Notre Dame -3 at Michigan O/U 55.5
Big game at the Big House in Ann Arbor with Notre Dame taking on Michigan tomorrow evening. First night game ever at Michigan Stadium, and along with over 100,000 (faithful?) fans in attendance, the Wolverines have the series history trends on their side as the underdog is 13-2 ATS in this series with eight of the last 10 games resulting in outright upsets. But Notre Dame checks in with a 15-3 SU record as road favorite since 2000, including 6-0 SU and 5-0-1 ATS off a loss. Head coach Brian Kelly’s teams have been outstanding off a loss in his coaching career, and no doubt the Irish will be focused for a prime time effort following last week’s upset at home to South Florida in a weather-delayed game.
The pressure to win is really mounting on these two former power programs, and in recent seasons I noted the slow starts and finishes by Notre Dame. In 2010, the Irish started 1-3 SU and in 2009 Notre Dame finished 0-4 SU including a pair of SU losses as home favorite. In 2008, the Irish also finished poorly at 1-4 SU including another pair of home losses as chalk. Notre Dame did add a bowl win over Hawaii to finish that season, but in 2007 they suffered through a dismal showing following an 0-5 SU start.
Note too that Notre Dame lost in the final minute to Michigan each of the past two seasons, including in 2009 in Ann Arbor when Notre Dame piled up 490 yards offense but lost 38-34 as 3-point road favorites. Notre Dame finished 6-6 that year and was not invited to a bowl game. However, the Wolverines have not had a meaningful home win over a quality, winning opponent since 2007 when they beat Penn State. From a pointspread perspective, Michigan has covered just two of its last 11 home games. Keep this in mind when Michigan begins Big Ten play; the Wolverines have failed to cover their last 11 home games against conference opponents (2-9 SU).
Michigan also played in a rare weather stoppage game last week, and despite a 34-10 win over Western Michigan (graded no action ATS as game was not completed), the stats told a different story as the Wolverines benefitted from a pair of defensive touchdowns with the total yards nearly even at under 300 apiece. Notre Dame outgained South Florida 508-254 in its 23-20 loss last week; suffering five turnovers in defeat.
On the playing field, Michigan will have to answer questions about a poor defense and sub-par special teams; an area that favors Notre Dame. The Wolverines defense is under the leadership of their fourth defensive coordinator in the last five years and switched to a 4-3 base defense this season. But the pressure to win
is probably greater on Notre Dame; a team with much higher expectations this season.