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Tucker Drama Looms As Underdog Spartans, Favored Wolverines Start Big Ten Play

Will Michigan’s cream-puff schedule compromise its national title hopes?




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After getting pasted 41-7 in East Lansing by a Washington team that fully took its foot off the gas after building a 35-0 halftime lead, 2-1 Michigan State finds itself as a 7.5-point underdog at home this Saturday against 3-0 Maryland in both teams’ Big Ten opener. 

With a ground game that averaged just 2 yards per carry against Washington, a defense that yielded over 700 yards from scrimmage, and a quarterback, Noah Kim, who completed just 12 of 31 passes, the Spartans are a mess — albeit nowhere near as messy as the situation involving their soon-to-be-erstwhile head coach, Mel Tucker.

After inviting a former rape victim — one who was violated by a group of college football players, no less — to speak to his players about sexual assault last year, Tucker either inappropriately (she said) or consensually (he said) pursued an extramarital relationship with this woman, at one point pleasuring himself during a phone conversation with her. She filed a complaint with the university, which this week announced its intent to fire Tucker, who has about $80 million remaining on a multi-year contract that began to look pretty ridiculous well before this news surfaced.

Since the allegations came to light, Tucker has maintained the relationship was mutually consensual, conceding only that he was “not proud of my judgment” and “am having difficulty forgiving myself for getting into this situation.” But as Athletic reporter Nicole Auerbach pointed out on social media, Michigan State officials view the issue of consent as immaterial to Tucker’s ethical breach, which the school maintains occurred the moment he began pursuing the relationship.

In responding to MSU’s decision to terminate his contract, Tucker stated that “other motives are at play.” That remains to be seen, but if there’s a silver lining to this unfortunate fiasco, it’s that the university can now move on from an employee who had failed both on and off the field — and save taxpayers and boosters a whole lot of money in the process.

Perfection a must for Michigan?

Enough about Mel; let’s talk about Jim!

Coach Harbaugh has the undefeated, second-ranked Michigan Wolverines riding high heading into a matchup in Ann Arbor with Rutgers this Saturday, with FanDuel setting the spread at 24.5 points and BetMGM and BetRivers each going with an even 24.

The Michigan moneyline offers far more variance, with BetRivers offering a straight-up Wolverines victory at a somewhat comical -10000, while FanDuel has it at -2500. Those who think the Scarlet Knights can pull off an improbable upset should head to BetRivers and grab them at 16/1.

Though Michigan holds an 8-1 advantage in nine games between the two teams, Rutgers actually led last year’s matchup by a score of 17-14 at half — only to allow 38 unanswered points in the second half. But for sports bettors who think the run-heavy Scarlet Knights could be hanging around again at intermission, BetRivers has them priced at 8/1 to lead at halftime, with Michigan at -1250 and a tie fetching 18/1 odds.

Another option is to bet on the halftime spread, which BetMGM has at -13.5 in favor of Michigan, with a payout of -110 both ways. FanDuel is offering +110 on Rutgers to come within 12.5 points at halftime, while bettors thinking the Wolverines will cover can take BetRivers’ -124 juice on the same spread.

It’s very possible — likely even — that the Wolverines will be 9-0 heading into a Nov. 11 tilt with Penn State. Michigan has played a cream-puff non-conference slate that included routs over East Carolina, UNLV, and Bowling Green at home, causing it to drop to No. 14 in the Football Power Index, which takes strength of schedule into account.

Hence, if the Wolverines are to earn a return trip to this year’s College Football Playoff, they may have to run the table. Thankfully, they host Ohio State in the Big House at season’s end, versus having to travel to Columbus.

Photo: Mike Mulholland/Getty Images