Michigan college football bettors consider new territory this week.
The 4-0 Wolverines come off a game in which they did not cover the spread and have a betting line that finally looks playable on both sides.
After nudging Maryland 34-27 at -17, the nation’s fourth-ranked team travels to Iowa Saturday favored by at DraftKings Sportsbook MI, its lowest favored status of the year.
Intrigue surrounds the spread for a Michigan team that thumped Iowa 42-3 in the Big Ten championship last year.
“This week is interesting, because Michigan goes to Iowa to face a team that is close to last in total offense in college football, but has a defense that is excellent,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told PlayMichigan. “At first glance, you might be tempted to take a shot at Iowa with those points, but they can’t throw the football. If they get behind early, you would not expect them to come back and then this game could end up 24-10 or 21-10 for Michigan.”
Iowa defense presents new challenge for Michigan
Avello’s forecast comes close to matching what the spread is. This is one of two intriguing vantage points for Michigan bettors.
The line suggests Michigan will not roll Iowa as easily as some top-ranked teams dispatch opponents.
“I think Michigan would be happy to go in there and get a win. You saw them run it up against the other teams they have played, but against Maryland they couldn’t run it up,” Avello said. “That worked out very well for us. The Michigan game was our second biggest write of the day (behind USC, which nipped Oregon State 17-14 in prime time) and it was our biggest win of the day. The gamblers (more than 90% at DraftKings and at Caesars Sportsbook) were all over Michigan on the spread line. There was never a feeling they were in any danger of losing the game, but when they did not cover the number, we did well.”
Whether Michigan gets out of Iowa with a win or a cover depends upon some key players.
Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy will face his best defensive opponent of the young season. McCarthy had an up-and-down game, but finished with 220 yards passing and two TDs against Maryland.
Tight end Luke Schoonmaker will be looked to again for receiving yards, as he had 72 on seven receptions last week and an early touchdown.
Blake Corum, meanwhile, continues to be a star for Michigan. Toss 243 yards on 30 carries and two touchdowns onto his resume last week. He wants to be the team’s workhorse and Michigan will try pounding the rock with him unless Iowa takes that away.
Should Iowa stack the front looking to throttle him, the passing game opens up for McCarthy.
Michigan vs. Iowa expected to be low scoring
Michigan’s star players will impact the moneyline and spread, while the Iowa offense could play a big role in the over-under total of . None of Iowa’s game totals have gone over 37 points.
“The game has low-scoring written all over it,” Avello noted.
The question is how low. Michigan should get its points. What about Iowa, which plays a conservative, close to the vest type of game?
The Hawkeyes have scored all of seven points in two separate games this year. They even won one of them, 7-3, over South Dakota State, by virtue of a field goal and two safeties. Imagine the safety being your big offensive weapon.
The 3-1 Hawkeyes also lost to Iowa State 10-7.
In recent weeks, they found their offense, getting 27 points in successive victories. Sure, the competition wasn’t outstanding, but at least recent efforts saw a faster pace to the offense.
Now, Iowa sees Michigan’s defense, which is ranked No. 4 in the country allowing 244.8 yards per game.
Over bettors will hope Michigan gets enough of an early lead to prompt an up-tempo pace from Iowa, with more passing needed either to increase the score or stop the clock via incompletions. The first two or three possessions is important to these wagers.
Michigan not viewed as equal to Alabama, Georgia or Ohio State
Whether Michigan runs it up Saturday or just racks up a win, it faces higher stakes than the other national powerhouses, Avello believes.
Avello said the stakes are higher for Michigan than for top-ranked Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State.
“You don’t know who that fourth team is going to be in the group that determines the national championship,” Avello noted. “Right now, it’s Michigan and I think that team looks safe there right now. I don’t think the teams right behind them, Clemson and USC, are anywhere near what it would take for them to move in the top four right now.
“But teams like Georgia, Alabama or Ohio State never seem to drop much. If they lose a game, they might drop a place or two, but if Michigan loses to Iowa, they will probably drop eight spots. They are just not regarded the same way as these other teams, for whatever reason.”
Michigan’s College Football Playoff hopes rely on staying unbeaten in the near term and either defeating Ohio State on the road Nov. 26, or seeing Alabama or Georgia lose.
Alabama nearly did drop a game early in the season before outlasting Texas, 20-19. Georgia looks like a machine. Ohio State should have a stern test Oct. 29, when it visits Penn State.
All three are at least a three-score favorite this week at Michigan sportsbooks.
The teams behind fourth-ranked Michigan don’t look to threaten them immediately.
No. 5 Clemson survived a thrilling double-overtime shootout against Wake Forest last week, prevailing 51-45 in double overtime. Clemson hosts 10th-ranked North Carolina State this week and could be tested at .
USC, which keeps moving up in the rankings, did not look like a top 5 team last week. The Trojans nonetheless attained a No. 6 ranking with a sluggish 17-14 triumph over Oregon State. They return to face Arizona State and are listed at .