Did the Michigan football team miss head coach Jim Harbaugh during his three-game suspension? No in that U-M is 3-0 and won each game by at least 25 points. But yes considering that the Wolverines played perhaps the weakest non-conference schedule in the country among power conference schools, didn’t score more than 35 points in any of the three and should have won each probably by at least 40. Harbaugh is back Saturday as No. 2 Michigan hosts Rutgers in the Big Ten opener for both and the SBIA Model has a lean toward the Knights at +24.
Instead of naming just one interim coach while he was out, Harbaugh used a few different assistants as head coach and perhaps that played a role in a bit of an inconsistent effort. MAC school Bowling Green is likely among the 25 worst teams in the nation yet it held the Wolverines to just 312 total yards in last Saturday’s 31-6 loss at the Big House. It was only 14-6 at the half and QB JJ McCarthy, a Heisman candidate, had three picks despite attempting only 13 passes.
That type of effort will not cut it in conference play. The Wolverines were at least 36-point favorites in each non-conference game and obviously didn’t cover any.
“You watch the game, and (there are) so many so many feelings of ‘Hey, just win. Just win the game. By one point.’ One point is what we’re really after,” Harbaugh said this week. “And I don’t know if maybe there’s been too much pressure on the players that they have to win by 40 points or 30 points or 25 points. That’s a lot. Making sure that our team knows that the goal is to win the game.”
Keep in mind that Harbaugh was allowed to essentially perform all his duties during the suspension but be with #GoBlue during games.
Rutgers is very well coached by Greg Schiano and is 3-0 for the third straight season but hasn’t gotten to 4-0 since 2012 and has followed the 3-0 starts the last two seasons with losing streaks of at least three games to open Big Ten play. The Scarlet Knights have lost 37 straight games against ranked opponents with 34 of those by double digits – including a 37-point home loss to Michigan in 2022.
Both these teams are excellent defensively and lower-scoring games obviously are less prone to blowouts.
The Wolverines lead the nation in scoring defense (5.3 ppg) and are second in total defense (222.3 ypg). RU ranks second nationally in sacks allowed per game (0.3), seventh in scoring defense (10.0), 11th in interceptions defensively (5), 11th in rushing defense (69.7). #CHOP has allowed just three points in the first half of games so far, fewest in the nation. Michigan has allowed six, tied for second fewest.
Checking the major US books and we find better than a 65% lean on Rutgers ATS so this could drop under 24 as it opened at 25. The Scarlet Knights covered two of the past three meetings and are 8-4-1 ATS in Big Ten road games since 2020. The Wolverines are 3-6-1 ATS in their past 10 at home.