The Big Ten's marquee game is very big in Las Vegas.
More bets have been placed on Michigan to win the national championship than any other team. Ohio State is second, and it's close.
Over the past 11 months, the MGM sportsbook has taken thousands of national championship bets on both the Wolverines and the Buckeyes. Title-favorite Alabama has attracted the third-most action, but the Crimson Tide have garnered 30 percent fewer bets than either the Wolverines or Buckeyes. There's a significant gap between the number of bets on those three teams and the rest of the field at the MGM.
Approximately 25 percent of all bets in the MGM's national title futures pool are on either Michigan or Ohio State. Heading into Saturday's showdown in Columbus, Ohio State is listed at 5-1, and Michigan is 12-1 to win it all.
"There are around 100 more (bets) on Michigan," MGM vice president of race and sports Jay Rood said.
The money, however, is a different story.
While Michigan has attracted more national championship bets, the larger ones have been on Ohio State. The Westgate SuperBook has taken four times as much money on the Buckeyes as it has on the Wolverines, including a $40,000 bet on Ohio State, placed in October, at 5-2 odds. William Hill's Nevada sportsbook took two $25,000 bets on the Buckeyes at 4-1, along with a $20,000 bet at 9-2. In comparison, the largest bet on Michigan at William Hill was $2,870 at 11-2.
This week, the Wolverines head to Columbus as one-touchdown underdogs. Sportsbook operator CG Technology opened Ohio State as a 7-point favorite Sunday afternoon and promptly attracted a $2,000 limit bet on the Wolverines. (Limits are smaller early in the week, when the market is just taking shape).
Action has been pouring in on the game since the spring. On May 13, Chris Andrews, sportsbook director at the South Point casino, posted point spreads on approximately 200 of the year's biggest college football games. Andrews made Ohio State a 6.5-point favorite over Michigan. As of Friday morning, the Buckeyes were sitting as 6.5-point favorites at the South Point.
"It's that whole 'blind squirrel' thing," Andrews, a 30-year veteran bookmaker, said with a laugh about his early line. "Six-and-a-half just kind of made sense. I gave Ohio State a pretty strong home-field advantage and thought they were a little better than Michigan."
The Westgate also offered an early line on Michigan-Ohio State. It was a high as Ohio State -10 in early October, and as low as Ohio State -4.5 in the first week of November.
The line had settled at Ohio State -6.5 at most shops as of Friday morning. The action varied from book to book. The money was nearly 2-1 in favor of Michigan at CG Technology, one of the few shops that had cut the point spread to -6. But at William Hill, 88 percent of the early money was on the Buckeyes as of Thursday morning.
At the South Point, Michigan-Ohio State was the most heavily bet game. Andrews said he took enough Ohio State money to bump the Buckeyes up to 7-point favorites multiple times and immediately took bets on Michigan.
"A couple guys did come in and put some big money down on Ohio State," Andrews said. "And [the line] did go to seven, but other big guys came right back in and took it."
A bookie in Columbus
"Albert" is a local bookmaker based in Columbus, Ohio. He'll be rooting for the Wolverines on Saturday.
"Based on what I've seen what so far this year, I would bet 85 percent of the money will be on Ohio State, if not 90," he said. "There will be a ton of money on the Buckeyes. I'm born and raised in Columbus, so it kind of sucks. But it is what it is."
The line on the game at Albert's book was Ohio State -6.5, consistent with the overall U.S. sports betting market. Sometimes, though, he'll have a line on the Buckeyes that's one or two points higher.
He estimates 70 percent of his clients are in Ohio, the majority in Columbus. He does have a few Ohio State students, but in general tries to stay away from the college kids.
"They don't have any money," he said.
Per usual, Ohio bettors have flocked to the Buckeyes almost weekly this season. They loaded up on Ohio State as big favorites against Indiana, Wisconsin, Penn State and Northwestern. The Buckeyes failed to cover the spread in each game.
"Then, when they played Nebraska, and everyone, I guess, got tired of them not covering and they switched," Albert said.
Ohio State blew out Nebraska, 62-3, as a 17-point favorite.
Odds & Ends
-- Ohio State has won 11 of the past 12 meetings with Michigan, going 9-3 against the spread during that stretch.
-- Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is 39-33 ATS for his college career, including 12-15 ATS as an underdog and 13-16 ATS on the road.
-- Ohio State coach Urban Meyer 110-73 ATS, including 90-78 ATS as a favorite and 59-41 at home.
-- Ohio State is 6-5 ATS this season. Michigan is 5-6 ATS.