The Ohio State Buckeyes 2014-15 College Football Betting Preview

Steve - CollegeFootballWinning.com

Monday, July 14, 2014 12:08 PM GMT

Over the past decade, the Ohio State side has been the majority betting side in 75.4% of their games. Certainly, that makes Ohio State a popular “public” team. Since Urban Meyer has been head coach, the public majority has been on the OSU side in 92.31% of all their games! In the eight years before Meyer took over, the average Ohio State game saw a total of 45.48 points scored. In Coach Meyer’s two seasons, the average Buckeye game totaled 64.46 points. Now before you counter with a claim that more points are scored in all of college football nowadays, in Urban Meyer’s two OSU seasons, the average FBS college football game had 56.72 points scored- more than a touchdown less than an average Meyer-OSU game. Should Totals be the focus of your college football picks for Ohio State in 2014? Read on. This article is a college football betting preview of the 2014-2015 Ohio State Buckeyes.

Ohio State’s Urban Meyer Against-the-Spread (ATS)
Whether you like him or not, Urban Meyer wins football games. Going 24-2 straight-up (SU) in your first two years coaching anywhere will get you branded a winner. Meyer also happens to be the second-most profitable head coach in college football. Before you go betting Meyer’s teams blindly, however, you would do well to consider how he is trending: In each of his last two seasons at Florida, Meyer beat the spread at just 53.85% (profitable by just one game each year). In his two years at Ohio State, Coach Meyer was 52% ATS- narrowly unprofitable (with 52.38% being the break-even point in the bet-11-to-win-10 world). His most recent season, going 46.15% ATS, was his third-worst ATS season in his 12 seasons as an FBS head coach. How is a team with a 24-2 SU record unprofitable ATS? One word: expectations.

 

Expectations in College Football Betting
As an admitted oversimplification, betting lines are driven by expectations. Some think Urban Meyer is the best coach in college football. Many believe that Ohio State is the best football program in the B1G. Senior QB, Braxton Miller, has the third-shortest odds to win the 2014 Heisman Trophy. Pinnacle has Ohio State’s National Championship futures odds tied for fourth-shortest. All of those facts together scream, “High expectations!” Anything that raises expectations for a team is generally bad for ATS outcomes. In our article outlining preseason predictive principles, we discussed three conditions for a profitable ATS season:

  1. Be unranked in the preseason polls. Only four times since 1950 has Ohio State missed being ranked in the AP (Associated Press) Top 25 Preseason Poll, and they are a lock for being ranked in the top 10 this year. It will surprise no one if they were in the top 5. They have only been ranked in the preseason top 10 once in the last three seasons- last season (OSU’s worst ATS year in a decade).
  2. Be unprofitable the prior ATS season. Already mentioned, Ohio State was an unprofitable 46.15% ATS  as betting picks in 2013.
  3. Increase the straight-up wins from the prior season. Over the past decade, EVERY time Ohio State improved their SU wins from the prior season, they were profitable ATS. Over the past decade, when the Buckeyes had the same or fewer SU wins from the prior season, 66.67% of the time they were unprofitable ATS. For the Buckeyes to top 2013’s 12-SU-win mark, they would have to win (the equivalent of) all of their regular season games AND one post-season game (i.e. a B1G Championship game, a College Football Playoff game, and/or another Bowl game). While that would not be impossible, given their favorable B1G schedule, it would be difficult.

Schedule Notes
Utilizing the NCAA’s method of determining strength of schedule, Ohio State ranks 35th. Take a look at their 2014 schedule below:

DATE

OPPONENT

LOCATION (STADIUM)

NOTES (Ohio State Under Urban Meyer)

08/30/14

Navy

Baltimore, MD

(M&T Bank Stadium)

OSU is 1-1 ATS in season-openers, 2-0 ATS in opening road games, and 0-2 ATS in neutral site games. The Total went Over in both season-openers and both neutral site games. The last time OSU played Navy was in 2009 (before Meyer); OSU failed to cover the spread by 18 points.

09/06/14

Virginia Tech

Columbus, OH

(Ohio Stadium)

OSU is 1-1 ATS in Home-openers. OSU is 0-2 ATS vs. non-B1G “Power Conference” opponents. VT is just 28.57% ATS in Away/neutral site games the last three years.

09/13/14

Kent State

Columbus, OH

(Ohio Stadium)

The last time OSU played Kent (in 2007, before Meyer), OSU beat the spread by 15 points. OSU is 3-3 ATS vs. non-Power Conferences. The Totals were also 3-3 (Over-Under) in those games.

09/27/14

Cincinnati

Columbus, OH

(Ohio Stadium)

OSU played UC twice in the last 10 years (in 2004 and 2006, both before Meyer). They beat the spread by an average of less than 4.75 points in those two contests. The Total went Under both times. OSU is 42.86% ATS in non-conference Home games. They are 1-2 ATS after a bye.

10/04/14

Maryland

College Park, MD

(Byrd Stadium)

OSU is 2-0 ATS in B1G road-openers. This will be UM’s first-ever B1G Home game. UM is just 31.58% ATS at Home under Coach Edsall, and just 33.33% ATS as Home underdogs. The Total has gone Over in 72.73% of all OSU Away games.

10/18/14

Rutgers

Columbus, OH

(Ohio Stadium)

OSU is 1-0-1 ATS in B1G Home-openers. This is RU’s first-ever Away B1G game. Both teams are coming off of a bye. OSU is 1-2 ATS after a bye, while RU is 2-3 ATS after a bye (under Coach Flood). RU is 53.85% in Away games (under Flood). RU is 3-1 ATS as double-digit underdogs (under Flood).

10/25/14

Penn State

University Park, PA

(Beaver Stadium)

OSU is 2-0 ATS vs. Penn State. OSU beat the spread by an average of 22.5 points in those games. In last year’s Penn State game, Meyer’s Buckeyes beat the spread by his greatest SPREAD margin of victory (34 points) since becoming the OSU head coach. Both games went Over the Total by an average of 13 points.

11/01/14

Illinois

Columbus, OH

(Ohio Stadium)

OSU is 1-1 ATS vs. Illinois. Both games went way Over the Total: 2012 went Over by 23.5 points and 2013 went Over by 27.5 points.

11/08/14

Michigan State

East Lansing, MI

(Spartan Stadium)

OSU is 1-1 ATS vs. MSU. OSU is 75% ATS in games where the spread is a TD or less (whether favorites OR underdogs). MSU is coming off of a bye. The Spartans are 50% ATS (under Coach Dantonio) after a bye.

11/15/14

Minnesota

Minneapolis, MN

(TCF Bank Stadium)

OSU is 55.56% ATS in Away B1G games. UM is 61.9% ATS at Home (under Coach Kill). UM is 5-1 ATS as double-digit Home underdogs (under Kill). The Total has gone Under in 68.42% of UM’s games at Home (under Kill), while the Total has gone Over in 72.73% of all OSU’s Away games.

11/22/14

Indiana

Columbus, OH

(Ohio Stadium)

OSU is 0-2 ATS vs. IU. In both games, the IU side received less than 25% of the betting action. IU’s 49 points in 2012 were the most points ever scored on an Urban Meyer-head coached college football team, and the most IU has ever scored on OSU (in 83 games).

11/29/14

Michigan

Columbus, OH

(Ohio Stadium)

OSU is 1-1 ATS vs. UM. This rivalry game has been decided by 7 points or less in 38 out of 93 games (40.86%)- including the last three contests. Last year, this betting line experienced the greatest line movement (from the opening to the closing number) of any OSU game under Meyer, and the line direction was wrong. (OSU went from being a 14-point to a 17-point favorite, yet they only won by a single point.) OSU covered the spread 8 out of the last 10 games (with and without Meyer), including the last 3 in Columbus.

 

Some Offensive Lines Are More Offensive Than Others
Having Braxton Miller at quarterback makes an Urban Meyer-coached team look like a shiny object to the part of college football fandom that always gravitates towards things that sparkle. Informed college football bettors, however, look at the ridiculously effective Ohio State running game that featured far more than Miller. In 2013, the Buckeyes rushed for 6.68 yards per carry against FBS competition. That is the highest average for any FBS team since 2009. Certainly, running back Carlos Hyde and his 7.29 yards per carry against the FBS contributed mightily (and he is now gone), but the unheralded offensive line had so much to do with that success. Entering 2014, four of those five starting offensive linemen are gone. Any way that it is calculated (even with Alabama transfer, Chad Lindsay), Ohio State will have an offensive line that has less than 30 collective career starts. Putting that into perspective, over the past two seasons, “Power 5” conference teams that returned less than 30 starts on their offensive line averaged an anemic 3.51 rushing yards per carry, 5.5 SU wins, and a 43.75% ATS winning rate. To be fair, Ohio State looks to be the most talented of that lot, but it is unreasonable to conclude that such an inexperienced offensive line would do nearly as well as last year’s group.

 

Ryan Shazier Was Their Defense
Ohio State’s 12-2 SU record in 2013 belies just how distressing their defense was in certain areas. The Buckeyes’ passing defense ranked 118th against FBS competition. Forget hitting the opponent; Woody Hayes would have punched his own defensive coordinator for that kind of performance. Even with a passing defense that was so bad, linebacker Ryan Shazier (now a Pittsburgh Steeler) was sensational. In 2013, he had 102 solo tackles (second-best in the FBS), 23.5 tackles-for-loss (second-best in the FBS), four forced fumbles (10th-best in the FBS), and he led Ohio State in all of those categories in 2012 as well! Even though Ohio State gets some of the best recruits from both the nation and their talent-rich home state, a Ryan Shazier simply does not appear every season. His loss will be palpable in 2014.

 

More Meyer Mentionables

  • Line movement (from the opening to the closing betting line) indicated the correct side in just 45.83% of OSU’s games.
  • Reverse Line Movement (RLM): Usually an indicator of where the “sharp” money has gone when it opposes the majority of the public bets, the RLM side has been correct LESS than it has been incorrect. Therefore, RLM appears to be no indicator of the correct side in Ohio State games.
  • Meyer’s Buckeyes were underdogs just twice, and they beat the spread in both of those games.
  • In Ohio State games where the spread is a touchdown or less, the Buckeyes are 75% ATS.
  • When QB Braxton Miller (with or without Meyer) scores at least two rushing TD’s, the Buckeyes are just 30% ATS.
  • Ohio State is just 1-8 ATS when they allow more than four yards per rush.
  • The Total has not been noteworthy in Ohio State’s Home games, but the Total went Over in 72.73% of OSU’s Away games.

 

Preseason Conclusions
The 2015 College Football National Championship will be determined by playing-off four teams chosen by 13 people. For good or ill, this will be the most subjective method of determining the four best teams in college football since before the BCS. Given the extreme subjectivity of the selection process and the fact that we have no data on the results (since this is the first year of the process), we recommend the most conservative approach to your National Championship futures betting. When we add our offensive line and Shazier-less defense concerns to that approach, we recommend against taking Ohio State as a College Football betting pick in a National Championship futures bet.

Even though Urban Meyer, historically, is one of the best ATS coaches in football, the betting odds appear to have caught up to his reputation. Given the extremely high expectations for Ohio State in 2014, there is enough evidence to suggest this year will not be a profitable one, ATS. As always, if a public team like Ohio State loses a lot of games ATS early in the year, look for an ATS rebound in the second half of their season. In 2013, Ohio State allowed 1.01 yards more PER PLAY in Away games compared to Home games. That was not the case in 2012. If 2014 shows similar signs to that 2013 phenomenon, then look to bet some Overs in Ohio State Away games.

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