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College football forecast: Wolverines can fight heavyweight

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

November 30, 2019 08:37 AM
Justin Fields has accounted for 43 touchdowns (33 passing, 10 rushing) with one interception for the unbeaten Buckeyes, who are 9-point favorites at Michigan.

A fear factor exists with Ohio State, a dominant team with a spotless track record and two Heisman Trophy candidates. Justin Fields has better numbers than any other quarterback in the country, and defensive end Chase Young could be the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick.

A majority of bettors are afraid to buck the Buckeyes.

Most bettors are also afraid to put their faith in Jim Harbaugh, and that’s understandable. The Michigan coach has flopped in too many big games and is 0-4 against Ohio State, twice getting blown out.

But the Wolverines are finally ready to fight with the college football heavyweights. Harbaugh is 7-1 straight up and ATS since an embarrassing loss at Wisconsin on Sept. 21. Harbaugh loosened the reins on the offense and his senior quarterback has responded. Shea Patterson passed for five touchdowns last week in a 39-14 win at Indiana. His play is peaking, and Michigan has a lot of momentum going into the biggest game of Harbaugh’s five-year tenure in Ann Arbor.

The Buckeyes covered eight straight games even as the point spreads inflated, but this is only their fifth road game and the previous four were against much weaker opposition — Rutgers, Northwestern, Nebraska and Indiana, the only bowl-eligible team of the four.

Fields has accounted for 43 touchdowns (33 passing, 10 rushing) with one interception. Young has 16.5 sacks. Fields and Young are each Heisman worthy, yet the award is likely going to LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who’s a transfer from Ohio State.

Michigan aced its previous heavyweight home test this season by mauling Notre Dame 45-14 in late October. Regrettably, I was on the wrong side with the Irish.

The revenge factor is obvious as Ohio State has won 14 of the past 15 meetings, but the underdog is 5-1 ATS in the past six in this rivalry and this ‘dog is hungry. The Buckeyes whipped the Wolverines 62-39 last year, when I was on the right side with Urban Meyer as a home ‘dog.

I’ll take the Wolverines as 9-point ‘dogs and expect Harbaugh to put up a huge fight.

Seven more plays for Saturday:

358-KANSAS STATE (plus-4.5) over Iowa State: A year ago, the Cyclones beat the Wildcats 42-38 to end the Bill Snyder era at K-State. Snyder was an outstanding underdog coach and so is his successor, Chris Klieman, who’s 3-1 straight up and 4-0 against the spread in his past four games as a ‘dog, including an upset of Oklahoma. Iowa State is 1-13 straight up in its past 14 road games in this series. If cold winds are whipping in Manhattan, the edge goes to the Wildcats and their better rushing offense.

371-Wisconsin-MINNESOTA (Under 45): It’s cold and snowy in Minneapolis, where this should be a classic Big Ten battle won on the ground. The Badgers will feed the ball to running back Jonathan Taylor all day. With the stakes high — the winner will face Ohio State in the conference championship game — both coaches will be conservative and try to win the game in the fourth quarter.

392-PURDUE (plus-7) over Indiana: The Hoosiers (7-4) are headed to a bowl, so this is a bit of a flat spot even though it’s a rivalry game. Indiana is off bigger games, and losses, against Michigan and Penn State. Jeff Brohm is 2-0 against IU, with each win by seven points, and now he’s getting a touchdown at home. The Boilermakers (4-7) are beat up by injuries yet still 6-1 ATS in their past seven games. A field goal could decide this grudge match, similar to the Iowa-Nebraska game Saturday.

395-Louisville (plus-3) over KENTUCKY: Scott Satterfield has wasted no time in turning around the Cardinals, who are 7-4 straight up and ATS a year after going 2-10 for Bobby Petrino. Louisville is in good form, scoring a total of 90 points in its past two games, and revenge is a factor after the Wildcats rolled to a 56-10 win last year.

429-Brigham Young (-5) over SAN DIEGO STATE: The Aztecs probably have the worst spread offense we have ever seen. In the past four games against weak defenses, San Diego State scored 11, 17, 13 and 20 points. Rocky Long’s team lost an important Mountain West game last week at Hawaii. I bet BYU at -3 early in the week but still like the Cougars because of their far superior quarterback play.

431-Oregon State (plus-19.5) over OREGON: Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert returned for his senior year with plans to contend for the Heisman Trophy, lead the Ducks to a Pac-12 championship and make a stronger case to be the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick. Sometimes, plans fall apart. Herbert’s stock is sinking after he was upstaged by a freshman quarterback in the Ducks’ 31-28 loss at Arizona State last week. Herbert has thrown four interceptions in his past three games, after throwing just one in the first eight games. The Ducks have declined on the defensive side, too, and surrendered 535 total yards to the Sun Devils.

The Beavers, who have battled and overachieved all season, pack enough offensive firepower to keep pace with the Ducks. Jake Luton passed for 408 yards and five touchdowns last week for Oregon State, which is 5-6 and needs a win in the Civil War to go bowling.

433-Army (plus-3) over HAWAII: This spot is about a hungry underdog and a disinterested favorite. The Black Knights are off a bye and hunting for bowl eligibility. Hawaii has clinched a spot in the Mountain West title game and has Boise State on deck. The Warriors’ poor run defense was shredded by Air Force’s option and this is another bad matchup against Army’s triple-option attack. Nick Rolovich is 3-12-2 ATS as a favorite in four years as Hawaii coach.

Last week: 5-4-1 against the spread

Season: 49-49-3

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