Ohio State Will Be Underdog For First Time In Two Years In CFP Semifinal

Top-ranked Georgia is favored by a touchdown over the Buckeyes Saturday

Ohio State’s last game was a disappointing 45-23 loss to Michigan, but upsets elsewhere kept the Buckeyes in the national playoff picture. Coach Ryan Day’s fourth-ranked Buckeyes face No. 1 Georgia at 8 p.m. Saturday in a College Football Playoff semifinal game. 

Day feels confident that with the month of preparation, his team will handle not only the big stage, but also the daunting opponent. Georgia won last season’s national championship and has yet to lose this year. This will be Ohio State’s first game as an underdog since January 2021. 

“Well, the good news is we have great experience being in this style of a game,” Day told the media this week. “This is our third time playing in the CFP in the last four years.”

The betting line

Legal sportsbooks won’t launch in Ohio until 12:01 a.m. on Sunday — and Ohio State’s game will likely be completed by that time — but mobile sportsbooks across the country have odds on the action. 

BetMGM, FanDuel, and PointsBet are among sportsbooks listing Georgia as a 6.5-point favorite, while Barstool Sportsbook and BetRivers have the Bulldogs as a 7-point favorite. The Bulldogs are 7-6 against the spread this season. This game is only the second time all year Georgia is a single-digit favorite. The Bulldogs covered a 9.5-point spread against Tennessee, winning 27-13. 

Ohio State’s moneyline ranges from +210 to +225 in the Buckeyes’ first game as an underdog this season. Ohio State hasn’t been an underdog since losing 52-24 to Alabama in the national championship game on Jan. 11, 2021. Ryan Day’s teams are 1-2 as an underdog against the spread and straight up since he became the Buckeyes’ head coach. 

The total for Ohio State-Georgia is 62.5 at multiple sportsbooks, although Caesars Sportsbook lists the total at 62 points.

Strength vs. Strength

ESPN’s efficiency metrics say Ohio State has the most efficient offense in college football. Those same metrics say Georgia’s defense is the most efficient in the country. 

The Buckeyes hope to move the ball effectively through the air and on the ground. Georgia leads the nation in rushing defense, while Ohio State averaged more than 5 yards per carry this season. 

“We’ve got the plays down,” Ohio State tight end Cade Stover said. “We’ve got the people here to do it. It’s just the fact of putting it all together here and playing all 11 together and just doing our job one at a time here and being successful running the ball.”

Moving the ball on the ground could open up the passing game for quarterback CJ Stroud, who is considered a top NFL prospect. Georgia is 10th nationally in pass efficiency defense, although the Bulldogs did allow 502 passing yards in a 50-30 win over LSU in the SEC Championship game. 

Defensively, Ohio State will need a much better performance than its showing against Michigan in the regular-season finale. The Buckeyes allowed 278 passing yards and 252 rushing yards. The Wolverines used explosive plays to win by 22. 

A win over Georgia could set up a rivalry rematch between Michigan and Ohio State in the national championship game. The second-ranked Wolverines are about a touchdown favorite to beat TCU in the other semifinal.

Photo: Adam Cairns/USA TODAY


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