It appears the fight is back in the Irish after Notre Dame took Nevada to the woodshed in a 35-0 whitewashing last week. Jimmy Clausen & Co. figure to face a bit tougher opponent on Saturday when Notre Dame travels to Ann Arbor to meet the Wolverines, with Michigan also off a rather easy Week 1 win over Western Michigan, 31-7. ABC has all the action from The Big House in Ann Arbor beginning at 3:30 p.m. (Eastern).
This isn’t my preferred way of playing doctor, but I would be remiss in my handicapping duties if I didn’t make a public service announcement about the so-called swine flu. Back-to-school time means students are gathering in droves and vulnerable to everything contagious. The Associated Press is reporting outbreaks at Mississippi, Wisconsin, Duke, and Tulane. Ole Miss football players have been hit particularly hard, but the Rebels are off this week.
Dr. Harper has two suggestions. One, wash your hands. Two, take the same fact-based approach to your health as you would with your football. Knowledge is power.
No. 18 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Michigan Wolverines
Saturday, Sep 12, 3:30 p.m. Eastern, ABC
It’s time to give the devils their due. People love to hate Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis almost as much as they love to hate Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez. Both committed the cardinal sin of losing: The Irish went 3-9 (5-7 ATS) in 2007, while the Wolverines were 3-9 (2-10 ATS) in 2008. These were historically poor seasons for two of the most storied college football programs in the nation. But don’t blame the coaches. Both are recent arrivals on campus and are just starting to see their recruiting efforts come to fruition.
Weis has a head start on Rodriguez in this department, having joined his alma mater in 2005 and already returned to bowl eligibility in 2008 at 7-6 SU and ATS – trouncing Hawaii at the Hawaii Bowl to end the season. That winning tone carried over to Notre Dame’s impressive 35-0 shutout over Nevada (a team preferred by many sharps at +14.5) in Week 1 of the 2009 campaign. QB Jimmy Clausen threw four TD passes and looks very strong in the pocket in his junior year. Weis even busted out the Wildcat formation against Nevada.
If you’re really interested in buying low, you’re buying Michigan. The Wolverines were also on the mark last week in their 31-7 victory over Western Michigan (+13), as freshman QB Tate Forcier threw three touchdown passes and the UM defense (under new co-ordinator Greg Robinson, who experienced the Peter Principle at Syracuse) allowed just 38 yards on the ground. But the pass defense will be an issue with CB Boubacar Cissoko expected to play through some reported nerve damage in his shoulder.
The betting odds have Michigan as a 3-point home dog (down from four points at the open); consensus reports show 60 percent taking the Wolverines against the spread, but nearly 85 percent on Notre Dame at -150. I’m partial to the Irish at -2.5 at some books.
Vanderbilt Commodores at No. 11 LSU Tigers
Saturday, Sep 12, 7:00 p.m. ET
Speaking of young quarterbacks, Jordan Jefferson will be making the fourth start of his college career and his first at Tiger Stadium when he leads LSU (8-5 SU, 3-9 ATS last year) into an all-SEC battle against the Vanderbilt Commodores (7-6 SU, 8-5 ATS). Jefferson threw three TD passes against Washington in the season opener, but the running game was subpar and the improved Huskies (+18) earned the cover in a 31-23 loss.
Sound the alarm. Vanderbilt is 0-5 in the past five games against LSU (dating back to 1990) and 0-5 in the past five games at Baton Rouge (dating back to 1951). But the Commodores went bowling last year for the first time since 1982 and they made it count, upsetting Boston College (-3.5) at the Music City Bowl. The ‘Dores return the bulk of what was a very special defense last season, and their new no-huddle offense enjoyed a very good tune-up in Week 1 against Western Carolina of the FCS Southern Conference, rushing 70 times for 433 yards in a 45-0 laugher. The betting value is on their side.
Consensus reports at press time show 77 percent support for LSU at -14.5 and 60 percent on the moneyline at between -600 and -700. Vandy is worth a look between +400 and +500, but I like the half-point off the somewhat magic number of 14.