Michigan Wolverines (9-0 SU, 5-4 ATS) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (5-4 SU, 3-6 ATS)
College Football Week 11
Date/Time: Saturday, November 12 at 8pm ET
Where: Kinnick Stadium
by Evergreen, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MICH -21.5/IOWA +21.5
Over/Under Total: 51.5
It is November in the Big Ten and that usually means a tough fought game against a very familiar foe. The return to national relevance for the conference means that the normal stakes are kicked up a notch with a few B1G squads looking to be playoff participants. Michigan has a date in Iowa this weekend with plenty on the line. The Wolverines have been a steamroller through nine games but an always gritty Hawkeye squad waits to tarnish the playoff hopes of the Maize and Blue. These teams are taking the field against each other for the first time since 2013 when Iowa tripped up Michigan for a 24-21 win. The fans at Kinnick Stadium have high hopes for a similar outcome.
Michigan enters the week as the 3rd best team in the NCAA and the online betting sites like them as 21.5 point favorites. The line opened at Iowa +18.5 but early betting pushed the line quite quickly and 64% of the public money remains on the Wolverines. Even though Michigan sports an undefeated record, they haven’t been able to more than a 5-4 mark against the spread. They are 2-6 ATS in the last eight games that have followed an ATS win. Maybe the hype goes a little far for a team that has always been a betting favorite but it is a curious trend nonetheless. Iowa is looking to play a bit better at home given their one ATS win in the last eleven games at Kinnick. Michigan is the second rated Sagarin team with the 52nd toughest schedule to date and Iowa checks in at 39th behind the 54th strongest slate. Michigan is 3-0 against the Top-30 in the NCAA while Iowa has lost both games against a Top-30 opponent. The Sagarin offense-defense method calls for a 40-10 Wolverine win.
What is not to like about Jim Harbaugh’s guys? Michigan enters the week 3rd in scoring at 48 points per game and 1st in scoring defense, allowing just 10.7 points per contest. Their two “hiccups” consist of a 14-7 win against Wisconsin and a lackluster 32-23 win against Michigan State. It is hard to put in nine complete efforts so even a few hard fought wins look more like positives than potential warning signs of an impending slip. The season started with some questions surrounding the quarterback position but Wilton Speight has become a fantastic playmaker, throwing for 15 touchdowns against just 3 interceptions and completing 64.5% of his passes. Michigan is a run-first and often offense still but having Speight provide an aerial spark has been a big reason why this team is legitimately among the best in the land.
Sitting at 5-4, Iowa is in position to nab a bowl berth with just one more W and I’m sure they would love to put a stamp on their season with an upset here. Illinois and Nebraska remain, which are not gimme wins so things could really tighten up for the Hawkeyes if they come out flat like they have in the past two weeks. Wisconsin handled Iowa two weeks ago, much more than the 17-9 score would suggest, and there was little to like about the 41-14 effort at Penn State. Those are quality opponents but Iowa was scheduled to put up a better fight than they did. The offense as a whole is a large issue with consistent production very hard to come by. Iowa enters the week 118th in total yards, and 79th in points scored, averaging 26.6 per game. They routinely lose the time of possession battle and that has simply sapped the ability of the defense to hold up as the games wear on. The D is very respectable in allowing just 21.8 points per game but the yardage totals seem to be creeping up. Michigan is averaging nearly 500 yards of total offense and they could get there against the Hawkeyes who are now giving up over 400 yards per game.
Michigan is 15th in rushing yards per game, which is good, but this run game is probably the best pro-style attack in the NCAA. Four Wolverine running backs have at least 55 carries and they have combined for 1,842 yards and 21 touchdowns. Add in fullback Khalid Hill and his nine short TD plunges and you have a very complete playbook to defend with fresh legs toting the rock at all times. Amara Darboh and Jake Butt almost feel like an afterthought in the offense until Speight finds them on a big play. Jehu Chesson and do-it-all Jabrill Peppers add playmaking ability but also serve as decoys that let the standard calls work so effectively. Iowa always has a good defensive line and while their 4.2 yards per rush isn’t bad, they are not consistently stuffing the run and win up allowing over 175 rushing yards per game. That is ripe opportunity for Michigan to focus on.
Iowa has never been the offensive juggernaut and almost always ranked at or near average nationally but they have slipped from even that level. The run game is probably the most disappointing as the line play usually allows the Hawkeyes to stay ahead of the sticks but it just hasn’t been there this year and Iowa is 93rd in rush yards at 152 per game. The long down and distance situations put a lot of pressure on C.J. Beathard and he has only been able to help convert 35.7% of third downs. Compare that with Michigan’s 48.2% conversion rate on third down and you see a major edge emerge even if Iowa find a way to get something going. Beathard is a savvy quarterback but has only thrown for 200 yards on three occasions with 235 as his season high. The passing game is ranked outside the top-100 and likely does not scare a Michigan defense allowing 138 passing yards per game. Iowa lost a playmaker when Matt Vandeburg went down and the cupboard is pretty bare outside of Akrum Wadley. Wadley averages 6.7 yards per carry and has a role as a receiver but good defenses have been able to limit him and make Iowa look ineffective while utilizing the other skill players.
It is too late to pounce on the opening line of 18.5 but I think the 21.5 is more than doable for a cruising Michigan team. Iowa is too limited on offense and Michigan is too good on defense to allow a sudden outburst by the Hawkeyes. The Wolverines have the better QB, the better running game and the top-end playmakers to negate any home field advantage. Iowa lost some key talent to the NFL from last year’s team and they just haven’t been able to negotiate those departures. This smells like a Michigan clinic with Iowa on the wrong side of a 44-13 decision.
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Michigan
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