Pick with Analysis
Neither one of these teams is ranked, but this Game is still getting plenty of hype for one reason alone and that’s new Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. Despite being just 5-7 a season ago, the Wolverines have maybe been covered more than any other team this offseason. However, media coverage does not produce wins and an opening road Game in Utah will not be an easy first test. The Utes open the Game as a -5.5 favorite (at 5 Dimes) against a Michigan team that still doesn’t know its starting quarterback a week before the Game.
Michigan struggled on the offensive end last year and without a known starting QB, will get a real test in its first Game at Utah. The Utes had a stout defense last season and return nine of those starters. Meanwhile, the Wolverines scored just 20.9 points per Game last year, but at the very least will have an experienced offensive line.
Utah’s defense dominated this matchup last season in a 26-10 win in Ann Arbor. At quarterback, Devin Gardner and Shane Morris combined to go 18-of-39 for 190 yards and three interceptions. The running Game wasn’t much better. Harbaugh is known as a quarterback guru, so the hope this year is that he solves the problem that Michigan has had for a while now. Neither Morris nor Rudock (Iowa transfer) are expected to be the next Andrew LUck, but both have plenty of room for improvement.
The Utes weren’t much better offensively in this matchup last year as Michigan actually outgained them. The difference for them is that they realized Devontae Booker is a workhorse after that Game, which is why he finished with more than 1,500 yards and 10 TDs in 2014. Utah will feed Booker as much as possible, but the key question for Utah fans will be the improvement and consistency of quarterback Travis Wilson. The oft-injured Wilson played in every Game last year and put in his best numbers to date, however, still was a question from week-to-week. In his senior season, he is expected to produce even more if he can stay healthy.
Michigan’s defense will first need to stop the running Game, whether it’s Booker or Wilson because that’s what makes this Utes offense go. Wilson was never the greatest passer and he lost a couple of his favorite targets from a year ago.
The Wolverines will look somewhat similar with their offense as Derrick Green is expected to have a big year out of the backfield, especially with top receiver Devin Funchess gone. But whether it’s Morris or Rudock, Michigan will still have a question at quarterback.
Both of these teams want to play the same type of hard-nosed football, led by a tough defense that will keep scores low and an offense that focuses on the ground Game. But at this point, Wilson already has the experience in the Utah offense and gives the advantage to the Utes.
Our Pick – The feeling here is that Jim Harbaugh will have an immediate impact on this team. Sure, any time a coach takes over a program there are growing pains and this Wolverine team won’t be exempt from that. But in this spot, we could become interested in Michigan if this number were to reach +7.
For now, we’ll stay away from the side and go with a total. We think there’s plenty of room for this Game to go UNDER 47 (and Our model agrees).