Should NCAA Football Lines Fans Believe in Michigan’s Turnaround?

Posted by Daniel Strum on Friday,October 16, 2015 2:52, EST in

College Football odds fans of Michigan football have been spouting this since Jim Harbaugh announced his decision to leave the 49ers and coach the maize and blue: he’s a genius. Yes, they opened with a loss against Utah, but that’s the same Utah team that simply dismantled Oregon and has a legitimate shot at winning the Pac-12 this year – and maybe even appearing in the College Football Playoff.

Should NCAA Football Lines Fans Believe in Michigan’s Turnaround?

Since then, Harbaugh has taken a team that was 5-7 in 2014 and made them a potential top 10 team in the nation. This week, as they play 6-0 Michigan State, the oddsmakers have them as a touchdown favorite. They became the first FBS squad since 1995 to win three consecutive shutouts.
In that loss to Utah, it looked like Michigan would have the same problem that they had in previous years – an offensive line that could not stop defenses. They only rushed for 2.6 yards per attempt, which is why quarterback Jake Rudock had to launch 43 pass attempts, which led to three picks by the Utes.After Week 1, though, the Wolverines started making some intriguing adjustments. This included the use of two tight ends, a fullback and tailback, but all except one in the backfield with the quarterback. Or he might send all of them but one up to the offensive line to provide more pass protection. When you have extra blockers between the tackles, it’s harder for the opposition to blitz, and you have more double-teams against their best rushers. He’s also been known to give the fullback a belly dive when you least expect it.

It also helps, of course, that the Michigan defense is only permitting 3.06 yards per play, second best in the nation. In the last five games, they have only permitted a total of 14 points. Harbaugh’s primary changes have influenced the offense, with held the ball for a whopping 37:05 against Northwestern and tallied 24 points against a defense that had permitted only 7.0 points per game. This is why the quarterback has been able to manage the game instead of win it himself – and why running back De’Veon Smith has averaged 7.7 yards per rush over the last two games.

And then Comes Michigan State

So now comes Michigan State. The Spartans have beaten Michigan in six of their last seven meetings. They have Connor Cook at quarterback, who comes with far more accolades than the Wolverines’ Rudock. However, Michigan State struggled to beat teams like Rutgers and Purdue, and their offensive line has suffered a couple of injuries at tackle and center. Cornerback Darian Hicks went down against Rutgers, leaving their pass defense more vulnerable.

It also helps that the game is in Ann Arbor. Harbaugh has a lot of factors that he can use to turn the momentum in his direction, including the emotional energy that could push the Wolverines over the top in this win. The fact that Harbaugh has revived the Wolverines is making their games against both Michigan State and Ohio State important in the national picture.