Point spreads in Michigan's "Games of the Year"
My favorite day of the off season occurred last week with relatively little fanfare in the mainstream circles of college football fandom. Internet books released the lines for their "games of the year" for the upcoming 2008 season. Some relish the recruiting letter of intent day and the rush of new prospects and stars committing to your school. Others soak in spring ball, scouting their squad to see what next year will bring. But for me, its when this buffet of point spreads are announced for the expected bell weather games of the season. It's closer to the start of the season than those other moments, so it adds to my already anxious anticipation. More than anything, by providing a tangible expectation for specific games, it moves forward the hypothetical arguments we're already making about the upcoming season. I now can day dream an entire three mile run away wondering how notre dame is going to bounce back like many expect when they're not even favored to beat a North Carolina club that has not had a winning record in six seasons.
Sportsbook.com released a little over 100 lines last week and included among them were four games involving the Michigan Wolverines: the home game vs MSU and road tilts against Notre Dame, Penn State and Ohio State. A few days ago, I wrote a diary breaking down the spread in Michigan's opener against Utah, and now lets take a look at these four showdowns.
Michigan +3.5 at Notre Dame. The Irish pegged as favorites in this game might negate the above doubt about a possible rebound season generated by their under dog status against the Tar Heels. Let's just call that even and say ND is as much of a mystery as Michigan. This line stands out because recent history in this series has seen Michigan as the favorite, often times pretty heavy too, as six of the last nine games has seen them laying at least a touchdown. That's too bad because the underdog has owned this series since its modern inception in 1978 going 19-5 ATS with 12 outright upsets and a tie. That's right, the dog is 12-11-1 straight up in this series. You wont find a more underdog dominant series than this one. Michigan is 8-1 ATS as a dog vs the Irish, but just 4-4-1 straight up in those games. Notre Dame has not covered as a favorite in this series since 1982, and we all know what happened in 2006, the last tie ND was favored in this game. Is it worth mentioning that the Wolverines are 18-3 ATS as a road dog of less than a touchdown? Perhaps. So naturally with that kind of history on my side, I feel real good about Michigan's chances here. Then a harrowing thought washes over me. Does this just mean we're about to be introduced to a new Harry Oliver or Reggie Ho, with an iprobable kick sailing through the uprights to snatch victory away from deserving maize abd blue hands? Sigh. Michigan may have covered those games, but just thinking about those devasting losses will force me to down a couple of whiskey shots before I continue this diary.
Michigan +9 at Penn State. Ok, we have a team whose won nine straight against a certain foe, yet they're catching nearly double digits. In these teams thirteeen games against one another--all since PSU joined the league--Michigan has allowed just over 17 points per game to the Nittany Lions. I just dont see PSU suddenly figuring Michigan out and blowing up the scoreboard. They might break the losing streak, but they'll only do it in a defensive slugfest. Points will be at a premium, so I'll take the nice sized head start. There is a segment of Nittany Lion Nation that is expecting a decade's worth of comeuppance in a Wolverine blood letting this October. But Michigan's defense has a lot of confidence matching up with PSU. Replacing Morelli at QB might be addition by subraction, but its just as likely to mean nothing more than a new QB to gripe about. When Penn State made that leap in 2005 it was because they had a special talent at QB whose talents finally were being used right. I dont see a similar spark on this year's PSU offense, so I think we're going to see the same old Penn State team that we've seen for most of the decade. The one with about as many league wins as Northwestern. I am not sure if thats true, but I am pretty sure I read it somewhere in the back of this year Big 10 media guide. Trust me, dont worry about looking it up. Maybe its too easy, but I really love Michigan and the points here.
MSU +4 at Michigan. Well, at least we're still favored to beat Little Brother, right?!?! But even this line is eye opening in how little in the long run the expectations are for Michigan this year. Consider that in the last five games between these two at the Big House, Michigan has been favored by an average of 13 points. This is a line where we could see some serious movement between now and then. If Michigan exceeds expecations and looks like, well Michigan, from a record standpoint and Sparty is amid their annual autumnal tumble, then this could balloon. Michigan as a short favorite at home usually is a solid play and, heck, pay a little extra for the money line and eliminate the line altogether. Sounds like a solid plan, but there is a weird historical footnote that could spell doom for Michigan. Each of the last four first-year Michigan head coaches, Bump, Bo, Mo and Lloyd all lost their first game against Michigan State. Lodged between road games at Penn State and Purdue, Michigan cant afford to lose this game or it could be a ugly wheeze to the finish line.
Michigan +14.5 at Ohio State. If this line is even remotely close to this come game time, that means Michigan's season has been as mediocre as many are expecting while Ohio State's has been as top shelf as many expect. Accordingly this game will be looked upon as a total mismatch and the line could mushroom to closer to three TDs than two. And living here in Ohio as I am, I will have to resort to heavy drinking, possibly some violence and certainly a temporary move out of the area in order to survive game week. And, of course, once Michigan pulls off the upset, like the last three Michigan first year head coaches have done in this series, I will quietly creep back to my home county to help collect and bury the bodies after the mass crimson and silver suicide sweeps the state. Now, if this line shrinks to -7--which is what it was in the epic 2006 matchup--then Michigan will at least be playing for a share of the league title. Conjecture, sure, but nothing short of a 9-2 record coming into this game will keep this line in the single digits if its already opening over two touchdowns.
So there you go. Thats my hope for this year's team. To play well enough to only be a TD underdog to the Buckeyes. Its not exactly the slogan to make any new T-shirts out of, but never before I have been so unclear as to what to expect out of the program. So, making the experts in the desert seriously re-evaluate their price on this game so drastically in our favor means that ninja offense we're all drooling about will have already sliced through much of the competition.
great post. couldn't agree more with your predictions/analyses.
now can anyone recommend a safe site to put my money where my mouth is?
I'm not much of a betting man, but I really think folks are underestimating our talent (especially on D), the smarts of RichRod, and the hustle, speed, and strength differences we'll see under wolfgod Barwis.