The Michigan Wolverines are a legitimate national title contender according to the betting markets. Is it a valuable bet? Maybe, but we have one better. Check it out here.
The 2015 Season
Michigan hired head coach Jim Harbaugh last year with the intention he could resuscitate the ailing program and restore it back to a national power. The one-time Wolverines quarterback is well on his way to delivering. In 2015, he transformed a 5-7 squad into a 10-3 one, topped off by a 41-7 trouncing of the Florida Gators in the Citrus Bowl. Goals and expectations in Ann Arbor are much loftier this season. A Big Ten and the National Title is on Harbaugh's radar and the betting market's too. Opening at +1500 odds to win the playoffs, some sportsbooks have adjusted the number to as low as +1000 (at Bovada) in July, placing the Wolverines as a top-five choice.
Preview To The 2016 Season
Michigan is experienced and balanced on both sides of the ball. Harbaugh returns 13 starters: seven on offense, and six on defense. Offensively, the O-line is improved, and the receiving corps, led by first-team All-American tight end Jake Butt, is top-notch. The backfield is a bit dicey, however. The quarterback position is wide-open following Jake Rudock's departure. Wilton Speight, Shane Morris, and Houston transfer John O'Korn will duke it out under center for the starting gig when camp opens in August.
Senior tailback De'Veon Smith will have to ramp up his production, too. Harbaugh's run-first focus needs to be efficient for the offense to move the ball, and last year Smith often underachieved. In 2015, he gained five yards or less on 139 of 180 carries. Overall, the Wolverines rushed for 150 yards on 36.3 carries per game. Harbaugh would like to see these numbers increase to those equal to his time at Stanford, where the Cardinal rushed for 187.2 yards on 39.9 rushing attempts per game under his leadership. Controlling the trenches and the clock with a bruising rushing attack is priority number one for the coach.
Defensively, all is right in Ann Arbor. The unit's 16.4 points allowed per game last year were the fourth fewest in the nation, topped off by a three-game shutout streak midway through the season. The hard-nosed, aggressive unit is anchored by senior cornerback Jourdain Lewis. Arguably the best defensive back in the game, last year's semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award is again a candidate to nab several national honors. Lewis recorded 52 tackles, picked up two interceptions, and set a school record with 20 pass break-ups in 2015.
Perhaps the best news for Michigan backers, in addition to the fact Ohio State and Michigan State are replacing loads at the skill positions, is the fact they only play four road games—though three of those are versus the Buckeyes, Spartans, and Iowa. Advanced college football odds released from the Golden Nugget last week have the Wolverines as 4-point favorites in East Lansing, 4.5-point chalk in Iowa City, and 3-point dogs at The Shoe. Not including his coaching tenure at the University of San Diego, Harbaugh-led collegiate teams are 10-1 SU (7-4 ATS with an average line of -8.2) as road chalk and 4-11 SU (5-8-2 ATS with an average line of 11.2) as an away dog. Assuming they take care of business at home, the Wolverines can realistically end the regular season with one loss.
Sharing the Big Ten East with Ohio State makes a wager on the conference championship risky, and we're not sure the team is ready to step up to the some of the other Power 5's finest on the national stage. Our college football pick is Michigan OVER 9.5 regular season wins offered at many online sportsbooks.
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