Early in the week at the JCB, I posted about the Big 10's shifting odds as pointspreads for some of the future conference showdowns are being moved now that we have a few weeks of evidence. And calling what the Big 10 has done so far as evidence is pretty dang kind. But, hey, all these games in question deal with conference head to heads, so we're all in this equally sucky peer group together guys.
I buried the part about Michigan in that post, figuring we would talk about it more in depth over here. The simple fact is on their future Big 10 games listed on the board, people are either betting against Michigan or the oddsmakers are moving the lines against the Wolverines as insurance against a lot of Anti-Wolverine action. The Purdue line, which opened at UM -8.5 was down to -6 a week ago and has lowered even further to -4.5 as of today. Will it be the first of two games against Purdue this year? Who knows.
Michigan opened as slight favorites against Nebraska and Ohio State when the Golden Nugget first released lines back in June. By the time the season began, those lines had shifted and favored roles reversed with Nebraska -2 and OSU -3. They've continued to move in that direction during September. Nebraska is now -4 over Michigan. As for the OSU line, the Buckeyes were already up to - 6 a week ago and now its all the way to OSU -7.5. Yep, everyone is buying the Urban Revolution, and the Wolverines are now catching a full touchdown and a hook for The Game.
Why are people betting against Michigan? Let me try and count the ways: Their best runningback is their QB. Their top targeted WR was their backup QB and just moved to that position. Their other dangerous weapon so far in the passing game is a raw true freshman who hasnt dont anyhing yet against legit BCS competition. Their leading tailback from a year ago hasnt really got his legs yet and was suspended earlier after a serious run in with the law this summer. Denard made a bad play against UMass, GASP! Their right tackle's best position might be left guard. Their left guard should be their center, but he cant execute a shotgun snap. Their most talented player on defense has been lost for the season to an ACL tear. The rebuilding on the defensive line looks a bit wobbly so far. An overachieving D from a year returned seven starters, yet half the time the lineup is more freshmen and first year contributers than anyone else. Fans were excited to have good group of three returning linebackers who played well a year ago, but two of them are steadily losing snaps to true freshmen. And, Michigan got blown out by Alabama, which obviously means the Wolverines arent any good and might as well close shop for the fall. The team relies too much on one of the best players in college football. I dont know how you can win doing that.
So Michigan has problems. But some of those are hyperbolic. And others are areas of improvements where Michigan really still does have high ceiling potential this year. Others are fatal flaws. But, like, have you seen the rest of the Big 10? You think Michigan has problems. And thats my bottomline on these future odds. Catching points against Nebraska and OSU, two teams Michigan's offense worked over a year ago and whose own defensive issues still havent appeared to be solved? Sign. Me. Up. We'll see how the first half of the conference season plays out, but I'll take Michigan's offense, their defensive personnel and defensive scheming against all comers, especially if you're going to give me points.
The same goes for the big Notre Dame game this week, where Michigan is currently listed as 5.5-point underdogs. I dont have any new, creative ways to explain how titlted to the underdog this series is, so how about I just vomit up the numbers and move on. The Underdog is 23-5 ATS, but as impressively is 16-11-1 straight up, meaning they've won outright more than they lost. Notre Dame hasnt covered in this series as chalk since 1982 and hasnt won period in this series as chalk since 1988, the 19-17 Reggie Ho game where Michigan at least covered the 2.5 closing number. The only times in the last 20 years where the road dog failed to at least cover in a Michigan-Notre Dame games were the two 38-0 Michigan beatdowns in 2003 and 2007. Michigan is 10-1 ATS in this series as an underdog, with a 7-3-1 straight up record in those games. In most years, the underdog in this contest ends up playing its best game of the season.
Looking for something more rational than mere series history? I can do that. ND's front-7 is good looking, equipped with a lot of 4- and 5-star recruits finally blossoming as players and together as a unit. They dominated MSU a week ago. But the Wolverines come with a more talented, proven offensive line, even if the unit is far from fully gelled. That front-7, however, can only mask the inexperienced and patchwork secondary for so long. MSU could not take advantage of that because they're totally rebuilding their downfield threats and are at program low ebb at the WR position. Michigan isnt vintage Maize and Blue with their flankers, but they have more than enough proven and obvious up-and-coming targets to take advantage of the obvious weak spot of the ND Defense. Oh, and, is Denard Robinson still on the team? Let me check. Hmm. It says here he is. That gives Michigan the best player in this game, one whose been able to max out on all his powers against this team in his two previous starts. Michigan hasnt played a truly bad game on offense against the Irish since 2005, and I will be disappointed if they dont give us a bit of a showcase tomorrow night. Besides, it's Denard's 22nd Birthday on the 22nd. If that's not a sign, then I dont know what is. Michigan will have trouble with ND's offense. I fully expect Cierre Woods to have a really good game. But I am not sold on their redshirt freshman QB making his fourth career start. Mattison will have a trick up his sleeve for the kid. Notre Dame went 1-for-14 last week on 3rd conversions, yet still won and coverd as 6-point dogs. Yet, would you say, the Irish played all that well? I didnt think so and now they come back a week later, against an equally challenging foe as a week ago, but are now almost a touchdown favorite. I dont like that situation for any team. The Irish will still score their points, but I expect Michigan to go blow for blow with them and, at the very least, cover the spread. I'll have a full card of picks up at the JCB later in the day, and Michigan will be on there. Book It.
I wanted to spend some time breaking down the listed props for the game. However, as far as player props go, none are currently being listed. We'll probably see the various online books release those later tonight or tomorrow morning. I'll throw something together in the forum when they do. There are a few team related props already on the board, so let me breeze through those before signing off.
Michigan, Total Points Over/Under 22....This total is pretty low considering Michigan's history against Notre Dame. The Wolverines have scored more than 22 points in 12 of last 18 against the Irish, averaging 26.27 points per game. The number has been ticking upward in the series most recent matchups with Michigan averaging 33.16 points per in the last six games with Notre Dame, including five finals of at least 28 points. In Denard Robinson's 29 starts as UM QB, the Wolverines have scored more than 22 points in 23 games. Shall we talk about Notre Dame's team total being set at 27 points? I'd rather not ponder our young, flawed defense's ability to contain Notre Dame for the the purposes of this prop bet. On one hand, in the last 18 games between these two, the Irish have scored more than 27 points just six time. On the other hand, three of those occurrences are in the last four seasons, when they avergaged 30.5 points. But they've only gone 1-3 in those games. Insert Nelson Munz laugh here.
Longest TD Scored Over/Under 47.5 yards........This became a personal favorite of mine during Michigan games in 2010. The marriage of the explosive Denard Robinson with the crappy Rodriguez/GERG/Tony Gibson minus all the points defensive philosophy proved quite lucrative on the longest TD of the game props. This prop cashed on the first play of the marathon 132-point Illinois game on the Roundtree catch and run. It won on the famous Denard run to the house in South Bend. Of course, i reared its head in losses oo, like the The Edwin Baker home run job for MSU's first score in the Spartans win. The only thing I remember from the Penn State debacle is Kevin Koger's 61-yard TD reception, everything else from that night is not sitcking with my memory thanks to a catatonic state fueled by beer, whiskey and, uh, well, other things. It hit regularily, but, of course, the yardage needed wasnt as low as this weekend's prop. By the end of the season, this number was being listed in the low 60s. No worries, Jordan Hall and the Bucks got that covered on a 85-yard kickoff return score. Ok, enough of that. You get the point. We won a lot of money on Michigan games that year, we just needed to be creative about it. Getting back to the prop in this weekend's game. There's been a TD of more than 47.5 yards in two of three Michigan games so far this season. In the Denard Era, we've seen a TD of at least this length in 17 of 29 games. The defensive improvements in the wake of the Hoke/Mattison hirings have slowed the roll, however. After seeing touchdowns of at least 48 yards scored in 10 of 13 games in 2010, we've only seen it seven of 16 since.
Enjoy your Saturday of college football. Go Blue! Beat The Irish!