Maryland Terrapins (5-3 SU, 3-5 ATS) vs. Michigan Wolverines (8-0 SU, 4-4 ATS)
College Football Week 10
Date/Time: Saturday, November 5, 2016 at 3:30PM EST
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MD +31/MICH -31
Over/Under Total: 54
In Big Ten conference action from Ann Arbor, the Maryland Terrapins face the 2nd-ranked Michigan Wolverines. Maryland came off a win over Michigan State to lose on the road to Indiana in their last game. They now face a really tough road game against one of the best teams in the nation. Michigan beat Michigan State last week by 9 points, less than what many forecasted. Nothing is wrong with U of M necessarily, but they’ve missed covering the spread twice in a row and three times in their last four games.
In last season’s installment of this matchup, the Wolverines shut the Terrapins down in a 28-0 wipeout. Granted, a lot has changed. Both teams are probably better. But a lot of the Wolverines who had success in that game are still in action. And this one is in Ann Arbor, making this a tough spot for the Terrapins. Losing to Indiana on the road the previous week doesn’t bode well for what might happen to the Terps this week.
Maryland relies on a multi-textured run game. At the top are two good runners in Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison. Johnson averages over ten yards per carry. Five different runners have at least three rushing touchdowns, including quarterback Perry Hills. The run-game operates behind a decent line and while the aerial attack lags far behind the ground-game, the Terps are still putting up a respectable 32.5 points per game. They average over 250 yards on the ground per game. They are 2-3 in conference with wins over Michigan St. and lowly Purdue. They lost last week at Indiana and also dropped decisive losses to Minnesota and Penn State.
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For as good as Maryland is running the ball, their defense is almost as bad in containing it, ranked 109th in that area. That doesn’t bode well for a team about to face the Wolverines at home. Last season, the offense was even a bigger issue, as Maryland was shut out at home against Michigan, 28-0, as the Wolverines run-game was a big part of that equation. Maryland’s wins have come against Howard, Florida International, Central Florida, Purdue, and a free-falling Michigan State team. Those teams have a combined record of 13-29. They haven’t beaten anything resembling a good team. In other words, their 5-3 record is a bit misleading. At the end of the day, they’re a bottom-end Big Ten team. And in two road conference games, their defense has not been up-to-snuff.
Michigan is cruising right along, ranked 2nd in the country. Lying ahead for the Wolverines on their road to a possible CFP slot is Ohio State and whoever they face in the title game if they continue winning. But they can’t afford to overlook teams like this. It’s just that they’ve been pretty dominant against some of the weaker teams from the conference, with a 41-8 win over Illinois, a 78-0 win over Rutgers, and even a 49-10 win over a decent Penn State team. Still, the 9-point win over the same Michigan State team Maryland beat by 11 was probably their low-water point of the season.
Four times in the last 5 games, the Wolverines held opponents to 10 or fewer points. In terms of total yardage, they are the top-ranked defense in the entire country. Their pass-defense is ranked as the top unit in the nation. They also top all teams in the nation with 11.6 points allowed per game. The Wolverines defense can really get after quarterbacks with a robust and consistent pass-rush. The defense can score points. And they are also very strong against the run. They can do it all. And the spread only seems big this week until you really ponder what the Maryland offense can do against this group on the road after scoring zero against a Michigan “D” last season that wasn’t quite as good that is now at home.
Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight has been suitable in running this offense. He has 13 touchdowns and just 3 picks. He has good weapons all around him, with a solid rushing game led by a cabaret of talented backs. De’Veon Smith, Ty Isaac, Chris Evans, and Karan Higdon have combined for 18 touchdowns. Jabrill Peppers, a robust talent in the secondary, has scored three rushing TDs too, as well as being a big danger on special teams. Aerially, while not a strength of the Michigan offense, there are some difference-makers in TE Jake Butt, Amara Darboh, and Jehu Chesson. All told, they are the nation’s third highest-scoring team at an average of 46.6 points a game.
This is a strange time of the season. Things get a little weird in this mid-late point in the campaign. You can see teams cruising a little bit, as they perhaps even subconsciously try to save themselves for the really big moments that lie ahead. Michigan has taken care of business and over-performed in some spots against big underdogs this season already. But there’s something about Big Blue that looks like they’re something less than fired from a cannon at this point.
Maryland hasn’t been beaten by more than 24 points this season. Granted, this is the toughest spot they’ve faced this year, but you’d like for there to be a precedent before forecasting a blowout. Maryland tends to at least vaguely hang in there even when they’re coming up short and getting more or less dominated. This is certainly a spot where that could happen. It wouldn’t be all that surprising. But with the Terrapins run-game and the fact that the Wolverines could ease up off the gas at some point, I see Maryland covering the spread this week.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Maryland Terrapins plus 31 points.
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