Amid Sign-Stealing Accusations, Wolverines Heavily Favored To Beat Spartans

College football’s two biggest forest fires vie for Paul Bunyan Trophy



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jj mccarthy runs against spartans

On the field, the 7-0 University of Michigan football team has been virtually flawless this season, supplely surfing a soft schedule in which its tightest non-conference contest was a 31-6 route of Bowling Green.

Off the field, however? Totes tacky, Coach Khaki!

Jim Harbaugh was not on the sidelines for that Bowling Green game or the two that preceded it, on account of a university-imposed three-game suspension designed to get the jump on any NCAA penalties that may get handed down due to a slew of low-level infractions allegedly committed by the program. Then, on Thursday, it was reported that 2nd-ranked Michigan was under investigation for in-person sign-stealing — that is, sending scouts to games instead of relying on film to discern future opponents’ tendencies.

In retrospect, at least one Michigan opponent appears to have smelled a rat.

But, hey, that’s nothing compared to Spartan Coach Mel Tucker getting canned for creeping on the victim of a gang rape involving a pair of Oregon State football players. And we haven’t even mentioned the violent melee that occurred in the tunnel at Michigan Stadium during last year’s matchup.

Let’s mention it, actually — not the fight, necessarily, but a darkly amusing anecdote included at the end of The Athletic’s story on just how tawdry the annual quest for the Paul Bunyan trophy has gotten:

“‘For decades, student journalists from the State News and the Michigan Daily met for a game of touch football before the main event. Trash talk and cheap shots have always been part of the game, but lately the friendly rivalry has gotten more intense,’ said Morgan Womack, editor-in-chief of the State News.

“The Daily, which has a significantly larger staff, has won 17 consecutive games, and Womack said students at the State News no longer look forward to the tradition. Womack proposed writing a joint editorial instead, but the Daily declined to participate.

“Womack said it will be up to next year’s staff to decide whether the game returns in some form, but she’s not counting on it.

“‘We all know how the MSU-U of M game ended last year,’ Womack said. ‘We don’t want the rivalry between our publications to be headed that way.’”

And with that, on to the odds for Saturday night’s game, which kicks off at 7:30 in East Lansing and will air on NBC.

Betting the House(r)

Michigan’s mobile sportsbooks uniformly expect the Wolverines to make mincemeat of the hapless Spartans, who blew a 24-6 lead against Rutgers last weekend to drop to 2-4. Conversely, Michigan trounced Rutgers by a score of 31-7 in its first Big Ten tilt of the season and has only stepped on the gas since, beating Nebraska, Minnesota, and Indiana by a combined score of 149-24.

The best spread for Michigan backers is the -24 at BetRivers, where both teams have gone 3-3 ATS this season, with Michigan pushing once. Those thinking the Spartans can keep things closer than expected can jump on the +24.5 being offered by BetMGM at -115 juice.

BetMGM and BetRivers are both offering a 12/1 moneyline price on an unlikely Spartan victory — although, in rivalry games such as this, crazy things can happen. Bettors who are confident that Michigan will move to 8-0 but aren’t wild about its ability to cover can bet the Wolverines’ moneyline at -2500 at FanDuel.

Whereas J.J. McCarthy is a legitimate Heisman contender at quarterback for Michigan, MSU’s situation behind center is unenviable. After throwing six interceptions in five games, Noah Kim was replaced last week by freshman Katin Houser, who competed 18 of 29 passes in an extremely conservative air attack that yielded only 133 yards.

At FanDuel, McCarthy’s passing yardage over/under is set at 213.5, while Houser’s is at 137.5.

On the ground, Michigan’s Blake Corum (96 carries for 546 yards) and State’s Nathan Carter (113 carries for 529 yards) wouldn’t appear to be separated by much. However, FanDuel has Corum’s rushing total set at 88.5 for this matchup, nearly doubling that of Carter (44.5), portending an uncomfortable scenario in which the Spartans will have to rely on Houser’s relatively untested arm to stay in the game.

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