College Football Point Spread Picks: Michigan vs. Utah in Week 1

Ross Benjamin

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 7:00 PM GMT

Tuesday, Sep. 1, 2015 7:00 PM GMT

Our college football betting analyst is coming off a terrific 2014 campaign right here at SBR and is focusing now on Thursday’s season opening game between Michigan and Utah.

Intriguing College Football Season Opener in Salt Lake on Thursday
Utah will host Michigan on Thursday in the season opener for both teams. The opening kickoff at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake, Utah is slated for 8:30 PM ET. The game will be televised nationally by Fox Sports1. According to current (9/1) college football betting odds, Utah is a 5.5 point favorite across the board and the posted total is either 46.0 or 46.5. These teams met at “The Big House” in Ann Arbor last season, and Utah came away with a 26-10 win as a 3.0 point underdog.

 

New Era Begins at Michigan
Jim Harbaugh returns to his alma mater this season to take over as head coach. Harbaugh was a star quarterback for Michigan during his college playing days, and carved himself out a decent 14 year NFL playing career. Harbaugh spent the last four seasons as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. He led the 49ers to a pair of NFC championship games, and one Super Bowl appearance during his four year tenure. Prior to taking the job with San Francisco, Harbaugh spent four seasons (2007-2010) as head coach of the Stanford Cardinal. Although his record in Palo Alto was only 29-21, his final year there resulted in a 12-1 record, and a final Associated Press #4 national ranking.

 

Wolverines Road Woes
Michigan has gone a dismal 11-23 ATS during their previous thirty-four true road games. They’ve also gone a dismal 3-9 ATS in their last twelve as a road underdog of 4.0 or more, and lost all those contests straight up. Michigan was 1-4 on the road in 2014 and averaged just 14.6 points scored per game. It would be hard to imagine a Jim Harbaugh coached squad won’t improve upon those numbers. However, Wolverines fans need to keep their eternally high expectations in check, especially early on, considering the transitional period which comes with a new coaching staff, and even one as good as Harbaugh has assembled in Ann Arbor.

 

Utah Dominating in Recent Non-Conference Games
The Utes are a perfect 8-0 straight up and against the spread since 9/15/2012 in their last eight non-conference games. The Utes won those contests by a whopping 26.3 points per game. Despite coming off a successful 9-4 year in 2014, they went a disappointing 3-3 at home. One of those losses came at the hands of a terrible Washington State (2-10) team. Improving at home this year has been a point of emphasis made by head coach Kyle Willingham to his experienced 2015 squad during the entire offseason.

 

Plenty of Optimism in 2015
The Utes enter this season with their most talented team since joining the PAC-12. They have two experienced quarterbacks, and also return their 2014 leading rusher Devante Booker. The senior tailback rushed for 1512 yards and scored 12 touchdowns last year, and also added 43 pass receptions for another 306 yards. Utah returns 7 starters on a defensive unit that held opponents to just 311 yards per game last season.

 

Final Analysis
It won’t take long for Harbaugh to escalate Michigan back into national prominence. His team will certainly be thrown to the wolves in this season opener on the road against a Utah program which is on the rise. I’m going to have a small lean toward the home favorite in this contest for one of my college football picks.

College Football Picks: Play on Utah -5.0 (-105) at Heritage

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