Unlike most seasons, there isn’t a lot of buzz about the Michigan football program — or their odds of success — to start the 2021 campaign.
The Wolverines finds itself unranked in college football preseason polls heading into Saturday’s opener with Western Michigan.
Will the game bring a dominant nonconference win for the Wolverines, or can the Broncos pose a problem?
How to watch: Michigan Wolverines vs. Western Michigan Broncos
- What: Western Michigan (0-0) at Michigan (0-0)
- When: Noon ET, Saturday, Sept. 4
- Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
- TV: ESPN
- Online livestream: ESPN+
- Radio: Learfield Michigan Sports Network
- Satellite Radio: SiriusXM Channel 201
Oddsmakers heavily backing U-M
Michigan finds itself as the clear favorite in Saturday’s game with the in-state MAC foe.
Oddsmakers almost cross the board opened by listing the Wolverines as a 17-point home favorite. The moneyline for Michigan football odds this weekend is listed anywhere from -850 to -1000. The Broncos are listed anywhere from +575 to +630.
The best up-to-the-minute in-state odds on each side are available in the widget below.
Michigan was just 1-5 against the spread in the 2020 season, while the over went 4-2.
Western Michigan was 3-3 against the spread last season, with the over in their games also hitting four out of six times.
The Wolverines have won all seven meetings with Western Michigan. The last encounter was a 49-3 win for U-M at home in 2018. The past six games have seen Michigan win by 17 points or more.
Michigan football looking for a spark
The Jim Harbaugh-era hasn’t exactly gone as planned thus far at Michigan, but 2020 had to be a rock bottom.
Michigan was just 2-4 in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, including a loss at home to Michigan State.
In the offseason Michigan restructured a new deal, signing Harbaugh to a four-year contract extension at a significant salary cut.
Not much went right for Michigan in 2020. The offense averaged just 381.8 yards per game, while the defense allowed 34.5 points per contest.
Michigan retooled its coaching staff this year and has some activity in the transfer portal. However, it’s not been a shining light for Harbaugh.
Former running back Zach Charbonnet just put up 106 yards rushing and three touchdowns on only six carries for UCLA in the Bruins’ season opener last week. Last year’s starting quarterback, Joe Milton, left U-M and has now been named the starter quarterback at Tennessee.
This year, Harbaugh has chosen Cade McNamara has the Michigan starting QB, announcing so on Monday. McNamara is a junior who threw for 425 yards and five touchdowns last season over four games of action.
The Wolverines return leading receiver Ronnie Bell and leading rusher Hassan Haskins, giving Michigan better odds for explosion on the offensive side of the football.
Defensively, Michigan has nine players with at least six starts under their belt, working in a new system from first-year defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald.
Broncos stumble to end 2020
Western Michigan opened its 2020 season with four straight wins, only to suffer losses to Eastern Michigan and Ball State to close the season.
Head coach Tim Lester enters his fifth season with a 24-20 career record leading the Broncos.
Western had a formidable offense in 2020, averaging 41.7 points and 479.7 yards per game. Defensively, the Broncos allowed 34.2 points and just under 400 yards per game. Those averages were exclusively against Mid-American Conference opponents.
WMU has one of the most productive QBs in the nation from 2020 returning this year. Kaleb Eleby has the best returning passer rating of anyone in the country (195.1). He threw for 1,715 yards and 18 touchdowns with just two interceptions last year. Eleby also completed 64.7% of his passes.
Although D’Wayne Eskridge is now in the NFL, Eleby has Skyy Moore and Jaylen Hall back at receiver. The two combined for 700 yards and 10 touchdown catches over the six games.
La’Darius Jefferson is also a productive running back who had 624 yards and six scores on the ground in 2020.
Defensively, Treshaun Hayward was the MAC defensive player of the year in 2020, but he transferred to Arizona.
The Broncos have depth on the defensive line, which it will need to slow down the Michigan ground game. Where the Broncos lack playmakers is in the back seven, which could lead to some big passing plays for the Wolverines.