College Football Picks: Michigan's Stellar Defense Will Keep Total 'Under' 51 vs. Rutgers

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 7:08 PM UTC

Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015 7:08 PM UTC

On paper, No. 16 Michigan shouldn't have much trouble in Big Ten action on Saturday afternoon against visiting Rutgers as the Wolverines are -24.5 on Pinnacle's college football odds -- the biggest in-conference spread this year by far for UM. The total is 51 points.

Rutgers Pounded In Back-To-Back Games
Rutgers (3-5, 1-4) doesn't seem likely to get to the six wins needed to reach a bowl game as the Knights aren't beating Michigan and have Nebraska, Army and Maryland left. Although I suppose Rutgers could win those final three with the Huskers and Terps struggling and Army simply not very good.

The Knights come off a 48-10 loss in Wisconsin last week -- I previewed that game here at SBR and recommended taking the Badgers -20.5 points so that was an easy cover. Rutgers  had just 102 total yards of offense through three quarters and its only touchdown was on freshman cornerback Blessaun Austin's 50-yard interception return late in the third.  Wisconsin's excellent defense held Rutgers to a season-low 165 yards of total offense, with quarterback Chris Laviano going 4-for-14 for 31 yards with an interception.

Coach Kyle Flood is going to stick with the sophomore Laviano despite his second straight terrible game in a blowout loss. His backup is LSU transfer Hayden Rettig. He started the season opener against Norfolk State and was 9-for-11 for 110 yards and two total touchdowns, but he only started because Laviano was suspended the first half. Rettig hadn't seen the field since then until the past two games in mop-up duty.

Rutgers played Wisconsin without one of the Big Ten's best receivers in Leonte Carroo and he's questionable for Saturday with a right ankle injury. He has 24 catches for 527 yards and nine touchdowns. Starting strong safety Davon Jacobs is out again with an upper body injury. Jacobs has missed four of the past five games.

The Scarlet Knights are 3-5 against the spread on college football odds and 4-4 'over/under.'


Wolverines Avoid Trap
Michigan (6-2, 3-1) has the "honor" of being the highest-rated two-loss team in the first College Football Playoff rankings, with the Wolverines at No. 17. Reaching the playoff is surely a pipe dream but winning the Big Ten title isn't out of the question.

The Wolverines were set up for a trap game last week at Minnesota. Two reasons why: Michigan was coming off that crushing final-play loss against Michigan State the game before (although there was a bye week after that); the other being that Minnesota players likely were fired up to win a game for Jerry Kill, the team's former head coach who had to retire for health reasons a few days before the game.

Coach Jim Harbaugh's team escaped with a 29-26 victory over the Gophers to win the Little Brown Jug. Michigan took the lead on a 12-yard TD pass from backup QB Wilton Speight to Jehu Chesson with 4:57 left (and a 2-point conversion pass). After that, Minnesota drove 74 yards to Michigan's 1. Following an incomplete pass and with two seconds remaining, Minnesota elected to go for the victory instead of a potential game-tying field goal to send things into overtime. But a QB sneak was stuffed. The final two plays of the game came after a potential go-ahead Minnesota TD pass was ruled down at the 1 following an official review.

Starting UM QB Jake Rudock had to leave the game in the third quarter with an injury but is expected to start vs. Rutgers. Rudock is 134-for-217 for 1,443 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions. Speight, a redshirt freshman, officially passed junior Shane Morris on the team’s depth chart this week to back up Rudock. Harbaugh said Speight had been No. 2 in his mind for a few games.

The Michigan defense could have a field day against that struggling Rutgers offense as UM is No. 1 nationally in total defense and No. 2 in scoring (11.4 ppg). The Wolverines are 4-4 ATS on college football picks and 3-5 O/U.


Last Meeting
The schools met as Big Ten foes for the first time last season and Michigan was upset 26-24 in Piscataway. That might have cinched former coach Brady Hoke's fate as UM dropped to 0-2 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1967. Gary Nova threw for a career-high 404 yards to go with three  touchdowns for the Scarlet Knights. Andrew Turzilli had TD catches of 80 and 14 yards. Carroo had four grabs for 73 yards in Rutgers' first-ever Big Ten win. Devin Gardner, no longer with the program, was 13-for-22 for 178 yards with a pick for Michigan. He did run 10 times for 40 yards and two scores. Michigan had a chance to potentially win but a wind-aided 56-yard field goal try by Matt Wile was blocked with about three minutes left.

College Football Picks: One of those games I love the total more than the side: go 'under' 51 at Pinnacle. Rutgers may not score. I think I'd take the 24.5 -- Knights can hang within 21 if Carroo plays. Rutgers is 2-8 ATS in its past 10 November games. Michigan is 3-7 ATS in its past 10 after a win. The 'under' is 14-6 in Rutgers' past 20 after a loss. The 'under' is 6-0 in Michigan's past six vs. teams with a losing record. 

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