"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
One of the most profitable money machines the last couple years in Big 10 plays has been betting against Michigan and taking the Over in their games. Do you know that since the start of the Rodriguez Era that had you been betting against Michigan and taken the Over in every one of their Big 10 games, you'd be standing firm with a 31-11 record. It's 9-1 this season alone, with only the Under 64.5 hitting against MSU keeping it from a clean slate. That's an 18.9 unit profit just in the last 25 months. How many stocks or 401K's can really claim that? A dozen times both have hit in the same game, so had you been savvy enough, for example, to parlay both plays for an additional half unit (the payoff for a 2-team parlay is typically 13/5) every time out, you could have added an additional 11.7 units to your bounty. Jimminy Crickets on a Cracker!! That's over three grand if you're betting $100 units. I cant say that I've been doing this. I've been biting on the Over's quite regularly over the last three seasons, but I seem to alternate, smart pragmatic plays against Michigan with homerish DAMN STRAIGHT I THINK WE'VE TURNED A CORNER, LOOK WHO THE REAL SQUARE IS plays on Michigan. For examples of the former, see MSU +4.5 and Illinois +3. For examples of the latter, see my picks on Michigan against Iowa and Penn State.
I say this not to pile on our team. I know there is large demographic here who could care less if Michigan ever covers a spread. In my heart, I'm like that too. The Wolverines are one of the few sporting passions I have. I just want them to win. When it comes to the other programs I flirt with, like Iowa, Northwestern, Georgia Tech and Boise State, they are all dead and useless to me if they don't cover. Nor do I bring this up to tout how
brilliant lucky I was a week ago in following this or to advise doing the same tomorrow when the Wolverines take on Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium.
Actually, wait. I do advise just that . That is why I bring this up. Why not take the Over? It’s a foregone conclusion these days with Michigan football. It takes some sting out of our defensive woes. When looking at what side to play, as a handicapper, you cant trust this defense laying any chalk, certainly not almost two touchdowns worth. Michigan has made every offense in the Big 10 look good for a couple of years now. No reason to think that wont continue. Besides, Michigan has not been up by more than a single score against a decent opponent since the Notre Dame game. Now we need them to finish almost two scores ahead to cover? No thanks. I'm sticking with the bandwagon. Take Purdue +13 and the Over 61. Mathlete calls for this to go over the total, and I concur. Even though folks who have picked against Michigan all year are suddenly laying the chalk, it's really the only way to go tomorrow. As for the future, it should get better against the point spread. Rodriguez was 28-19-1 ATS against the Big East during his tenure at West Virginia (26-14-1 after his first season). We can only dream of an era when any Michigan head coach covers more than 60 percent of the time in league play.
My First Kiss With Alcohol
Now its time for your history lesson. Michigan and Purdue have not had the most thrilling of rivalries. You can make a case that the dramatic wins by Purdue the last two seasons are among the most classic games in this series. Today’s clip, via Wolverine Historian, is from the 1980 game. It’s really one of my favorite Purdue/Michigan games. Michigan had a defense that refused to give up touchdowns, the gutty quarterbacking of John Wangler and, of course, Anthony Carter. After dropping a pair of heartbreaking games early in the season to Notre Dame—the infamous Harry Oliver kick—and to South Carolina, powered by eventual Heisman winner George Rogers, Michigan tore through the Big 10. They were headed towards a winner take all showdown with Ohio State for the Roses. But they first had to get by the week before a ranked Purdue squad, led by one of the better quarterbacks in nation Mark Herrmann.
This game stands out because I was in attendance as an 8-year-old. It was the first time I had ever been to a Senior Day, and I was beside myself that none of the guys serenaded over the PA would ever play for Michigan again. What, no more Andy Cannavino? Say it aint so!! It was also my first experience with the UNACCEPTABLE crowd. Some yokel a few rows up from us kept heckling Bo and the team as the effort was not going to be good enough to win in Columbus next week. Good grief, Michigan won by 26 points shutting out one of the best offenses in the country.
It also was the first time I tasted alcohol. Some folks were passing a flask of whiskey around and jokingly asked if I wanted some. Ah, yes please. I grabbed the flask and took a gulp. Shockingly, my grandmother allowed this happen. The good times were rolling, I guess. Or her love affair with Anthony Carter was so deep she didn't care what I was doing. Anyway, it burned, was the worst thing I had ever tasted and, in reality, jump started a love affair with alcohol that runs to this day, especially on game day. What’s funny is she always waved off the Pastor in church every time he tried to give me wine for communion. What does this mean? It means what happens at Michigan Stadium, stays at Michigan Stadium. Also, my grandmother rocked. I cant believe its been over 20 years since she left us and I’ve talked to her about Michigan football. Or talked about anything. I do know this. She would have adored Denard Robinson. That’s probably why I am fast and loud to defend him from any critique this fall.
Anyway, the 1980 team is one of my favorites. Enjoy this vintage performance against Purdue.
OVER/UNDER PROP UPDATES
Way back in the summer, I did Over/Under posts with mock season prop bets this year for Michigan. I did a post with five props for the offense and another with five props for the defense. With three-quarters of the season in the books, let's see where we stand on those. Most of them are actually done deals already.
Total QB Touchdowns, O/U 30.5......this has never been in danger of going Under all season. And, it went over last week on Forcier's touchdown pass to tie the game to Darryl Stonum. For the record, Michigan QBs are on pace to account for more than 42 touchdowns this regular season. Clearly, the offense is both one dimensional and cant work in the Big 10.
Drew Dileo Kick Returns, O/U 1.5......This has been stuck at one since the BG game. He actually had two returns that day, but one was scrubbed from the books due to a penalty. Can we get a fair catch or something from good old #26 to help the over here?
Players who will exceed their career number of catches during this single season, O/U 5.5......I came up with a weird one here, but those who picked the Over are the winners. The game was how many guys on the team who catch more passes this single season than what their career numbers were going into the season. Six folks have already down that: Roundtree, Stonum, Hemingway, Grady, Smith and Shaw. This is probably best illustrated with a basic chart. I understand folks like those around here:
|Player||Catches through ‘09||2010 season|
So, that's 6. Winner winner, chicken dinner for the Over. Can anyone else top their career mark this season? Kevin Koger needs a big rally and 14 catches the rest of the way. Not good for the player I labeled as the offense's breakout player for 2010 in HTTV. Martell Webb needs one catch to tie, two to pass his career numbers this season. Terrance Robinson and Jerome Stokes both had 1 career catch entering the season. Both have 1 catch this season. Those folks who took the Under here thinking the forward pass was a thing of the past at Michigan misjudged the situation badly.
Michigan's Leading Rusher, O/U 825 yards.......LOL TO ALL UNDER BETS LOLOLOLOL
TO Margin, Higher/Lower -6.5......Gack, this looks like its going higher. Could Michigan be headed for its third straight minus double digit TO margin? The good news is it means we'll probably improve our record again in 2011 in the aftermath. Generally speaking two-thirds of the teams that end -10 or better improve their overall record the following year and Michigan has followed this pattern in each of the last two season improving from 3 to 5 and then from 5 to (so far) 6 wins in the wake of double digits turnover deficits. So, we might have that going for us. The bad news? Good grief, if cant get a statement on turnovers, there is no guarantee we're getting off this six win number. We're all gun shy waiting for the next fumble pr pick. Anyway, for Michigan to get to seven wins and have a prayer for more, this -6 needs to come back into play for the rest of the month.
Mike Martin, O/U 13.5 combined sacks/TFL's........Injuries throughout October have hindered him from stuffing the stat sheet. He's only at 5.5 in an otherwise All Big-10 worthy campaign for the junior. Personally, I feel he crushes this number a year from now.
Mark Moundros, total tackles O/U 54.5......People who bought into this summer myth are probably a little chaffed at the moment.
Carvin Johnson, total tackles/sacks/tfls's/pbu/ints O/U 64.5.......see above. Although injuries and the fact that he was probably playing out of position when he was in the game conspired against him
Total Points allowed O/U 299.5............Michigan has already allowed 305 points. The Over has already hit. I blame last weeks overtime sessions
Total Takeaways: O/U 20.5............Good grief, this isn't even close. Michigan has just 10 takeaways right now. It's as much of an offender to the team TO margin as the miscues on offense in recent weeks. Maybe Vinopal turns into an interception machine these final three games. Otherwise, this is heading Under.
As you can see, not a lot of drama left with these props.
BIG DAY FOR WIN TOTAL ACTION
As far as real prop bets, tomorrow's game against Purdue is a red letter day for anyone who picked a side in the over/under 7 on total wins for Michigan. Those skeptics who took the under have a lot riding on the underdog Boilermakers. Their backs are to the wall. Those optimistic players from the summer have a lot riding on the favored Wolverines. A win, gets them no worse than a push, their money back and two chances to get the over and/or hedge their bets a little. After two years of the Win Total going Under, a push on O/U 7 would......be.......progress?
Speaking of Vegas lines, there has been quite a bit of movement lately in the two remaining games for Michigan. Let's talk Wisconsin first. Back in the summer, the Wolverines were the underdog in this game as bookmakers released a Wisconsin -3 number. As the season got underway and the Wolverines looked to be rolling during September, the line swung a 180 and the Wolverines became 3-point chalk. Since then, the line has corrected itself and then some. Today, if you're so inclined, you can get Michigan +6.5 against Wisconsin next week. The Ohio State line has spent most of the season as OSU -12.5 to -14. Now? The Buckeyes are 18-point chalk in The Game. These lines wont be available tomorrow--most books take down Games Of The Year lines during the weekends when games are being played--we'll see what the numbers look like when it comes around to game week. Remember, underdogs who outrush their foes cover at a very high rate. We know Michigan can run the ball. If you think they can contain the Badgers and Buckeyes rushing attacks, then grab those points.
GETTING BACK TO FAKE PROPS
This has been the shtick most of the year, so without further adieu my special fake props for tomorrow that might help tell the tale of the overall game.
Largest Lead Of The Game, O/U 10.5 points.........let's forget about Michigan covering the spread. How about going up two scores, first? As hinted above, its been a huge problem. Ever since Denard's long TD run against the Irish, the Wolverines have come up empty every single time they've had a chance to extend a lead past a single score. Shanked field goals, drive killing penalties, missed fourth downs, and overall clunkiness have been the issues on those drives. Can Michigan finally buck that trend and extend to a double digit lead even if its for a fleeting moment? For big games, you'll see oddsmakers release props like this for the game's largest lead. I stay away from those for the most part as they sound like complicated versions of the cute props wondering if Lipscomb will ever hold a lead against Duke in a #1 vs #16 hoops tournament game. But, in the game within the game tomorrow, it will be interesting to see if Michigan can finally show a little killer instinct on offense. If they're finally able to build on a lead, we might not be hyperventilating tomorrow in the fourth quarter for a change. But, if its Purdue who busts this Over, then Lord help the Mods in the CIL. This place will be burning down.
Total Yards Sean Robinson O/U 300 yards........really let's count whoever takes snaps behind center for the Boilermakers here. Needless to say, we all know that quarterbacks have seen single day boons to their total offense numbers when playing Michigan's defense. In Big 10 play, the Wolverines are allowing 316.8 total yards of offense to other teams QBs. For all games this season, that total is 298.11. Thank you Zach Frazier and whoever you were QBing BGSU for making this not look as ridiculous. For the most part it hasn't mattered if its seasoned Big 10 QB or emergency starter, the big numbers are a-coming. Tomorrow's hero is a kid named Sean Robinson. Just because he is a true freshmen and is portrayed as a third stringer, I wouldn't sleep on the guy or assume he's some stiff. In fact, he comes with proper guru ratings. He's not that far off from the recruiting profile that Tate Forcier had coming out of high school. He had offers from Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Stanford and Nebraska. Per Rivals, he was a 4-star recruit, the 10th ranked dual QB in the class and the 3rd best scrambler. I don't like the sound of any of that. No reason he cant put up a day just like Scheelhaase did a week ago, with over 200 yards passing and 100 yards rushing. In the event, Michigan holds this number below 300, it means Michigan is probably going to be safe. If not, look for a game with both clubs in the 30s. At least.
Total Rushing Yards Michigan Tailbacks, O/U 100.5 yards.........do they have an encore after their best cumulative performance of the season? Does the offense lean on these guys a bit more to protect Robinson after what happened last week? Will Toussaint actually play? Will Hopkins ever get more than like 5 five carries? Can Shaw regain his pre-injury form? Will Michael Cox finally build on that impressive effort against Eastern Michigan last year? How many good plays will Vincent Smith make that the MGoPopulace will chalk up as plays that anyone could have done? This is a tricky one. My first instinct is to always take the superstar after a 'down' effort. A week after his lowest rushing output of the season, Denard could go on a rampage. Or he could pass for more than 100 yards a quarter again, let the tailbacks take care of business and rest those legs for the two big ones to close the season. I wouldn't mind seeing a box score like last week again as opposed to 200 yards rushing from Denard. Of course, either will do for me.
My final prediction tomorrow? The largest lead will exceed 10 points, Purdue’s QB will go for more than 300 total yards in offense, but Michigan’s tailbacks will combine for another 100-yard effort. Michigan wins. The same score as the Penn State game, but this time the good guys win 41-31.
(Diarist Note: For the Pick-4 players out there, just a reminder to get your picks in. We’ve got you covered at the JCB for the college football and soccer weekend. My own picks post will be up by sunup. Cheers!)
Let's get into the question of the day. Why in the world are the Michigan Wolverines favored by three points against the Illini?Have people not been watching? What's the deal, allegedly sage--and very, very, very rich--oddsmakers? Somebody has asked this question in a forum thread almost every day this week. I wont pretend to know what's truly going on behind the scenes, but here are a few thoughts as to why Michigan remains chalk, despite a defense that gets as many stops as the Washington Generals.
**Professional bettors don't and never will trust Ron Zook. For an entire decade, the Florida Gators, especially in the Swamp, was their meal ticket. Ron Zook tore all that down. They love to fade him when he's a favorite. Flipping this line to Illinois +3 would bring way too much big money in on Michigan. Despite how bad Michigan has been in recent weeks, that's a risk they don't want to take. This line forces the anti-Zook wiseguys to lay chalk with something they equally loathe, a team with a bad defense. The oddsmakers don't have the best hand, but they're raised the stakes with Michigan as the favorite in hopes to split the anti-Zook crowd.
**Beware the team on a streak. In either direction. Want a pro tip? Look around for teams that have either lost or won four in a row against the number. If it's a 4-game winning streak, bet against them. Its hard to cover five weeks in a row. Conversely, if they've failed against the spot for 4-games in a row, bet on that team since its hard for a team to biff so much that they cant cover in five games in a row. Find any betting handbook or advice text and somewhere within the copy you will be instructed to follow this. I've seen books penned by fancy suit wiseguys whose faces are all over gambling shows like Pro-Line tout this as the cornerstone of your should-be profitable strategy. Make no mistake, there is a demographic of professional sports gambler that, regardless of circumstance, will follow this rule to the letter. Guess who has lost four games in a row to the spread? You probably don't need to many clues. Yep, our Meeeeechigan Wolverines. Oddsmakers aren't about to give those fools who put 10 grand or more per game on systems like this any sort of head start by giving them points and Denard Robinson.
**Speaking of Denard, you may have heard of him. The public loves him. That's driving the line, for sure. But the public also isn't blind. They've seen the Michigan offense turn somewhat clunky the last month and they know all about the bad defense. But Michigan is still a really good bet to outrush most teams they play. And that's a key factor in setting this line. Want another pro tip? Look for underdogs who stand an excellent chance at outrushing their opponent. Dogs who eventually do outrush the favorite cover a lot. It's something I wish I had numbers on. Maybe the JCB Research Team can get on that this offseason? But the numbers I saw years ago had this solidly in the mid-60 percent range, with the success rate escalating based on just how much said dog outrushed their favored foe. It's why Paul Johnson is an excellent underdog coach. I've heard people quip around here that Illinois should be favored by close to a touchdown. Hey, I don't disagree, but if the Book puts a number out there like Michigan +4 or +5, they would get flooded by sharp money out this underdog outrushing their opponent theory. So, they make them slight chalk to confuse the issue those fawking bastadges. By the way, three times this season the underdog in the Michigan game won the rushing battle. They were also 2-1 ATS.
**Vegas likes giving out free money. They win so much, sometimes they like to hand out gifts. For close-to-home examples, I present you Oregon +7 against Michigan in 2007 and last winter on the hardwood with Wisconsin as a pick 'em at Crisler Arena. Ok, obviously this isn't the case, but this does scream free money, right? A perusal of my two favorite all-purpose gambling forums doesn't reveal a ton of folks backing Michigan, the Illini are the best bet of the week for many and at least one offshore has 83-percent of the action on the Illini. Rum punches for everyone in Antigua, I guess, if Michigan covers the spread.
Count me in as one of those folks flipping for that bar bill if the Wolverines come through. I've never been one for the progressive fade plays. I do love hunting for outrushing underdogs, and, frankly, who is to say we don't have one in this game? The Illini are good at rushing and stop the rush. A mini-MSU. How did that go for the Maize and Blue? Mostly, I subscribe to my own theory, one that some of you mathletes may hate because it involves nothing more than the simple eye test: Don't bet chalk with sucky defenses. No sugarcoat. A team with a defense this bad cant be relied upon to win games, let alone cover them as chalk. Michigan's best days ahead the rest of the year against the number will be when they're getting points and another Denard or Tate led comeback comes back short on the scoreboard, but enough to nab the back door cover. So, I am taking Illinois +3. I might even invest in the Over 57. My official card for the day will be at the JCB before sun-up tomorrow. But, the Illini will be on it. There is literally no way Michigan covers this spread. Sorry.
ON THAT UPLIFTING NOTE I AM SURE YOU WANT SOME FAKE OVER/UNDER PROPS TO TRACK TOMORROW AND YOU'RE IN LUCK BECAUSE HERE THEY ARE, YIPEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Wait, I really owe you a little candy after saying mean things and picking against Michigan. How about a fun trip down memory lane. I’ve linked, courtesy of course from Wolverine Historian, highlights from the classic 1989 Michigan-Illinois game. The programs had a tense relationship in the 1980s in the wake of the Gary Moeller hiring and firing three years later by Illinois. I don’t know if Bo ever forgave the institution for that. He took it out on them in 1981 with a 70-21 curb stomping at Michigan Stadium. Michigan was throwing touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. The clubs played bitter, heavy hitting, and chirpy affairs in 1982 and 1983 with each team winning once. The 1985 game ended in a 3-3 tie and Schembechler believed he and his staff failed the team in preparation for the day and gave an impassioned speech to the team, breaking down in tears telling them how much he loved them. Michigan was a buzz saw the rest of the year after that. Phil Webb scored a TD in the final minute for a Michigan win in 1987, the Wolverines ran up the score again in 1988’s 69-13 and sewed up the 1988 Big 10 Title with a decisive rout over the Illini in 1988. The 1989 clash again proved to be a major swing in the Big 10 race. Illinois literally poured their season into beating Michigan and getting the Rose Bowl berth denied to them by the Wolverines the year before. I wonder if Bo knew this would be his last game against Illinois because he was especially feisty. Vada Murray (name drop) told me that Bo actually had the team charge right through the Illini’s warm-ups as they took the field, nearly causing a riot on the field. That Bo! Anyway, enjoy the highlights.
Rushing Yards: Michigan -35.5 over Illinois
This is a great matchup of Big 10 rushing attacks. It's the 8th ranked Michigan rushing offense, the best in the Big 10, and Illinois 24th ranked rushing offense, 4rth overall in the league. The Wolverines are powered by budding All-American Denard Robinson. The Illini counter with Mikel Leshoure. Robinson is the nation's second leading rusher with 160 yards per game. Leshoure cracks the top 25 at 97.25 yards per game. Denard is off back to back 100-yard games, but Leshoure has been bottled up recently, having only topped the 86-yard mark once in his last five games, averaging "just" 4.03 yards a carry in those contests. You would think this line would be higher, but we have to adjust for the fact that Michigan's better rushing numbers will be tested against the 26th rushing defense in the land. Illinois allows just 117 yards a game on the ground. While Michigan counters defensively with a respectable 57th in the country against the run, it's hard to wash the memories of last week when Evan Royster dominated the Wolverines. Like Leshoure, he came in struggling a bit and the Wolverines defense proved the correct tonic. Then there is last year's nightmare against the Illini when the Orange and Blue flattened Michigan to the tune of 377 rushing yards. Leshoure tallied 150 of those yards and was one of two tailbacks to go over the century mark. Michigan's pass defense has everyone salivating, but don't expect Illinois to stray to far from their running identity. Nobody on the edge for Michigan can contain Leshoure. Expect chunks and chunks of yards to be gained just on quick pitches to him while he outraces everyone in pursuit to the corner.
As a Michigan fan, I fear this kid going berserk more than I do Scheelhase and the passing game. Leshoure is a third-year back, a three-star recruit and the 28th overall rated running back, per Rivals in the 2008 class. He went to high school in Champaign and chose the hometown school over scholarship offers from Wisconsin, Missouri and Boston College, among others. He, along with Scheelhase who is coming off his own 100-yard a week ago against Purdue, have helped the Illini outrush seven of eight foes this year to the tune of 76.9 yards per game. Only Ohio State has outrushed the Illini this season. Michigan is going to need a healthy Mike Martin, the continued development of Kenny Demens as a run stuffing LB and somehow figure out how to keep Leshoure from getting to the corner and flat outracing everybody to prevent being gashed in this one.
As for the other side of the ball, Michigan has also outrushed seven of eight foes (only MSU outgained them on the ground), but their margin has been over 125 yards. Denard Robinson’s lowest output of the season has been 99 yards. The Wolverines have to deal with the load upfront that is Corey Liuget. With 7.5 TFLS and 3 sacks, he's bucking for some all-conference honors, but so too are the three interior offensive linemen from Michigan-David Molk, Patrick Omammeh and Steve Schilling--who will assigned at various times throughout the game to block him. Then, there are the linebackers. The Illini starting trio of Marquez Wilson, Ian Thomas and Nate Bussey might be the best starting LB unit the Wolverines have faced this year outside of MSU. That's a 5-star, 3-star and 2-star recruit from the 2007 recruiting class. All are multi-year starters, but Wilson, who seems ticketed for the NFL draft in the spring despite one year left, sat out all of last year with a neck injury. He was the 5-star of this group and his return to the lineup has been the driving force behind the improved play this year from the Illini D. So, Illinois has a high performing LB unit, anchoring one of the league's better defenses, all brought in during the 2007 recruiting cycle. Michigan? The defensive recruits from that class still on team include Ryan Van Bergen, Troy Woolfolk, Micheal Williams, Brandon Herron and, I suppose, James Rogers. Edge: Illinois. Of course, that has little to do with this rushing prop. Keep tabs on this. Underdogs chances of covering the spread skyrocket when they outrush the favorite. As long as Michigan is ahead in this statistical battle, I wont be super nervous about our chances. Both teams have won the rushing battle in almost every game they've played. Cue the something's got to give cliché.
Illinois Passing Yards: O/U 230.5 yards.
Man, this number seems low, doesn't it? I am a bettor, not a bookmaker. However, this is where I would set the number. This is way more of a pillow fight between the Illini passing offense and the Michigan passing defense than the PSU match was supposed to be. Damn, at least I hope so. But it truly is. We have the 111th ranked Illini passing offense versus the 117th ranked Michigan passing defense. Throw the records out when these unit clash, please. At least Penn State's passing offense was ranked in the second third of the nation, albeit towards the bottom in that category and goes for over 200 yards a game. Illinois only averages 143.1 yards per game through the air. Of course, we know that number isn't safe or in play when going up against the Wolverines who yield 290.5 a game. Here's why I think this might be a better matchup for Michigan than last weekend, or, frankly, most of other games this year. We focus way too much sometimes on who the QB is they're going up against. If an alleged walk-on can light up Michigan, then so can Scheelhase for Illinois, who actually has 4-star bonafides, per Rivals. Sometimes we miss out on the fact that its as important to judge to receivers running all over the field matching up with the secondary. In this regard, I don't know if Scheelhaase has weapons to use. I know the Illini's wideouts do not compare to most of the sets Michigan's had to guard in Big 10 play. Penn State, Iowa, MSU and Indiana all have at least five guys in their pass catching rotation that go for over 11 yards per catch. Illinois? They only have one, AJ Jenkins. He has a nice 13.2 yard per catch average, but more than one quarter of his production came from the second game of the season against FCS foe Southern Illinois. Surely Michigan has a pass defense better than the Salukis, right? Wait, don't answer that. Regardless, nobody outside of Jenkins who averages at least one catch per game goes for double digit yards per catch. This might be just the right group of wideouts to keep from going bonkers. Everyone else Michigan has played in the Big 10 has had at least one, if not two, players in the top-100 in the country in receiving yards per game. Illinois does not. This total is right at the midpoint between their two yardage numbers, then I added a little because, well, the original number look obscenely low. Whoever wins this taffy pull, may win this game.
Second Quarter Score: Illinois -5.5 over Michigan
Forget wondering why Michigan is favored to win this game, why are they even favored to win the first half? They are -0.5 (meaning a tie goes to the Illini) for the first 30 minutes of the game. It's screaming for Orange and Blue money. After all, the Wolverines haven't had an intermission lead against any of their Big 10 foes. They were tied against Indiana, but down 7, 14 and 18 points respectively to MSU, Iowa and Penn State. The culprit? Try a dismal second quarter, where the Wolverines have been outscored 92-57. Good grief. Michigan actually has outscored its opponents in the three other quarters, but their second quarter sputtering's have really come back to haunt them. A year ago, they won the second quarter 101-86, but struggled putting up points in the second half. The latter hasn't been a problem this season, but the wheezing towards the halftime break, combined with the defense giving up touchdowns like its job, has really put the team in a hole. They've only scored 3 points in their last two second quarters, have been outscored by at least a touchdown in the second stanza of every Big 10 game and have lost 5 second quarters in a row. In fact, the only second quarter they have won this season was against Notre Dame, by a 7-0 score and needed a run-of-the-century from Shoelace to manage that. How about Illinois? They've outscored teams in the second quarter 74-29. Gulp.
Total MGoForum Threads About Jim Harbaugh: O/U 6.5
For the purpose of this play, we start the clock at 12:01 am Saturday and will run in through the following midnight. A 24-hour cycle. Stanford's Fighting Jim Harbaughs play the ABC primetime game this week. He's already on the minds of just about every Michigan fan. And we all love to talk in the MGoForum. This is actually a serious thing to count. Back in MGoBlog's Haloscan days we didn't have an MGoForum, but in 2007 you could not go a Saturday during the season without scrolling through dozens upon dozens of comments on how every possible future UM coach was doing that day. I figure if the Michigan game goes south, that ought to generate at least a couple Harbaugh threads. Who knows how many will sprout up during the Cardinal's game? In the first quarter, he'll run a zone read with Luck to pick up a first down, and Dahblue will start a thread. In the second quarter, his team will get stuffed on a third and short, and Bouje will start a thread. Harbaugh was one of my favorites growing up, so I might just start a thread for the hell of it because I remain a fan. Who knows, maybe we'll talk about how he's Tom Crean's brother-in-law and the bizarre circumstances that might put both in charges of programs I love. When the Cardinal begin taking over the game, a couple threads will pop up wondering how come lowly Stanford is so good and powerful Michigan is so bad. If the Cardinal choke the game in the end, we'll have at least three threads demanding that he be taken off our 'want' list. It's going to get ridiculous. There will be repetition. Threads will get deleted. But those count towards this total, so mods, please keep track even as you take threads down. Accuracy and wagered MGoPoints are at stake.
With that, I'll sign off. I have dinner plans for the night and somehow have to get my picks post up on the blog. Enjoy the weekend, folks.
Ed-M: Bumped due to info/graphic awesome.
Diarist Note: The Pick-4 contest is up and running at the JCB. We have an assortment of good football and soccer coverage over there to set you up for the weekend. I’ll have weekend picks up later, so you’ll know exactly which teams to fade while I try to gamble my way out last week’s slump.
In a season of transition for both programs, Penn State and Michigan meet in Happy Valley tomorrow night in what could prove to be a signature game for the winner. Neither club has any Big 10 Title aspirations, but critical bowl positioning and perhaps even the inside track to the Gator Bowl, will be on the line when the ball finally kicks off in anger in primetime.
This week’s Big 10 slate is highlighted by the showdown in Iowa City between the Hawkeyes and Spartans, but this contest has implications that loom as large, just in a different venue. What happens to the loser of this game? For Penn State, it means they probably will do no better than a 6-6 record. Or worse. Will the cries for Joe Pa’s head reach the levels of 2003 and 2004 if the Nits revert to their losing ways from the early portion of that decade?
And speaking of cries for heads, how about Rich Rodriguez. There isn't a coach in the country taking more heat for a 5-2 record than Rodriguez, the remaining residue from his 8-16 mark during his first two seasons. A third loss in a row and November might end up being more kind to turkeys than the Wolverines current head coach.
5-2 by year three is just unacceptable, dear.
Everyone here knows all those storylines, so I wont bloviate on and on there. Tomorrow night’s game should be a blast and it will help define what sort of final month either club will have. Here are some of the keys to the game, as I see it through the MGo Over/Under Board. Place your bets accordingly.
First, however, it should be noted that with the conference breaking into two divisions and Michigan and Penn State being seated on different sides, this will be the last PSU/UM in at least a couple of years. Who knows when the Maize and Blue will be back in Happy Valley, so to honor the moment let’s go back in the Way Back Machine, courtesy of Wolverine Historian, and remember the Wolverines' first-ever visit to Beaver Stadium:
Ah, memories. You shall be missed, oh second-largest.
(The picks, after the jump.)
Well, here we are, another State Championship weekend. This rivalry has, to put it mildly, been suboptimal for Wolverine boosters the last two years. Is this game, and season for that matter, going to be a different story? Oddsmakers hint that it might, installing the Wolverines as 4.5-point chalk, but it seems like everyone is picking Michigan State to win or at least cover that seemingly generous spot. Well, almost everybody. And, here's another brave soul. But most folks across the interwebs are picking Sparty to not only cover, but win and possibly move closer to a BCS bid.
Quick aside on the odds for the rest of the season, by the way. Remember how Michigan was a 10-point dog over the summer at Penn State, and how that line plunged to just 3-points after Week 2? Well, now your Michigan Wolverines are a pick 'em in Happy Valley in three weeks. Cheers to the smart souls who grabbed those fat ten points back in August. Most of the other lines have stayed fairly pat in recent weeks, with MIchigan -2 against both Iowa and Wisconsin. The OSU number has dipped to just +12.5, the lowest its been yet. As for Heisman odds, after a brief flirtation with Mark Ingram, the chalk is back in Denard Robinson's corner. At +150, its the smallest payout for a Robinson win at any point in this season. Ingram is +350, Pryor, the preseason favorite, +450 and Kellen Moore +800. Everybody else on the board is 12/1 or higher.
Speaking of odds, the JCB Pick-4 games are up for the week. Jump in and play.
Getting back to this game, I'm sure everyone is an eager beaver to hear what I have to say, especially after that great 4-10 a week ago at the JCB. Big 10 home teams are hot after they're 5-0 sweep a week ago. Four of those teams were underdogs, however, with three losing, but covering the number. I dont know if that really helps us handicap this game at all. I've already made some thoughts clear on this game. I tend to always take the underdog in regular season games pitting 5-0 or better teams against one another. The counter to that, however, I always want to make sure any underdog I pick has the ability to outrush their opponents. With all due respect to the Baker-Bell-Caper combination, I'm not sure that's the case with the Spartans. I annoy everybody every home game in Section 14 when I mention to folks there are no worries about Michigan as long the visiting underdog's rushing numbers are below the Wolverines. It never seems to calm anybody down, but the truth is if you're looking for a quality underdog play look for one who can outrush--not outpass--the favorite. Its why teams like Air Force and Navy make great underdog plays. Michigan's rushing attack is what is driving this line, which most of us bloggers expected to be smaller, to be more than a field goal in favor of MIchigan.
In the end, I just cant buy Michigan's defense as a unit that screams 'trust us, we'll cover as chalk.' Therefore, I am buying this bad boy up to +5 and taking Sparty. Even if I leave the stadium despondent over a loss, I will be a few bucks richer. And if Michigan covers, we'll then thats the best spent money of the day, if you ask me.
Want to argue with me? Tell me I have no soul? Go right ahead. BUT DO IT PERSON. Yes, for all the folks in Ann Arbor tomorrow, you are ALL INVITED, to our tailgate. We'll be at the Fingerlee Lumber Yard, right next to the Business School Tailgate. You cant miss us, we'll be the ones partying in front of a big dark blue RV, our official 2010 tailgate moble. We should be settled in by 10 am. The more the merrier, so stop on by. Dont feel nervous about walking up blind and asking for Jamie Mac; the folks I am with know all about my invisible friend habit.
On to the mock prop board and subtle keys to the game:
Michigan, Yards Per Rush: O/U 6.0
To me, one of the biggest matchups of the season, and, d'uh of this game, is how the Michigan offensive line attacks the MSU defensive front. I talked a little about this in my Big 10 post at the JCB earlier in the week. This has been a mismatch the last couple of seasons. In 2008, MSU was able to jump the snap over and over again and they dominated. A year ago, was every bit as bad even if the Wolverines were able to disguise their snap counts better. Michigan's right side of the line was a turnstile en route to a 28 carry, 28 yard day rushing the football. A main culprit was the 55 yards in lost rushing yards on attempts throughout the game. At first, I was going to throw up an over/under on lost rushing yards, but I changed my mind halfway through this post. That 1.0 yards per carry from a year ago against the Spartans kept bringing me back to that stat. I kept glancing back and forth between last year's box score and this year's stats for Michigan throughout putting this post together, and it just hammered home more so just how much different this year's Michigan's club is than a year ago. I'm more than eager to see how this plays out.
Michigan comes into the game with a different, more talented and athletic offensvie line that they Spartans have had to deal with in this matchup the last couple of years. Center David Molk is healthy after missing this game a year ago. Patrick Omameh and Taylor Lewan have been inserted in the starting unit since the match in East Lansing. Both are upgrades over the incumbents on the field a year ago. Lewan has been an outstanding edition since coming into the starting lineup two weeks ago. He already has become the third most productive blocker of this unit in half the field time. This entire offensive line can get second level blocks on linebackers, a skill the blocking front has lacked for several years now. As for State, its a relief that guys like Orien Wilson and Trevor Anderson are no longer Spartans. Anderson wasnt effectively blocked at any point the last two Paul Bunyan games. They're still strong up from with Jerel Worthy at tackle and the front should be bolstered with the return of Cam Neely and Kevin Pickleman (the latter had a big TFL a year ago in this game) to the lineup.
Let's be clear. A 1.0 ypc is not happening this year. Michigan probably wont hit their current season average of 7.1 ypc, but thats a lot more likely to happen that a reprise from a year ago. In fact, I think this number will be no worse than closer to 7.1 than 1.0. But that's not saying much really. If Michigan hits its season average of 4.5 from a year ago, they wont have enough to win this game, despite the much better effort at running the ball. But, if they get to 6.0, which I think is achievable, then Michigan gets the W. I have to set this number high because most Michigan fans will take the Over, but dont kid yourself. I'm trying to lure in some MSU in here. So, come on LVS, Spartan Dan, CPT Hoolie and Doctor Worm! Where you at? Place your bets. We accept change, but not bus tokens.
Jerel Worthy, Greg Jones, Johnny Adams, total combined Tackles, Sacks, TFLs, TOs and PBU: O/U 25.5 (Diarist Note: Oops Forget to put, uh, you know, a number on this one. All who took the Over on zero, your bets are invalidated, lulz)
I'm throwing this headache of a prop on the board because it gives me a chance to rap about one of my favorite topics that I pretend to be a faux expert in. Worthy, Jones and Adams are the most important players on defense tomorrow for the Spartans. They might be their three best defensive players. They certainly are their best lineman, linebacker and defensive back. Everyone is waiting to see just what happens when Greg Jones meets Denard Robinson. Jones and Adams have been impact players since Day One. Worthy redshirted but has been a starter at tackle since the dat he was eligible after that. If MSU achieves their dream of a BCS bowl that some folks are projecting, two of these guys will end up as All Big 10. Maybe even all three. And, they're all from Ohio. Ah yes, there it is. It always comes back to recruiting in the o-h-i-o for me, doesnt it? Here's the deal. I could give a sack of Alpo about this alleged recruiting battle in the state of Michigan. It does not exist. Its the true Wag The Dog comparison in this rivalry. The real worry for me are the inroads in Ohio that Dantonio (and, well the rest of the league) has made in Ohio to make themselves stronger. Watch these three stuff the defensive stat sheet and maybe even swing the game in the Spartans favor tomorrow. And remember that these kids arrived at Michigan State, as did recruits on campuses throughout the league, during the tail end of an era where Michigan was one of the worst teams in the Big 10 at recruiting, retaining and developing talent from the most rich state in the conference's footprint. There are factories all over the state that produce fantastic collegiate defensive players. Rodriguez has turned that around on a pure number basis for Michigan, even if its lacked a blue chip flair. But those classes are still babes. Positive impact on the field, at least on the defensive end, is still in the future, although true freshmen Jibreel Black, Courtney Avery and Terrance Talbot are bucking to make plays now. For now, though, most of Michigan's Big 10 brethern will have more Ohio influence on the defensive side of the ball. Throwing the Buckeyes out of the equation obviously, no team brings that influence on D more than the Spartans. And that, not their 'pipeline' at places like Renaissance, is one of the primary reasons they have elevated their program.
Total Kickoff and Punt Return Yards: Keshawn Martin -35 yards over Michigans Return Specialists
Keshean Martin's total yards was a Pick-4 contest in Week 3. He skied over the 126-yard total with a fun all-around a game against the Irish. We'll go a different direction here and just focus on the return game with MSU and UM's going head to head. Martin is probably the Big 10's best return man. And he handles both the punt and kickoff return duties. He could dominate this game like no other opposing return man to enter Michigan Stadium since......I cant say it, so I wont. Look, this will be a shootout. Michigan's defense wont have any chance to succeed with bend, but dont break if Martin is setting them up in great field position. I also cant think of too many times Michigan has won giving up a kickoff return for a TD. And dont even get me started if this guy pops off a game changing punt return like he did a week ago against the Badgers. Oh sure, that means the O might get the ball back fast, but that also means we are PUNTING!! Didnt we decide to go full steam Romer ahead? Come on Rich, we worked this out in an email exchange this week. Do it. Dont just punt to this guy; dont punt at all.
Anyway, in this corner is the assortment of talented, but struggling as of yet to produce Maize and Blue specialists. Daryl Stonum was one of the best KOR guys a year ago, breaking program records for yards. He has not had an impact this year on this part of the game. He dominated three games a year ago on this skill alone, let alone the isolated times he set Michigan up in other contests. Hard to fathom, but the Wolverines are likely mere 3-game winners in 2009 without Stonum's special teams production. Through five games this year, he's pretty much on pace for the same number of returns, but he has yet to break off a return of more than 30 yards and is pace for nearly a 300-percent drop off in yardage. Maybe the added receiving burden is wearing him out on this front. I dont know. A big part of me does not mind the tradeoff since Stonum is on pace to shatter his career cumulative stats in this one single season. However, if Michigan intends on stealing enough Big 10 games to actually play in the month of January, it's probably going to need Stonum (or really somebody else, on any of the special teams units) to make a play in this department. Michigan's wideout crew seems to be rotating big games. Maybe tomorrow is Stonum's turn and his return game is part of that equation.
I almost had to make the Spartan Keshawn Martin a heavy favorite in this one. His production, like silence, speaks volumes. Stonum will have the chances to make a play and keep up. But, the Michigan punt return team probably doesnt, that is even if they make it on the field. Other than a Drew Dileo quick grab as the up man and ensuing scoot for 15 yards, nothing has been happening here. Michigan fans are still in 'please football vahalla, dont make us fumble' every time the punt is in the air to really worry too much here. There is so much win in the other's team punt right now, that I'm high fiving everyone in Section 14 after every secured fair catch. Hemingway actually had nice numbers in the chances he had a year ago, now that's he's healthy I wonder if the coaches would put him back out there if some of the quirky fielding issues and decisions continue out of Gallon?
Taylor Lewan, total penalty yards: O/U 12.5
I am just going to let this one sit out there and not comment too much. But you cant help but wonder if the refs are going to be vigilant and judge this kid extra harsh after the closing sequences the week before. And I'm not refering primarily to what happened in the end zone. It's more about what looked like an obvious hold at the start of that game winning drive that went uncalled. One week's fortune and refs' blind eye could be the next week's unfair ticky-tack foul victim. I think its a lead pipe lock that Lewan will get a holding call in this one. So, basically this number comes down to whether or not you'll think he'll be a multiple
Will the cute Sparty girl who sat next to us at the 2008 game that I bought a hot chocolate for return and pay me back in kind? Yes/No
A deal is a deal, girl. You were cold, for some reason were sitting by yourself because you could not get a ticket near your friends and I bought you a hot chocolate during a third quarter television timeout because you were shivering. You were a good sport all day, even telling our whole section 'that's why we are Sparty' as Brett Swenson started shanking field goals like it was his job. Dont blow the memory by not coming through on the promise to buy me a hot chocolate at the next game in Ann Arbor. You know where the seats are. You're probably done with college by this point, so if your shift at the Vu finishes in time and you can make the game, stop on over. Its supposed to be pretty warm, and the concessions might not even have cocoa, so just bring us some pops. Dont worrying about paying for the souvenir cups. No need to waste all your tip money
You may have noticed I did not do an Over/Under post last week for the Bowling Green game. Frankly, I didnt know what to do. The week before I got all cute and mocked up some totals for some of Michigan's backups, expecting them to play a bunch against UMASS. Yeah, didnt happen. In fact, I'm convinced I nearly jinxed the Wolverines with my bravado and bold statements towards the second stringers production. Rather than test fate, I skipped last week. But, I'll put something together for fun as a supplement to all the other great previewing going every Friday in advance of Michigan's game. Speaking of great previewing, check out the JCB. We have several new posts up already today, setting you up for all the college football and EPL soccer action this wekeend. I'll have a couple more posts over there later today with picks and everything else in between, so if you need a non-MIchigan sports fix to set your weekend up, please stop over. And, we'll have the Pick-4 categories up shortly as well.
Plugs aside, let's get into this game a little bit. It's always a tough day for me when Michigan and Indiana square off in any sport. For me, I never want to see my alma mater lose a game. I want them to win every time they play. But, if you cut me, I do bleed more Maize and Blue than anything else. I never want Michigan to lose either. I always want them to win. I try to enjoy Michigan-Indiana games for the pure sport of it, as a result. When the chips are down, however, I end up pulling for who needs the game the most. In 2010, the direction of the Michigan football program is on the line. While it would be a tremendous moment for the IU kids should they spring an upset, I feel Michigan is primed for a major breakthrough finally under Rodriguez. They need to keep this train going in the right direction. They have my unconditional support tomorrow down in Bloomington. But, if they lose, dont fault me for hustling down there to enjoy the party. Anyone want to watch my dogs if that happens?
With that half-assed explanation of loyalty out of the way, let's move on to the Over/Under games I have cooked up for the Big 10 opener tomorrow.
Ted Bolser, total receiving yards: O/U 49.5
I know what you're thinking. Who? He's Indiana's Tight End and a redshirt freshmen. Get to know him because there's a good chance he's going to stick a couple daggers into the Michigan defense. We all know Michigan's struggles keeping tabs on the tight ends, especially in big moments, over the last few seasons. Bolser is third in catches and yards for the one of the nation's more prolific passing attacks, so you know he's part of the gameplan and that the Hoosier brain trust think they call his number and get a productive play. Bolser was the 52nd ranked played in the state of Ohio in 2009, playing high school ball at Indian Hill, a surburban Cincinnati school, probably more known athletically as a quasi baseball power.
In this case, they appear to have a grown a Big 10 offensive weapon. At 14.2 yards per catch, Bolser is giving the Hoosiers some kick with his catches. He has four touchdowns already. His other catches include momentum swinging grabs on key drives that helped swing two games. He would have done the same thing in a third game had the Hoosiers not botched their chance later in the drive. Dont be surprised if he impacts the game early. Three of his touchdowns have come in the first quarter, twice tallying Indiana's first score of the game. We've seen Jonas Mouton make some plays this year in coverage, including a pair of picks. Can he thwart a Hoosier attempt or two at getting the ball to this kid? There are plenty of other better name wideouts to set an Over/Under to for the Hoosiers. Demarlo Belcher is one of the best in the league. Tandon Doss is starting to hit a stride after battling a groing earlier in the year. Terrance Turner is flat blowing up in his senior year. I just think those guys are going to get their stats one way or another tomorrow. As long as one doesnt go bonkers, Michigan will be fine. Going to Bosler has been a strategic trump card for the Hoosiers this year, but if Michigan can block this a couple times it will probably force enough punts and field goal attempts to allow the offense to put some breathing room between the two teams. This Over/Under will go a long in determining what kind of game the Michigan defense will end up having.
Ben Chappell Total TD Passes: O/U 2.5
This is a great game to play for Over addicts. Michgian fans should ready themselves now and expect the Hoosiers to hit some big plays in the passing game. But, it doesnt really matter what kind of game evolves it can easily involve the Hoosier QB throwing a hat trick on the board. If Indiana goes step for step with Michigan, push them into the fourth quarter or even spring the upset, it almost certainly has to come from the senior signal caller's arm. But even if Michigan blows out Indiana, easily covering the pointspread, its still likely we'll see a lot of Chappell. They're going to throw, throw, throw and do so with Chappell almost to the end even if they're out of it by the second half. Would a 48-31 final for Michigan, but with Chappell tossing 3-4 TDs really be an outlandish outcome? Actually it sounds about right half the time I think about.
How good has Chappell been this year? He's top ranked in the nation in value added for all QBs, per the inimitable Mathlete's number crunching. But three TD games are not easy to come by, regardless of how strong the offense is or how weak the pass defense looks. It might truthfully be a sucker bet for Over addicts. He didnt throw a TD against the Wolverines a year ago. Chappell has only gone over the 2.5 total four times in his career. Last year against Illinois and Wisconsin and this year in the last two games against Western Kentucky and Akron. The Hoosiers are 3-1 SU, 4-0 ATS in those game, so look out kittens if he does, I suppose. It's a tricky number because he's almost a lock to get two TDs, three TDs is not easy to get, but Michigan's D might be the perfect tonic to power up your numbers. Hopefully, the IU brain trust hasnt noticed the Wolverines struggles defending the roll out.
Mike Cox O/U rushing yards: O/U 60 yards
Michigan's tailback rotation in this game will be intriguing. Starter Michael Shaw, who has been an underrated value for the Wolverines through four games, is out as is Fitzgerald Toussaint, who excited folks last week with a breakout run. Michigan's five man rotation for tailback carries has yet to really materialize with Shaw and Vincent Smith carrying most of the load, but with injuries hampering the position tomorrow and only three healthy bodies available, I would be stunned if Michael Cox and freshmen Stephen Hopkins werent a more regular part of the gameplan. I dont know if Hopkins isnt more of a role player in short yardage spots, plus he fumbled a week ago, so I am hedging that Cox will be more of a factor and making him the focus of this Over/Under game. Besides, I am trying to lure some Magnus and Touch The Banner money into the pot. Like Magnus, I too am a big fan of Michael Cox. But I am reluctant to annoint him because frankly we've only seen him in garbage duty against the likes of Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan and Delaware State. If he gets a bunch of carries tomorrow, they will represent the first touches the redshirt Sophomore will get with not only the game still in doubt, but against any Big 10 foe.
It looms as a big day, a turning point perhaps, for the young man's college career. I'm totally pulling for him. Not just because I feel he has the goods, but more because anybody who would commit to Michigan during the first week of September in 2007, amid all the crap being flung at the program in the wake of the Appalachain State and Oregon disasters and then stay through all that has happened the last two seasons since the coaching change, deserves a full round of hoarse throat cheering when he gets in the game. The Karmic side in me feels good things are coming this kid's way for sticking it out. Expect Michigan to use Vincent Smith more early on as his experience, quality blocking and nose for the end zone (he does have six scores in Michigan's last six games) will be needed to steady the game for Michigan in the first conference road game of the season. But Cox will be meshed into the mix at some point tomorrow. I'm thinking something in the ballpark of 10 carries, which would be well over 100 yards if he adheres to the YPC he's achieved in his limited time so far. But, this is a step up in play and he'll be going against starters for the first time in his career. I dont know if you can expect big numbers. But man, if does.....here's hoping Magnus lets me on the bandwagon.
Darius Willis + Michigan's leading tailback rusher, total rushing yards: O/U 160 yards.
First, a reminder. And, give me a break, folks. This is the single greatest play my alma mater has ever pulled off at Michigan Stadium. Plus, the sweet voice of Don Fisher reminds me of March basketball in the early 1990s. Cant beat that:
I dont like doing two running back games out of sheer variety sake. But this one is too goofy to pass up. It comes courtesy of fellow MGoUser and Diarist mistersuits who suggested it in his tremendous blog yesterday dissecting the team's expected production in Bloomington tomorrow. And, it has the added value of including another Michigan running back in the event the Cox game is a non-starter, and I misjudged how much playing time he'll receive. The battle between the teams' rushing offenses might be an underrated key to this game. On the Hoosier side of the equation is Darius Willis. We all remember him a year ago for streaking down the sideline on a 85-yard scoring gallop that nearly won the game for Indiana in the Big House. Outside of that run, he was pretty bottled up by the Wolverines with just 67 yards on 15 carries. I dont know how good Willis really is, though. I think he's got a nice game, but he had three big time runs a year ago, one apiece against Michigan, Purdue and Northwestern. I hate to maniupluate numbers, but if you take those runs out of the equation, he only averaged 3.23 yards per carry in 2009. He's been effective this year against Towson and Akron, but couldnt get anything going against Western Kentucky. I'd like to think Michigan can perform better than those teams, but you never know when the same spot syndrome will kick in. He housed Michigan a year ago, no reason to think he cant do it again. But defending the run so far has been the good part of the Michigan defense this year. Will that hold up in Big 10 play?
Roy Roundree, total receiving yards: O/U 85.5
There's a couple of ways to look at Roy Roundtree's projected season over the next two months. You can take his 20 catches so far this season and say he's on pace for 60 receptions, which is great. However his yardage output has not been as big as last year's on a per catch basis as he's down three whole yards per catch. Or, you can go back to last year, when he emerged during the final four games and point out that in Michigan's last 8 games played he has 50 catches for just over 600 yards, a pace that extrapolated over a 12-game season would equal a 75-catch, 907-yard season with a 12.1 yard per catch average. That would be a great season for a Michigan wide receiver in any era of the program's history. Either way, its hard not to get excited about a full season out of Roundtree. The question with Roy is can he find the consistency he had to close last season and stay in that groove the rest of the year. He's alternated games in 2010 where he hasnt dented the stat sheet with star performances. He got knocked out of the opener against UConn and wasnt involved much during the Umass contest. He was clutch against Notre Dame and had 100-yards a week ago--his third 100-yard game in his last eight--against Bowling Green. Can he put forth his best back-to-back game of the season tomorrow against Indiana? Or is this offense just too varied and deep and other options take precedence? Personally, I think he has a big game. But, then again maybe he's a decoy and Stonum blows up. Or Odoms. Who knows? That's why they call it gambling.
[Ed: Bumped for the line change info on Michigan's major step forward in Vegas. Since Vegas lines are year-in, year-out the most accurate prediction mechanisms available, this is heartening. Perhaps too heartening. BTW: Jamie and his merry band of degenerate gamblers cover all manner of things at Just Cover.]
Before getting into the meat of what will be a quick hitting MGoDiary, let's clean some things up from last week.
I might make a decent oddsmaker after all. Those four prop bets I came up with for the ND/Michigan game sure did confound people. Only one person did better than 2-2 and that was MGoTim, who checked in a 3-1. I guess it pays to be an insider. Not sure what his prize should be. Maybe a day off from cat chasing duties? Or a day where his posts get to breathe for two hours without a post on top of it? He certainly doesnt need the MGoPoints. In that same diary, I listed all the actual props that sports books had up for the Notre Dame game. A few brave souls put their necks out on the line and picked each one. And, you know what? They did pretty well, considering the number of props out there. Special kudos goes to Clarence Beeks who went 10-2-1 on his prop selections. Somebody get that man to Vegas, STAT. But, it's really no surprise. He's a Pittsburgh Steeler fan, so you know he is sharp as a tack. Nice work, Mr Beeks. Now, how are those Orange futures looking? Please advice.
Also, over at the JCB, the Pick-4 game for the week is up. Check it out. If you havent played yet, no worries. Jump on in. Once Ocotber rolls around there will be more points available to allow you to catch up, so dont worry if you're behind and just starting the contest this week. We'vre having a fun time with this and the more, the merrier.
On to the UMASS game. A lot of folks dont realize that the oddsmakers do release lines for FCS vs FBS teams. Some places will even have full betting boards for the FCS vs FCS games throughout the year. Just about everyone of them will have lines for all the levels of college football playoffs, too. That comes in handy every year when I wake up shaking that second Saturday of December with no bigtime college football to bet on anymore. Dont think for a second that that's the deepest we can go into depravity. I've noticed that 5dimes is also offering high school football lines for the bigger games across the country. No way, will I ever bet those. That's just being a degenerate. No way. Well, maybe if its the only game on TV. Or if there's some value in the line, maybe. But, you have to be a pretty dark soul to go this route. Completely unrelated, does anyone know who is starting for Hoover, Alabama at quarterback?
As of now, Michigan is favored tomorrow by 28.5 points. It's been a weird week tracking this line. At the start of the week, 5dimes listed it as just Michigan -21. That must have been a misprint, or they got hammered with so much Michigan money, because they took the line off the board for several hours and by Tuesday afternoon the line had ballooned up to 29.5 points. It crept to 30.5 by that evening. The line has been steadily coming down ever since. It was lodged at Michigan -27.5 for a couple of days before settling in at the 28.5 number this morning, with an Over/Under total of 51.5. THAT looks enticing. Two out of every three games in the Rodriguez Era have gone over the total, but none have this year. Should we play the percentages and expect an Over? With that out of the way, let me quickly rattle of the mock props for tomorrow.
Tate Forcier/Devin Gardner, total combined yards: O/U 250.5
Ray Vinopal, total combined tackles, INTs, PBUs: O/U 5.5
Fiztgerald Toussiant, total rushing yards: O/U 80.5
Will A Michigan Freshman Intercept A Pass: Yes/No
Jeremy Gallon, total yards, including returns: O/U 120.5
Try your hand at those.
I intended on waxing philosophical all the Denard Show, but what more can I really add at this point? For the second straight week, he produced a game and some plays I've never really seen from a Michigan QB before in the 30+ years I've been watching. Damn impressive so far. I say we sit back and enjoy the show. And work on our own dreads.
His emergence has also had a major impact on the odds for Michigan. The most notable being the fact that Denard is now one of the betting favorites to win the Heisman Trophy. Terrelle Pryor is technically the chalk at 3.5 to 1, but Denard is the second favorite bet at 4.5 to 1. Not bad for somebody who wasnt even on the board ten days ago. Kellen Moore is 8/1 and a series of players including Cam Newton, Mark Ingram and Ryan Mallett are at 10/1. Tate Forcier, by the way, remains on the board as a 30/1 shot to win the trophy. FACT: THAT MIGHT BE A SUCKER BET.
Michigan has also shifted from a 100/1 shot to win the BCS National Title all the way down to 30/1. That's a pretty big swing. We've also seen the pointspreads for Michigan's Big 10 showdowns start moving in the Wolverine's favor, some rather significantly. Here are where the Big 10 lines stand right now.
- Michigan -5.5 vs MSU (Line was UM -3 over the summer)
- Michigan pick 'em vs Iowa (Line was UM +3 over the summer)
- Michigan +3 at Penn State (Line was +10 over the summer.......oh, to have a +10 ticket in our pockets right now)
- Michigan -1 vs Wisconsin (Line was Michigan +3 over the summer)
- Michigan +13.5 at OSU (Line was Michigan +15.5 over the summer)
Denard is having an impact. The public wants to bet Michigan again. The average line movement since the season started is 3.7 points in Michigan's favor. I fully expect the MSU line to be -7 come game day. The others will continue to move towards Michigan. If you want to play the Homer card and bet Michigan, get these lines now before more value gets sucked out of it. For the the first time in the Rodirguez Era in Ann Arbor, bookies are adjusting lines to stem the amount of money rolling in on the Wolverines. That's progress, babby! And, it's a great thing to see.
[Ed: I cannot believe Michigan is actually a favorite against Wisconsin. The betting public now has Michigan at 8-2-1 on the season, which will be a neat trick.]