It was a good week for the Wolverines, winning by 24 points 34-10. While some questions remain for the offense, the defense seems to have assumed an identity. Week 4 rankings include 4 Big Ten teams with Nebraska ranked the lowest (24th) and the only ranked Big Ten team to remain undefeated. MSU(11) keeps the highest spot coming off a bye week.
Last week recap:
Winners: Iowa State(+12.5) @ Iowa 20-17
Nebraska(-10) @ Fresno State 55 -19
Kent @ Ohio State(-32) 0-66
UL Lafayette @ Mississippi(-27) 15-56
Losers: Houston @ BYU(-18.5) 25-33
Penn State @ Rutgers(+3.5)(for the WIN) 13-10
Georgia(-5.5) @ South Carolina 35-38
BYU is a good team but is too undisciplined to go very far this year. One of their starting def. lineman was thrown out because he tried to punch a guy. I’m just saying. Rutgers looked like they should have gotten the win last week but they seem to be afraid of success. Welcome to the BIG TEN!
SoFlaWolverine adds Washington to his win column.
Maize_in_spartyland adds TCU and Wakeforest to his win column.
For those of you who can’t wait till Saturday, here is Thursday’s most interesting matchup:
Auburn(-8.5) @ K-State:
Power Rankings: AUB 4 K-State 17
Auburn(5) moved up 3 spots in the power rankings, is 2-0 and 0-2 ATS. This will be their first challenge away from home and their first match up against a ranked opponent. K-State is 2-0 and 2-0 ATS. Both teams are 2-0-0 O/U. Last year Auburn beat K-State(20) 23-13 even though K-State outgained them 316 TOT – 291 TOT. Coates is out for Auburn this week and this could have an impact on the game as he accumulated 902 yards in receiving with 42 catches last year. Auburn is ranked 31st in def. this year but only 48th in rushing def. This is coming off opponents ranked 110th and 3rd in rushing, so it might not be that concerning but K-State is ranked 32nd in rushing off. K-State def. is ranked 23rd and had a good showing against Iowa State. I see Auburn winning this game by a field goal and a mutual offensive struggle.
K-State to Cover and the Under
A look around the Big Ten
IND @ Missouri(-13):
Power Rankings: IND 80 MIZZ 18
Indiana just lost to BGSU and struggled to beat their instate rivals, need I say more? I will anyways. Mizz comes off a strong win against UCF 38-10 and shouldn’t have any problems against Indiana. I’m guessing Vegas is concerned about the air raid that is Indiana’s only offense. I’m not, since UCF possibly has the best receiving core in the FBS. Get in on this line early to keep a 2 touchdown win.
Missouri to Cover
Utah @ Michigan(-5)
Power Rankings: MI 35 Utah 61
Michigan’s defense seems to be passing the eye test, and the numbers agree as they are ranked 7th overall and 10th and 23rd in rushing and passing. Last week UM was able to finish some drives but Utah is ranked 39th in rushing def. so far. The O/U seems low to me but I’m still not willing to bet UM puts up their share of points. Utah is ranked 14th in Off. This could be a very frustrating game to watch, or boring if you’re the type of fan than needs Michigan to put up 50 points a game. As a fan, Utah scares the hell out of me. As a real Michigan fan… I see Michigan winning this game by at least a touchdown. Utes are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 vs. Big Ten.
Over is 4-0 in Utes last 4 games following a SU win of more than 20 points.
Over is 6-1 in Utes last 7 games after accumulating more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game.
Wolverines are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games in September.
Wolverines are 0-7 ATS in their last 7 vs. Pac-12.
Under is 4-0 in Wolverines last 4 games in September.
Disclaimer: I don’t bet on Michigan sports. I refuse to bet against them for one, and I am way too biased. Since I follow them so religiously, I can always find an insider reason to hype them up. So, take it for what it’s worth.
Michigan to Cover
Iowa @ Pitt(-6.5)
Power Rankings: Iowa 32 Pitt 51
SJSU @ Minnesota(-8.5)
Power Rankings: MINN 40 SJSU 116
I’m hoping the TCU game has mired anyone willing to bet on Minnesota. This line seems a little low as a result and SJSU got embarrassed by AUB. I’ll take a flyer on this one.
Minnesota to Cover
Southern Illinois @ Purdue
Power Rankings: PUR 76
No one seems interested in this game so….. No action.
Massachusetts @ Penn State(-26.5)
Power Rankings: PSU 33 UMASS 113
Miami @ Nebraska(-7)
Power Rankings: NEB 20 Miami 41
Miami has the 8th best def. but is only ranked 89th in off. so far. If Nebraska can get their offense rolling this could be a very good game. Nebraska is ranked 8th in def. and shouldn’t have any problem holding Miami to 3 touchdowns. Nebraska is ranked 43rd in redzone def. this year. That should be enough to keep Miami kicking field goals, which they seem more than willing to do this year with Goudis having 50+ yard range. I’m staying away from this line but I’ll pick up some O/U action.
I’ll take the under
Maryland(-1) @ Syracuse
Power Rankings: MD 73 SYR64
Eastern Michigan @ MSU(-45.5)
Power Rankings: EMU 122 MSU 12
Texas State @ Illinois(-14)
Power Rankings: ILL 60 TXST 86
Rutgers @ Navy(-6)
Power Rankings: RUTG 65 Navy 57
BGSU @ Wisconsin(-27)
Power Rankings: WIS 23 BGSU 116
Bowling Green is 2-1 and 2-1 ATS. Wisconsin is 1-1 and 0-2 ATS. WIS is ranked 9th in def. but an atrocious 88th in off. They are however 39th in rushing. BGSU is ranked 23rd in off. and 125th in def. There is a huge mismatch on both sides of the ball. In a game of rock, paper, scissors, Wisconsin def. beats BGSU off. Wisconsin has never lost to BGSU and is 3-0 in the series. Last week’s BGSU Indiana game really has this line screwed up. It opened at -21.5 and I don’t see it stopping till after -29. Wisconsin’s star running back only rushed for 38 yards on 17 carries against Western Illinois 2 weeks ago (they had a bye last week). He had a good showing against LSU the week before though. WIS also returns their 2 best interior def. lineman. They were injured against LSU and I really think WIS would have won that game if they hadn’t been. I wouldn’t wince at this line if Wisconsin was 2-0 and BGSU didn’t complete a game winning drive late against a pathetic Indiana team. BGSU has a very fast paced off. completing 133 plays against Indiana. Wisconsin has held opponents to an average of 59.5 plays so far. Wisconsin is poised for a lopsided victory this week but I’m not sure how lopsided. I would wait till the line moves above -28.5 and take BGSU if I wanted this action. Instead, I’ll just take the under as it’s 4-0 for the Falcons.
I’ll take the Under
Western Illinois @ Northwestern
Power Rankings: No action on this one… Yawn
This week’s top ranked matchup: happens to be on Thursday, so… I bring you… wait for it…
Clemson(24)@ Florida State(1)(-17)
Power Rankings: FSU 3 (Damn) Clemson 24
For perspective, Clemson falls directly between Nebraska and Ohio State in the power rankings. Clem is 1-1 and 1-1 ATS while FSU is 2-0 and 0-2 ATS. Clemson’s only loss is to Georgia 21-45. Clem is ranked 27th in off. and 6th in def. FSU is ranked 42nd and 43rd in off. and def. respectively. They are also coming off a close win against Oklahoma State 2 weeks ago. Clem loss in embarrassing fashion to UGA their first game of the season. The last 2 times these teams met FSU won, tying a ten game series. In the 27 times they’ve played FSU has won 19. This game looks to be FSU’s last challenge to an undefeated season. In fact, FSU has a 73% chance to win every game this year, giving them a 40% chance to go undefeated and make the playoffs. This is more than double any other team in the FBS. It’s almost enough to make you sick. This line opened at -20 and I think it is about where it should be. However, last year’s Heisman winner J. Winston has been suspended the first half of the game for using vulgar language… %*$# This was released yesterday so expect the line to drop a little. Looking at the offensive struggles against UGA, Clemson looks like they could blow the best opportunity they’ll have to get back into playoff contention. But against South Carolina State, Clem put up 737 yard in a 73-7 win. If the Seminoles can stop Clemson’s pass game they will cruise to an easy victory as no one for the Tigers has more than 82 yards rushing. This should be a great game to watch, and a chance to route for Clemson to spoil a potential repeat.
Clemson to Cover
Now, your surefire win of the week, guaranteed to make you look stupid and lose you 50 dollars in the office pool:
Texas A&M(-33.5) @SMU
Power Rankings: TAM 10 SMU 127
Coming in at a 75% consensus, this week’s sure fire win will feature the most dynamic offense in the country. TAM is 3-0 and 2-1 ATS. SMU is 0-2 and 0-2 ATS. TAM is ranked 4th in off. and 68th in def. so far. They’re coming off a season opener win against South Carolina, 52-28, where they decided on this year’s game plan, keep the opponents offensive off the field by keeping your offense in their end-zone. They also put up 73 points against Lamar, so there’s that… SMU is ranked 128th in off. and 105th in def. They are however ranked 43rd in pass defense. I expect that ranking to drop about 20 spots after this week. SMU’s starting QB is also out for the season with an injury. This game couldn’t look worse for SMU.
Aggies are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 road games vs. a team with a losing home record.
Aggies are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games on fieldturf.
Aggies are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games after allowing less than 20 points in their previous game.
Mustangs are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games in September.
Mustangs are 0-6 ATS in their last 6 non-conference games.
Over is 7-1 in Mustangs last 8 games following a S.U. loss.
Texas to Cover and the Over
Who you Pick’n?
Any comments and suggestions are welcome. Good luck at the races!
... according to the lines that ESPN has posted so far (BETONLINE.ag, 5Dimes.eu, SportsBetting.ag).
Other Big Ten games:
Texas State +14.5/15 @ Illinois
Indiana +16.5 @ Missouri
Iowa +5/5.5 @ Pittsburgh
Maryland +1.5 @ Syracuse
EMU +45/45.5 @ MSU
Miami (FL) +7.5 @ Nebraska
UMass +28.5 @ Penn State
Bowling Green +21.5/22 @ Wisconsin
No line yet:
San Jose St. @ Minnesota
Western Illinois @ Northwestern
Southern Illinois @ Purdue
Rutgers @ Navy
Rivalry week is upon us.
Week 13 Opening Lines:
#20 Michigan +4.5 @ #4 Ohio (Sat 12:00pm ET ABC)
TCU +8.5 @ #18 Texas (Thurs 7:30pm ET ESPN)
#17 Nebraska -14.5 @ Iowa (Fri 12:00pm ET ABC)
#5 Oregon -13 @ #16 Oregon State (Sat 3:00pm ET Pac-12 Network)
#6 Florida OTB @ #10 Florida State (Sat 3:30pm ET ABC) Jeff Driskel status?
#24 Oklahoma State +9 @ #14 Oklahoma (Sat 3:30pm ET ESPN)
#11 Stanford +1.5 @ #15 UCLA (Sat 6:30pm ET FOX)
#13 South Carolina +4 @ #12 Clemson (Sat 7:00pm ET ESPN)
#1 ND OTB @ USC (Sat 8:00pm ET ABC) Matt Barkley-Doubtful?
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!
Hey all. Before we get started, a reminder: Its been 566 days, and counting, since Ohio defeated Michigan in football.
Technically, the offseason is officially OVAH. How so? Because now we have a full(ish) board of games to bet on thanks to the esteemed Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas releasing well over 100 games of the year lines back on Monday. This has become an annual tradition for the casino's sportsbook and, for me, it tells me two things: One, hurry up and get your summer on because pretty soon it will be football season, and, two, it's time to start studying up on these teams and getting them down cold because if it's football season, that also means it's gambling season. For full analysis on the games on the Nugget's betting board, bookmark the JCB. We'll be looking into these throughout the summer. And while we havent produced any posts yet on the subject, we do have a killer Wisconsin preview on the blog this week as well as daily Euro Cup 2012 coverage. For now, lets focus on the five games involving Michigan. Here are the lines as they opened and later adjusted as action came in, with a full breadown following:
|Opponent||Opening Line||Current Line|
|vs Alabama||Bama -12||Bama -10|
|at Notre Dame||ND -1||ND -1|
|vs Michigan St||UM -6||UM -6|
|at Nebraska||UM -2||UM -1|
|at Ohio State||UM -3||Pick 'Em|
WE HAVE A DIFFERING OF OPINIONS: NEBRASKA, OHIO STATE
What jumped right off the page for me is the fact that the Golden Nugget installed Michigan as road chalk in both the Nebraska and Ohio State games. The Nugget's opening line called for Michigan -2 at Nebraska and -3 at Ohio State. This is in direct contrast to the spread projections put forth by Beyond The Bets, which we discussed in the MGoForum last week.
To review, BTB did spread projections on all the scheduled college football games for the upcoming season. Per their numbers, Nebraska was -3 vs Michigan and OSU was -4 vs the Wolverines. In both cases, the first actual betting line was nearly a full touchdown different from the BTB projections. Of the 111 lines the Nugget released, a handful differed a point or two from those BTB projections, but very few had a different team favored which was the case with these two Michigan games. I caught up with Behind The Bets in an email exchange to get their take on the differing opinions on these games. Home field played a big role in their initial numbers and it was revealed that their numbers pegged OSU to be upwards of a 6-point favorite, but given Michigan's bounceback season in 2011, new found skill at defense and rivalry game intensity, BTB felt it more prudent to project a smaller number. They think the Bucks are the best team in the Big 10:
We power rated Ohio State as the best team in the Big Ten. Obviously, the Golden Nugget disagrees and - to some extent - it's apparent that Las Vegas wiseguys do, too. Otherwise, it's likely that the line in the Michigan-Ohio State matchup would have moved from Michigan -3 to Ohio State being favored. At some point, it very well could, and the guess here is that Ohio State will be at least a three-point favorite by kickoff. But that's the great thing about making opinions in June: They aren't exact, we all have different ones, and it makes for some great discussion.
Dont loook too deep into their power rankings calling OSU the league's best team. For one, its only summer. We're all speculating at this point. But more importantly, very little separates the teams at the top of the league. BTB forecasts a conference race thats too close to call. In their rankings, Michigan is just a point behind OSU, and there's a minuscule 3-point difference between OSU, the highest rated team, and the fifth-rated team, in this case MSU. BTB said that Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska are basically dead even in their ratings, and if the Cornhusker game was in Ann Arbor this year, their spread projections might have listed the Wolverines as 5- or 6-point chalk.
One of the themes in past summers in the wake of early betting lines being released was that Books couldnt throw numbers on the board to stop people from betting against Michigan. Whether it was Michigan being an unknown commodity in the wake of coaching changes in 2008 and 2011, or, frankly being a known stinky commodity after losing years in '08 and '09, nobody seemed interested in backing the Wolverines. That might be shifting and seeing the Nugget install the Wolverines initially as road chalk in the Nebraska and OSU games is an example of that changing mindset. The public loves betting on stars and few shine as brightly or are as popular as Denard Xavier Robinson. BTB expects the Wolverines to be a public darling most of the season.
Expect Michigan to be a heavy public team all season long - no different than USC, another storied program who has a Heisman Trophy hopeful at quarterback. And again, the Mattison factor can't be underestimated. The days of watching Greg Robinson's Swiss Cheese defense are over, and Michigan fans can again expect to see the defense make great second-half adjustments and keep them in games they otherwise have no business winning.
However, early action, at least on the Nebraska and OSU games, shows that the early bird gamblers are still going against Michigan. The OSU line was immediately bet down to a pick 'em and enough Cornhusker action was lured in to shave a full point off the Nugget's original line from UM -2 to UM -1. Living in Ohio, I can tell you that word is going around about a pick 'em line for this year's The Game, and I received a handful of texts and emails from Buckeye friends wondering if I was ready to bet them. The answer to that is No. I suspect the Bucks will have a really good season this year. And that come game week, Michigan will be catching a field goal. The smart investor will wait for those points to materialize, so dont pull the trigger just yet.
As for the Nebraska game, I'm a bit more bullish on Michigan and the current line than I was at first blush. When I broke down the 9.5 regular season win total prop for Michigan at the JCB, I wasnt very confident about any bigtime road game, admitting I couldnt even give a lean to a Michigan win in Lincoln. Since then, however, I've done soemthing radical. I rewatched last years game. I have new found Michigan confidence. I had forgotten just how much Michigan dominated the game and worked over Nebraska's allegedly vaunted Black Shirt defense. I recall the game getting out of hand in the second half thanks to some quirky turnovers by Michigan, but if this game was scored like a boxing match, it would have been a rout, all rounds to the Wolverines. It was the best four quarter game Michigan put together all season. Fitzgerald Toussaint was a beast. Michigan's offense was unstoppable. And the Nebraska offense, led by Tyler Martinez, generated no offense without the help of turnovers or after the game had long been decided. You know the woodsheds that Michigan seemed to end every season with under Rodriguez? It was like that, but with the good guys being the bully. After rewatching last year's game, I could buy the Wolverines being the slight chalk that the Nugget has made them. I think people are as unsure as ever on Nebraska. And nobody is interested in laying many points with them and Martinez. If you want my advice, go ahead and take Michigan against Nebraska. But hold on to your money until game week for OSU and wait until Michigan is catching points.
THE MONSTER OPENING GAME: ALABAMA
The online sportsbook 5Dimes got a jump on everybody with this game, releasing a line of Alabama -7 in the dead of winter. Sharps pounded Alabama on that line and eventually the line grew from Bama as one touchdown favorite to two touchdown favorites. To be clear, this wasnt a case of constant, daily action coming in against Michigan, making the line -8 one day, then -9 the next and so on. It was more of a shock and awe type of thing than anything else. That opening line of -7 got so much one side action that the book pulled the line, went back to the drawing board and rereleased it as -14. They seemed to have a found a fair number for the middle of the offseason, but, in the last month, a slow trickle of Michigan money came streaming in, and 5Dimes knocked the line down to 13.5, then to 13 and just before last weekend all the way down to Alabama -12.
When the Nugget released their much ballyhooed lines on Monday, they agreed with the latest 5Dimes shift and hung a Alabama -12 number. And in a sign that BTB's intimations that Michigan could be a public play this year, money did come pouring in on the Wolverines. The line at the Nugget currently sits at Bama -10. However, back at 5Dimes, where the online didnt get the hyped injection of action like the Nugget got on Monday, the line remains -12. So, if you want to bet Michigan and the points, go over and do it at 5Dimes while you can still get an extra two points. You know what I am thinking? I am wondering how sizeable the demographic is who has Alabama -7 on that very early 5Dimes line, but also has Michigan +12 on the Nugget line, or even +13 or +14 on the 5Dimes re-release. I want to watch this game with that crowd. Otherwise, I'm probably going to sit this one out.
I honestly dont have a true feel for exactly how Michigan will fare in this game. I do know that last summer I figured only a miracle could keep the Wolverines in this game. But their performance, especially on defense, a season ago, has at least given me a flicker of real hope in this game. I am not reassured that Alabama has to replace a lot of defensive parts, but it still will be athletic, fast and talented. And still coached by Nick Saban. It's easy imagining them choking Michigan the way similarly frothed defenses from MSU and Va Tech did to the Wolverines a year ago, despite the Renaissaince season. And the Tide's offensive line might be a mismatch going against the inexperienced and unproven Michigan defensive line. This might be the worst matchup for Michigan's defensive line to be playing without stalwarts up front Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen for the first time in years. Eddie Lacy and Jalston Fowler will handle the rock for Bama now that Trent Richardson is in the NFL. They have just theee 100-yard games between them, but I wouldnt be surprised if one of them pops over the century mark in this one, taking advantage of Michigan transition up front. I cant shake the feeling that this game may just take the form of the recent Bama/Penn St matches from the last couple of seasons. Bama strangled those games in their favor, slowly, but surely pulling away for 24-3, 27-11 wins, covering the spread in each. Michigan at least has a much more capable offense than Penn State ever did coming into those games. The playmaking ability of Robinson alone might be enough of an offensive counterpunch for the Wolverines to, unlike PSU, stay in the game and make the Tide sweat in the end. That might not sound like the most optimistic assessment, but a year ago at this time, I figured Michigan would be lucky to stay within three touchdowns of the Tide. #Progress
THE UNDERDOG SERIES: NOTRE DAME
I really dont have any new ways to present this well known factoid of the Michigan-Notre Dame series, so I'll just say it. This is an underdog series, with the dog logging a 21-5 ATS mark and actually winning the series outright on the real scoreboard by a 13-12-1 count. I always say the underdog in this series usually ends up playing its best game of the season. On the current 4-0 SUATS run the dog in this series is riding right now, you could for sure that say the 2008 Irish squad and the 2009 and 2010 Michigan squads didnt play better games or earned bigger wins in those years than what they accomplished in the annual grudge match between these historic programs. You'd be hard pressed to find an annual series that tilts so strongly to the underdog. Clemson-Georgia Tech in the ACC gives it a run for its money. Both games are ones that I will always play the underdog in, no questions asked. Sometimes its that easy to pull the trigger.
I know some partisan Michigan fans will grumble at the audacious lack of respect oddsmakers are giving the Wolverines here by making the Irish the favored team at home. But I want to Wolverines to be the underdog all the time in this matchup. Nothing good really comes from being chalk in this series. The Irish havent covered as chalk in this series since 1982, while the Wolverines have only covered twice as chalk in this series during my adult life. At least Michigan has some history of winning, but not covering in this series like in 1997 and 1999, but those were major escape jobs from our heroes.
The Irish are always a tricky team to handicap. Other than this Michigan game, the Irish are either eye opening dogs--catching double digits against USC and Oklahoma--or do-a-double-take heavy chalk, such as laying 10 points against Miami. Wise guy bettors have long loved Brian Kelly, but so far in two seasons in South Bend, he hasnt rewarded that faith with a great record against the spread. The Irish perpetually seem to be overvalued more than any other team in the early going of college football seasons. The money quote from Kegs 'N Eggs Adam from the above link:
There were also other games later in the season posted, and Vegas is taking plenty of Notre Dame action, again, because they are Notre Dame. The Golden Nugget clearly likes this team and are making lines that stretch beyond protecting themselves against public betting. That’s not the first time we’ve seen that happen, though.
Yes, we have seen it happen. In fact, it's become a little bit of a cottage industry for me (and the JCB, natch) to spend every September betting against the Irish before people realize just how overrated they are and how skewed the lines are as a result. Did you know that Notre Dame is just 32-31 straight up in the month of September and before since Lou Holtz left town? Well, now you do. That nets out to 27-35-1 against the spread, so betting against the Irish on the blind during the opening month of the season has turned a decent profit since 1996. As chalk, they are especially good money burners during the first month of year, logging just a 12-23-1 ATS mark during this stretch. Basically, they have been annual slow starters since Uncle Lou left town and have failed to cover the spread two out of every three times they've been September chalk since then. With the Irish laying 13.5 to Navy, a single point to Michigan and likely to be chalk against Purdue, you'll make money by betting against them in these games if past history is any indication. And even though they've covered the spread the last couple years against MSU, you could probably add in MSU -2.5 to the Fade Notre Dame Early profit mix. It's a Fall Tradition like no other.
THE GREEN ELEPHANT LAYING IN THE WEEDS: MICHIGAN STATE
The Michigan State Spartans, the current program Waterloo (please, no mail from Iowa. kthnxbai). I brought this up last week, but I am inclined to take the points here and side with MSU. I've been picking MSU to at least cover, if not win, pretty much the entire time during their nifty little historic winning streak over Michigan. I feel Michigan is finally ready to win this game and have just the right circumstances to do that this season--game is at home, senior QB, seemingly extra focus finally being put on this game and so on. But will they? I cant see them doing so in anything other than a close fight that goes right down to the gun.
I have a betting paranoia on taking a team thats favored by a decent amount while trying to snap a noteworthy losing streak against Foe X. A great recent example was last year's OSU game where Michigan won, breaking a 7-game losing streak to the Bucks, but failed to cover the closing -8 line. Yes, I realize there was a shaky replay call that overturned a Michigan touchdown late in the game, keeping them from opening a 10-point lead. But that wasnt the last play of the game. And part of my anxiety in these spots stems from situations like that, even if the TD is granted. There is plenty of time for a worthless late score and back door cover. The dreaded Prevent Defense burns chalk bettors every week with late scores. Given how fast OSU scored some of their TDs that afternoon, you cant say that replay was the difference between covering or not. The back door cover would have been in major play. I'm convinced that had the TD stayed on the board, Michigan would still need to recover an on-side kick to finally clinch a victory.
Getting back to this MSU game, I just dont think more than field goal really should separate these teams this year. And as far as that back door cover scenario, Michigan would need to be up more than 13 points in the fourth quarter to avoid the back door threat. I dont see that happening. We'll see how this line evolves between now and October, but right now I would take those points to the bank.