College Football Picks: Ohio State Future Betting Odds

Steve - CollegeFootballWinning.com

Thursday, May 30, 2013 3:10 PM GMT

Thursday, May. 30, 2013 3:10 PM GMT

Now that the Ohio State Buckeyes are eligible for post season play once more, should college football bettors give them any attention with their BCS Championship picks?

Betting lines are driven by expectations, and expectations are built on public perception. Ohio State enters the 2013 season eligible for post-season play (including the Big Ten Championship and a Bowl game) after being forced out of contention by the NCAA for the 2012 season. All that happened in that 2012 season for Ohio State was Urban Meyer’s return to coaching, a fifth-place finish in the Heisman race for sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller, and a perfect 12-0 record. With a coach, a quarterback and a record like that, expectations should be sky-high for the Buckeyes, and that could mean trouble for college football bettors who choose to back Ohio State in 2013. This article will preview Ohio State’s 2013-2014 college football betting prospects.

The Buckeyes Against-the-Spread (ATS)

Predicting a team’s ATS success against the college football odds can be difficult in the off-season, but we have discovered some correlations worth examining. A losing ATS season is usually the result of failing to meet expectations. Those expectations can be measured by a decline in straight-up (SU) wins (from the previous season), a great preseason ranking, and an excellent ATS season immediately prior to the one in question. In 2012, the Buckeyes were a perfect 12-0 SU. While going undefeated in 2012 does not leave any room for improvement in the losses column for 2013, in the case of Ohio State, it still allows for an increase in SU wins since the Buckeyes have the potential to play two more games than they did in 2012: the Big Ten Championship Game and a Bowl game.

While we are still months away from the release of the 2013 Preseason Associated Press (AP) Poll, all indicators suggest that Ohio State will be a preseason top-5 team. Such a high ranking will congeal the high expectations in the minds of fans and bettors, and that is never good for ATS profitability.

Going 7-5 (58.33%) ATS in 2012, although profitable, should be considered just moderately successful for an undefeated college football team. Undefeated Auburn of 2010 was 10-4 (71.43%) ATS. A perfect 2009 Boise State team was 9-4-1 (69.23%) ATS, while unblemished Utah of 2008 was 8-3-1 (72.73%) ATS. Ohio State’s 7-5 mark from 2012 might be more ominous than it appears. Looking into those five losses, all of them were when OSU was a double-digit favorite. In fact, the Buckeyes were a terrible 2-5 (28.57%) ATS as double-digit favorites in 2012. Given that the expectations for them are even higher for 2013 and their schedule is as cushy as ever (more on their schedule below), expect to see the Buckeyes as double-digit favorites for at least that many games as last season. Looking into their own history, the last time OSU had an undefeated season was 2002. The following season, they went 11-2 SU, but they were only 5-8 (38.46%) ATS while winning just one (of four) games ATS as double-digit favorites. A similar post-undefeated season experience could lie in store for Ohio State in 2013.

2014 BCS National Championship Futures Bet

As this is being written, Bovada has Ohio State at 13-to-2 to win the 2014 BCS National Championship, putting them behind only Alabama as favorites to win it all. In a previous article, we outlined our 60% Rule, where all BCS National Champions had at least three of the following five criteria before starting their championship seasons:

1) an upperclassman quarterback

2) a top-20 scoring defense one year prior

3) a preseason top-10 ranking

4) membership in the Southeastern Conference (SEC)

5) a head coach who had been at the school for two to four years.

Ohio State’s quarterback, Braxton Miller, will be a junior in 2013. Of the 15 previous starting quarterbacks for BCS National Champions, 11 of them (73.33%) were juniors. Looking a bit beyond the 60% Rule and delving deeper into the quarterback play of BCS Champions, the average completion percentage for a BCS Championship quarterback was 62.7%. Last year, Braxton Miller completed 58.3% of his passes. In fact, over the past 10 seasons, only once has a starting quarterback on a BCS Championship team completed less than 60.9% of his passes, and that was LSU’s Matt Flynn in 2007. The differences between Miller and Flynn are considerable, but the most significant difference lies in the contribution of each to his offense. Miller was responsible for 65.09% of the Buckeyes’ offensive production in 2012, while Flynn accounted for just 42.62% of LSU’s 2007 offensive output. Simply put, Braxton Miller cannot pass so inefficiently and keep the ball as often as he has if Ohio State expects to win the BCS. Of course, you college football aficionados are scoffing at the idea of emphasizing completion percentage from a “running quarterback.” In your mind, imagine Lee Corso exclaiming, “Not so fast, my friend.” The table below shows Braxton Miller’s 2012 statistics compared to what other, so-called “running quarterbacks” did the year they won the BCS.

YEAR

QB (TEAM)

SCORING OFFENSE RANKING

RUSH YARDS

PASS YARDS

COMPLETION PERCENTAGE

2012

Braxton Miller (OSU)

21

1,271

2,039

58.3

2010

Cam Newton (Auburn)

7

1,473

2,854

66.1

2008

Tim Tebow (Florida)

4

673

2,746

64.4

2005

Vince Young (Texas)

1

1,050

3,036

65.2

As the table illustrates, when compared to Braxton Miller’s 2012 performance, “running quarterbacks” who won BCS Championships passed for more yards, had considerably higher completion percentages, and led their offenses to greater scoring success. If the Ohio State Buckeyes hope to win the 16th and final BCS Championship, Braxton Miller has to become a better passer and distribute the ball more to his teammates.

Knowing that 13 out of 15 BCS Champions had top-10 scoring defenses the year they won the BCS (and 6 out of 15 had top-2 scoring defenses) makes it clear that a top-notch scoring defense is all but required for a National Championship. Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinators, Luke Fickell and Everett Withers, have both coordinated elite scoring defenses (Fickell at Ohio State from 2005-2010 and Withers at North Carolina in 2009), but Ohio State’s scoring defenses have declined since 2010, ranking 27th in 2011 and 31st in 2012. It will be quite a challenge to reverse course and make that jump to the top-10 in 2013 when OSU returns just four defensive starters. They are losing 6 members of their starting front-7, 8 of their top-12 tacklers, 3 of their top-4 tackles-for-loss leaders, their sack leader, and the team leader in interceptions.

No matter which prominent preseason poll is considered, Ohio State will have a top-5 preseason ranking. While not members of the illustrious SEC, Ohio State does have the second shortest odds to win the BCS, they went undefeated in 2012, Coach Urban Meyer is college football coaching royalty, AND he enters that magical realm of coaches who have been at their institution for two to four years (not to mention that he has two BCS Championships on his résumé- won while navigating the treachery of the SEC). Looking to the 60% Rule, Ohio State meets three of the five predictive categories (60%), so they are a team worthy of consideration. 

Schedule Issues

Any preview of Ohio State would be incomplete without any mention of their strength (weakness) of schedule. Ohio State may have gone 12-0 in 2012, but they also had the 101st toughest schedule (according to the NCAA). For 2013, the NCAA rates the Buckeyes’ schedule as 105th most challenging. Given Urban Meyer’s clout, Ohio State’s top-5 preseason ranking, and the real potential for another undefeated regular season, these Buckeyes just might coast into the Big Ten Championship Game with a National Championship berth awaiting their victory. 

Early Preseason Conclusions

Understanding that expectations for Ohio State are just about as high as can be leads to real reluctance in believing that pro-OSU bettors will be assured a profitable 2013 season. In particular, bettors would be wise to avoid backing Ohio State when they are double-digit favorites. Knowing that OSU meets the criteria for the 60% Rule, combined with how well-positioned Ohio State should be to back into the BCS title game, makes them a legitimate contender. That same soft schedule, however, might just leave these Buckeyes woefully unprepared to meet the level of competition that an SEC opponent (or another battle-hardened foe) would bring to the game. If Braxton Miller does not become a better passer and distributor of the football, Ohio State could find themselves on the wrong side of another lopsided BCS Championship Game. Their short BCS odds, coupled with defensive and quarterback concerns, make this a futures bet that we would rather not place.
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