Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (0-1 SU, 1-0 ATS) vs. Michigan Wolverines (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: Saturday, Sep. 3 at 12pm ET
Where: Michigan Stadium
by Evergreen, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Hawaii +40/Mich -40
Over/Under Total: 54.5
It is finally time for real football. The NFL Preseason has been good as far as whetting the whistle but the college kids come through first with meaningful games. There is little middle ground in the Week 1 matchups so we get either the big-time pairing or the lopsided contest and not much in between. That’s just the name of the game in the non-conference season and one of those potentially lopsided affairs has Hawaii making the trip to Michigan to take on the Wolverines. The Rainbow Warriors actually opened up the season last Friday with a game against Cal in Australia. Hawaii is used to a heavy travel schedule but that roundtrip to Sydney has them over 10,000 miles in already and they will be in for another 8,500 miles or so by the time they get home from Ann Arbor. I hope they have a good frequent flyer plan.
In what will be one of the biggest spreads of the year, the online betting sites opened with Michigan as 42 point favorites. That line has been bet down to between 40 and 41 with 54.5 as the most common over/under total. Michigan has been a slow starting team in recent years with just a 2-8 ATS record in their last ten games played in September. Hawaii is making its first trip to Michigan and enters on a 1-4 ATS skid as the visitor with an identical 1-4 ATS mark in the last five games against the Big Ten.
That brutal travel schedule has to take its toll on the Warriors. I know they are kids, but how much can anyone have left in the tank after 27 or so hours in a plane in just a week’s time? That fact has to be baked into that massive point spread, could the benefit of real game action trump the negative of fatigue? Hawaii was a 21 point dog against Cal and showed enough offensive prowess to get consistent production and snag a one-point cover from a 51-31 loss. Michigan is a better team than Cal but they almost never sprint out of the blocks so Hawaii will have a chance to hang around for a while. The Wolverines are also transitioning to a new quarterback and that could affect how aggressive they come out as well. I can’t even make a wild suggestion that Hawaii wins this game outright but there are plenty of scenarios that have them winning against the spread.
Nick Rolovich is the new head coach for Hawaii, taking over for Norm Chow after he was let go before the end of the 2015 season. Rolovich is a former Warrior QB and owns 19 school passing records. He spent some time in NFL Europe and the Arena League before taking the QB coaching job at his alma mater. He was the OC at Hawaii for a while and ran the offense at Nevada when Chow did not retain much of the staff during his coaching stint. This might be Rolovich’s first head job but he obviously knows offensive football and he is looking to bring Hawaii back to those glory days when the Warriors ranked as one of the best offensive teams in the nation. Ikaika Woolsey is a talented athlete and is a tough QB to defend but he lacks some consistency and has the bad habit of turning the ball over. Diocemy Saint Juste finished the Cal game with an 8.4 yards per carry average so the Warriors look like they have a ground option as well. Hawaii gained 234 passing yards and 248 rushing yards in the opener but now must reproduce that effort against what is supposed to be one of the best defenses in the land.
Jim Harbaugh is entering his second year at the Wolverine helm and he is ahead of pace as far as turning the program back to its traditional self. Michigan enters the season ranked #8 in the AP poll and the unexpected 10-3 record from last year has fans looking toward what would be a 43rd conference championship. Harbaugh has been a winner at each of his previous coaching stops and has implemented a highly physical, defensively strong style with every team. The assumption is that the defense is set to dominate again but there are questions on offense that need to be answered. The QB job is going to either Wilson Speight or Houston transfer John O’Korn. Speight has the advantage of being the UM recruit but has seen very limited action. O’Korn threw for over 4,000 yards and 34 touchdowns in two-plus seasons at Houston so he is choice if Harbaugh favors overall experience. No matter who gets the call, making key throws and limiting turnovers is all that is needed for Michigan to succeed.
Michigan is also looking for some playmakers to show themselves this year. De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson have been strong runners out of backfield but neither has shown consistent gamebreaking ability. Jehu Chesson returns as the leading receiver and the good news with him is that his recovery from a torn PCL went well and he is ready to be the main downfield threat. Jake Butt is an NFL-ready tight end but should look to improve on his rather low total of three touchdowns from last season. There are a lot of good but not great players on the Michigan offense and the QB will be making his first start with all the expectations from the Big House fans. When you are trying to cover 40 or more, you need to be better than good and you better not take much time to get your feet under you.
Michigan has the better everything in this matchup not counting the weather. The real world implications of that have this game as a virtual lock to be a snoozer but that doesn’t mean that Hawaii can’t put enough points on the board to snag a relatively easy ATS win. If the betting sites are on spot with the 54.5 point total, that leaves Michigan responsible for probably 47 of that. The Wolverines are tremendous on defense but Hawaii has enough weapons to get some points on the board so a shutout is unlikely. Again, Michigan is not typically a fast starting team so Hawaii will be leading this game ATS for most of it. Heck, the Wolverines could dominate from whistle to whistle and still not cover. A tipped-ball pick six or just a blown coverage by Michigan is all it will take for Hawaii to get that seven or ten points necessary to cover here. Plus, running up the score on a team that just traveled halfway across the world – twice – is probably not a good color for Harbaugh and the university. Michigan rolls but knows when to say when and cruises to a 42-10 win, leaving the ATS win for the Rainbow Warriors.
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Hawaii
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