College Football Picks: Michigan vs. Notre Dame

Nikki Adams

Friday, September 5, 2014 7:12 PM GMT

Michigan Wolverines and Notre Dame Fighting Irish collide on Saturday as the South Bend rivalry comes to an end. Will the Wolverines upset the NCAAF odds or the Fighting Irish deliver as the favourites in this ultimate series-ending showdown televised on NBC. Find out as we preview this clash and deliver our betting verdict.

 

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Michigan Wolverines (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-0)

Michigan Wolverines romped to a 52-14 victory over Appalachian State in their season opener. Devin Gardner threw three touchdown passes to Devin Funchess, two of which came in their first two drives. The Wolverines couldn’t have had a better start all while their new offense enjoyed a debut. Gardner was 13-of-14 for 173 yards with three touchdowns. He got rested late in the third quarter while the Wolverines were up 49-7.

Next up is a familiar foe in Notre Dame Fighting Irish, bitter rivals against which the serious part of the season usually kicks off annually and that typically lights up college football betting markets. It’s sure to do so one last time at the weekend (no future instalments games are set on the schedule in the foreseeable so fans of this rivalry really must tune in) as the Fighting Irish have opted out of the last three games of their contract.

Notre Dame are after a winning start to their season behind a 48-17 hammering of the Rice Owls. The game featured the belated return of quarterback Everett Golson, suspended for a year for academic impropriety. Golson proved just how much of a game-changer he is by dominating both on the ground and through the air, all while accounting for five touchdowns. He threw 75 and 53-yard touchdowns and ran for three. Overall, he went 14-of-22 passing for 295 yards and ran for 41 yards on 12 carries.

Find out why this game made our Dangerous Dogs for your College Football Picks article.

Wolverines at Fighting Irish preview and picks

Wolverines: +155, +3.5 -115 Over/Under 56.5
Fighting Irish: -175, -3.5 -105 Over/Under 56.5

The last scheduled game between two of the best programs in the history of NCAAF is sure to light up the scoreboard, so say the pundits and experts. Hardly anything separates the pair on winning ratio – Notre Dame (.7330) and Michigan (.7324), so the expectation is a close battle, reflected in the college football odds with the Wolverines at +155 and the Fighting Irish at -175 to win straight up.

 

Double-Devin attack key for Wolverines to win
Although Notre Dame currently ranks 17th (which feels a bit overrated) and Michigan are unranked ahead of this game, it’s the latter that has dominated this rivalry in recent history winning four of their last five meetings. Michigan’s opening game was a huge confidence boost. The Wolverines have won four of the last five meetings with Notre Dame in fine style. Devin Gardner and Devin Funchess had a great turnout in opening week and they’ll need to have just as good a game if not a better one against a much tougher opponent in the Fighting Irish if they are to turn the +155 NCAA odds in their favour. If there’s one edge the Wolverines should look to exploit, it’s Notre Dame’s defensive line that has thinned out some since last year. They handled last season’s bigger and better d-line en route to a 41-30 victory. That day Devin Gardner had a monster game throwing four touchdown passes and ran for another score to lead the then 17th ranked Wolverines to a victory over the then ranked 14th Fighting Irish.

Michigan went 7-5 SU last season, including a 41-30 win over Notre Dame at home. They went 5-2 SU and ATS at home but 2-3 SU and ATS on the road.

 

Everett Golson key for Fighting Irish to deliver on favourable odds
Everett Golson’s return to the line up adds weight to the Fighting Irish’s -175 odds to win outright. Golson proved his worth in the season opener as he practically singlehandedly carried the Irish to a momentous victory. Granted the Rice Owls are a much weaker opponent than the Wolverines up next. What’s more, Golson will be keen to wipe the memory of his last outing against the Wolverines –a few years back in his fourth career start he get the hook quickly following an abysmal account and was handed a clipboard instead. On offense, Golson has plenty of solid weapons. If he connects with them just as he did last game, and even gets a chance to run the ball, he could put up some gaudy numbers and give the double-Devin attack a run for their money.

Notre Dame went 8-4 SU last season, which included a 6-1 record at home and a 2-3 record on the road. Overall ATS they were 5-6-1, which included a 3-3-1 ATS mark at home and 2-3-0 ATS on the road.

 

College Football Betting Verdict: Both the Wolverines and Irish threw down the gauntlet in their openers, now looking to extend their winning form to two in a row. Something is going to have to give. The game comes down to two of the most entertaining quarterbacks at the College level, both of whom could make a strong case for a Heisman when all is said and done between them at the weekend. If Golson and Gardner rise to the challenge, they could turn this into a shootout, which leads us to our first College Football pick for this game:  the Over 56.5. Three of the last four meetings between these two outfits have been high scoring affairs, pushing the 50 and over mark – save for a 13-6 win by Notre Dame in 2012 that stands as an anomaly on their records in recent memory.

In terms of the straight-up betting, this could go either way theoretically, but Notre Dame has the home advantage and Golson back, who looks to be a much smarter and better quarterback than he was before his suspension. Home advantage was huge last season for Notre Dame as they went 4-0-0 as the home favourite in SU betting with an average 8.5 margin of victory. Michigan by contrast went just 1-2 as an away underdog in SU betting last season, which yields a 33.3 % winning ratio. The margin of victory/loss was an average of 6.0.  Most concerning for those college fans looking to bank on the upset win here is a 1-5-0 ATS mark since 2012 as the road underdogs. That doesn’t mean the Wolverines are no hopers, but given these trends from last season our recommended NCAAF pick in straight up betting is Notre Dame to win outright at -175.

Michigan and Notre Dame are separated by little more than a field goal on the spread, at 3.5-points. Last season, Notre Dame went 1-2-0 as the home favourite on ATS with the average of points the team covers by at -4.1. Since 2012, they are 4-6-1 ATS as the home favourite with the average points the team covers by at -2.0. By contrast, the Michigan Wolverines were 2-1 ATS as the away underdogs last season, which includes a -1.8 average points team covers by. Improving on a disappointing 2012 where they were 0-3-0 ATS as the away underdogs, including a -5.0 average points the team covers by on the spread. It remains to be seen whether the Wolverines continue to improve against the spread as the away underdogs this season. Given Notre Dame’s d-line will see several first or second year players that may not have all the answers to the double-Devin attack, the Wolverines could keep this game close. So our final NCAAF pick for this game is to take the Wolverines at +3.5 to cover. 

College Football Picks: Michigan Wolverines +3.5