Friends In Low Places: Oddsmakers Don’t Set Wins Bar High For Spartans, Wolverines

Written By Drew Ellis on June 17, 2021 - Last Updated on December 8, 2023
NCAA Football Win Totals Michigan June 2021

The 2020 NCAA football season and reflecting on its win totals definitely wasn’t too memorable for the state of Michigan.

The University of Michigan heavily underwhelmed with a 2-4 record. Michigan State may have met its low expectations in a first year under a new coach with a 2-5 mark.

With the 2021 college football season now just a few months away, will either team meet oddsmakers’ expectations this fall?

Win Totals on the low side for U-M, MSU

It’s not been a great 12 months for Michigan.

After being one of the driving forces for a Big Ten football season last fall, the Wolverines won just two games before having to cancel the final three games of the season due to COVID-19 case issues.

Jim Harbaugh returns to the program with a new, more affordable contract. However, that more frugal structure leaves his future in question if the university cuts bait.

Moreover, the school is currently embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal involving personnel when legendary Bo Schembechler was the coach that could still play itself out through the summer.

Oddsmakers aren’t looking for great success for Michigan in 2021, with their initial NCAA football win totals released.

Michigan State is coming off a 2-5 record in Mel Tucker’s debut season as head coach, including a win over Michigan.

The Spartans had a lot of roster turnover in the offseason, but perhaps that situation could work out for the best for the Spartans.

NCAA football oddsmakers have very low expectations for the Spartans this year in regards to win totals.

  • DraftKings Sportsbook: Over 4.5 (-139), Under 4.5 (+110)
  • BetMGM Sportsbook: Over 4.5 (-110), Under 4.5 (-110)
  • PointsBet Sportsbook: Over 4.5 (-120), Under 4.5 (+100)

Talent seems to be there for Michigan

The Wolverines didn’t perform very well on the field, but they still had eight players selected in the 2021 NFL Draft two months ago.

Michigan has a lot of question marks for the season, along with a lot of new faces in the coaching staff.

Leading the way in that department is new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, who replaces veteran Don Brown. Macdonald has never been a DC, but is coming from a stint with John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens from 2015-20.

Aidan Hutchinson appears to be the gem of the defense. The 6-foot-6 edge rusher is being looked at as a first-round pick in 2022. The Wolverines also have a veteran secondary, with Daxton Hill and Brad Hawkins leading the way.

Offensively, Michigan continues to have issues establishing its starting quarterback. Joe Milton was the projected as a rising star in 2020, but he fizzled out and hit the transfer portal.

Cade McNamara finished the season with some positive signs, but he isn’t a lock to be the 2021 starter. Five-star recruit J.J. McCarthy has a lot of buzz, and Texas Tech transfer Alan Bowman is also in the mix.

U-M does have a veteran line, along with its leading rusher (Hassan Haskins) and receiver (Ronnie Bell) back.

Michigan State changes up its roster

The leadup to the second season under Mel Tucker has seen a lot of movement and roster turnover.

Many in the fanbase feel the Spartans improved the roster, with a lot of action on both sides of the transfer portal.

The focus for MSU has to be improving its offense, which averaged just 18 points per game.

Quarterback Anthony Russo transferred in from Temple, while Wake Forest running back Kenneth Walker came to East Lansing after a 1,000-yard season in 2020.

MSU already has talented receivers in Jayden Reed and Jalen Nailor, and all five starters are back on the offensive line.

Defensively, MSU has Drew Jordan up front and Xavier Henderson in the back at safety. The Spartans have been built on defense over the past 15 years and should remain competitive on that side of the ball.

Wolverines face reasonable schedule

Here’s a look at what Michigan is up against in 2021 (conference games marked with an asterisk):

  • Sept. 4 vs. Western Michigan
  • Sept. 11 vs. Washington
  • Sept. 18 vs. Northern Illinois
  • Sept. 25 vs. Rutgers*
  • Oct. 2 at Wisconsin*
  • Oct. 9 at Nebraska*
  • Oct. 23 vs. Northwestern*
  • Oct. 30 at Michigan State*
  • Nov. 6 vs. Indiana*
  • Nov. 13 at Penn State*
  • Nov. 20 at Maryland*
  • Nov. 27 vs. Ohio State*

The Wolverines start with four straight winnable games at home. The questions will likely first be fired at the offense, as Michigan has struggled to find their playmaking QB under Harbaugh.

In his five “normal seasons,” Harbaugh has won at least eight games. It seems reasonable Michigan can get to eight, but perhaps last year was a sign that the wheels are truly wobbly.

Harbaugh is on that massive pay cut and is losing faith with the fanbase by the day. If U-M is to drop one of those early home games, the season could get ugly fast.

Spartans can get to five wins

Here’s a look at what Michigan State is facing in 2021:

  • Sept. 3 at Northwestern*
  • Sept. 11 vs. Youngstown State
  • Sept. 18 at Miami (Fla.)
  • Sept. 25 vs. Nebraska*
  • Oct. 2 vs. Western Kentucky
  • Oct. 9 at Rutgers*
  • Oct. 16 at Indiana*
  • Oct. 30 vs. Michigan*
  • Nov. 6 at Purdue*
  • Nov. 13 vs. Maryland*
  • Nov. 20 at Ohio State*
  • Nov. 27 vs. Penn State*

The schedule doesn’t start easy, with a Big Ten Conference trip to Northwestern. The Wildcats will be seeking revenge from last year’s loss to MSU.

There’s definitely sure-fire wins at home over Youngstown State and Western Kentucky. MSU should be a team whose new talent jells and is stronger as the season goes on.

Tucker already showed he can game-plan upset wins when he beat the Wildcats and Michigan last year as significant underdogs. Getting to five wins definitely seems reasonable for this MSU squad.

Photo by Carlos Osorio/AP
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Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis is currently the Lead Writer of He was the former Lead Writer of PlayMichigan, the No. 1 source for online gambling news in Michigan. A lifelong resident of the state, Ellis has been working in various forms of media since 1998, including more than a decade in the sports betting industry prior to transitioning into US casino markets in 2020.

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