Michigan Betting Odds Preview
The rehabilitation of the Michigan Wolverines continues. Three years ago, in their first season under head coach Brady Hoke, the Wolverines won 11 games and a bowl. But since then Michigan has regressed, going just 15-11 with two bowl losses. Suddenly, 2014 looms large for the future of this program.
The Wolverines got rid of coach Rich Rodriguez after three seasons, and they don't want to go through another coaching change so soon. This year Michigan returns most of the squad from last year, including its starting QB and a good chunk of its defense, but the conference road schedule is brutal. How things might turn out for this team this season is anyone's guess.
Michigan started 6-1 last year, with a win over Notre Dame but lackluster performances against Akron and Connecticut. Then, as the schedule got a little tougher, the Wolverines lost five of their last six games, including tough contests against Nebraska, Iowa and Ohio State, and a Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl loss to Kansas State, to finish 7-6 both SU and ATS.
So in three seasons under Hoke Michigan has dropped from 11 wins in 2011 to eight wins in 2012 to seven wins last year. Also, after winning six Big Ten games each of Hoke's first two seasons, the Wolverines only won three conference games last year.
This year the Maize and Blue returns 15 starters, fifth-most in the conference. Seven starters are back on offense, including senior QB Devin Gardner and three along the offensive line. But they'll have to replace both last year's leading rusher and receiver. And eight starters return on defense, including six of the back seven.
This year's schedule calls for road games at Notre Dame, Michigan State, Northwestern and Ohio State. But the Wolverines stand a good chance of going unbeaten at home, and they miss three of the top contenders from the West Division - Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska.
Last year Michigan lost four games by a combined 11 points, but a trend like that tends to even out over the course of a season or two. With a couple of close wins this year, and a split of the games in East Lansing and Columbus, the Wolverines might have shot at their first Big Ten championship game berth.
Big Ten Championship Odds at Bovada as of August 5
Ohio State 10/11
Michigan State 15/4
Miracle Worker might be a bit of an exaggeration, but head coach Brady Hoke has done a tremendous job of pulling Michigan up from the depths of the Rich Rodriguez debacle. In two seasons in Ann Arbor Hoke has led the Wolverines to 19 wins, two bowl games, and a Sugar Bowl victory. But the real goal, as always, is the Big Ten title, and Michigan hasn't yet been ready to win that.
Big Blue had 13 starters back for last season, their second under coach Hoke, and hoped to make a run at the Big Ten title. In the end they came up one loss (to Nebraska) short of the conference championship game. Michigan began inauspiciously enough, opening last season with that blowout loss to eventual national champion Alabama, then just squeezed by Air Force.
A couple weeks later the Wolverines had as many turnovers as points in losing to Notre Dame. But then they trounced Purdue and Illinois and gutted out a tough win over Michigan State. Michigan then lost at Nebraska, which eventually cost them a shot at the conference title, beat Minnesota, got a near-miracle to defeat Northwestern, and pounded Iowa. A scoreless second half cost them in the loss at Ohio State, and Michigan then gave up a late score to lose the Outback Bowl to South Carolina. In the end the Wolverines sat at 8-5 overall, 6-2 in Big Ten play. But they also went just 5-7-1 ATS, in part because they're such a favorite of the square betting public, and in part due to a -9 turnover ratio. In fact, the Wolverines committed 27 turnovers last year, including three against 'Bama, six against Notre Dame, three against Nebraska, and four against Ohio State. No wonder they lost those four games.
This year the Wolverines return 12 starters, six on each side of the ball, including QB Devin Gardner and leading receiver Jeremy Gallon. But Denard Robinson is gone, and they'll have to replace three starters along the offensive line. Also, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint is coming off a broken leg suffered in the Iowa game, and LB Jake Ryan, who led the team in tackles-for-loss last year, tore his ACL over the offseason.
Last year the Wolverines had to play at Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio State; this year those three all come to play at the Big House. Michigan also plays road games at Penn State, Michigan State, and Northwestern, but misses Wisconsin. With a win over the Irish the Wolverines might start 5-0; but they might need those five wins, considering every game after that, including the two against Indiana and Iowa, might come against teams that become bowl-eligible.
Big Ten Championship Odds at 5Dimes as of August 5
Ohio State -115
Michigan State +800