NCAA Football Picks, Odds: Cincinnati Bearcats at (8) Michigan Wolverines

Cincinnati – Michigan
Time: 11 AM CT (SAT, SEPT 9, 2017)
Spread: MICH -34.5
Total: 49

Odds c/o 5dimes

The Cincinnati Bearcats were lucky enough to emerge with a 26-14 win over lowly Austin Peay in Week 1, but Week 2 does not look to be as kind to Cincy as it travels to face Big Ten Powerhouse Michigan as 34.5-point favorites.

Cincinnati is pretty badly outclassed by the Wolverines, and college football oddsmakers appear to be expecting the Bearcats to have trouble scoring. The over/under is set at a paltry 49 points, with Michigan as 34.5 point favorites that does not leave a lot of expected scoring by Cincy. The game will air at 11 AM (Central) on ABC, though it has the potential to be a blowout, snoozer of sorts.

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Michigan is ranked No. 8 nationally, and it took it to No. 17 Florida in Week 1, winning 33-17. Wilton Speight had his struggles in throwing just 11 of 25 for 181 yards. He also had two picks while throwing just one TD pass, but the Michigan backfield was active and productive in bailing him out. Ty Isaac rushed for 114 yards on 11 carries, and Chris Evans contributed another 78 yards on 22 rush attempts. A smattering of carries from other backfield mates helped the Wolverines amass 215 rushing yards on the game, with an average of 4.4 yards per carry on its gratuitous use of the rush.

Speight will now have Pep Hamilton coordinating the pass game, and Michigan will still keep up the long-ball approach that was so successful a season ago. Speight completed 204 of 331 passes for 2,538 yards and 18 TDs with just seven interceptions, although there will be some new challenges with a rebuilt offense around him. The hope for the Wolverines is that he gets more help from the ground game. Last year, Michigan ranked No. 33 in rush yardage (212 per game), but it really needs to step that up to make Speight more effective still.

The Wolverines have not had a rusher top 1,000 yards since 2011, and sophomore Chris Evans as well as junior Karan Higdon, are both going to get more touches in an attempt to better balance a good, but predictable, Wolverine offense. Kareem Walker also could be a solution in the backfield after having been redshirted last year due to his poor academics. The losses of Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson at wide receiver could be big, but the Wolverines are hoping that Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black are able to carry the load and get the most of Speight’s passing.

Defensively, the DL loses a lot. The hope here is that sophomore Rashan Gary is able to fill the shoes, as a potential star for the defense. Maurice Hurst is also another key player defensively. The linebacking group is deep and talented, led by senior Mike McCray.

Losing Jabril Peppers to the NFL is no small loss, obviously, but there are five able bodies to step up in replacing his talent. Josh Metellus looked nearly as good as Peppers in the Orange Bowl loss last year, so sustaining that type of play may help Michigan repeat its stifling defensive attack which held opponents to just 14.1 points per game last year, ranking No. 2 in the nation.

The Wolverines gave up only 22 TDs last year, while possessing the nation’s top pass defense and ranking No. 15 in rush defense. So, while losing Peppers hurts, if the fall off is just that of going from the nation’s best defense to simply elite, Michigan should not suffer too badly.

Tarik Black had a nice game at wide receiver in Week 1, catching a pair of passes for 83 total yards and a TD. But Speight’s accuracy will have to be better in Week 2, even if Michigan runs away with this game without many problems.

In order to cover the 34.5 point spread, it will require Speight not making the same costly mistakes that he did against Florida. Granted, Michigan’s defense was suffocating and the Gators had just 11 rushing yards on the entire game. That will make for some heady blowouts.

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Cincinnati was able to hold Austin Peay to jus 89 passing yards last week, but that was because the Governors relied so heavily on the rush attack. Austin Peay was able to generate 224 rushing yards on 60 attempts, with JaVaugh Craig battering the Bearcats for 92 yards on 15 carries and Kentel Williams getting another 40 on 18 rushes. Cincy varied its attack in getting 97 rushing yards to go with 151 passing yards, but three of its four TDs came via the pass.

The Bearcats caught 17 passes for an average of 8.9 yards per attempt, and three different hands got in on the scoring, with Thomas Geddis, Kahlil Lewis and Tyler Cogswell all scoring. It all looks good, till one considers just what a program Austin Peay is (or is not), and then how much formidable a top-10 AP ranked opponent is in comparison.

So while Cincy was fortunate enough to begin the season with a victory, that elation should quickly dissipate playing on the road at one of the toughest venues against a defensive powerhouse like the Wolverines. Do not expect this game to be close, though it is well within reach for Cincy to cover the spread and keep it closer than…five touchdowns. It sounds pretty absurd to even frame the game in such terms, though, does it not?

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