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.]
Over at the JCB, I have been trying out a new schtick where I come up with mock prop bets on stats, storylines and underrated keys to the game that certain post is previewing. I did team previews for some Big 10 teams in this style and have carried it over to certain games now that the season has started. I intend on doing this for as many Michigan games as I can and I will publish them here, where my blogging career started, the MGoDiaries. As one of the first brave souls to piece together diaries once Brian modified his site, this will always be home for me, even as the JCB grows in popularity.
So, I have concocted four prop bets for tomorrow that I think are worthy to track as whether or not they go voer or under will help tell the tale of latest classic in the ND/Michigan series. We could turn this into a game, wager with MGoPoints and just keep track as well go along. Bragging rights are important in Blogrifica, after all.
BUT. If you want to play in a real contest venture over to the blog and play the Pick-4. It's free, some folks may have a jump start on you from playing a week ago, but there will more than enough chances to make up ground as we'll up the scoring values as we get later in the year. Did I say it was free? It is. And, while prizes are of yet unidentified, there will be some bounty for the winning souls come seasons end.
With that promo out of the way, place your bets on the following:
Armando Allen, Rushing Yards: O/U 85.5 yards
Notre Dame's senior running back has a world of talent, but he has not really had a game breaking career to this point. He only has 4 career 100-yard games. One of those came a year ago against the Wolverines, where he rushed for a career high 139 yards. At over 6 yards per carry a year ago in Ann Arbor, it begs the question again what Charlie Weis was doing throwing bombs on their final drive instead of powering with Allen to keep the clock running and getting that game clinching first down. To start the 2010 season, Allen paced a nice 1-2 punch at tailback with Cierre Woods a week ago against Purdue with 98 yards while Woods added 63. We're all rightfully worried about who in the world will cover Michael Floyd and whether or not he'll go off for eleventy-billion yards on one of our unsuspecting corners. But to me, every defensive effort this year has to begin with stoning the run. It's an obvious storyline heading into this contest. Teams were running 50 times a game against Michigan a year ago because they could. Now teams might also try doing this just to keep the ball out of Denard's hands. Regardless, if Michigan does not get gashed by opposing rushing attacks, they will win games this year. As for this game, if they keep Allen in check, I like their chances. But, if he hits the century mark again, I feel that Michigan will likely lose. As for 85.5 number, it's the actual prop bet real oddsmakers have set for Allen's production.
Michigan Points In The Red Zone, O/U 20.5
One of the biggest matchups of the game is how the Michigan offense performs against the Leprechauns hiding amidst the tall grass in the red zones of Notre Dame Stadium. These hidden Leprechauns have jumped up like gramlins over the years to thwart would be Michigan scoring drives against the Irish. These bad boys are worse than the Ypsi Illuminati. Michigan was terrible in scoring range a year ago, ranking as one of the worst teams in the league in red zone efficiency and points per trip. Historically against the Irish, they've always had bugaboos conspire against them agaisnt them once they get into scoring range. We can probably trace this back to the interception Elvis Grbac threw to a wide open Michael Stonebreaker in the end zone just as Michigan was about to put the nail in the Irish's coffin during the 1990 tilt, an eventual 28-24 Notre Dame win. And, it's continued. Tom Brady marched the Wolverines up and down field during the first half of his first ever career start in 1998, but Michigan had to settle for four field goal attempts, one of which they shanked. The Irish dominated the second half and won. The same formula added up for a Michigan loss in 2004 in Chad Henne's first start against the Irish. Michigan outdid themselves in 2005 when a record 215 trips in the red zone led to zero points. As recently as 2008, a fumble as Michigan was plowing into the end zone ended all hope for a Michigan win over Notre Dame. This series is dead even at five apiece in the last 10 matches, but if Michigan had only been competent in the red zone against the Irish over this time, they would have an overwhelming series advantage. So here we have another Michigan QB making his first start in South Bend. Greatness preceded him in the form of Grbac, Brady and Henne. Yet, all of them struggled to find the end zone once inside the red zone. Can Denard deliver? Maybe the offense scores a bunch of points from long range, minimizing red zone trips. Who knows? That's why they call it gambling.
Notre Dame Passing Attack, Yards Per Completion: O/U 10.70
Who here is worried that Michael Floyd might be the best player on the field tomorrow? I am. So much so that I cant bring myself to set a total for his total yards. I fear a 200-yard day and a maschostic venture into the history books to see how close it is to a record against Michigan That is if Tom Hammond hasnt gleefully announced it to me already on the game broadcast with the verve he usually reserves for exciting tales of horse geneology. As it turns out, the oddsmakers have actually set an O/U total for Floyd: O/U 88.5 yards. That seems low. I might hit that Over and maybe not wince as much each time he shreds the Michigan defense. I dont see how Floyd doesnt top the century mark. As long as he doesnt have a monster, record book type of day they can absorb a good fantasy football output from the Irish's stud wideout.
I thought about doing an over/under for eventual +/- number for the secondary in Brians' UFR. But I'm too impatient to wait until middle next week for results. Besides, I'm still a little confused of what to make of the +7 they racked up against the Huskies a week ago. James Rogers, your table is ready, sir. I've soothed my nerves on this game most of the last month by convincing myself that it was 100 percent, no questions asked a good thing that none of the four starters in the secondary who were clocked by the Irish a year ago will be in the lineup tomorrow. We'll find out how delusional I've been in about 24 hours. BUT DID YOU SEE THAT +7!!!!
The stat we're playing with instead is yards per completion. A year ago, the Jimmy Claussen carved Michigan up to the tune of more than 13.5 per catch. That's top shelf. Anything between 10-12 yards is doing really well and will give you an offensive leg up all day. Denard Robinson was just a smidge under 10 a week ago. As for Notre Dame, Dayne Crist hit for 10.7 yards per completion against Purdue. I feel if he's around that number again, Michigan has a strong chance at winning. I dont think they could approach a number like last year's onslaught and expect to come out ahead.
Total Michigan Running Backs Over 50 yards: O/U 1.5
This is a werid prop. We can reasonably assume Denard Robinson will be the team's leading rusher. But, they need some more balance and a bit more production from their tailbacks. But, this also gives me an opportunity to skewer my fellow blogger Magnus. It's a banner week for Magnus as I an not the only one delivering him a pink slip over his analysis of the opening day win for Michigan. Over at Touch the Banner, he graded the Michigan tailbacks as 'only average' for the day and elsewhere on his blog and within threads on this site, he's always first in line to trash, in particular, Vincent Smith. Magnus admits he didnt watch the whole game on Saturday, which is obvious because he clearly didnt see what I saw in person. I saw hard running out of both Michael Shaw and Smith. Frankly, it was the best Shaw has looked in his Michigan career. Was he perfect? Hardly. This team still cant afford a bunch of mistakes and that 11-yard loss he took was a terrible play. However, throw that play out and he had 15 touches for 75 yards. I fail to see how this is bad production. After dropping a pass in the spring game that would have been a big gainer, he caught the only ball thrown to him Saturday and scooted for 16 yards, running hard and fast the whole way. His elusiveness and determined running turned a lot of possible tackles near the line of scrimmage into 5 yard gains. As for Smith, I still dont understand what Magnus fails to see. That TD run he had in the first quarter was a great run that reminded this Michigan historian a little of Jamie Morris and Mike Hart. He has scored touchdowns in three straight games now against Wisconsin, Ohio State and UConn. Somehow this is bad. By the way, I'm throwing a little down on the following prop: Will Vincent Smith score a TD? A Yes bet pays out at +130. I'll ride it. Also, both Shaw and Smith proved to be good blockers throughout the day. Smith hammered a UConn defender, helping to free up Denard's 32-yard TD run to make it 14-0. I guess Magnus wasnt satisfied with that play since Smith didnt officially Pancake block him. Anyway, Magnus, stop hating on Vinnie Smith. This kid is a player. And, he's scored four of the program's last 7 touchdowns. It's time for you to get on board. The A-Train is not walking through that door, my friend.
So those are my fake props for the game. What say you, Over or Under? And for fun, I'm going to list the current player props available at sportsbook.com for tomorrow's game
Longest TD of the game (either team) O/U 49.5 yards
Denard Total Completions O/U 16.5
Denard Total Rushes O/U 20.5
Will Vinnie Smith Score A TD: Yes +130, No -140
Stonum Catches O/U 4
Koger Catches O/U 2.5
Crist Total Completions O/U 21.5
What Will Crist Throw First: TD -200, INT +160
Allen Rushing Yards O/U 85.5 yards
Floyd Receiving Yards O/U 88.5 yards
Rudolph Catches, O/U 4.5
Michigan Total Points O/U 24
Notre Dame Total Points, O/U 28
Place your bets. This book accepts MGoPoints
Also, dont forget to play the Pick-4!!!!!
I wont lie: I am flat tired of writing preview-ish type pieces and getting summer, off season content up at the JCB. I had this great idea of doing preview pieces on all the Big 10 teams using a Over/Under theme. I didnt make it. I did not even make it half way through. Instead, I diverted my attention to other types of posts, eventually wore myself out at that and turned towards doing something pretty important the last couple of weeks: Enjoying summer. Or at least thats my excuse for only a handful of posts the last couple of weeks and no diaries in well over a month, despite promises to the contrary. We're in season now, so it wont be hard to throw up posts and diaries with actual games and results to mull over. But we want to give one last nod to the original preview idea and expand the Over/Under Board a bit before moving on to the season, so I've put together a post on the Michigan Defense for an MGoDiary and whipped up some Penn State odds over at my blog. For those who didnt see it earlier in the month, the Michigan Offense Over/Under Board includes, among others, total TDs from the QB position, 30.5; Drew Dileo kick returns 1.5; and leading rusher, 825.5 yards. To the defense........
Mark Moundros, total tackles: O/U 54.5
Before you scoff at how high this number is set, dont forget Kevin Leach, good old #32 marked 46 tackles a year ago. At the very least Moundros stands closer to the field at the beginning of this season than Leach did a year ago. The promise runs with the first team right off the bat could open the door for a high number of tackles. I dont expect him to get to the 90-tackle mark, a high water mark in recent years for Michigan LBs, but somewhere between 50-60 tackles might be the new expectation. Five weeks ago, the confusing case of Mark Moundros still seemed destined for limited touches as the fullback over any play at his fancy at linebacker. But the story has taken a surprising turn during preseason practices. He, along with
Darious Morris Tim Hardaway Jr., became August legends. For Moundros, he appears to be riding that momentum all the way into the starting lineup. When it was first pieced together by savvy watchers of the Countdown videos that Moundros was running with the first time, I chuckled that it didnt mean much. His stint with the one's just happened to coincide with the taping of the video at that time, right? But, this has legs. The Obi Ezeh era at MLB is apparently ending not because some uber, OMG shirtless recruit supplanted him, but because a former walk-on (er, I mean former#), turned linebacker after 3 years at fullback, waltzed into the position group and in the six months since then has turned the depth chart upside down. What a story. Musberger is going to love this by the time the Penn State primetime game rolls around. At least we hope so. I'm hardly discouraged by this development. Moundros' emergence upgrades this unit. Thats an indictment on the state of the position before he joined the depth chart, not the state with him on it. We'll find out on Saturday just how legit this is. I dont think position switches are all that bad. Northwestern has flopped David Arnold between the secondary and linebacking units and has been a solid producer. Indiana moved Ray Fisher from WR where he was buried behind some quality starters and became the team's top cornerback a year ago until a season ending injury. Christian Ballard arrived in Iowa City as a tight end, but he'll leave as an NFL draft pick on the defensive line. JJ Watts was a low-rated Tight End at Central Michigan, but he's now an All Big 10 contender at defensive tackle for Wisconsin. There's probably more oranges in those comparisons to the apples in Moundros situation, but the fact remains he's a good football player, loves to hit and apparently has shown more instincts in six months at the position than Ezeh or anyone else the last couple of years. If I am disapointed in anything is that the coaches didnt figure this move out sooner. Like the day they got here would have been nice. How much, and how well, Moundros plays on Saturday is one of the game's biggest storylines.
Mike Martin, total combined sacks and TFLs, O/U 13.5
On the offense over/under board, there's that quirky game trying to guess how many players will exceed their career catches with their single season numbers this year. Thats where the bar is being set here for Martin as 13.5 combined sacks and TFLs represent his career log during his first two seasons on the defensive line. He's had two sacks each season and last year disrupted to the additional tune of 6.5 TFLs, four more than his freshmen season in 2008. I think this kid is a beast and he's going to give first team All Big 10 a serious run. Outside of the interior pair of Christian Ballard and Karl Klug for Iowa, no returning defensive tackle has been as productive the last two seasons for his team. From an accolades standpoint, he's really suffering due to the team's lack of overall performance. That, and everybody looked like meager producers compared to Brandon Graham's season a year ago. Martin will be a force during his upperclassmen years in Ann Arbor. I think he flirts with double digit TFLs and a half dozen sacks. One of the enduring images of the team that I've clung to all off season were the long stretches of the OSU game when Martin controlled the line of scrimmage. The highlight play was an early sack on Pryor when Martin tossed aside Bryant Browning and threw the Buckeye quarterback down into the turf. I'd link to the UFR, but, well, I cant seem to find it. Are the archives working? Poking fun of Brian aside, we're all looking forward to a season full of more moments like that from Martin.
Total Takeaways: O/U 20.5
We all wake up in cold sweats after nightmares of Michigan ball carriers putting the ball on the carpet, quarterbacks throwing ducks to players with a different colored helmet and, of course, specialists muffing kicks. But Michigan actually took some babby steps forward in the giveaway department a season ago compared to 2008. Yet, the turnover margin got worse. When talking about Michigan's turnover woes the last couple of seasons, lets not forget part of the last year's blame should go to the defense that produced one of the worst takeaway number in years. Last year, the defense in Ann Arbor swiped just 16 takeaways. That's the fewest since 19 in 2001. The program's 11-year average prior to 2009 was 24.37. More than half of those years had more than two dozen takeaways. So last year was a 33-percent reduction in the production the Michigan defense had become accustomed to producing most of the time. Hypothetically, could the team have used 8 more takeaways a year ago? Give those to me, let me spread them around the slate--congrats, OSU, you get half of them!!--and BOOM, Michigan wins 7-8 games a year ago. We can write HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL in as many comment threads as we like, but the turnover margin wont be appreciably better unless the D steps up some and generates more giveaways. I dont know if Michigan will jump right back to getting more than two dozen takeaways a year, but I do expect the back to back years of regression with this stat to stop and at least begin to creep the other way. Where will the extra takeaways come? Craig Roh has the type of game that just screams forced turnovers. New Safety Cam Gordon packs a wallop on his sticks and should give Michigan a hard hitting, forced fumble threat in the secondary for the first time in years. Part of the reason Carvin Johnson has emerged atop the depth chart has been his ballhawking abilities. Finally playing for the same defensive coordinator two years in a row might help in this department as well.
Total Points Allowed, O/U 299.5 points
You know what I miss? I miss that goofy stat we used to throw around these parts about how unbeatable Michigan was when scoring at least 30 points. It's been a long, long, long time, it seems, since that era, so my memory may be wrong, but I think the Wolverines record in those situations was 531,731-2. I may be off a game or two. That's how bad the Michigan defense has been for a couple years running now. It has me pining for the manipulated stats used to support Mike DeBord's offensive philosophy. Uh, Rich, that is most definetly not change I can believe in. Here's the ugly money stat: The Michigan defense has given up 30 or more points in 13 of the 24 games the last two years. It's decidedly not a defense DeBord can win with. But Rodriguez could, especially if his high-powered offense in the making takes another leap forward and, more importantly, the defense puts up anything close to an average performance. How about allowing less than 300 points this season? That would be a big step. The Wolverines have given up 347 and 330 the last two years. Getting under 300 total points is the equivalent of allowing a field goal less per game compared to the last two seasons. Last year, thats the difference between 5-7 with an off season of continued angst and 7-5 while spending Christmas in Florida. Can the D reduce their points allowed by this much? More? Or more of the same and another season with half the slate dropping at least 30 on the Michigan defense?
Carvin Johnson, total combined tackles/sacks/TFLs/PBU/INTs: O/U 64.5
When Carvin Johnson comitted to Michigan ten months ago, he was an unknown to most recruitniks. He visited for the Penn State game, even though most of the gurus werent clear on who he was, and within the week had comitted to the Wolverines. He was not even ranked as a prospect. Yet, his legend grew during his senior season, an offer from noveau power Utah, combined with interest from homestate LSU suddenly turned this Louisiana prospect into a honest-to-goodness diamond in the rough. Months ago it was bandied about that he could see immediate playing time. It looks like his time will come this Saturday as he's expected to be the starter at the Spur position, which was manned ably by senior Stevie Brown a year ago. If the depth chart released this week is any indication, then it will be Johnson who gets first crack at this stat sheet stuffing position. For comparison's sake, Brown put up a 92 combined tackles/sacks/TLFs/PBU/INT a year ago in his only year playing this hybrid position. I cant see Johnson scoring that high because I dont think he's playing every down like Brown did a year ago. We're still going to see a few different people taking snaps there, especially if Johnson's debut against UConn is shaky. As a result, we're setting his number almost a full third below Stevie's 2009 production.