August 14th, 2011

2011 Michigan Wolverines Predictions and College Football Futures Odds

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By Robert Ferringo

In a year of transition in the Big Ten perhaps no team in the league is a more perfect symbol of change than the Michigan Wolverines.

New coaches. New schemes. New division. New outlook on the future. Michigan Wolverines football in 2011 is going to look different and distinct from the shallow mess that we’ve seen out of Ann Arbor over the past three seasons. But unlike the contemporary conference that they now inhabit the Wolverines are going to step into this brave new world by going old school.

New coach Brady Hoke may not be a full-blooded “Michigan Man” but he is apparently close enough. He was an assistant coach for the Maize and Blue from 1995 to 2002 and is hoping to lead the team back to those “glory days”, which included the 1997 national championship. And he’s looking to do so by getting back to tried-and-true systems on both offense and defense.

Here is Doc’s Sports 2011 Michigan Wolverines college football odds and preview:

Coaching – The Wolverines finally jettisoned Rich Rodriguez after three tumultuous seasons. Both coordinators are gone, including epic failure and defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, who is one of the worst coaches in the country. Hoke, who has climbed the ladder from Michigan coordinator to Ball State head coach to San Diego State head coach, takes over the reigns. Hoke had some big years at BSU and SDSU, but he has a career mark of just 47-50 despite leading teams in third-rate conferences.

Hoke brings his offensive coordinator, Al Borges, from SDSU and he will be working with a new DC, Greg Mattison. Mattison had been the DC for the Baltimore Ravens the last three years and he is now the highest paid assistant in the Big Ten.

Offense – It’s really all about Denard Robinson. The Michigan quarterback is one of the most athletic players in the country. And while I think that he would simply be another “good” player in the SEC or ACC, his physical tools really stand out in the plodding Big Ten. He runs the show and broke the NCAA record for rushing yards by a QB last year. Yes, I think he’s a little overrated. But the reality is that he put up 4,200 yards off offense last year and is tough to game plan against. But in Hoke and Borges’ new pro style attack Robinson is going to have to throw the ball more and he will have to be more precise, working timing routes and a new set of patterns, while also getting used to working under center as opposed to almost exclusively in the shotgun. He’s athletic, but can he be a quarterback?

The good news is that Robinson is working with eight other returning starters, including three on the offensive line and all of the skill people back. He has a pair of All-Big Ten players – go-to wideout Roy Roundtree is a second teamer and center David Molk a first teamer – and overall there are four three-year starters in this group. They were explosive last year, putting up 30 or more points six times and 40 or more four times. They were the best offense in the Big Ten and No. 8 in the country last year. It seems like an odd move to scrap the spread-option that produced those numbers. And how they adjust will be one of the main issues for this team this fall.

Defense – Mattison is the fourth DC in five years at Michigan and is overhauling the system once again. But he actually does have some pieces to work with. Michigan was No. 111 in the country in defense and No. 112 against the pass. They surrendered 35.2 points per game and by all metrics were a total debacle. So their bringing back seven starters may or may not be a good thing. But this is still a pretty young, fast group. They only have three senior starters, yet they have five three-year starters (three on the defensive line). Overall they bring back four of their top five tacklers and 11 of their top 16. The Anchor of the unit is DT Mike Martin, the lone “star” player of the group.

Now that Michigan will be back to a 4-3 defense, rather than the odd 3-3-5 that Rodriguez brought to UM, some players should perform at a higher level because they are no longer playing out of position (Ryan Van Bergen comes to mind). But despite the tacklers coming back this team has limited experience on the two-deep. And beside depth issues there is also the fact that Michigan’s defense is populated by a lot of undersized players that are ill-fit for the rugged the Big Ten.

2011 Michigan Wolverines Football Schedule Analysis – The season begins with five straight home games, including what should be an emotional game for Hoke against his old team, San Diego State. But the marquee contest in that early portion is a Week 2 matchup with Notre Dame. The Wolverines have beaten the Irish in four of five meetings but just eight total points have decided the last two games. The conference slate is a tricky one. They play four of five games on the road in the meat of their schedule before finishing with monster home games against Nebraska and Ohio State.

There are plenty of trapdoors built in here. On Oct. 8 they play their first road game, at Northwestern, a week before a rivalry game at Michigan State. They also have a sandwich game at Illinois late in the year that is a revenge game for the Illini. That one comes after a trip to Iowa and before their home games with Nebraska and Ohio State.

2011 Michigan Wolverines Futures Odds – Wager Web currently has the Wolverines at 8-to-1 to win the Big 10 Conference Title. (Remember: this year that means winning the Big 10 Championship Game.) They are also posted at 5-to-1 to win the newly minted “Legends” Division. According to Bodog, Michigan is 75-to-1 to win the 2012 BCS National Championship.

2011 Michigan Wolverines Football Predictions – There are a lot of tests and tricks on this schedule for a transitioning team. The Notre Dame game is a swing game for them, but even if they lose they should start the year 4-1. Then we are going to find out what this team and coaching staff are all about.

We may get the truest idea of what this team is capable of during the middle of the season, when they play fellow mid- and bottom-tier Big Ten teams Minnesota (win), at Northwestern (loss), Michigan State (swing game) and Purdue (win) off two weeks of rest. Whether they go 2-2 or 3-1 in that stretch should define the trajectory of their season because November – at Iowa, at Illinois, vs. Nebraska and vs. Ohio State – is brutal. And a collapse is not only possible but probable. Yet, momentum is a funny thing. And if they manage to beat Michigan State then they could roll a lot of confidence and momentum into that meat grinder of a closing slate.

I think that Michigan is a year away from really making a move back in the Big Ten. They have a nice base to work with and it will take some time for their very talented coaching staff to work their systems. But this year I think that Michigan maxes out at 8-4 in the regular season, and that is if things break their way. I think that they are in for another 7-5 year. But a couple big wins – especially if they kick Ohio State while they are down – will make this one feel like a “positive” 7-5 regular season as opposed to last year’s frustrating 7-5 season.

Robert Ferringo is a professional football handicapper and is coming off an exceptionally profitable 2010-11 football betting season (college and pro). Over the last year his clients have more than tripled their bankrolls with his predictions in all sports. He is looking forward to building on his stellar football handicapping resume again this fall and you can check him out here.

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