, when you do that, you’ve got to really be on your game. They’re not going to give you anything.”

Northwestern averages 25.3 points per game to rank 90th of 127 schools. Ramsey has passed for an average of just 174 yards a game passing but the Wildcats have used crew of running backs — Drake Anderson, Isaiah Bowser, and Evan Hulls all have over 200 yards — to rush for just over 170 yards a game.

Defense is what really gets it done for the Wildcats. They have held opponents to just 14.6 points and 313.9 yards a game in total offense. They have allowed just  121.9 yards a game rushing.

“It’s very hard to run the ball on them, and they keep it all in front of them,” Day said. “They force you to work down the field.”

Buckeyes vs. Wildcats  Betting Pick for December 19, 2020

The two teams are meeting for the third time in the last two years with the Buckeyes winning the 2018 Big Ten title game 45-24 and romping 52-3 in the regular season in 2019. They have two common opponents this season with the Buckeyes routing Nebraska 52-17 and Michigan State 52-19. The Wildcats beat the Cornhuskers 21-13 but lost to the Spartans 29-20.

Buckeyes vs. Wildcats  Betting Pick:

Buckeyes 45, Wildcats 17

Buckeyes vs. Wildcats Best Bet for December 19, 2020

Both teams are solid defensively with the Wildcats holding their seven opponents to just 14.6 points a game and the Buckeyes giving up only 23.2 in their five outings. The big difference is on offense where the Wildcats have averaged 25.3 points a game to Ohio State’s 46.6.

Buckeyes vs. Wildcats  Best Bet: OVER 57.5

NCAAF National Championship Odds for Week 13: Is it Alabama’s to Lose?

Nothing extraordinary happened over the weekend. No contenders lost. A new contender did not emerge. Theoretically, the national championship picture did not change. But it still might have been one of the more impactful weekends of the season.

How so?

Well, Clemson saw their game get postponed at the last minute. Assuming they get to play this week against Pitt, they will have had three weeks off since their last game (the loss to Notre Dame). Trevor Lawrence has not played in over a month.   

Few coaches prepare their teams as well as Dabo Swinney does, but if there happens to be a little rust and the Tigers do not play well… An upset loss at this point will eliminate them from playoff consideration.

Clemson is favored by close to four touchdowns, but this is 2020—crazier things have happened.

But Clemson not playing is far from the most impactful thing that happened over the weekend regarding the national championship picture.

College Football National Championship Odds: There’s A Chink in the Alabama Armor

Clemson’s (+350; odds via DraftKings) long layoff could prove problematic for them. With the loss to Notre Dame, they must run the table to make the playoffs. A loss, whether it is to Notre Dame in the ACC title game, or someone else will eliminate them.

Notre Dame (+1400) was off last weekend, so their outlook has not changed. They might remain in the top four if they lose to Clemson in the ACC title game, but they will be out more than likely.

Alabama (+135) did not face much of a challenge against Kentucky, so we learned nothing new about them. But from what we have seen, teams can score on Alabama. However, the hard part for most teams will be stopping Alabama from scoring.

The most interesting development over the weekend had to be the close call that Ohio State (+225) had. In their first three games, the Buckeyes did not face much of a challenge from anyone. Subsequently, they appeared to be fantastic on both sides of the ball—and nearly impossible to beat.

But then Indiana almost pulled it off by throwing for nearly 500 yards against the Ohio State defense.

Now, the Buckeyes are not going to be facing another good passing team until the playoffs. But if Indiana can decimate their secondary, Clemson and Alabama will be able to do so much more.

Florida (+1000) still belongs in the conversation and looked great in a win over Vanderbilt. But even if they beat Alabama in the SEC title game, they might not get in. Their best hope is to beat Alabama and for Notre Dame to beat Clemson.

That way, Notre Dame moves up to No. 1, but Alabama will not fall out of the top four. But a Clemson loss will knock the Tigers out, which would make room for Florida to move in. If they make it in, they have the kind of offense that could win it all.

Can the Boys from Bryant Make a Bang in the NCAAF National Championship Odds?

However, depending on how the Committee seats Florida and Texas A&M, the Aggies could be the team moving into the top four (+20000). With how well their defense is playing and their run game, they might be able to make things interesting if they make it in.

But they are going to be massive underdogs to whoever they face.

One team that has not been in the national title conversation, and will probably not win it, could impact it. But Northwestern could certainly affect who plays in the title game. With how well their defense is playing, Ohio State will have their hands full in the Big Ten title game.

If Northwestern (+5000) does win the Big Ten, they will probably not make the playoffs. But they will knock Ohio State out of the running—and potentially open a door for Florida or Texas A&M.

So, the teams viewed as contenders going into the weekend still are. But no one really looks as invulnerable as they once did. If any contenders play less than their best the rest of the way, their national championship dreams could end.

The OddsUSA College Football Best Bet of the Week: Indiana at Ohio State

Indiana at The Ohio State University Betting Breakdown

  • Spread: Ohio State -20.5
  • Moneyline: Ohio State -1115; Indiana +650
  • Over/Under: 64.5

*Odds via DraftKings.com

Prior to the start of the Big Ten season, there is no way anyone would have said Ohio State-Indiana would be the must-see game of the year. But no one would have guessed Indiana would be 4-0 and ranked No. 9 in the nation, either.

The Hoosiers have been surprisingly good, though. Ohio State, on the other hand, has been as good as expected—which does not bode well for Indiana.

Despite the success Indiana has had this season, the expectation for them heading into this game is still the same—Ohio State will blow them out of the water. But with how well they have played this season, it is not hard to wonder if the Hoosiers can do it.

Can they pull off the upset of the century and beat Ohio State in the Horseshoe?

Indiana Hoosiers Betting Preview

After getting off to a 3-0 start that included wins over Penn State and Michigan, the stage was set for Indiana to have a let-down game last week against Michigan State. If they came out flat and/or struggled to get on track, the Spartans appeared good enough to steal a win from the Hoosiers.

But Indiana took care of business, forcing three turnovers (that led to points) in the first half and cruised to a 24-0 win. So, they did not have a let-down game, after all—but that doesn’t mean they are ready for the Buckeyes.

The press has been nice to Indiana, but few (if any) have tried to compare Indiana to Ohio State. No, the expectations have remained largely the same. They are not just underdogs; they are big underdogs. So big that even diehard fans are probably choosing Ohio State.

Consequently, the team could fall into a common underdog trap. They may buy into what people say and go into the game expecting to lose. But if they can use those low expectations as fuel to fire the game of their lives, an upset could be possible.

Ohio State’s defense is good this year, but not the great unit the team often fields. Their weakness happens to be what the Indiana offense does best—pass (224.3 yards/game; 51st). Indiana is averaging 267.5 yards/game but will likely need another 300+-yard day from Michael Penix Jr. as they got out of him last week.

The key, however, will be on defense. Indiana has done well against the pass and run so far this season. But they have yet to face an offensive attack as potent as Ohio State.   

Ohio State Buckeyes Betting Preview

As usual, the expectations were high for Ohio State once the season started. So far, they have lived up to them. Justin Fields is playing like a Heisman frontrunner, they have won all three games by double-digits, and the defense is getting the job done.

It is hard to find a flaw. On paper, there does not appear to be anything the Hoosiers will be able to exploit.  Ohio State is running for over 200 a game and passing for over 300. Defensively, they are only allowing 356 total yards/game and 23 points.

Anyone who will beat them will need to score more than 23 points (Indiana is averaging 33).

However, there is a glimmer of hope. Nebraska was able to run through the Ohio State defense to the tune of 200+ yards. While the Ohio State defense has done a good job this year, they have played three terrible offensive teams.

So, maybe they are not as good as they look?

Indiana at Ohio State Betting Prediction

There is not a football fan in the country outside of Ohio that wants to see the Buckeyes win this game. Everyone loves a good underdog story; should Indiana win, it would be a great one. But it is hard to see how the Hoosiers are going to pull it off.

Like the Buckeyes, the Hoosiers defense has looked good against some bad teams. Facing one with the offensive firepower like Ohio State is going to be a rude wake-up call. At the same time, the Buckeyes have yet to encounter an offense as good as Indiana’s.

But to try to say the offenses are comparable—well, they are not. Michael Penix Jr. is good, but Justin Fields is better. 

So—how should you bet?

Take Ohio State to win but look for Indiana to keep it competitive and win against the spread. As for the over/under— take the over. Both teams are going to put on an offensive show.