Betting against the best college football programs is dangerous.
Yet as we inch closer to Thursday night’s tilt between the fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, I find myself on the underdog in primetime (8 p.m. ET Thursday, FOX).
FOX Bet currently has the Buckeyes as 14-point favorites, with a total scoring over/under of 63. Ohio State is a -650 favorite to win outright (bet $10 to win $11.54 total), while Minnesota is a +450 underdog to emerge victorious (bet $10 to win $55 total).
There was a monsoon of sharp money on the "Under," which has dropped the total three whole points off the opening number (66). I’m not one to chase steam and certainly want no part of a 37-27 final score that would land at 64 and crush my soul if I bet "Under" 63. Nobody deserves that pain.
I believe the Minnesota side is correlated with the "Under," though, and that’s how I’m going to contextualize the dip on the total. The Golden Gophers return five senior offensive linemen, senior quarterback Tanner Morgan and senior tailback Mohamed Ibrahim. They are one of the most experienced offenses in college football and will do their best to control the clock.
"Row the Boat" might become "Run the Rock" in Minneapolis.
Expect to see a more aggressive Minnesota offense this season that will use more play-action and more trickeration off its successful running game. If you can run the football with success at any level, it opens up everything else. And who better than the sure-handed Morgan to conduct the orchestra?
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Ohio State returns only five starters on the defensive side of the ball, and it’s going to take time for those talented recruits and prospects to learn the ins and outs of the system. You would much rather face this Buckeyes team early in the season, when guys are settling into new roles and learning how to play with one another.
Also, C.J. Stroud could be a very, very good player for Ohio State. I know some professional bettors who fired a wager on the freshman quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy, in fact (+1200; bet $10 to win $130 total). But are you really going to lay two touchdowns on the road in Stroud’s first career collegiate start?
The most dangerous part about going against the Buckeyes is that they’re likely starting five NFL first-round picks, and they replenish talent better than any other program in the Midwest. And if OSU goes up 7-0 or 14-0, this could easily be a rout because Ryan Day doesn’t prefer to take his foot off the gas.
But I forecast a different beginning. Here’s hoping the Golden Gophers punch Ohio State right in the face to take a 7-0 lead, which immediately puts pressure on a quarterback who has never started a college game. And this isn’t Akron or Western Kentucky — Minnesota is a Big Ten team with a pulse.
I like the Golden Gophers to make this a game and hang inside the number. Give me Minnesota +14.
Sammy P's 2021 football betting record: 1-0
Sam Panayotovich is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and NESN. He previously worked for WGN Radio, NBC Sports and VSiN. He'll probably pick against your favorite team. Follow him on Twitter @spshoot.
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