Success in football is something new for Indiana, which is typically relegated to the bottom half of the Big Ten standings. But the Hoosiers are ranked and off to a hot start under fiery coach Tom Allen. Everyone enjoys a good underdog story.
Critics also like to kick Jim Harbaugh when he’s down. How low can the Michigan coach go? Losing to Michigan State last week as a three-touchdown home favorite was the latest embarrassing, inexcusable setback for Harbaugh.
The difference in those storylines has created line value on the Wolverines, who are laying only a field goal at Indiana on Saturday. So here’s a quick history lesson: Michigan owns a 24-game winning streak in this series and is favored by fewer than seven points against the Hoosiers for the first time since 1988.
Indiana has surged into the top 15 of the AP poll for the first time since 1987, so are the Hoosiers legit or overrated? Bet on “overrated” being the answer.
In a season-opening upset of Penn State, Indiana’s offense totaled 211 yards, with nearly half of those yards coming on the final drive of regulation and in overtime. In a win at Rutgers, the Hoosiers totaled a modest 347 yards and benefited from a plus-3 turnover ratio. QB Michael Penix has completed 58 percent of his passes, and the Indiana rushing attack has produced only 2.3 yards per carry through two games.
The Wolverines are averaging 36.5 PPG and 466.5 YPG behind dual-threat quarterback Joe Milton. Michigan will be highly motivated in a bounce-back spot for Harbaugh, who thrives in the bully role.
The pick: Michigan -3
Arizona State (+ 11) over USC: Here’s something rarely heard: Wake up early for this Pac-12 Conference game. Desperate for more attention, the league made this a national showcase game on Fox and set the kickoff for 9 a.m. PT in Los Angeles. The conference’s top quarterbacks -- Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels and USC’s Kedon Slovis -- duel in the Coliseum. Slovis is the most hyped quarterback in the Pac-12 after completing 71.9% of his passes for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns last year.
The Trojans return 17 starters for coach Clay Helton, who is entering his fifth year and his second straight year on a hot seat. Helton, 13-12 straight up and 10-15 ATS the past two seasons, tends to underachieve -- I'll follow that trend. USC is the Pac-12 South favorite, and Arizona State is the second-best team in the division. The Sun Devils finished last season on a three-game win streak that was highlighted by an upset of Oregon.
Florida (+ 3.5) over Georgia: The Bulldogs have won three in a row in this rivalry game in Jacksonville, Fla., and in those games they had the far superior defense and more experienced quarterback. Georgia still has a big edge on defense, but the QB position is a different story.
Kyle Trask has 18 touchdown passes to two interceptions for the Gators, who are led by NFL-bound tight end Kyle Pitts’ seven TD receptions. It’s back to reality for the Bulldogs’ Stetson Bennett, who has thrown five interceptions in the past two games. Florida coach Dan Mullen’s recruiting success has closed the talent gap between these teams.
OREGON STATE (-2.5) over Washington State: The Pac-12 returns and brings with it a late-night opportunity for bettors. The Beavers have made steady improvement under coach Jonathan Smith, who went 2-10 in his first year and 5-7 last year. The Cougars, favored by 10 points in a 54-53 victory over Oregon State a year ago, are headed for regression after losing coach Mike Leach.
Last week: 1-3