Photo Credit: John Peterson

Undefeated Michigan Opens as a 1-point Favorite at Nebraska

October 03, 2021

For just the second time in 11 seasons in the Big Ten, Nebraska gets to host Michigan. Husker fans last saw a winged helmet in Memorial Stadium in 2012, back when Michigan and Nebraska shared a division. For three years, this was an annual matchup.

Then the Big Ten expanded, divisions changed, the conference’s scheduling philosophy shifted and Lincoln has been Michigan-less for nearly a decade.

The setup for Saturday’s night game, however, might mean the wait was worth it.

Nebraska (3-3, 1-2) is coming off its most complete performance of the season, a 56-7 win over Northwestern. The Huskers’ 657 total yards were the most allowed by a Pat Fitzgerald-coached team. Nebraska’s 427 rushing yards were the most allowed by a Fitzgerald defense since 2010.

“This is the most confident I have been going into a game since I have been at Nebraska,” Scott Frost said following the win. “I think that confidence played out in how we played.”

Michigan, ranked ninth in Sunday’s Associated Press poll, is coming in off a high that goes beyond simply being ranked in the top 10. The Wolverines (5-0, 2-0) beat Wisconsin 38-17 for their first win at Camp Randall since 2001. The 5-0 start is the best since 2016, Jim Harbaugh’s second season at Michigan.

Despite that, the Wolverines opened as a 1-point favorite at Circa Sports on Sunday. The opening total was 53.5.

The Wolverines, a preseason middle-of-the-pack pick in the East, are 4-1 against the spread this season.

Nebraska is 5-1 against the spread, the second-best mark nationally trailing only Bowling Green at 5-0. Since 2018, against the spread, the Huskers are 9-11 at home, 6-7 after a win and 2-3 as a home underdog.

Under Harbaugh, the Wolverines are 12-15-1 on the road, 26-26 coming off a win and 9-11-1 as a road favorite against the spread since 2015.

ESPN’s Football Power Index ranked Nebraska 22nd after Saturday’s win, up five spots from last week. Michigan rose two spots to fifth. Assuming a 2.5-point home field advantage, FPI would have the line closer to Michigan -5. SP+, ESPN’s other power rating, calls for a line closer to Michigan -3.5.

Elsewhere in the Big Ten . . .

–In addition to No. 9 Michigan, the Big Ten had three other teams ranked in the AP’s top 10: No. 3 Iowa, No. 4 Penn State and No. 7 Ohio State. Michigan State, which reached 5-0 with a win over Western Kentucky, was No. 11. The Spartans were given decent odds to the remain undefeated after next week, opening as a 6-point favorite at Rutgers.

–Penn State heads to Iowa Saturday for what is now a top-five clash. That game opened as a pick ’em. The Hawkeyes are currently tied for the lead nationally with 16 takeaways. Iowa had seven in Friday’s 51-14 win at Maryland.

–The Terps don’t have an easy bounce-back game after losing for the first time in 2021. Maryland opened as a 21-point underdog at Ohio State. The total opened at 72.5.

–Illinois got its second win of the season, beating Charlotte on Saturday. This week, Bret Bielema welcomes his old school to Champaign. Wisconsin opened as an 8-point road favorite. Quarterback Graham Mertz left the loss to Michigan after taking a hit to the midsection.

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