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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 7:00 AM

It’s very difficult right now to determine how good or bad Brady Hoke’s Michigan Wolverines really are. Their best results are impressive, and would suggest pretty clearly that the team is Top 25 caliber. Their worst results would suggest they might finish ninth in the Mid American Conference! Given that a huge rivalry game with Michigan State looms Saturday (arguably the most important day game in terms of the national rankings), followed by a killer schedule the rest of the way…it’s time everyone figured out what’s going on!

Because the inconsistency is best viewed through the lens of their prior results, let’s jump right into the season summary…

 

SEASON SUMMARY

MICHIGAN

Michigan (-32) beat Central Michigan 59-9 (winning yardage 463-210)

Michigan (-4) beat Notre Dame 41-30 (winning yardage 460-410)

Michigan (-37) beat Akron 28-24 (winning yardage 425-418)

Michigan (-18) won at Connecticut 24-21(winning yardage 284-206)

Michigan (-19) beat Minnesota 42-13 (winning yardage 348-281)

Michigan (-2) lost at Penn State 43-40 in overtime (losing yardage 389-390)

Michigan (-8) beat Indiana 63-47 (winning yardage 751-572)

Sure, Notre Dame isn’t as good this year as they were last year. But, beating them by 11 still grades out pretty well given what the Irish have done in their other games. Michigan steamrolled the Minnesota team that just beat Nebraska. They put up a ridiculous 751 yards against the Indiana team that looked so good against Penn State.

Yet, Michigan couldn’t beat Penn State! And, they were lucky to survive the dreaded combo of Akron and Connecticut, one of the most embarrassing sequences any big name program had endured in years. How can you be life and death in the final moments as a 37-point favorite? How can you barely survive a team that lost to Towson, and had to fire its coach at midseason? Talk about schizophrenic!

When you dig through their boxscores, the following becomes clear for Michigan:

*If they can run the ball successfully, they can do whatever they want. But, if Michigan can’t run…then it’s feast or famine in a high risk passing game that’s way too turnover prone.

*Quarterback Devin Gardner can be harassed into poor decisions and giveaways…and ANY team is capable of doing this even if it’s Akron or UCONN.

*Michigan’s defense may have created some illusions because they’ve faced so many poor offenses in the first half of the season. They may not be as good as advertised either.

Add it all up…and Michigan will look great when they can run, or in the games where Gardner connects on a bomb or two while not making turnovers (covering Vegas spreads by 18, 7, 10, and 8 when that happens); but will look awful for long stretches when that isn’t happening (failing to cover Vegas spreads by 33, 15, and 5).

Think in those terms as you handicap their games against:

Michigan State (on the road)

Nebraska

Northwestern (on the road)

Iowa (on the road)

Ohio State

The Wolverines are 6-1 straight up so far (6-0-1 in regulation), but are legitimately staring 7-5 or 6-6 in the face given the challenges ahead because they’re about to step way up in class.

 

MICHIGAN STATE

Michigan State (-27) beat Western Michigan 26-13 (winning yardage 297-204)

Michigan State (-23) beat South Florida 21-6 (winning yardage 264-155)

Michigan State (-23) beat Youngstown State 55-17 (winning yardage 547-172)

Michigan State (+6) lost at Notre Dame 17-13 (winning yardage 254-220)

Michigan State (+1) won at Iowa 26-14 (winning yardage 412-264)

Michigan State (-10) beat Indiana 42-28 (winning yardage 473-351)

Michigan State (-28) beat Purdue 14-0 (winning yardage 294-226)

Michigan State (-9) won at Illinois 42-3 (winning yardage 477-128)

Run your fingers down the defensive numbers for the Spartans…points allowed…and yards allowed. You can see that they may be ideally suited to disrupt Michigan at the point of attack. That’s likely to lead to takeaways and cheap points. Given what we just saw for Michigan, it’s a nightmare scenario for the Wolverines that plays right into Michigan State’s hands. Let’s see what Vegas thinks…

 

Current Vegas Line: Michigan State by 6, total of 46.5

 

If you ONLY see the game through the facts we’ve discussed, that is way too low. Michigan is going to have trouble moving the ball and scoring…and they may be giving the ball away all day. That being said, Michigan State’s offense has had problems of their own. Can THEY put enough points on the board to cover if they’re not receiving gifts?

Tricky game for handicappers. You don’t want to lay six if the line should only be three. You don’t want to miss out on a squash by skipping the game, only to watch Devin Gardner scramble around throwing bad passes all day.

JIM HURLEY has crunched the numbers and studied the matchups for every major and minor game on the board. Maybe Michigan/MSU will make the cut. Or, maybe the BIG MONEYMAKERS are elsewhere on the card. You can purchase the final word for Saturday right here at the website with your credit card in the hours before kickoff. If you have any questions about the weekend, or about football/basketball combination packages, call the office at 1-888-777-4155.

Back with you tomorrow to study the much anticipated Miami/Florida State game that will be nationally televised in prime time. Then, we’ll tackle the NFL prime time games Sunday and Monday.

Michigan at Michigan State will be the first of many big rivalry games in the month of November. The biggest rivalry of all is JIM HURLEY vs. VEGAS ODDSMAKERS! And, JIM HURLEY HAS BEEN GETTING THE BEST OF IT FOR MORE THAN 25 YEARS!

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