(22) Michigan at Maryland
Time: NOON ET, Oct 3 2015 (Big Ten Network)
Spread: MIC -15
Betting odds c/o Bovada
Michigan is getting it done on the strength of a defense which ranks No. 2 in yards allowed and No. 3 in fewest yards per play. It ranks No. 5 in total QBR and No. 9 in ESPN’s defensive efficiency metric.
And this week the Wolverines will use that ‘D’ to try to stifle a Maryland Terrapins team that finds itself as 15-point underdogs at home.
The Wolverines have gone 3-1 this season with a bewildering Week 1 loss to Utah before winning against Oregon State, UNLV and BYU last week, 31-0. In the BYU contest the Wolverines were able to hold a top-25 opponent scoreless while Jake Rudock had a big game for the offense with two rushing TDs and one passing. The Wolverines did all its scoring in the first half before coasting through a second half which featured not a single score from either squad.
Prior to that ‘W,’ the Wolverines had lost 9 of its past 10 against ranked opponents, with the lone win coming over Notre Dame two-plus seasons ago. Michigan had also won just three of its past 22 against teams in AP polls dating back to mid-2009. RB De’Veon Smith said “It feels good to finally beat a ranked team.”
While HC Jim Harbaugh was pleased with the win he is tempering expectations and not allowing guys to “pat themselves on the back.” In the win, Smith ran for 125 yards on 16 attempts which included a 60-yard TD before he left the game in the third quarter due to a right ankle injury (which was later negative for fractures on x-ray). He said he expects to play this week, and the Wolverines will count on him if it is to cover the 15-point spread set by college football oddsmakers.
Rudock has passed now for 776 yards on the year on 62.9 percent passing, though he is good for just 6.69 yards per attempt and has thrown more INTs (5) than TDs (4). If not for the strength of his backfield it would be more problematic, but Smith has 331 yards and four TDs on the year, while the Wolverines have six additional rushing TDs beyond him, two of which came from Rudock.
Rudock’s primary targets are Amara Darboh and Jake Butt, who have combined for 35 receptions and over 400 yards.
Maryland has been great on the ground in its own right, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. The issues at center are disturbing though, and QB Caleb Rowe threw four of his FBS-high nine INTs last week in a 45-6 loss to Virginia.
Rowe has started the last two games after Perry Hills started the first two of the year. Both QBs have a 1-1 record on the year as Hills took down Richmond in Week 1 but lost to Bowling Green and Rowe helped beat South Florida but fell last week.
It is Rowe now that has more yards on the year, but neither are getting much production on a per-play basis, nor completing at a high rate. Even so, Hills at least posted a positive TD/INT ratio of 4:2. The WRs have accounted for nine of the team’s 13 TDs led by Levern Jacobs who has 176 yards and a pair of TDs.
At RB the Terrapins have four options with 100 yards or more (including Hills with 119 yards on just 11 attempts). Brandon Ross is the No. 1 back with 358 yards on 59 tries, and both the No. 2 back Wes Brown and No. 3 Ty Johnson both average 5.5 yards per carry in about half as many attempts each (26, 24).
Maryland has been good on the ground, true. But Michigan’s defense is top-notch and the Terrapins really lack an answer at QB. Moreover, the weaknesses at center for Maryland will absolutely be exposed and exploited by Michigan’s DL and LB corps. Expect Michigan to be able to force a handful of turnovers to turn this into a rout and likely cover the 15-point spread set by college football oddsmakers.