Clock Strikes Midnight: OSU’s Season Ends As Sports Betting Launches

The Buckeyes lost to Georgia in heartbreaking fashion just before first bets were taken

When the clock struck midnight to signal the beginning of 2023 on Sunday, it also marked an end to Ohio State’s football season.

At almost the exact moment the ball dropped in Times Square, Ohio State kicker Noah Ruggles missed a 50-yard field goal with just seconds remaining in the Buckeyes’ College Football Playoff semifinal game against No. 1 Georgia. The heartbreaking loss will be remembered for years to come, as the Buckeyes and Bulldogs put on an entertaining performance with a 42-41 finish. 

As fate would have it, at 12:01 a.m. legal sports betting launched in Ohio. Mobile sports betting platforms like BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, and FanDuel went live in Ohio shortly after midnight.

Perhaps fortunately for fans of the Buckeyes, they couldn’t legally wager on the end of the Ohio State-Georgia game. 

The reactions across the state were notable, as Ohio State fans suffered through New Year’s parties while watching their favorite team lose in demoralizing fashion. 

Ohio State did cover the spread — the Buckeyes were nearly a touchdown underdog at most sportsbooks and lost by only a point — but it also had become a favorite to win in live betting nationally during the game. It led 38-24 entering the fourth quarter, but the Buckeyes were outscored 18-3 in the final 15 minutes of play. Georgia scored the game-winning touchdown with 54 seconds remaining. 

On the bright side for Ohio State fans, they won’t have to watch Michigan in the national championship game. The Wolverines were upset 51-45 by No. 3 TCU in their semifinal clash, another thriller that came down to the final minute. 

Sportsbooks missing out?

Not only did sportsbook operators in Ohio miss out on Ohio State fans wagering on OSU-Georgia, but they’ll also undoubtedly see less wagering on the national championship game than if the Buckeyes were involved. Sportsbooks will still see plenty of interest from bettors for the Georgia-TCU game (the Bulldogs are a 13-point favorite at multiple sportsbooks), but far less than for an Ohio State-TCU clash.

Operators in Michigan saw heavy wagering last season when the Wolverines were in the College Football Playoff. Much like Ohio State this season, the Wolverines fell to the Bulldogs in the semifinals a year ago, which affected the volume of betting in Michigan on the national title game.

The two teams in this year’s national title game are from states — Georgia and Texas — that are among a minority that don’t allow legal sports betting.

Mitchell puts on a show

While the Buckeyes’ defeat spoiled New Year’s for some die-hard sports fans in the state, Cleveland Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell gave Ohioans a positive memory Monday. Mitchell exploded for 71 points in an overtime win over the Chicago Bulls. 

Mitchell’s 71 points are the most scored by an NBA player since Kobe Bryant went for 81 against the Toronto Raptors in 2006. Mitchell’s over/under point total entering the game was set at 29.5 points. Mitchell covered that with ease, scoring an absurd 55 points after halftime. 

He scored from just about everywhere on the floor, making 20 free throws, 15 shots from inside the 3-point line, and seven shots from 3-point range. Mitchell also added 11 assists and eight rebounds in an all-around marvelous performance.

The remarkable performance may have been overshadowed for many Ohio sports fans by the Buckeyes’ loss, but the Cavs are giving Ohioans plenty to look forward to in coming months. FanDuel lists Cleveland at +1000 to win the Eastern Conference, which is the fifth-shortest odds in the conference.

In another bright spot for Cleveland sports fans on the opening weekend of legal sports betting, the Browns upset the Washington Commanders in Sunday’s NFL action.

Many of those who bet on the Cincinnati Bengals’ Monday Night Football tilt with the Buffalo Bills, meanwhile, were in limbo Tuesday morning due to the game having being suspended in the first quarter. The Bills’ Damar Hamlin collapsed with heart stoppage after making a tackle, resulting in his being hospitalized in critical condition.

Sportsbooks have different policies regarding suspensions of games, with some canceling bets and quickly issuing refunds while others were awaiting a decision from the NFL on if and when the game will resume.

Photo: Adam Cairns/USA TODAY


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