After coasting through their non-conference schedule, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights open Big Ten play Saturday (noon ET) against No. 2 Michigan in the Big House. It’s an incredibly difficult assignment for the Scarlet Knights, who find themselves as 25.5-point underdogs (-110). Noticeably, the spread has shrunk from -31.5. Rutgers is also +2400 on the moneyline.
Conversely, Michigan is -25.5 (-110) against the spread and -2400 to win outright, offering minimal value to bettors. The projected total is 45 (-110 Over/-110 Under). Read on as we break down both teams in our Rutgers vs Michigan preview.
Location: Michigan Stadium; Ann Arbor, MI
Streaming: Big Ten Network
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are 4-2 against the spread in their last six games, while the total has gone Under in 11 of their last 13 games on the road. The Michigan Wolverines, meanwhile, are 1-4 ATS in their last five NCAAF games. Notably, the total has gone Over in eight of the last nine games between the teams. Keep that in mind when assessing the odds in our Rutgers vs Michigan preview.
So Far, So Good for Wolverines
The Michigan Wolverines had a bit more trouble than anticipated Saturday, failing to cover the spread for the third straight week in a 31-6 victory over Bowling Green. Still, there’s little to no reason to worry about them. Jim Harbaugh’s team is legit.
The Wolverines, second in the NCAA football rankings, came out of non-conference play unscathed. They beat East Carolina, UNLV and Bowling Green on the NCAAF schedule by a combined 96-16, allowing just a single touchdown. And in doing so, the Wolverines maintained their place as a national title contender, watching their odds rise from +900 to +400. At the moment, only two-time defending champion Georgia (+200) owns better odds.
Whether the Wolverines can cash in on those odds will largely depend on J.J. McCarthy. After taking the Wolverines to the semifinals of the College Football Playoffs last season, McCarthy has continued his strong play under center. The junior has completed a whopping 82.4% of his attempts for 701 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions through three games. He’s currently a +2200 longshot to win the Heisman Trophy.
Oddsmakers projected the Wolverines for 10.5 wins in the regular season, leaving them little margin for error. But that figure looks fairly attainable. It likely won’t be until later this month, when the Wolverines have back-to-back road games against Nebraska and Minnesota, that they get tested.
Rutgers Off to Fast Start
How high can the Rutgers Scarlet Knights go? On the heels of convincing victories over Northwestern and Temple, Rutgers overwhelmed Virginia Tech 35-16 last weekend to improve to 3-0 (including 3-0 ATS) for the third straight season.
The Scarlet Knights weren’t expected to do much this season. In fact, oddsmakers projected them for just 4.0 wins while boosting the Over to +100. But the Scarlet Knights are already well on their way to hitting that total, thanks in large part to their ground game under new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca.
Junior Kyle Monangai has fueled the Scarlet Knights’ offense, rushing for 357 yards (6.2 yards per carry) and five touchdowns. He had his second straight 100-yard performance against Virginia Tech, running for 8.9 yards per carry and a trio of scores. His performance was enough to support a defense that registered six sacks and a turnover. That’s important to remember when evaluating the odds in our Rutgers vs Michigan preview.
Rutgers may regress at some point, perhaps even this week. But the 3-0 start was vital given the pressure surrounding head coach Greg Schiano. Schiano couldn’t afford a poor September, especially if he intends to bring the program back to where it was during his first go-round.
Schiano was just 12-22 since returning in 2020. The program has won only one bowl — the 2014 Quick Lane Bowl — since he left. He has his work cut out for him, but Schiano did his best to capitalize on a relatively soft non-conference slate. Now the hard part begins.
Handicapping the Game
For Rutgers, it’s been relatively smooth sailing to this point. But now, the Scarlet Knights will level up in competition. They’ve lost eight straight against Michigan, including a 78-0 laugher in 2016.
Despite their strong start, there’s some areas of concern. Gavin Wimsatt completed just seven of 16 passes for 46 yards and a touchdown against Virginia Tech. Wimsatt has done well to protect the ball, but he’s also completed barely half his attempts. Michigan may look to capitalize on that by loading the box and forcing the third-year quarterback to beat them. Either way, that sounds ominous for the Scarlet Knights.
Based on Michigan’s pristine resume, it’s hard to bet against the Wolverines. Take them to cover the spread.
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