No. 15 Michigan Wolverines (7-1 SU, 6-2 ATS) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (5-3 SU, 3-5 ATS), 12:00 p.m. EST, Week 10 NCAA Football, Saturday, November 5, 2011, Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa, TV: ESPN
by Badger, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UM -4/IA +4
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The 13th-ranked Michigan Wolverines will try and stay atop the standings in the Legends Division of the Big Ten Conference and continue their climb back to national prominence this Saturday, but theyll face a tough task in a hostile Kinnick Stadium when they play the Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City on ESPN.
Michigan, who moved up to No. 15 in the current BCS standings, rebounded nicely from their only loss of the season to rival Michigan State back on October 15th with a solid, 36-14, victory over the Purdue Boilermakers last weekend. The Wolverines had 535 yards of total offense, 339 of it on the ground, as they raced out to a 29-point lead before coasting to an easy victory over Purdue at home in Michigan Stadium last Saturday.
Now the Wolverines will have to prove they can win away from the Big House in order to stay in a three-way tie atop the Legends Division, and continue their chance at playing for a Big Ten Conference title in what has quickly become a wide open conference title chase.
Theyll face an Iowa Hawkeyes team that for the second straight year was embarrassed by the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 22-21. With a seemingly comfortable 21-10 lead in the fourth quarter the Hawkeyes watched the Gophers convert two crucial fourth downs, the second one being the game-winner in the final minutes, and also convert an onside kick to steal the victory away from the Hawkeyes on the road in Minneapolis last weekend.
One week after getting burned repeatedly by the Gophers duel-threat quarterback MarQueis Gray, the Hawkeyes wont have much time to lick their wounds as they will welcome the Wolverines and perhaps the countrys best duel-threat quarterback in Denard Robinson into Kinnick for a big conference tilt. How well Iowa responds remains to be seen, but with a perfect 5-0 record at home this season the Hawkeyes are sure glad to be back in Iowa City for a game that could make or break their season.
The oddsmakers are either impressed with the way first-year coach Brady Hoke has turned things around at Michigan, or are trying to cash in on the short memories of bettors and the Hawkeyes embarrassing loss at Minnesota last week, because they set the opening point spread for this game with the visiting Wolverines as 4-point favorites. With only a few hours of open betting on this game at the window it appears the early money is coming in on Michigan, since the number has been moved up the hook to Michigan minus -4.5 at some of the offshore sportsbooks on the Web.
As of press time an over/under total has yet to be released.
With Robinson at the helm the Wolverines offense is one of the most dangerous units in the conference, averaging 441.2 yards a game (245.4 on the ground) and 34.8 points per contest.
While Michigan does have some solid talent surrounding Robinson, including Fitzgerald Toussaint (6.1 ypc, 6 TD) and Michael Shaw at running back and Junior Hemmingway, Jeremy Gallon and Roy Roundtree at receiver, just about everyone in the country knows that if you stop Robinson you stop the Wolverines offense.
The problem the Hawkeyes face is that their run defense, and their defense as a whole, has been ravaged this season (allowing 163.6 ypg) due to injuries and graduation. Iowa allowed a Minnesota offense that was struggling to learn a new scheme and came into last weeks game ranked 72nd in rushing offense to run for 269 yards. Not exactly the type of game that instills confidence a week before the shifty Robinson comes calling.
But as they say, sometimes the best defense is a ball-controlling offense, which is exactly what the Hawkeyes will hope to accomplish against the Wolverines on Saturday. The main cog of the Iowa offense this season has been running back Marcus Coker, who ran for 252 yards on 32 carries last week and is set to eclipse 1,000 yards for the season with just 31 yards on Saturday. On paper it looks like they could experience some success running it too, since the Wolverines run defense (138.2 ypg 52nd) is the weak link on the defensive side of the ball.
Coker and the running game will hopefully take pressure off of quarterback James Vandenberg to try and throw to win the game for Iowa. Vandenberg is a completely different quarterback at home (has yet to win a game away from Kinnick) despite compiling some very impressive numbers through eight games so far (1,918 yards, 17 TD, 4 INT).
The history between these two schools is best described by one word streaky.
The Hawkeyes are currently riding a two-game winning streak against Michigan, including last years, 38-28, victory in the Big House and a slim, 30-28 victory the last time these two played in Kinnick in 2009. Prior to that it was the Wolverines that enjoyed a three-game win streak from 2004 through 08, including a 23-20 overtime victory at Kinnick in 2004.
Iowa finally got back on the winning side for bettors in last years victory too, snapping a three-game ATS win streak for the Wolverines from 2005 to 09. All told though the Hawkeyes are a very successful 7-3 ATS going back to the 1997 season, but that impressive mark drops to just 3-2 ATS at home in Iowa City. Several other betting trends that point in favor of Iowa are the fact that the underdog is a solid 8-2 ATS in the head-to-head series, and the Hawkeyes are also 11-3-1 ATS as an underdog and 5-1 ATS as a home dog of 3.5-points or more.
Michigan is just 5-22 ATS in their last 27 Big Ten games, including a 1-6 ATS mark as a road favorite and a terrible 1-12 ATS mark in their last 13 games in November.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: While I think the Wolverines are the more talented team at this point, playing on the road in the Big Ten is a whole different animal and the Wolverines havent proven they win on the road yet. Iowa could win this game straight up, but if youre going to give me points Ill take them. Im betting Iowa plus the points here.
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