Colorado Buffaloes (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS) vs. Michigan Wolverines (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS)
College Football Week 3
Date/Time: Saturday, September 17 at 3:30pm ET
Where: Michigan Stadium
by Evergreen, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: COLO +20/MICH -20
Over/Under Total: 57
I see you sitting there, riding high now that your favorite college team is 2-0. Let me ask you, have they had a tough opponent yet or have they gotten fat on a couple of cupcakes? Don’t feel bad if the schedule has been pillow soft for your team, that is what the non-conference schedule is all about but chances are, there is at least one trap-game hiding on the schedule and that could be this week. The Buffaloes of Colorado head into Ann Arbor this weekend looking to pull the upset on #5 Michigan Wolverines. Both teams are off to fast starts but this is the best on-paper matchup that either has seen. Colorado is hoping for some real success during Coach Mike MacIntyre’s fourth season and Michigan is in a great position to be in the top-4 when the playoff rankings drop as long as they keep showing well. The Big House will be rocking as the Buffs try their best to stampede the maize and blue.
Michigan is the no-surprise favorite in this game with most online betting listing the Wolverines at -20. Colorado enters the week 2-0 against the spread as part of a 4-1 ATS mark in their last five games overall but they have not been great on the road with just 11 ATS wins in their last 35 games as the visitor. Michigan is a spotless 4-0 against the spread in the last four non-conference games and has dropped just one ATS decision in their last five overall. For those that like the advanced metrics, Michigan is the 3rd best Sagarin squad with Colorado checking in at #41.
Colorado was impressive in the opener, downing Colorado State 44-7 in a game where they were only favored by a touchdown. They held CSU to 225 total yards and just 5-of-16 on third downs while pounding out 578 total yards of their own. The offense was balanced with 318 yards passing and 260 more on the ground and that production was nearly duplicated against Idaho State as the Buffaloes cruised to a 56-7 win. The quality of opponent takes a massive step upward this weekend but it looks like Colorado has the ability to move the ball on the ground and through the air.
Michigan has mopped up two easy wins themselves with a 63-3 drubbing of Hawaii and a 51-14 rout of Central Florida. The defense has been special in allowing just 3-of-25 third down conversions and forcing four turnovers. Wilson Speight has been ultra-accurate under center, completing 70% of his passes and earning Big Ten Offensive POW last week. Just about everything is going right for Jim Harbaugh’s defense as Jabrill Peppers remains a true playmaker during his transition from safety to outside linebacker and true freshman DE Rashan Gary playing well in the absence of Taco Charlton. The Peppers/Gary combo has accounted for 6.5 tackles for loss in just two games and they certainly were not on the field all day in either contest.
If Colorado is for real on offense, they represent the toughest test for Michigan so far, and it’s not even close. Sefo Liufau has completed 74.5% of his passes for 520 yards and three touchdowns while adding 120 rushing yards and another score through two weeks. Phillip Lindsay is a tough runner despite being 5’8” and 190 pounds and five different Buffalo pass catchers have notched at least 80 receiving yards already. On paper, it looks like Colorado can do some things to make Michigan think but the Wolverines have allowed just 281 total yards and 8.5 points per game. The Colorado offense versus the Michigan defense is the swing matchup that will determine this game from an ATS perspective.
On offense, Michigan has been efficient and consistent but they haven’t had many big plays. Speight is completing passes but most of the work has been underneath. The high rate of completions has led to a lot of run-and-catch opportunities with Jehu Chesson, Amara Dorboh and TE Jake Butt all over 100 yards receiving. Darboh and Butt have three touchdowns a piece but it is Chesson that is the best big-play receiver. De’Veon Smith is a sturdy runner but he has seen freshman Chris Evans lead the team in carries so far with Evans providing a little bit more shake out of the backfield. Colorado has beat up on two lesser offenses so far, allowing an NCAA-best, 160 total yards per game. No one is suggesting that they are a lock-down defensive unit overall but they should have bit of confidence that they can go toe-to-toe and not get steam-rolled.
Michigan has proven they can handle the big spreads by going 2-0 while giving up 40 and 36 points so the 20-ish is a decent nod to Colorado being a much better opponent. About the only blemish for the Wolverine defense came last week as they allowed Central Florida to average 6.0 yards per rush and 275 rushing yards for the game. Some of that production came against the second-string defense but Colorado should look to test Michigan on the ground both with the running backs and Liufau on keepers. If there is ground success for Colorado, look for some play-action and points will follow consistent ball movement. Michigan keeps the clock running with their ground game and short passing attack so the game should move fast without too many clock stoppages. If the Buffaloes can get 20 on the board, Michigan might not have enough time to get the 40+ it will take to cover this spread. This one has backdoor cover for Colorado written all over it with the Buffs being capable on offense as well as looking for a good showing on a national stage. I think Michigan stays on track with a 3-0 straight up start but Colorado gets a late score to net the ATS win. Michigan 35 Colorado 20
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Colorado
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