(Diarist Note: We're setting up a tailgate all day tomorrow at the Fingerle Lumber Yard (Fifth/Hill) with the family truckster, otherwise known as Wild Rover II, a mid-1990s model Fleetwood Destiny mobile home. There will be a lot of people coming and going during what's going to be the longest tailgate day in our program's history. Everyone is invited to swing on by and chill if you're in the 'Hood. If you cant figure out which ones we are, just start yelling my name as you walk by the rows of RVs. If you don't look too much like a gomer, then I'll speak up. I'll be up there by noon, drink in hand, watching and talking football. Also: Go to the JCB, play the Pick-4 and, well, don't you think its about time you bookmark us or something on make us a regular read? )
Oh boy. It's here. Michigan/Notre Dame Week. NIGHT GAME WOO!!!! It is always one of the more tense weeks for me on the football calendar. As a 30-plus year vet of Michigan Stadium, I can state there aren't too many other times the Big House is more tense and on edge then when its invaded by 15,000 loud, obnoxious and drunk Leprechauns. Add in the historic night game aspect, and I have been antsy about this game for months now. Thankfully, we'll be tailgating a stone's throw away from a liquor store.
I was born in the early 1970s and raised not only on robbery, but also on 1980s college football. That means I have a healthy--or is it unhealthy--dose of dislike, disdain and distrust of Notre Dame football. To this day, I get rankled more about their team and most of their fan base, more than even Ohio State. Who am I kidding? I don't even have a problem (most of the time) with OSU fans. They're all great employees. Heck, I am even kinda, sorta dating one of them right now. What can I say? She has HAWT tattoos. But, they are all my neighbors, after all. There's a respect and a kinship to a certain degree when it comes to me and OSU fans.
But Notre Dame? That's a whole different ball of wax. Maybe it's all those losses highly ranked Wolverine squads suffered at the hands of the Irish when I was an impressionable lad. Maybe it's that douchebag Rocket Ishmail. Maybe it's that silly looking Oom Pa Loompa turned hero Reggie Ho. Maybe it was the cackling of my friends dad--a Toledo grad who adores Notre Dame because of his arch Catholicism--as Gillette's field goal swerved too far to the right in 1988. Maybe it's their liberal use of index cards to determine first downs. Maybe it's Paul Hornung winning the Heisman Trophy on a team with a losing record while some guy named Jim Brown got the shaft. Maybe it's their belief that God actually gives two shits about their stupid football team. Maybe it's because the Grotto is filled with piss water funneled in from Gary. Maybe it's because Rudy was offside. And a serial exaggerator. Maybe it's all the annoying Irish fans that decked themselves out in 49ers gear during the 1980s because OHMYGODJOEMONTANAISTHEBEST. Maybe it's because of that insufferable imp Lou Holtz. Maybe it's the ND blogosphere meltdown because they were playing a bowl game on Christmas Eve. Maybe it's because one on my favorite non MICH games ever was Miami 55, ND 7. And BC 41, ND 39. It's a toss up. I could go on and on, but I fear I have already ruined the sweet, laid back image I have cultivated here on these blog pages over the years by letting some of this hate spill.
But, I love Michigan-Notre Dame games. Yes, the programs are on hard times. Yes, this is no longer the 1980s or early 1990s when these games annually were early season National Championship Semifinal contests. But the games remain special. The pageantry remains everything that is good about college football. And, have you seen their games recently? They provide us with crackerjack contests that go down to wire, that could be retold by epic poetry worthy of gridiron heroics. And, its the easiest game to bet on every single year. Take the points with the underdog. Don't think about it. Don't do any of those silly head to head positional breakdowns. Don't even try to measure the intangibles. Just book the underdog and save all the analysis for the postgame. Since the modern series resumed in 1978, the underdog is a dominating 22-5 ATS. The underdog has won this game more often straight up than the favorite. And routinely the underdog--really the winner of this game period--plays their best game of the season. Did the 1994, 2006, 2009 or 2010 Wolverines play a better game all season than their 'upset' wins over the Irish? How about the Irish? Did their 2004, 2005 and 2008 clubs perform better and win than they did when they upset the Wolverines those Septembers. The last time the Irish covered as a favorite in this series was 1982, coincidentally the first ever night game in Notre Dame Stadium. That's just the kind of symmetry that scares the pants off me when the stinkin' Irish are involved.
Regardless, Michigan is the underdog tomorrow, and, like the last two seasons, that is where my money will be come kickoff. Its the first of seven games already on the betting board for 2011 where Michigan is not only the underdog, but faces buckets of money being bet against them in the wake of the dismal Rodriguez years. We'll find out tomorrow if all that dough that poured in on Notre Dame back in June to drive the initial line of Michigan -2 all the way to Notre Dame -4.5 in the span of a few hours was a good investment or not for all the Brian Kelly slappies in Wise Guy Land. Kelly is pissed at his QB? Wait until Rocko and Moe lose another game on your boys, coach. Then, you'll see anger. And 'For Sale' signs. We bet against the Irish last week at the JCB and won. We're already on MSU +7 next week. And we're on Michigan tomorrow. Let the Fade Notre Dame Tour Of 2011 continue. I'd ask God for help, but he's got bigger things to deal with than football. Like trying to figure out how to cave all the Irish posters on His new blog. Even He thinks they're annoying.
While I promote the fact that no analysis is needed for this game from a capping standpoint, that doesn't mean we cant chat about the keys to the game through our own make believe prop board. So, without further adieu, here we go. Don't forget to play the Pick-4 at the JCB. And, for sure, swing by the Fingerle Lumber Yard tomorrow for some rooting, tooting good times.
Michigan vs Notre Dame, Second Quarter Score: Irish -3.5
This prop covers the second quarter score only. It is also one of the four Pick-4 props for the week at the JCB. If you aren’t playing the Pick-4, then what the hell are you doing with your time anyway? You're not that far behind after one week, so join in and play now while the season is still young. Getting back to this key to the game, why the second quarter? For me, its the true litmus test on the new coaching staff in Ann Arbor. Not how they use Denard, not can they cobble together a serviceable defense, not can they teach anybody on campus to kick the ball. Nope. I am judging the new sheriffs in town by how Michigan does in the second quarter. A year ago? It was a fucking disaster. The Wolverines were thumped to the tune of 194-83 in the second quarters of their games last season. As a result, they rarely got to halftime in any important game in legit range of their foe. Can the new coaches change this? Can they make enough improvement on the field and hold games together better in the early going so that perhaps their talented Shoelace in the hole has a chance to win games in the fourth quarter. That's something that college football fans were robbed of last October and November: The chance to see Denard play with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. Michigan outscored their opponents in every other quarter a year ago, but by being drubbed by almost a 2.5 to 1 margin in the second 15 minutes torpedoed the whole season. Seven times they were outscored by at least 10 points in the second stanza. Michigan was able to tie UMass 10-10 in the second quarter, but the only team they beat a year ago in the second quarter was, guess who? The Notre Dame Fighting Irish. But, they needed an historic and magnificent 87-yard TD run by Denard to make that happen. A week ago? Michigan won the second quarter 20-3. A turnaround or just a fluke from playing a MAC team? In the first legit showdown of the season, I am as intrigued by how the second quarter goes down as anything else. Maybe its just an early round of Maize and Blue Kool Aid in advance of the weekend, but In Hoke I Trust. Let's win this second quarter MICH. From there, the game will be ours, I say.
Cierre Wood -15.5 rushing yards over Fitzgerald Toussaint
Fitzgerald Toussaint featured prominently in our mock props a week ago, when we asked readers to determine whether or not he would surpass his career rushing totals in the opener. He needed 88 yards against Western, but ended with only 80. Certainly this would have gone Over had, you know, a fourth quarter actually been played. Let's involve Fitz again, this time matching Good 'Ol #28 head to head with another tailback recruit from the 2009 class. Fitzgerald Toussaint vs Cierre Wood. Toussaint was a Rivals 4-star recruit, the #8 ranked all-purpose back in the country coming out of high school. Wood was also a 4-star recruit per Rivals in the 2009 class, but their gurus placed Wood in the 'running back' category as opposed to 'all-purpose back' as they did for Toussaint. Everybody wanted a piece of Wood as he held scholarship offers from USC, Auburn, Florida and Nebraska as a high school senior. It took a while for his career in South Bend to take off, but he found a groove in Brian Kelly's offense a year ago and it was his hard running, along with the GRITTY QB play of Tommy Rees, that sparked the Irish charge late last season that had everyone excited about this year's prospects. He didn't carry the football more than 7 times in any of Notre Dame's first six games of the 2010 season, but he pretty much evolved into their feature back down the backstretch, toting for double digit carries in six of their final seven games, rushing for more than 81 yards four times. The Irish may have whiffed last week against USF, but not because of Wood, who surpassed the century mark for the first time in his career. The junior rushed for 104 yards and added 44 yards of receiving for good measure. He and Michael Floyd ought to give the Irish a tailback/receiver combo as productive as just about anybody else in the country. In this battle of the stats, we have the 8th ranked all purpose back in the 2009, the 14th best player in Ohio that year in Toussaint going up against wood, the the 8th ranked tailback in the 2009 class, the 8th best player in California that season. Whichever emerging Redshirt Sophomore playmaker shines the most tomorrow night might tip the balance of this game.
Roy Roundtree O/U 6.5 catches.
We know a few things about Royland Roundtree. He does a great Donald Duck, wakes up HONGRY, turnovers follow any pass he drops, he holds the Michigan single game record for receiving yards and is a great bounce back player. And that's what we're focusing on here. Every since he became a regular in Michigan's lineup during the final third of his redshirt freshmen season in 2009, he's rarely has back-to-back sucky games. A week ago, he wasn't much of a factor against Western Michigan, hauling in just two passes for 17 years. The four previous times in his career since becoming a regular that he caught three or less passes, he pretty much turned around and blew up the following week. After his less than stellar outings, he's bounced back to average 7.25 catches and 143 yards per game. This includes his eight catch effort, highlighted by the huge third down conversion, in last year's Notre Dame win as well the record setting performance in the Illinois win. Their wasn't really any pass catching stars for Michigan last week, but it was a game where that wasn't really needed. Somebody will have to step up this week, though, just because its a bigger game. Given his bounce back efforts, my money is on Roundtree.
Michigan -1.5 over Air Force
I know what you are thinking. Is JamieMac that much of a connected degenerate that he already has a line for next season's home opener against Air Force? No, really, I am not that connected. Degenerate? 50/50. But this is an actual prop offered tomorrow by sportsbook.com. They have a whole board of fantasy matchups pitting a pair of teams from different games against each other. San Diego State is -3 over Notre Dame. Can Hoke beat the Irish with both his new and old team? Talk about a chance at history, Brady! So, in the hypothetical matchup between the Wolverines and Fly Boys, Michigan is short 1.5-point chalk, which is ironic because Michigan isn't chalk right now in any actual game listed on the same book's future board. But they are favored in a game that they're not even technically playing. I blame Rodriguez. FIRE RICH ROD! I am reluctant to play props like these. I have never done so, but man it sure seems like a fun thing to track. Air Force is playing TCU in the middle of the day on Versus. Well, unless Versus shows a replay of last week's Notre Dame instead. Other fantasy props of this ilk include Iowa -2.5 over Missouri, Penn State -1.5 over Boston College and Alabama -0.5 over TCU. Notre Dame isn't anywhere on this board, perhaps a testament to how scared books are at releasing too many lines that involve the major question mark that remains the Michigan defense.
That's all I got. Its going to be a fun day and night in Ann Arbor. Please, everybody be safe and defer to the side of good, clean fun. There will be a lot of the latter going on at the Lumber Yard, so if you're hanging around the 'hood, stop on by.
Go Blue. Fuck The Irish.
(A little season preview from a sports handicapping perspective on our Maize and Blue….plus a Pick-4 style preview of tomorrow’s opener. Speaking of Pick-4, ramble on over to the JCB at get in on the game. Do that first, then come back and read, yo! I’ll also have a full card of picks later today at the JCB, but I am already on the side of two, plucky double digit underdogs tomorrow)
Michigan enters the season not only trying to rebuild the mass wreckage that is their defense, but they're also trying to rally after a historically poor mark against the point spread. To be sure, the three-year Rodriguez run made Michigan among the most prime cut 'bet against' teams in the land as their 10-26 ATS overall mark the last three seasons attests. But 2010 hit a unique low for the Wolverines against the number as Michigan did not cover a single spread in conference play. Yuck. 0-8 ATS vs. the Big 10. And, before you ask: No, Michigan did not cover that Purdue game, they closed as a –12.5 road favorite in an eventual 11-point victory over the Boilers. Michigan did nothing but lose money to the league, a feat that probably would get most coaches down south not just fired, but tarred, feather and burned at the stake.
How rare was Michigan's shooting the moon, burn your wallet trick a year ago? In the previous decade, only four FBS programs lost every conference game against the spread in a single season. Those were some pretty famous clubs. How could anyone forget the 2003 Illinois squad that did not beat a single FBS team straight up that season? Or the 2002 Iowa State Cyclones and the 2003 Baylor Bears giving the Big 12 easy money, bet against teams in consecutive seasons? Or the 2008 Washington machine that did not win any games straight up and their only cover overall on the year was the controversial 1-point loss to BYU after the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Jake Locker forced a longer than usual PAT after what could have been the tying touchdown. Michigan joining the company of the Iowa States and Baylors of the world? That is so Michigan during the Rodriguez regime. FIRE RICH ROD!
At least we can say this. Those previous four clubs went a combined 6-42 straight up. Michigan at least managed to cobble together a winning straight up record despite equaling those other clubs’ pathetic ATS feat. Their seven wins was more than than those prior four clubs combined. And they went to a bowl game, right? This qualifies as a progress in the three year vacuum of 2008-10. Of course, Michigan also added a bowl whipping and no cover to their 0-8 league mark. And, in the end, is achieving something that puts you in the conversation with the Ron Turners and Ty Willinghams of the world really something to crow about? Probably not, but make no mistake there are plenty of people sad to see their personal Rodriguez punching bag and subsequent money train gone. Coaching change or not, last year left such a negative impression of Michigan against the number that people are already lined up and ready to bet against them again this season.
But those people still bullish on betting against Michigan should beware and take a little notice at what happened in the follow-up year with those previous conference money burners. They all rebounded to at least a break even conference mark ATS the following season. Three had winning league ATS marks. From a straight up standpoint, they had a combined 12 more wins between them the following season. None of those teams won more than three games the previous season. So if Michigan has similar looking gains as their four profit killing predecessors, given they already were a winning team to begin with, they could end up rolling out a nifty season. Michigan has more returning starters than any of those four teams had, have more material on hand to work with and Denard Robinson. All those teams were big underdogs in most of their league games the following year, by an average of more than 10 points per game. Those teams were catching points in all but four combined league games during the follow-up season. Like those teams, Michigan is an underdog, catching points in all six Big 10 games listed on the various online futures boards. But, the most points they're getting in any of those games is the +5 listed for November's Nebraska game. Given where the lines are right now for Michigan, if they break even ATS in Big 10 play, they're going to seriously flirt with a winning straight up Big 10 mark for the first time since 2007. They also could be doing nothing but losing, albeit covering the spread, in close, fourth quarter games.
Anyway, that’s one Michigan centric storyline the blog's degenerate line junkie is looking at from the dark side of the sports wagering world. Another one is assessing their win total. Oddsmakers have set the bar at 7 wins. I have a hard time endorsing a call either way. From a betting perspective, I'm not comfortable projecting more than 7 wins, at least not comfy enough to suggest, you know, actually putting your hard earned money on it. Can they really beat ND three times in a row? Northwestern, as the first road game of the season, nestled in between rivalry games against Minnesota and Michigan State, is the definition of a trap game. I don’t see the Wolverines breaking their MSU or OSU losing streaks. If I maintain a realistic approach, I cant see better than 4-4 in league play, with a loss to ND in non-conference likely. That's seven wins. Now, if I put my optimistic, partisan fan hat on, I come back to the Notre Dame game as the first big swing game of the season. If Michigan can tuck that game away, I feel that will prove they are good enough to be one game better through 10 games than they were a year ago. That would be 8-2 heading into the massive 1-2 punch of Nebraska and Ohio State. At least those games are at home, and we'll see if Michigan is any closer in those showdowns than they were against the Wisco/OSU closing duo during each of the last two years. So, I suggest staying away from Michigan on a win total standpoint, although I can see an optimistically visualize a road map to eight or nine wins.
PICK-4 Stylish Previewy Type Substance Of The Opener
But, I do not suggest staying away from playing our Pick-4 over at the JCB. It's fun, its free and its a great way to stay interested in some of the other games spread across the country. Check it out and play. Here are my formal Pick-4 picks for Week One. As far as Michigan's opener tomorrow against Western Michigan, how about I give my own preview, Pick-4 style. We'll keep track of these in the comments section.
Longest Touchdown Of The Game, O/U 57.5 Yards
This is not only a Pick-4 play, but an actual prop bet offered by an assortment of online books. As bad a play against the spread Michigan was a year ago, taking the Over for longest touchdown in its game was as great. At this number, you would have cashed a winner in 10 of 13 Michigan games in 2010. All tickets still would have been winners at 60.5 yards, which is where these props were listed by the end of the year in Michigan contests. This was a regular prop offered on the Wolverines a year ago, and I enjoyed the windfall most of the time. There was the Koger touchdown against Penn State, a silver lining in an otherwise painful night. There was the bizarre sight of the Michigan defense cashing this ticket against Purdue. There was the James White home run bomb right before half for the Badgers and the kick off return touchdown for the Bucks, both the equivalent of taking daggers to the heart for profit. Winning this prop before I was even in my seats for the Illinois was spectacular. And, then, of course there is the famous Denard run in South Bend. I swear by the time I tell this story to my grandkids, I will have won like five grand or something on the breeze of this play. How do I know? Because I didnt have this prop that day, but I am still listing it among the roster of actual winners. I just love that play so much. But, there was also the Gator Bowl, when James Rodgers torpedoed the bet with a shoestring tackle at the 7-yard line keeping LaDarius Perkins out of the end zone after an 81-yard catch and run. The game was already way out of reach. Damn you and your Charlie Hustle, Mr Pride Of MadBama!! Anyway, we're back and in line for more this year. As long as Denard Robinson and the Michigan defense are involved, I'm buying this. As mentioned, its an actual prop in the real world, so we're not only taking the over in the Pick-4, but the only piece of actual wagering on my card for Michigan's opening game is this over 57.5 yards action.
Will Fitzgerald Toussaint Surpass His Career Rushing Totals In This Single Game? O/U 87.5 Yards
First, the basic numbers. Toussaint has to net 88 yards on the ground against Western for this prop to go Over the total. Toussaint hasn't had much of an impact yet on the field, but he appears to be in line for a lot of carries in 2011. He might not be the 1A back right now, but from everything we've been hearing so far, he's no worse than 1B heading into the opener. And its expected to be the type of game where being 1B still puts you in line for a big time game. Brian labeled Toussaint a wildcard and I agree. His chance for a lot of carries and how he performs with those touches intrigues me. I had one longtime Ohio scout tell me point blank during an interview for a HTTV piece that Toussaint was not a Big 10 tailback. And, his tenor gave off a sense of offense that Michigan thought it could find its future tailback within his game, nor did he represent the quality of talent Michigan needed to be mining out of Ohio. On the other hand, Rivals lauded him as a 4-star, the #8 all-purpose back in the country and as a member of their top-250 overall, just getting in at #239. But, on the other, other hand, perhaps feeling the same thing said scout was thinking, Big 1o schools weren't clamoring for the Youngstown native as only Illinois and assortment of Big East contenders offered him a scholarship along with Michigan. Injuries have held him back so far and his biggest impact might be for being the inspiration behind the leader in the clubhouse for funniest line of September when Brian noted he was china in a bull shop in the afore linked position preview he posted yesterday. He has three seasons left to add to his resume. And, its not like he's behind his classmates. Only Theo Riddick, who ranked 10th in that Rivals top-10 all purpose backs list from 2009, has made in roads on the field. He's doing it at wideout and had a solid 39-catch season last year. Michigan will see him next when the Irish come to town. This contest with Western wont prove that Doubting Thomas scout right or wrong. But for Toussaint, its pretty important to prove, regardless of foe, that he can not only handle a decent share of touches, but also survive to handle the same workload seven days later.
Will Junior Hemingway Score A Touchdown? Yes/No
Junior Hemingway is on his third head coach at Michigan. That just sounds wrong. He verbally committed to the program more than five years ago. Rivals only tagged him as a 3-star coming out of high school, but the South Carolina native was pursued by some heavy hitters with offers from Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida State and Miami also in hand. He finally began showing us last year why he was such a coveted commodity. He came dangerously close to putting up the most underrated season for a Michigan flanker this side of Marcus Knight's 1999 efforts. He was still averaging over 20 yards per catch well into November, a stat that would have put in in the top-8 for a single season all time in program history. How does Michigan win games over Indiana and Illinois without his heroics? Of course, his production waned down the stretch as the whole team crumbled against a tough as nails closing stretch. And, he missed three games on account of injury, a bug that's dogged him his whole college career. Regardless, if his career ended today, he would rank in the top-10 for career per catch average of all program players with at least 50 catches. I think he's primed for a nice year and at least 50 catches. But we all know he loves opening day. He's got a little Tufty Rhoades in him. The one and only Threet to Hemingway TD was scored in the second half of the Utah opener in 2008. And he and Tate Forcier looked like a dominant tandem two years against this same Bronco program as Hemingway went off for 103 yards and two scores. If he can catch a scoring pass from Denard (or Devin Gardner), he will have caught scores in season openers from three different quarterbacks. That sounds as weird as having played for three different head coaches at Michigan. But it also sounds a whole lot cooler.
Jake Ryan/Nathan Brink Combined Tackles, O/U 5.5
I figured we needed at least one defensive prop. So, how about we combine the basic tackling stats for the two leading Practice Camp Legends who emerged from that side of the ball this spring and summer. Ryan and Brink fit that bill, especially Brink, a player many of us hadn't even heard of before, but by mid-August was being projected as a starter on account of his play in practice. It was exciting to hear about an unknown player emerging until the reality set in that it probably wasn't the greatest thing for the program if somebody that this obsessed fan had never heard of before was going to suddenly play a major role in the defense. Eventually, the positive side won out because this unit was so bad last year, new faces are a good thing in spots. We'll see about both of these players. Both have multiple years of eligibility remaining and had enough preseason ink devoted to their practice play that if reality and legend matchup, then Michigan gets surprisingly stronger along two units on the team lacking in depth. We're all watching the defense, looking to see the Mattison Difference. But for me a secondary storyline tomorrow is just exactly how much run Ryan and Brink get and what they do with their time on the field.
As far as the game side and total, I am sticking with one mantra I had a year ago. Until further notice and proof of an improved stop unit, Michigan doesn’t have the defense to hold up as chalk. Its not worth playing them, even if I feel like they could cover this once the offense gets this rolling tomorrow. As for the total, two out of every three games in the Rodriguez Era went over the total. Will that continue? We’ll begin finding out some answers tomorrow. My prediction? A lot of fun, two Michigan players gaining 100 yards on the ground, Denard accounting for his first touchdown within the first 5:30 minutes of the game, at least one TD of more than 57.5 yards and a comfy 38-21 Michigan win.
It's the last day of February. Selection Sunday is 13 days away. While I constantly keep tabs on the Bracket Matrix throughout the winter, doing so now carries even more excitement because who is in the Matrix now might finally resemble who actually makes the field [Ed-M: and Michigan's in it!].
Mock brackets throughout most of January and February are so fluid that it's hard to put a ton of stock in them, other than to guage where exactly certain teams are on the pecking order at that moment in time. Now grabbing a spot in the Matrix means you could be a win or two away from netting an actual bid. As far as interest from the mock crowd goes, this is the time to be peaking. And while our Michigan Wolverines still have some work to do to get into the actual tournament they and their profile are grabbing people's attention at the right time. Let's take a look.
Right now, Michigan sits with 12 of 75 votes among the mock bracketology crowd. That number obviously is a low one but it represents major progress on two fronts. One, it's the most mock votes the Wolverines have had at any time this season. At the beginning of each of the last two weeks they had peaked with seven votes. For the first time on the campaign, Michigan has been elevated into the Matrix's final eight cut group, albeit in the eighth spot. The numbers may look bleak and small, but at least the Wolverines are trending in the right direction at the right time. The question is will there be enough season left and can Michigan win enough games and others lose enough during that point to make a major move?
A look deeper into the Matrix numbers reveals that Michigan may be a lot closer to the actual bracket than their measly 12-vote haul indicates. Let's break it down by the most recent straw poll. All told, there are 75 bracketologists that participate. However, only 28 of them have cast their ballots since the close of Saturday's action. Let's focus on those 28 ballots. The Wolverines grab 10 of their votes from those early voters, so they are running at about 35-percent support when it comes to the most recent exit poll. Should Michigan maintain that level of support with the remaining four dozen or so ballots, they would rise to about 27 votes. In the current Matrix, that high of a vote total would be good for third-from-last cut.
Even better, Michigan is really maxing out with more support among the early voters than a lot of the other teams ahead of them in the Final Eight Cut list. For example, currently Cleveland State, Colorado State and Wichita State are the first, second and third to last teams cut from the comprehensive Matrix. But they're still relying on support from mocks that have not updated to prop up their position in the pecking order. Of the 28 early voters this week, Cleveland State and Wichita have six votes apiece while Colorado State, fresh off one of the worst bubble losses of the weekend to Air Force, has just one vote. If the early voting is any indication, Michigan has passed all three of those teams. They're also faring better than Southern Miss, fifth-to-last cut, who had six votes from the early mocks and UTEP, sixth-to-last cut, who had just one. If voting form holds--a big IF obviously -- when the Matrix updates again (usually around dinner time every Monday night) expect Michigan to at least be a couple spots closer to the field than their current eight-from-last-cut Matrix position.
The only two teams within that Final Eight Cut group trending better than Michigan are Clemson--a team Michigan beat on the road three months ago, who netted 13 of 28 early votes and have a total of 22 votes altogether and Colorado, who like Michigan, has 12 total votes with almost all of them coming from the early voters. In that demographic, the Buffs grabbed 11 votes, one more than the Wolverines. The Tigers have a huge game at Duke this week, then close the season at home against Virginia Tech. I think an argument can be made on either side of the coin as to whether or not we should be cheering for or pulling against Clemson. As for Colorado, their surge comes on the heels of their electric second half Saturday night when they took down Texas, one of the marquee wins of the weekend. They travel to Iowa State on Wednesday and close at home over the weekend against Nebraska. They can't afford to lose either game. We are decidedly Cyclone and Cornhusker fans this week.
Outside of the final eight cut, there are a couple teams to look out for, which are trending at upwardly support but just a smidge beneath Michigan. Penn State received eight of their 11 total votes from the 28 early ballots and Baylor grabbed seven of their 10 from that same crowd. Both have major showdowns this week where wins could skyrocket them up the charts. The Nittany Lions--a team Michigan swept in two games this season--play host to Ohio State and travel to Minnesota. A 2-0 week would be a major statement and put them in position for an actual bid heading into the Big 10 Tournament. As for Baylor, they continued their inconsistent season over the weekend with a win over Texas A&M. They travel to Oklahoma State and host Texas to close the season. They need a 2-0 week as well, and if they pull that off, a bid might be back in their grasp when their league sectional begins. So, we should keep an eye on both PSU and Baylor and cheer against both this week. So, uh, Go Buc....eh, I cant say it, even if I mean it.
As for the teams currently perched inside the Matrix, there are a couple really shaky at large bids right now. Michigan is trending equally or better than both based on the early returns. One, of course, is Minnesota which Michigan defeated in glorious fashion on Saturday. The Gophers still have 45 total votes, good for a spot on the 11-line. But only six of 28 early voters have them in their field. That's four less than the Wolverines pulled in the early straw poll. They might tumble out of the Matrix during its next comprehensive update. So too might the Alabama Crimson Tide. They suffered a bad road loss to Ole Miss over the weekend, something akin to losing on the road to Iowa to make a Big 10 comparable. Like the Gophers, they're seeing their support hemmorage. They are on the 12-line with 42 votes, but they received the exact amount of support--10 votes--as Michigan in the early voting this go around.
What does all this mean? Well, not much. The Selection Committee doesnt really care what mock bracketologists have to say. But these folks put a ton of effort into it and, in the end, they're competing with one another to produce the most accurate facsimile of the eventual field. And among that crowd, Michigan right now is rising. When the Matrix does its next comprehensive update, depending on how many fresh votes it entails, don't be surprised to see Alabama and Minnesota fall out, Clemson and Colorado jump in to take their place and Michigan elevate as high as one of the final two teams cut from the Matrix. It might not be the best position to be in, but at least a clear path exists between and the field of 68.
One last note on the mock bracket crowd. Much has been made in the forums over the weekend about Lunardi finally putting us in his field. Since he hasnt formally published a new bracket at ESPN.com, his vote has not been updated in the Matrix. So, we can assume Michigan will at least pick up one more vote there. But, what I want to mention is something I've brought up numerous times. He is not the best bracketologist, just the most famous. The best, IMHE, is Bracketology 101. Not only have they proven more accurate than Joey Brackets in recent years, but they just put a lot more thought and foresight into their projections. And I swear Joey Brackets' updates throughout the winter are geared a little bit to put an extra highlight on upcoming televised games on the WWL. Just an observation I've made over time. B101 has no such biases. Anyway, Michigan has been one of their final four teams cut for two weeks running and they've mentioned several times that the Wolverines have been one of their most debated teams during the back half of February. It's worth pointing out the Michigan has been elevated into their field for the first time this season, projected as a 12-seed to play fellow 12-seed Colorado in one of the play-in games. Is it a good thing that the most accurate bracketologist has the Wolverines in their field with just 13 days to go until Selection Sunday? Yes, it is. Here is what they said about the Wolverines:
With no bid-stealers available, we had to pick from a group of teams with a lot of warts and a lot of work left to do. . . . . . Michigan made the cut, despite their loss at home to Wisconsin on Wednesday, because we think they have a decent chance to beat Michigan State at home this weekend and then win their first Big Ten tourney game.
So there you go. The best in the biz saying that Michigan might be just two wins away from the bid and they have a decent enough shot of pulling that off that they made their field. It's not the most ringing endorsement, but given the expectations we had when the season began, we'll take it. It should be a fun weeklong building up to the State game on Saturday and, of course, scoreboard watching in the interim.
(For the first time in the three years we've done Bowl Chronicles, the Michigan Wolverines make an appearance. That deserves its own BC post. You know where to find the rest of the Bowl Chronicle series.)
Was you New Year's resolution to live more dangerously and take more chances? Betting Michigan today in the Gator Bowl would certainly qualify. What else could you call backing a team that went winless against the spread in conference play. Yep, that's right. Michigan went 0-8 ATS in the Big 10, failing to cover as chalk in its three straight up wins and, for the most part, getting gashed so badly on defense that no head start as an underdog was enough to cash a ticket. Make no mistake this has as much to do with Rich Rodriguez job status as anything else. Fans have a tendency to be quieter while you're rebuilding if you prove a feisty underdog and keep things closer than the experts think. How much would the noise be adjusted in Rodriguez's favor had he only covered the last two games, say taking Wisco down to the wire, but losing a classic in the home finale, and a single digit loss to OSU in a game that’s in doubt into the fourth quarter? There would still be plenty of grumbling, but there might equally loud voices of progress. Those opinions would have a lot more legitimacy to the average fan than they do now. At least Rich isn’t coaching in the south. A winless ATS season in league play is a capital offense in some of those states.
So, just how 'historic' is Michigan's ATS goose egg in league play? In the last dozen seasons, its only happened twice in the Big 10. The 1999 Iowa Hawkeyes, Kirk Ferentz first season in Iowa City, didn’t cash a single Big 10 ticket. Three seasons later they were in a BCS bowl. The 2003 Illini were two seasons removed from a BCS bid when they went 0-8 ATS. After one more season, they finally kicked Ron Turner to the curb and hired the Zooker. Those teams were abysmal. They went 2-9 and 1-11 straight up. At least Michigan had a winning record and qualified for a bowl game during their ATS winless season.
After that downer of a graph, how about some positives. Rodriguez is 7-1 ATS in his last eight out of conference games!!! Not helping? How about the Bulldogs being 18-22 as chalk, albeit they were 5-2 in that role this season. Still not helping, am I? Tell you what, lets just enjoy the highlights of Michigan's last appearance in the Gator Bowl and call it even. This was against Ole Miss, the Bulldogs rival, so in honor of them we'll call them Ole Piss, amirite! Anyway, it was a total mismatch. Michigan's entire offensive line was named game MVP. It was Gary Moeller's first season at the helm, a year before Desmondpalooza hit campus.
I wont bore you with too much X's and O's breakdown. As Brian blogged yesterday, Mississippi State is now the most scouted team across the Internet. And it was really great stuff. It was good to see people excited enough that Michigan is back in the postsesaon that they were motivated to put pen to paper on the actual game itself. Everyone who took part on their own blog or in the diaries here should be really commended. And it offered more proof that the Michigan fanbase has the most talented corps of bloggers. In quality and quantity.
The Michigan key Michigan players in this one will be Kenny Demens and Craig Roh. The MSU running attack puts a lot of stress on the defense. This is a lot like the Illinois attack with Vic Ballard and LaDarious Perkins serving as the lethal 1-2 punch we saw with Leshoure and Ford. QB Chris Relf is a dual threat like Scheelhaase, but maybe just a bit better at this point in their careers. Michigan has been worked by the Illinois running attack three years running, no reason to think the Bulldogs wont gash the Wolverines. In fact, you're probably going to want to get in on a little Vic Ballard Over
95.5 104.5 rushing yards. Just a tip. But back to Demems. In that Illinois game he made a handful of plays, stops that Ezeh could not make, that really helped prevent the game from getting out of control in Illinois flavor. He will need to step up and make plays like that in this one to help this defense get off the field. I mention Roh because somebody on this team is going to have to make a drive changing play on Relf as he escapes the pocket. He's a talented player upfield and he can kill a drive all on his own if he gets the chance to swallow up Relf as he breaks pocket contain. Unless of course the coaches line him up at safety. In that case, forget I said anything. Besides, I'll be in the corner drinking anyway. Kidding aside, if those two players make enough plays to convince us they could be all conference contenders during their upperclassmen years, then this Michigan defense might just do enough to allow the offense to win the game.
I think team health is an edge for Michigan. Mike Martin at full strength on the defensive line gives them somebody we knows is a game changer, rather than just hope he can do so. He's Michigan only legit pro prospect right now on the defensive 11. Yes, his return to 100 percent will be important. His play alone could make it easier for Roh and Demens to make the plays they will need to make. He was putting together a defensive MVP caliber season until the injuries slowed him down. Beyond Martin, however, there's Denard Robinson, who everyone is claiming is feeling his best ever on the season. Denard, better than ever? Just the thought puts a shit-eating grin on my face. I have to supress my cackles. On the other side of the field, the Bulldogs come in without some key parts. Chad Bumphis is one of the best receivers in the SEC. He's out. That's one game changer taken care of that Michigan had no chance of checking themselves. Want another? How about Leon Berry. He's only one of the best kick returners in the country. That's one less issue for our maligned special teams unit to deal with, not to mention he's the team's third most prolific wideout.
Another question mark is motivation. It's always an issue this time of year. To be a good handicapper during the college football postseason, you have to be a quality shrink as well. You have to know that Nebraska wont give a shit playing Washington again in the middle tier bowl game they played in a year ago. You have to know that Miami will fold if any single part of the condition of play isnt perfect. You have to know that the Maryland players consider Freidgen their father and are prepared to go through brick wall after brick wall for their dissed leader. I always say bowl games are like NBA regular season games: every team makes a run, they dont really mean all that much as glorified exhibitions of sport and the teams motivational state widely varying and can be tricky to judge. When judging this Michigan team, you have to take into account their mental state with the coaching situation swirling around. We've seen West Virginia and Miami look like they'd rather be a million other places than playing with their coaching situation. But we've also seen Maryland rally around their deposed coach and play lights out. We also saw Oklahoma State send off their offensive coordinator Holgerson with a great effort, despite him splitting a lot of time between places in the bowl run-up, because the players were genuinely happy for him. None of the Michigan players know who is coaching them next year. But, they know who is coaching them this year. It's Rodriguez. As a fan, I'm proud at how the coaches have handled this situation. That will carry over to their players. I think the Wolverines will play hard for this coaching staff. This will be a lot more like the Maryland effort and nothing like we was with the Canes and 'Neers. At least that's what I keep telling myself.
Before making a formal pick, let's take a look at the prop board. I havent been shy taking props during this Bowl Chronicle run, and I actually hit enough winners early on that it keep me afloat while the underdogs finally got their bearings. I think there's some interesting stuff to chew for the Gator Bowl. And with a couple hours yet to kick, we can still play one or two. In fact, expect it.
Denard Robinson Rushing Yards O/U 110.5........this is the line at Sportsbook.com. However the bar is higher at BoDog where players have to judge Shoelace at 124.5 yards. Wow. What a big difference! The betting on props must vary wildly from book to book to have differences like that. From looking through college prop boards throughout the bowl season, I can tell you that its not uncommon to see such disparate totals. They always say to make sure to shop around for the best line available. This is true even more if you're going to be a fulltime prop player. Anyway, as for this line. Can Michigan win if Denard doesnt go Over this total? I dont think so. Denard has only exceeded this mark six times year. But in the six times he didnt, he wasnt that far off the pace, averaging a bit more than 88 yards a contest. And in three of those games he basically didnt play the second half due to injury. Basically you're betting on what type of injury will he have today. Just his breath knocked out and he misses a play or two, something we saw almost every week? Take the Over. Will the finger and shoulder injury crop back up, driving him out of the game for good? Take the Under. And start drinking heavily.
Chris Relf, total completions, O/U 9.5......I laughed at this. Seriously? I just cant imagine a QB having less than double digit completions against this defense. I know the style of offense MSU runs lends itself to that. But, come on. It's the 111th ranked pass defense. Completions are its job and business was good this fall. Scheelhaase had 14 completions for Illinois against Michigan and even Purdue's crappy QB in a rain soaked game found a way to complete 12 passes. Michigan's defense allows a bit more than 20 completions per game. Now you need them to reduce that by 50 percent to win on the Under? Of course, Relf has only completed 10 or more passed four times year and one was against Alcorn State. Michigan has a better D than Alcorn State, right? Please tell me I'm right. Actually, dont answer the question at all. Forget I asked.
Vic Ballard total rushing yards, O/U 1o4.5 yards.....Holy hell. Somebody was busy gambling overnight instead of celebrating the new year. This was 95.5 when I checked last night. I thought it was easy money at that number. I'm still thinking that way. Nine different tailbacks have gone over this number against Michigan this season. It happened seven times in Big 10 play, thanks to Wisconsin having two backs going over it. Only nuetered Purdue in the rain and Indiana, who was too busy throwing it 100 times, failed to have a back go over 104.5 yards. I dont know what's stopping us here.
Roy Roundtree Receiving Yards, Over 70.5....what happens when Roy finds some consistency in his game? He was so close to a 75-plus catch, 1,000-yard season that would be comparable to many of the great WR seasons we've seen here. But, maaaaaaaan, did he have a lot of goose egg days. Six times he had 48 or less yards and seven times he would have failed to go over this number. Michigan has a lot of options, so its hard to put big numbers every week, but if Roundtree shows a bit more consistency in his week-to-week production, he could threaten single season records. He vanished from the gameplan in the three game run against MSU, Iowa and PSU. Barely played against UConn after an injury forced him out of the game. And we all know about his drop issues that cropped up in spades in the Ohio State game. When Roundtree is on, everything is working for this offense.
Dayrl Stonun O/U 3.5 catches....Another tricky one to factor because of the different options the Michigan offense has. Stonum went over this number six times this season. In the other six games, he only had 9 total catches. He did go over this total against top competition like Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa. And he went Over in the team's biggest wins of the season vs UConn, Notre Dame and Illinois. As a Michigan homer, I like the Over in both these WR props, but just cant pull the trigger. If I do, you can bet that Hemingway--who doesnt have a single prop to his name--goes off for nine catches and 135 yards. I'd be fine with that, but probably poorer.
Longest TD Of The Game, O/U 57.5 Yards......I talked about this one heading into the Penn State game. And, how the standard numbers for this prop in most games is 50.5 or 51.5. We took a stab at that number for the PSU game since we'd seen a TD of that length five times in the first seven games. Sure enough Kevin Koger of all people ripped off a catch and run to get us the cash. Come bowl season, the oddsmakers are requiring a longer TD than usual to have a winning Over ticket. I dont know if it matters, though. We've seen at least one TD on offense from longer than 57.5 yards out in eight of Michigan's 12 games. If you include defensive and special teams scores--and the book is suspiciously quiet on whether those count, but I'm assuming they do--then the total is up to 10 out of 12 games. The only games where there wasnt a score of any variety long than this were the UConn and Iowa games.
So, do I like any of those props? I'm taking the Ballard one. That way I can pretend to hear cash register jingles instead of just wanting to beat me head against the wall every time he gashes the Michigan stop troops. And, of course, I'm taking the Over 110.5 rushing yards for Denard. I wish they put out a total offense number. Or even a passing prop (at books I dont have an account at I did find O/U 207.5 passing yards). I think both he and Ballard go over their rushing hurdles in their sleep today. I'm feeling bullish on the Wolverine offense. Total pointsfor the Wolverines is set at Over/Under 27.5. They've gone over that 9 times this season, including against five bowl teams. Book It. And, why not, this could be the last game of the Rodriguez Era which at the least has left us breathless with all sorts of emotions after long touchdown scores. I'll bite on the Over 57.5 for longest score of the game, despite that hurdle being set higher than usual. Four props. All for what we're playing every prop here and at the JCB for a quarter unit. We're just having fun with these. I should probably come up with a fifth to make this battle a true best of five. If any other inspiration comes my way, Ill send it out via the JCB Twitter.
As for the game itself, the last time our Wolverines were in a bowl game, I had no problem taking all those points against Florida. Neither the Wolverines, nor their foe today are as talented as either of those teams. I really do think Mississippi State resembles Illinois a lot. Michigan struggled all day against that offense. But, they had zero problems dealing with their defense. I dont know if MSU is as talented on that side of the ball as the Illini. Unlike the Illini, they have a true defensive weakness going up against the pass. And I dont think they have a guy like Marquez Wilson who made several bigtime plays, giving the Michigan fits. Translation: Michigan wont stop them. They wont stop Michigan. I thought the Baylor matchup for Illinois was a lot like the Michigan game, except they would come out on top. I was correct. I think this matchup for Michigan is a lot like the Illinois game. They wont that shootout. They might not win this shootout, but, I did resolve to take more chances this year, so I will take the head start. And since two out of every three games in the Rodriguez Era has gone Over the total--including 8 out of 12 this season--lets make one last Over stand before its too late.
The Picks: Michigan +5, x 1/2 Unit; Over 59.5 x 1/2 Unit. That's six plays alone in the Gator Bowl. Am I pumped for Michigan back in the postseason or what?
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.