Colin: Let's start with the million-dollar question, if the Buckeyes win out, no matter how they do it, will they make the playoff?
Baver: In all likelihood….yes. ESPN’s FPI ratings and corresponding probability factors give Ohio State only a 9% chance of winning the Big Ten. Yet, the sportsbooks now have OSU’s chances to win the Nat’l Title at anywhere from 2-1 to 3-1, second only to Bama, while those two teams have significantly better odds to win it all than any other team. And Fivethirtyeight calculates OSU chances of making the playoff at 54%. What’s that tell you? It tells you that those factoring the odds/probabilities fully expect the Committee to select an 11-1 Ohio State team in their final Top 4 rating, even without playing in the B1G title game.
But never say never….the books that took action on the presidential election had it more lopsided than the polls did….and of course the polls, the books, and the stock market traders were all dead wrong.
Colin: How shocked were you that Michigan lost? I missed most of it. What happened? They came in on a roll.
Baver: It doesn’t surprise me that the game was close, but I figured that Michigan would force their will on Iowa if the game were tight in the 4th quarter. Michigan had left their state only once prior to last Saturday, playing a horrendous Rutgers team in Piscataway. Kinnick Stadium can be a tough place to play, and mediocre Ferentz-led Iowa teams can still be pesky. Michigan’s downfall? What some thought was the best defense in the country couldn’t contain Akrum Wadley, who had 167 combined yds from scrimmage. And the Iowa defense that got shredded by Saquon Barkley and PSU held the UM rushing attack under 100 net yards.
Colin: Along those lines, this is going to make me sound like a drooling Dispatch mailbox hater, but I wasn't completely impressed with OSU against Maryland. Yes, we did win 62-3, but the passing game still seemed like it needed an extra second to develop. That extra second disappears against better defenses. Are you convinced this passing game has turned the corner?
Baver: It’s turned “a” corner, but not sure it’s turned “thee” corner. Barrett is simply not throwing the ball like he once did. Now, he does just about everything else well, but accuracy is definitely a problem. I do like KJ Hill and Binjimen Victor, and the progress they are making. And the O-line has raised their collective game since the Penn State debacle; that has definitely helping the Buckeye aerial attack.
Colin: Are the Silver Bullets getting the respect they deserve on D?
Baver: No. More on that in a second.
Colin: Ending the season again with MSU and Michigan blows. No matter what their record, I just can't believe Sparty and company won't play way over their heads on Senior Day. Your thoughts?
Baver: I’m concerned…that’s for sure. I think MSU will indeed play one of their better games of the year, but the way Schiano has this defense playing, I find it hard to see Sparty putting many points on the board. And Urban should have his guys in the right mind frame after last year’s devastating loss. I’ll pass on making a score prediction with potential bad weather in store for Saturday in East Lansing, but I see a low scoring game with the Bucks winning by a couple TD’s. If the weather is horrible, then it might be tighter.
Colin: Does the noon kick help or hurt the Buckeyes?
Baver: This will be Sparty’s fifth straight noon kick, and the Bucks haven’t had a noon kick since October 1st. I think that answers your question.
Colin: What other games and lines will you be keeping an eye on this week and give us an update on your picks to date?
Baver: 7-3 against the spread on OSU, hitting 7 of the last 8…I’ve had a good pulse on the Buckeyes from a Vegas standpoint for the 3rd straight year. But I still can’t break out of the slump with non-Buckeye games….I’m 15-18-1 ATS overall, which includes the OSU games. I mentioned a two-TD game or maybe less, so while I think Urban and his boys get revenge on Sparty, I think MSU plus the 22 is the play there. I really like West Virginia getting points (3 ½) at home vs Oklahoma, as the ‘Eers have finally made a believer out of me. I also like a rejuvenated Stanford team laying 11 at Cal. And I think 13 ½ isn’t enough pts in the Maryland-Nebraska game; I like the Huskers to cover in Lincoln.