Michigan Wolverines: Line drops from -7 to -4, should fans be worried?


Those of us who occasionally play office pools are concerned that the Michigan Wolverines football team is only favored over Utah Saturday by four points.

For Brady Hoke and his staff, this might be the game that makes or breaks their season.

A loss at home to a mid-level Pac-12 team will snuff out the perception that Hoke’s squad is making real progress.

More from Michigan Wolverines

But a Michigan win will give the Michigan program a bit of fresh air, and might even silence the pundits for a week or so.

In the victories over Appalachian State and Miami (Ohio not Florida),  U-M’s offensive line actually opened holes for the running game, something Fitz Toussaint rarely saw in 2013.

Green and Smith

It was thrilling to observe the rushing duo of Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith shake, bake and pound their way through the porous defenses. As Hoke might say,  it was “Michigan Football” at its best.  In the two games, Green gained 285 yards and Smith 159.

Unfortunately, beating teams like App State and Miami will not give the Wolverines a shot at the Big Ten Title. Instead they must defeat teams which more closely resemble the Notre Dame squad which skunked Michigan 31-0 in week two.

The national television audience saw Green and Smith fight their way to a combined 58 yards on 20 carries.

Not only did the Notre Dame defensive front hold the running backs in check, it pressured Devin Gardner into several errant throws, including three intereceptions.

Beat No. 4 Alabama

Utah, and 10th year head coach Kyle Whittingham, will be shooting for its second straight win over the Wolverines.  The Utes spoiled Rich Rodriguez‘ Michigan debut with a 25-23 win at the Big House in 2008.

Whittingham’s team finished that season 13-0, which included a victory over then No. 4 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

The Utes’ 2008 success helped get an invitation to the Pac-12.  Since joining the league in  2011, it’s been tough sledding for Whittingham’s crew. They’ve posted a 20-19 overall record and a 9-18 conference mark.

Recruiting has been disappointing of late, especially for a Pac-12 squad. Scout.com has Utah’s 2011 class rated at No. 38, 2012’s at No. 33. 2013’s at No. 53 and 2014 at No. 69. In comparison, Michigan’s same four classes were rated: No. 29, No. 4, No. 2 and No. 27.

Still, Michigan’s pedigree is slipping, partially because the Wolverines under Hoke have played down to the competition.

Keep watching the spread

Chris David, Sports Editorial Director at Vegasinsider.com, explains why Michigan is quickly becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of college football:

"It’s very clear that the oddsmakers opened a bad number on Michigan (-7) and all of the “smart” money came in early on Utah. Even with the adjustments , there haven’t been many takers on the Wolverines.If you analyze both sides on paper, look at the current form and do the eyeball test, it’s very hard to disagree with the line move. Michigan hasn’t been impressive at all, getting embarrassed at Notre Dame while producing home wins against weak mid-majors in Appalachian State and Miami, Ohio.On the other side of the field is Utah, who has the better coach (Whittingham) and quarterback (Wilson). The Utes have looked sharp, especially on offense, in their two wins albeit against two of the worst teams in FBS. This will be a major step up in class for the Utes but they’ve had two weeks to get ready and it’s safe to say that nobody fears the Big Ten anymoreSince Hoke has arrived in Ann Arbor, he’s always had the knack for winning close non-conference games against so-called inferior opponents. Last year, the Wolverines edged Akron 28-24. In 2012, they struggled against Air Force (32-25) and in his first season, they barely beat Notre Dame, 35-31. Michigan somehow finds a way to win but the margins are very tight.Utah as a seven-point underdog presented great value, hence the move, but if the number falls to 3 or less, you’d be better off looking at another game to wager on in Week 4."

Dr. Peppers

There is one trick Michigan has up its sleeve, however. His name is Jabrill Peppers, otherwise known as Charles Woodson II.

All Woodson did was lead the Wolverines to an undefeated season and the 1997 co-national championship.

The cornerback, punt and kickoff returner and wide receiver also carried home the Heisman Trophy. And at last look, he was still patrolling the defensive backfield for the Oakland Raiders.

Should Peppers be totally recovered from an ankle injury suffered against App State, Hoke might finally turn him loose. Like Woodson in the past, Peppers could made the big interception, return a punt for a touchdown or possibly turn a 15-yard pass play into a 40-yard touchdown. A performance like that could turn a close game into a victory.

Voice of the Fans

To see how Michigan is faring along the social media path, we checked in with a pair of Michigan Facebook pages, Michigan Wolverines Chatter and Michigan Football Recruiting HQ.  Sentiment was about 2-to-1 favoring Michigan. One comment picked Michigan by a bunch:

“Yeah! If you don’t think michigan is the greatest team in the nation and will win the rest of their games by 50+ then find a new team!!! 89-0 Michigan,” wrote Colin Richard Price. “But in all seriousness  lol I got Michigan 33-25.”

Mark Hoge wasn’t as confident. “Every week I’m nervous. You never know which team will show up.”

Please comment on this or any other Detroit Jock City article below to voice your opinion.

Bolded players and coaches are linked to Sports-Reference, an enhanced statistics website.