No. 4 Michigan at Rutgers
When and Where: Saturday, Nov. 10, High Point.com Stadium, Piscataway, N.J., 3:30 p.m. EST.
It is the stretch run for fourth-ranked Michigan, which looks to keep barreling towards its showdown versus archrival Ohio State on Saturday when it faces lowly Rutgers in a clash of East Division teams in the Big Ten.
The Wolverines (8-1, 6-0 Big Ten East) moved up to the fourth and final spot in the College Football Playoff standings, putting them in line for a showdown with defending national champion Alabama in the semifinals.
But first things first, and that means winning this game and at home versus Indiana — the two worst teams in the East — before making the trek to Columbus to face the 10th-ranked Buckeyes.
Michigan peaking at right time
Jim Harbaugh’s team is coming off arguably its most impressive victory of the season, a 42-7 waxing of then-No. 14 Penn State at home last weekend. Karan Higdon had 132 of Michigan’s 259 rushing yards, while Shea Patterson was efficient and contributed 144 passing yards and pair of touchdowns in addition to running for a third.
— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) November 3, 2018
The win capped a three-game run against ranked opponents — marking the first time since their national championship season in 1997 they have beaten at least three AP Top 25 teams — and while those high-profile wins have boosted the Wolverines’ profile to gain that top-four status, Harbaugh knows it means nothing unless his team continues to take care of business.
“Well, it just doesn’t seem like a very good idea to look ahead,” Harbaugh said at his weekly news conference. “Concentrate on the ball game that we have. Take it one game at a time.”
Higdon has quietly put together a seven-game streak with at least 100 yards and enters this contest 31 yards shy of matching his career high set last season and 37 of reaching 1,000 yards. He leads a Michigan rushing attack that averages 217.9 yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry.
Karan Higdon is impressing Jim Harbaugh – and NFL scouts. Would Harbaugh draft him if he were still coaching in the NFL?
"Yeah, I'd be real impressed." pic.twitter.com/wSKIArk0hv
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) November 6, 2018
Higdon had 158 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s 35-14 home win over Rutgers, with one of the scores coming on a 49-yard dash as the Wolverines rolled up 334 rushing yards.
Patterson has been equally efficient in a similar low-key manner, completing 67.0 percent of his passes for 1,667 yards and 14 touchdowns with only three interceptions. He has spread the wealth among his receivers as three of them have at least 23 catches.
Defensively, the Wolverines have limited opponents to 93.9 rushing yards per game — good for eighth-best in the country. They are allowing just 2.8 yards per carry and have held four of their last six opponents to 68 or fewer yards on the ground.
Scarlet Knights get respectable loss at Wisconsin
Rutgers (1-8, 0-6 East) had its conference losing streak dating back to last season extended to nine games with a 31-17 defeat at Wisconsin last Saturday.
College Football Was Born Here.
— Rutgers Football (@RFootball) November 6, 2018
In what could be an omen for things to come in this game, the Scarlet Knights had no answer for Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor, who rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns. Wisconsin opted to completely forego its passing game in the third quarter, running the ball 13 times for 163 yards as Taylor scored twice to break open a 10-point game.
“The second half, we misfit some run pressures. He got on us for some big plays because of that,” Rutgers coach Chris Ash told The Associated Press after his team allowed at least 225 rushing yards for the fifth time in eight games against FBS teams.
Offensively, freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski had one of his best games of the season as he threw for 261 yards — six off his season high — and a touchdown without an interception. Raheem Blackshear had a career day with eight catches for 162 yards and had 200 yards of total offense.
Sitkowski, though, has thrown 15 picks with only four scoring tosses. Thankfully, he was not around the last time the Wolverines visited New Jersey in 2016, when Michigan destroyed Rutgers 78-0 and rolled up 600 yards while holding the Scarlet Knights to 39.
Ash revisited that debacle in his Monday news conference, but said he did not feel Harbaugh and Michigan were deliberately running up the score as second and third-team players were finding the end zone with ease for the Wolverines.
“I don’t think they did anything out of line,” he told the Asbury Park Press. “You know, our job is to stop somebody and that’s what we’ve got to do. You guys can go back and reflect and look at what’s happened in the past, the last time they were here.”
Rutgers’ biggest win since joining the Big Ten in 2014 was a 26-24 victory over an unranked Michigan team in its second conference game. The Scarlet Knights are 0-13 against AP Top 25 conference opponents, getting outscored 630-107 in those games with six losses of 40 or more points.
- 7-16 ATS in its last 23 November games.
- 2-8 ATS in its last 10 games after totaling less than 100 rushing yards in their previous game.
- The over is 5-1 in its last six games after totaling less than 100 rushing yards in their previous game.
- The over is 4-0 in its last four games vs. Michigan.
- 4-0 ATS in its last four games vs. Big Ten teams.
- 4-0 ATS in its last four games following a straight up win.
- 5-1 ATS in its last six November games.
- The over is 4-1 in its last five games as a favorite of 10.5 or more points.
- The over is 10-4 in its last 14 games after scoring more than 40 points in its previous game.
- The over is 5-2 in its last seven Big Ten games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Since Rutgers stunned Michigan in that first Big Ten meeting, the Wolverines have won the last three games by a combined 132 points. Michigan will be in no mood to let the Scarlet Knights hang around in this game with so much at stake, and look for Higdon to get the ball early and often as the Wolverines try to run Rutgers’ defense right off the field.
Prediction: Pick: Michigan -39
Full-Game Total Pick
Since the Wolverines not only have to win but win big in their next two games to make sure they maintain their top-four status in the CFP rankings, expect them to ring up enough points to let everyone know they are still among the nation’s elite. Expect Michigan to cover this number by itself, though a touchdown for Rutgers would be welcome.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 48.5 points
Full-Game Prop Bet
Without a full-game over/under for the teams, the pick here is to take the Wolverines and lay the 7.5 points in the first quarter. This pick becomes tricky if Michigan does not get the ball first, but the Wolverines should be dynamic enough to get two scores in the first quarter while keeping Rutgers out of the end zone.
Prediction: Pick: Michigan -7.5 1st Quarter
Half-Time Side Pick
The expectation is the Wolverines will put this game to bed early, and while four scores is a large number to reach, Michigan has the offense to roll Rutgers and get there.
Prediction: Pick: Michigan -22.5
Half-Time Total Bet
This is a tandem pick in a way since the expectation is for Michigan to cover the first-half spread, the Wolverines should also hit the four scores as touchdowns to hit the over as well.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 27.5 points
Half-Time Prop Prediction
The extra half-point makes this a trickier proposition, but it is a better play than taking the Wolverines and laying the 7.5 points in the opening 15 minutes.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 10.5 points 1st Quarter