This season I’ll be breaking down a few of college football’s biggest games each week and giving out at least one bet I like from each matchup.
Let’s take a look at a Big Ten battle between Wisconsin and Ohio State in Columbus on Saturday night.
Wisconsin vs Ohio State Spread, current line:
Wisconsin vs Ohio State Best Bet Prediction:
Wisconsin might struggle to put points on the board in this one, so lay the points and take Ohio State -18.5 in The Horseshoe.
When Wisconsin is on Offense
Wisconsin’s conservative, pro-style offense faces a tough test against Ohio State.
Graham Mertz has taken a traditional dropback (3 or more steps) at the nation’s highest rate (74%), according to Sports Info Solutions.
When opposing quarterbacks take a traditional dropback, Ohio State is generating a 44% pressure rate on non-blitzes this year, the nation’s 10th highest rate. Here’s a breakdown by game:
- vs Notre Dame: 33%
- vs Arkansas State: 42%
- vs Toledo: 53%
Wisconsin’s pro-style offense and Ohio State’s production with standard pressure is a potentially deadly combo for Mertz.
Take a look at Mertz’s numbers over the last two seasons when he faces pressure on traditional dropbacks without a blitz:
- 34% completion rate
- 4.8 yards per attempt
- 23% sack rate
Wisconsin will obviously try to run the ball and control the clock to limit Ohio State’s possessions, but that may not be easy.
In its loss to Washington State, the Badgers’ running backs gained just 1.8 yards before contact per attempt. Wisconsin had only two games with a lower average in 2021, both of which were losses (Michigan and Minnesota).
Ohio State limited Notre Dame running backs to 0.8 yards before contact per carry earlier this season.
When Ohio State is on Offense
C.J. Stroud is completing 81% of his passes to five different receivers when throwing 15 or more yards downfield, according to Sports Info Solutions. How is anyone supposed to compete with that?
Wisconsin’s best chance at keeping this game close is to force some turnovers.
The Badgers have seven interceptions through three games 一 an unsustainable pace 一 but there are some indications this defense will be excel at forcing turnovers this season.
Wisconsin is second in the Big Ten with a 21% ball-hawk rate (percentage of throws on which the defense makes a play on the ball) and a high ball-hawk rate does correlate to an elevated interception rate.
Unfortunately for Wisconsin, Stroud protects the football as well as anyone.
Stroud tossed an interception in each of his first three career starts, but in 12 games since, he’s thrown only three more in 425 attempts 一 giving him an incredible 47-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio in that span.
Final Thoughts on Wisconsin vs Ohio State Best Bets
Wisconsin hasn’t covered the spread in Columbus since an upset victory in 2004.
Ohio State’s defense remains a work in progress, but new coordinator Jim Knowles seems to be making an impact. Against a vanilla offense like Wisconsin, expect them to be able to limit the Badgers’ point total and cover the spread.
Other College Football Betting Predictions for Week 4: