UCF Knights (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) vs. Michigan Wolverines (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS)
College Football Week 2
Date/Time: September 10, 2016 – 12pm ET
Where: Michigan Stadium
by Evergreen, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UCF +35.5/MICH -35.5
Over/Under Total: 56
The NCAA boasted that the first week of the 2016 college football season was going to be the best in the history. I guess you can judge that claim for yourself but there is no doubt that week one delivered the good with those big-time matchups. We move now to week two and while there are fewer high-level games on tap, there are plenty of teams looking to validate hot starts. The Knights of Central Florida make the trip north to take on the Michigan Wolverines with both teams looking to start 2-0. UCF is trying to pivot back to success after under new Head Coach Scott Frost while Michigan has their fans looking forward to a potential playoff berth. The Wolverines are on upset alert as the heavy favorites at home but The Big House should be rocking from start to finish this weekend if all goes to plan.
Central Florida is moving on from the George O’Leary era after the 2015 started with the Knights going 0-8 and seeing their longtime coach resign. Former Nebraska quarterback and Oregon Ducks OC Scott Frost was given his first head coaching position and tasked with returning UCF to the top-25 levels the team achieved in 2013-14. Frost has experience coaching both sides of the ball and played safety in the NFL after quarterbacking in college so he does have a unique perspective in terms of coaching the entire team. Frost learned offense under Chip Kelly and most of his UCF install is going to be centered on changing the offensive system. Jim Harbaugh is doing his own modification of Michigan’s program with much loftier goals and an eye toward returning the Wolverines to national prominence. That plan appears ahead of schedule as Harbaugh has Michigan as the 8th ranked team in the land and the 6th ranked Sagarin squad. Given Harbaugh’s track record of quick turnarounds, the Michigan faithful are all-in thinking that this a Rose Bowl type of year.
The betting for this matchup opened with Michigan as 34-point favorites but the early action moved the line to 35.5 by Tuesday. The online betting sites are pretty much in agreement with UCF getting 35 or 35.5 and the over under total for the game is 56 more often than not. UCF is looking to reverse a trend that has seen them go just 1-5 against the spread in their last six non-conference games and just 3-11 ATS in their last 14 games overall. Michigan is on the other side of things as they enter the week 4-1 ATS in their last five non-conference games.
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The Scott Frost era got off to a nice start with a 38-0 home win against South Carolina State. The Bulldogs were an outmatched FCS opponent but the Knights were able to safely cover a 26-point spread and did dominate both sides of the ball. The offensive efficiency was lacking a bit as the Knights were only able to average 3.6 yards per carry and converted just 35% of their third downs. That run game will need to be more effective against a Michigan defense that allowed just 89 rushing yards to Hawaii last week. Justin Holman is a solid performer at quarterback and has a bit of dual threat in his game. Against SCSU, Holman threw for 193 yards and two scores while adding 40 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown. Jawon Hamilton and Taj McGowan appear to be serviceable running backs but they aren’t gamebreakers and I think much of UCF’s potential success rests solely with Holman’s throwing and running ability. Tre’Quan Smith caught both of Holman’s touchdown passes last week and is the go-to receiver for the Knights.
Michigan opened 2016 with a 63-3 throttling of Hawaii. The Wolverines were 40 point favorites heading into the game yet they blew past that hefty spread by the middle of the third quarter. Wilson Speight got the start at QB and was incredibly efficient, going 10-for-13 for 145 yards and three touchdowns. The Wolverines averaged 7.8 yards per carry and were a perfect 7-for-7 on third down conversions on their way to dismantling the Warriors. The Michigan defense forced four turnovers and allowed just 2.2 yards per carry to do their part and there was nothing that the travel-weary Hawaii squad could do. Freshman running back Chris Evans splashed on the scene with 112 yards and two scores, giving Michigan another option out of the backfield. Speight didn’t need to do much passing but Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh looked in-sync as the main targets. A solid passing game and a little more playmaking from the running game makes Michigan more than the defense-first-sometimes-only team that we saw at points last year.
UCF was a legitimate team on the national level just a few years ago but that was with Blake Bortles at the helm so you have to give Scott Frost some time to get this ship turned back around. Central Florida has athletes and still has players around that know what it is like to be part of a winning program but this game appears quite a bit over their heads. Michigan is a massive step up in talent from South Carolina State and UCF didn’t exactly blow the doors off their FCS foe. Michigan appears motivated and had no issues with running their primary offensive sets even as the Hawaii game was well in hand. I was thinking that Harbaugh would take it easy given that Hawaii was coming off a trip to Australia and that Michigan denied the request to allow the Warrior coaching staff to view some scrimmage tape but, nope, it was full-go on the way to 63 points. It appears that Harbaugh is channeling his inner Steve Spurrier and it looks like the plan might be to drum up the hype machine by running roughshod over the non-conference opponents. I love how clean of a game Michigan played. The balance on offense makes them difficult to defend for the first time in a while and they have a couple of quarterbacks to use just in case Speight struggles at times. The Wolverine defense is a top-flight unit overall and UCF is going to struggle to move the ball consistently in this one. I picked Hawaii last week thinking Michigan wasn’t going to be the kind of team to put 50 on the board and maybe that will bite me this week but I’m predicting a 45-7 win for Michigan. One week is a small sample but the Wolverines looked legit and I think they keep it rolling this week.
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: MICHIGAN
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