The Ohio State Buckeyes, 2-0 under new head coach Urban Meyer, welcome the Cal Bears to the Big Horseshoe for a Big Ten/Pac-12 battle in Columbus Saturday afternoon (noon ET, ABC).
Earlier this week Ohio State opened at around negative 18 for this game at most online sportsbooks, with a total of 52.5 But as of Friday afternoon, the spread had been cut to 16.5, while the total had been bumped to 54.
"There is some sharp action on Cal, but the majority of the betting volume is on the Buckeyes at most shops that we track," said Jack Randall of OddsShark.com. "Cal has struggled with the point spread as roadies lately, going just 2-8 ATS, according to the matchup report."
Ohio State is off to a 2-0 start to this season, with a 56-10 win over Miami (Ohio) and a 31-16 decision over Central Florida. The Buckeyes got 294 yards on the ground vs. the Red Hawks, and 256 rushing yards vs. the Knights.
But while OSU cruised to a cover as 25-point favorites over Miami, the Buckeyes gave up the cover as 16-point faves vs. UCF on a meaningless third quarter Knights touchdown. The teams then played a scoreless fourth quarter.
Ohio State sophomore QB Braxton Miller has hit on 32 of 48 passes so far this year, and last week he ran for 141 yards. Unfortunately, OSU might have to rely on Miller even more this Saturday because the top two guys on the Buckeyes' RB depth chart are ailing and probably out.
With its two victories, Ohio State has advanced from No. 18 in AP preseason poll to No. 12 this week. Which doesn't mean too much, considering the Buckeyes are serving a bowl ban this season.
Cal is 1-1 after losing its opener at home to Nevada 31-24, then beating Southern Utah (FCS) last week 50-31. The Bears, as 12-point favorites, trailed the Wolf Pack 21-7 in the third quarter, tied it at 24 midway through the fourth, but allowed Nevada to score with 30 seconds left to lose.
Cal got out-rushed 220-110 that day.
Then last week, as 32-point favorites, the Bears only led the Thunderbirds 20-17 after three quarters, before using an interception return and a punt return for scores to finally pull away in the fourth.
Cal is nicked up, and could be down as many as five opening-day starters on Saturday, including two offensive linemen and two linebackers.
For what it's worth, Saturday's game will kickoff at 9 AM Cal Bears' time. The Buckeyes and Bears last met back in 1972, OSU coming out on top 35-18.
Free Pick: Talent wasn't going to be an issue for Ohio State this year; without probation the Buckeyes would rank among the favorites to win the Big Ten. And despite the injuries in the backfield we'll give the points and go with Ohio State Saturday (courtesy of OddsShark Twitter).