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Pick - Analysis
The biggest news going into this game is the status of Braxton Miller. He's listed as a game-time decision, which means the line still isn't out in a lot of places. For the books where the line is posted, such as 5 Dimes sportsbook, Ohio State is listed as -16 point favorites. It could easily move up or down, depending on Miller's status on Saturday.
California already faced Northwestern out of the Big Ten and it threw away the game with two pick sixes in a 14-point loss. Conveniently in that game, one of Northwestern's quarterbacks was knocked out early and it didn't help Cali that much on defense. The Golden Bears had trouble last week as well, barely beating Portland State. In fact, they needed two fourth quarter scores to win that game. With a road game at Oregon looming next weekend, California is going to have a lot on its minds.
No matter what the line is at, it's not like Miller's backup is a pushover. Granted, playing on the road is a little different, but Kenny Guiton led the offense admirably last week against San Diego State, throwing for 152 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 83 and another score. With how Cali's defense has looked in the early going, it's doubtful it will be able to stop whoever is at QB for the Buckeyes. Plus, he'll have James Hall to work with in the backfield who already has 234 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
However, we can't assume this is going to be a pushover for Ohio State. Last year when these team's played, the Golden Bears actually kept it close on the road, losing only 35-28. Considering the Buckeyes were -17 point favorites in that game, it was a pretty good result. California even outgained a Braxton Miller-led offense by 100 yards.
Cali brings in a new spread offense that leads the nation in passing yards at over 470 per game. Led by new coach Sonny Dykes, it's even more potent than a season ago. Freshman QB Jared Goff can throw the ball, but his problem may be in the scoring department. With all those yards, Goff should have more than four touchdowns to show for it. And it's not like they are scoring from the goal line, their two leading rushers only have one touchdown between them. Playing at home against Ohio State who's travelling out west, the Bears definitely have a chance to keep this close with their offense.
The defense is going to be the biggest question for California. If it has trouble with Portland State, how can it stop Ohio State, no matter who's at QB? Goff will have to continue passing in mass amounts and can't throw pick sixes if he wants to keep this game close.
The Buckeyes are just 1-4 ATS in their last five non-conference games, but 8-2-1 ATS in their last 11 vs. the Pac-12. The Golden Bears are a surprising 4-1 ATS in their last five vs. the Big Ten, but have not covered in their last five home games. The over has hit in four straight games for California, as well. Expect points in this one, due to Cali's poor defense and high-flying offense.
Tough to lay significant points on the road to a team that has already shown in can find the endzone. While Cal kept it close last year, that same Cal team was blown off the field by other top programs. This year, new coach, new schemes. Ohio State is the way we're going here as they should be the better prepared team. Tread lightly though. It's a big number. Ohio State -15.5
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