Army Black Knights at Michigan Wolverines Prediction 9/7/19
Army Black Knights (1-0) at Michigan Wolverines (1-0)
When: Saturday, September 7, Noon EST
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Point Spread: MICH -22 (Bovada)
Total: O/U 47
Outlook For Week 2
Michigan didn’t look all that great in the first half of its opener with Middle Tennessee, but the Wolverines gradually figured things out and pulled away from the Blue Raiders for a 40-21 win. Army, meanwhile, had to fight to the end against Rice, eking out a 14-7 victory over the Owls. Both teams should be highly focused on this matchup, as Army’s next game is at Texas-San Antonio and Michigan has a bye week next week before it matches up with Wisconsin.
How the Public is Betting the Army/Michigan Game
The line opened at Michigan -23 and an over/under of 48.5. Since the opener, both lines have dropped with Michigan now -22 and the total at 47 points.
Running back Connor Slomka missed the Rice game with an undisclosed injury and is questionable for the Michigan game.
Wide receiver Tarik Black suffered a leg injury against Middle Tennessee and is questionable against Army. He would be the third Michigan wide receiver to miss time, along with Jake McCurry and Donovan Peoples-Jones, if he’s unable to play.
When Army Has the Ball
There’s nothing complicated about what a Jeff Monken offense is trying to do. The Black Knights’ goal is to limit their opponent’s time of possession and wear them down with their triple-option attack. Because the triple option is so rarely seen in modern college football, the Black Knights tend to have a big edge over their opponents when the opponent doesn’t have time to prepare for it. Last week against Rice, the Owls had the benefit of having the entire offseason to prepare for the Army attack, which allowed them to successfully keep the game close before Army prevailed by a 14-7 count.
Michigan doesn’t have that advantage, which could drastically hurt the Wolverines. Under Monken, the Black Knights have only lost four games by 20 or more points in the past four seasons: Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Duke twice. Of those, Ohio State is the only one that doesn’t regularly see the triple option, as Notre Dame plays Navy every season and Duke does the same against Georgia Tech. Michigan, however, is flying blind against the offense, which could leave the Wolverines in a situation similar to Penn State in 2015 or Oklahoma in 2018. The Black Knights didn’t win either game, but they made both teams work before succumbing, losing 20-14 to the Nittany Lions and 28-21 in overtime to the Sooners.
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When Michigan Has the Ball
Michigan ran 78 plays against Middle Tennessee, allowing the Wolverines to overcome a slow start against the Blue Raiders. That will not happen against Army. Michigan is going to get between 50 and 60 plays tops unless its defense can completely shut down the Black Knights, so the Wolverines have to be more efficient than they were against the Blue Raiders.
The best way to do that is to spring Zach Charbonnet. Michigan’s top running back gained 90 yards on a mere eight carries, and he needs to see the ball more to win this game. The Army defense is susceptible to the big run, and Charbonnet has the speed necessary to pull off the kind of run that can put Army behind the eight-ball.
What the Wolverines don’t want to do is have Shea Patterson get off to a slow start and have to dig out of an early hole again. Army is not built to come from behind, but it’s at its best when it gets to play with the lead. A quick Army touchdown, like Middle Tennessee, had, could leave Michigan playing catch-up for the entire first half. That’s a good way to tire yourself out and keep Army in the game, so Michigan has to start calmly and attack the Black Knights’ defense from the word go. Michigan is only going to get so many drives, so each one is critical to their overall success in this one.
Army has been an excellent bet away from West Point. The Black Knights have won their past four road games ATS and are 7-0-1 in their past eight against a team that has a winning record. Michigan, on the other hand, hasn’t been a good bet when it’s ventured away from the Big Ten. In their past eight non-conference games, the Wolverines are just 1-7 ATS. The Wolverines have hit the over in five of their past six home contests, while the Black Knights have done the same in four of five road games.
Cloud coverage will be involved in this contest, with the high temperature scheduled to hit 76 degrees and a low of 52.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
Army is going to be focused for this game, and the Black Knights have the advantage of facing a team that doesn’t see their offense regularly and hasn’t had enough time to prepare itself properly. Michigan is easily the more talented team, but Army’s systematic approach will keep Michigan’s offense on the sidelines for about 2/3 of this game, which makes it very difficult to project a Wolverines blowout.
More likely, this game will be another one in a series of close calls for Army and Monken, where the Black Knights push a more talented opponent into the fourth quarter but don’t have enough to finish the job and pull the upset. My guess is that Michigan is going to get out of this game with a 10-point win and feel relieved to have done it. I just can’t see the Wolverines covering 23 points in this situation, not against a talented and focused Army squad that should be able to stay in the game until late in the fourth quarter.