The Little Brown Jug stays with Michigan, with a 58-0 victory, the most points scored by Michigan in the series since 1993. Michigan’s victory on Saturday was the largest ever margin of victory in the series. This week, Michigan hits the road to Evanston, to face the Northwestern Wildcats. Michigan holds a 52-15-2 advantage in the series, which began in 1892, with a 10-8 Northwestern win.
As typical with the Watch, we’ll review the picks from last week, noting the bad picks, and point out a few games to give the underdog some credit in, even if it is only in Vegas. We’ll also look at a sure-fire favorite and attempt to preview the Michigan game.
Arizona (1-4) +13.5 @ USC (4-1). Result: USC 48 Arizona 41.
SMU (3-1) +11.5 @ TCU (3-2). Result: SMU 40 TCU 33.
@ Indiana (1-4) +17.0 Penn State (4-1). Result: Penn State 16 Indiana 10.
Western Michigan (3-2) +3.0 @ Connecticut (2-3). Result: Western Michigan 38 Connecticut 31.
Cincinnati (4-1) -13.5 @ Miami (OH) (0-4). Result: Cincinnati 27 Miami (OH) 0.
@ Michigan (5-0) -19.5 @ Minnesota (1-4). Result: Michigan 58 Minnesota 0.
Hawaii (3-2) +3.5 @ Louisiana Tech (1-4). Result: Hawaii 44 Louisiana Tech 26.
Week 5 kicks off with a game between PAC-12 North foes, California visits (#9) Oregon on Thursday (9:00 PM EST/ESPN). (#5) Boise State visits Fresno State, seeking to extend their 5 game series win streak on Friday (9:00 PM EST/ESPN).
Saturday football kicks off with the Red River Rivalry, (#3) Oklahoma and (#11) Texas (12:00 PM EST/ABC). Florida looks to replace injured QB John Brantley when they visit (#1) LSU in Death Valley (3:30 PM EST/CBS). Upstart (#15) Auburn faces another road test this week in a visit to (#10) Arkansas (7:00 PM EST/ESPN).
Iowa (3-1) +3.5 @ Penn State (4-1). Penn State ranks 80th in total offense (61strushing, 66th passing). Penn State has lost LB Michael Mauti to a season ending injury. Despite Penn State’s QBs passing for 271 yards, it took 36 attempts, of which only 16 were completed. Since 1999, Iowa is 8-2 straight up against Penn State (Iowa is 8-2 against the spread against Penn State), including 4-1 at Penn State. The Nittany Lions are 0-5 against the spread this year. Since 2006, the Hawkeyes are 4-1 in their first conference road games against the spread (4-0 as an underdog in those same games against the spread). With the unstable QB situation in Happy Valley, take the Hawkeyes to cover, and win.
Air Force (3-1) +16.5 @ Notre Dame (3-2). The Irish lead the series, 22-6. Since 2000, the average margin of victory in the series favors Notre Dame by 4. Teams last met in 2007, in South Bend, with Air Force defeating the Irish, 41-24. The Falcons are only 1-3 against the spread this year, but 1-1 as an underdog; the Irish are 2-3 against the spread. Air Force is 6-4 against the spread, since 2006, coming off a game against a fellow service academy (6-2 under Coach Troy Calhoun). The triple option offense has given the Irish defense fits, giving up an average of 33.2 points per game in 5 games against Navy and Air Force, since 2007. Take Air Force to cover the points.
Wyoming (3-1) +11.0 @ Utah State (1-3). Wyoming has the 34th ranked offense (27th rushing, 53rd passing); Utah State the 23rd ranked offense (5th rushing, but 110th passing). Wyoming’s run defense is ranked 91st, but the 178.50 yard per game average can largely be chalked up to playing Nebraska (Cowboys gave up 333 yards on the ground). Utah State’s RB Robert Turbin (488 rushing yards, 6.7 ypc, and 9 TD) has had three consecutive 100-yard games this year. Since 2001, Wyoming is 4-0 straight up against Utah State and 3-1 against the spread (prior to 2001, the teams had not met since 1978). Average margin of victory for Wyoming is 18.25. Utah State’s offense was impressive against BYU last week, but the defense couldn’t stop the Cougars. Utah State is 0-4 against the spread coming off the BYU game, since 2006 (0-4 straight up). Take the Cowboys to keep this one close, if not beat, the Aggies.
@ Tennessee (3-1) +1.5 Georgia (3-2). The home team has won four straight in this series; Tennessee holds an 8-7 advantage since 1997. Tennessee has the 31stranked offense (11th passing, but 97th rushing) Georgia the 52nd ranked offense (56thpassing, 46th rushing). The Vols have now had two weeks to adjust to life without WR Justin Hunter, lost for the season to an ACL injury. Georgia’s pass defense is ranked 4th in the nation, but that is largely due to the Bulldogs facing run centered offenses (Kellen Moore threw for 261 yards in week 1 against Georgia). From 2001-2005, Georgia was 32-11 (4-1 against Tennessee) in SEC play under Coach Mark Richt. Since 2006, the Bulldogs are 23-17 in SEC play (2-3 against Tennessee). Coach Derek Dooley is 28-22-1 against the spread (9-7-1 against the spread at Tennessee). Tennessee is 5-2 against the spread versus Georgia, since 2004. Look for Georgia to come into Knoxville with a false sense of security, off back-to-back wins over the Mississippi schools, the worst teams in the SEC West. Take the Volunteers to knock off Georgia.
UNLV (1-3) +21.0 @ Nevada (2-2). The Battle for the Fremont Cannon. The Rebels haven’t beaten the Wolfpack since 2004. UNLV is 5-9 against the spread versus Nevada, since 1997. Nevada’s rushing offense is ranked 14th (offense ranked 57th) but UNLV’s run defense is ranked 38th; UNLV’s run offense is ranked 76th and Nevada’s run defense is ranked 101st. UNLV has already faced a tough run offense, opening the season at Wisconsin, and covering the 35 point spread. Since 2005, UNLV has been outscored, on average, by a score of 39-20 by Nevada. UNLV was outscored by an average score of 40-18 last year (32-25 in 2009 and 32-26 in 2008); this year, UNLV is being outscored by an average score of 43-20, facing the 8th (Wisconsin), 9th(Washington State) and 41st (Hawaii) ranked offenses. Nevada will extend their streak to seven straight over UNLV, but UNLV should keep it within 3 TDs.
Arizona State (4-1) -3.5 @ Utah (2-2). These teams last met in 1977. Sun Devils are 1-4 against the spread this year (1-3 as a favorite), but have been double digit favorites in three of those games (0-3 against the spread as a double digit favorite). Utah is 1-3 against the spread this year (1-1 as an underdog). Utah will be without starting QB Jordan Wynn for the next 2-3 weeks with a shoulder injury. Coach Dennis Erickson is 25-24-5 against the spread at Arizona State (16-13 as a favorite against the spread). Utah will be playing only their third game as a member of a BCS conference, and is looking for their first PAC-12 win. Since 2006, Utah is 7-4 against the spread versus BCS conference opponents. Utah is 87th in total offense and 91st in passing defense. Arizona State boasts the 27th best passing offense. Look for the Sun Devils and QB Brock Osweiler to cover the spread in Salt Lake City.
Pat Fitzgerald is 36-31 straight up at Northwestern. Coach Fitzgerald is 20-13 at home, 18-23 against the Big Ten, and 4-10 against the top 25. Coach Fitzgerald is 26-37-1 against the spread and 21-15-1 as an underdog against the spread.
Brady Hoke is 52-50 straight up (13-12 at San Diego State, 34-38 at Ball State). Coach Hoke is 27-15-2 against the spread as a favorite and 42-23-2 overall since 2006.
Northwestern’s defense is ranked 95th (81st passing [239.25 yards/game], 89thrushing [174.75 yards/game]). Michigan’s offense is ranked 15th (104th passing [168.20 yards/game], 9th rushing [270.0 yards/game])
Northwestern’s offense is ranked 75th (105th passing [167.00 yards/game], 24thrushing [207.75 yards/game]). Michigan’s defense is ranked 32nd (14th passing [175.25 yards/game], 65th rushing [150.25 yards/game]).
Since 1997, Michigan is 8-2 straight up against Northwestern (4-6 against the spread; Michigan has been a favorite in all but the 1999 game). Michigan has averaged 394.1 offensive yards (by contrast, they averaged 435 offensive yards against Minnesota), with 203.8 of those yards being passing (by contrast, they averaged 246.3 passing yards against Minnesota).
Ignore the awful rank of Northwestern run defense. The Wildcats gave up 82 yards on the ground to Illinois, 132 to Eastern Illinois, 104 to Boston College, but 381 to Army. Northwestern will not face another triple option offense in the regular season. Boston College was without their starting RB week 1, and Illinois was forced to pass from roughly the middle of the third quarter on, being down 28-10.
Throw out Northwestern’s passing stats, as well. QB Dan Persa (123 passing yards, 4 TD, 71.4% completion against Illinois) played his first game of 2011 this past Saturday, almost pulling off the upset in Champaign. In the process, he aggravated an Achilles injury; Persa indicated the injury will not keep him from playing against Michigan. Be on the look out for Northwestern using Persa and QB Kain Colter (427 passing yards, 66.1% completion, 1 passing TD, but 4 rushing TD and 266 rushing yards) on the field at the same time. RB Mike Trumpy (182 rushing yards, 5.2/carry, and 1 TD) and WR Jeremy Ebert (230 receiving yards, 15.3/catch, and 5 TD) are legitimate threats. Three of Persa’s four TD passes were to Ebert on Saturday (the other was to TE Drake Dunsmore).
Michigan is going to need senior leadership from David Molk, Kevin Koger, Junior Hemingway, Ryan Van Bergen and Troy Woolfolk in order to pull off the road win. Assuming Persa plays, and he says he will, look for this one to be close.
@ Northwestern +7.5 Michigan.
Michigan 31 Northwestern 30