Northwestern Wildcats at Michigan Wolverines Betting Preview

It begs the question, what is a more true sign of college football returning to normalcy; fans in the stands or a winning Michigan team? Jim Harbaugh’s team is playing some of the best football the coach has seen in his time in Ann Arbor after an unexpected contract extension at the end of 2020.

Big Blue’s cries for Harbaugh’s job have subsided for now, but the schedule ahead has been where his issues have settled, other than this week’s game. Harbaugh and company have not lost to Northwestern during his tenure. 

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Northwestern Wildcats Team Preview

No coach in the nation gets the most out of his players like Pat Fitzgerald does in Evanston. The rigorous academic standards create a hurdle in the Big Ten to compete for the same players as Ohio State, Michigan, and the other big-time schools. But none of that has deterred Fitz. The Wildcats have made two of the last three Big Ten Championship games as the winners of the West division.

Most of the success Northwestern has had under Fitzgerald has come with teams laden with upperclassmen, and 2020 was no different. The Wildcats entered 2021, returning the fewest combined production on both sides of the football, and lost two first-round draft picks in last spring’s NFL Draft. Add in the transfer of starting running back Isaiah Bowser to Central Florida, and there’s a whole new cast of characters on the shores of Lake Michigan. 

Former five-star quarterback and Clemson Tiger, Hunter Johnson, started the season at quarterback but has since been replaced by the fellow state of South Carolina quarterback Ryan Hilinski.

Neither quarterback has done much to inspire confidence, completing less than 60% of their passes and throwing for four and three touchdowns, respectively, on the season to have the Cats sitting at 12th in the conference in scoring. 

The defensive side of the ball hasn’t been stellar either, ranking 11th. The Wildcats are only 2-4 against the spread on the season but are coming off an outright win as an underdog against Rutgers this past weekend. 

Michigan Wolverines Team Preview

The Wolverines recreated themselves after another disappointing showing in 2020 by getting back to being a standard Big Ten team. Run the ball and play stingy defense. Michigan leads the Big Ten in rushing yards per game by a wide margin and is fourth in points allowed defensively, giving up just over 15 points per game. 

The running game has been fueled by Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins, as the duo has combined for over 1,000 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns on the ground.

With the success of the run game, however, it remains to be seen if the Wolverines can put the game on the shoulders of quarterback Cade McNamara. McNamara is averaging just 164 yard passing per game and has only thrown for five touchdowns. Most of this is due to the Michigan schedule and the success of the run game. 

Michigan is currently 5-1 against the spread, only failing to cover in their matchup against Rutgers, the team Northwestern took down a week ago. 

Betting Preview

If we take a look at the betting lines, we can see that both BetUS and Bovada have the Wolverines favored by 23.5 points. For those interested in totals betting, there is an over/under total betting line set at 50.5 total points.

This matchup screams trouble for the Wildcats. They rank dead last in rushing defense and are facing Michigan’s league-leading rushing attack. It’s tough to see the Northwestern offense finding much success against this improved Wolverine defense as well.

Overall, the best NCAAF betting pick here should be favoring the home team with a lean towards the under in classic Big Ten fashion. 

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