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College football expert Ian Cameron breaks down this weekend's No. 19 Michigan vs Rutgers. He gives his prediction and picks for this matchup.
ANALYSIS

Michigan vs. Rutgers Predictions and Picks: Against The Spread and Latest Odds

Michigan Wolverines vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Point Spread: Michigan -20.5

Total: 49.5

Game Time: Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, ABC

Michigan vs. Rutgers Prediction

Michigan vs. Rutgers Odds

The Big Ten conference schedule will get underway on Saturday for both the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and Michigan Wolverines as they do battle. Rutgers and Michigan have identical records entering this matchup, with both teams 3-0 SU and ATS to begin the season. However, Michigan has looked like a completely different team from the underachieving mess they were last season.

The Wolverines have obliterated each of their first three opponents defeating Western Michigan, Washington, and Northern Illinois by a combined score of 141-34. In those three easy point spread covers, the Wolverines have a +57.5 ATS margin of victory, and they outgained those teams by a combined +683 total yards and +10.6 yards per play. The statistical profile for this team is downright dominant to this point.

Michigan’s offense seems much improved under Quarterback Cade McNamara, who has been steady and efficient with a 64.9% completion rate with three touchdown passes and no interceptions. At the same time, relying on a very strong ground attack for Michigan spearheaded by running backs Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins, leading the Wolverines to an average of 350.3 rushing yards per game on a whopping 7.1 yards per carry. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has always preferred a run-heavy offensive approach, and it looks like he’s got one of his best rushing attacks in years. However, they will face a Rutgers squad with an improving defense and a stop unit that holds teams to 116 rushing yards per game on the ground at a 3.5 yards per carry average. 

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Rutgers has been good at stopping the run this season, and their defense against the run will undoubtedly test Michigan’s ability to keep their high-powered ground game rolling. The Rutgers offense isn’t known for being all that explosive, but they have been solid enough and, most importantly, played clean football to this point of the season. Quarterback Noah Vedral has completed 71.6% of his passes and has been mistake-free with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Rutgers has had trouble running the football consistently as they are averaging just 3.3 yards per play. The Michigan defense against the run has been excellent in their first three games, surrendering just 110 rushing yards per game and 3.3 yards per rush, so this could be a game where Rutgers may have to exercise the passing game more often to try to move the football.

It’s worth noting Rutgers will be without one of their most impactful players on defense in this game. As defensive back, Malachi Melton has been suspended after being charged with three counts of aggravated assault and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose following an incident involving a paintball gun Monday night. His absence in the secondary could hurt the Scarlet Knights a bit in this game.

There is no question Michigan is a better team this season. The question is, how much better? Especially when considering how well Rutgers played Michigan last season in head coach Greg Schiano’s first season. Michigan needed overtime to escape with a 48-42 win last season in Piscataway, and the Wolverines only mustered a slim 497-486 edge in total yards. Michigan has the better personnel and certainly should win the game.

Still, despite their dominance in their first three games, this is a very tough and hard-nosed Rutgers team, and Greg Schiano has breathed new life into a program that was in shambles before he returned as head coach before last season. I think this is a few too many points, especially with Rutgers on a current 5-0 ATS streak as road underdogs. Michigan is also 0-5 ATS in their last 5 Big Ten conference games. The under has taken money as the total in this game has dropped from 53 to 49.5. I agree with the move, but I would only lean to the under now at the current number.

Michigan vs. Rutgers Pick

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