As we head into Week 2 of the college football season, the Michigan Wolverines have another matchup that isn’t expected to give them too much trouble as they host the UNLV Rebels. In this article, you can find a breakdown of the odds and an official prediction of the UNLV vs. Michigan game.
UNLV Rebels Vs. Michigan Wolverines Prediction & Best Bet
Michigan had a weird week as it dealt with injuries to multiple starters and the suspensions of head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Sheronne Moore. This week, Moore is back with the team and he’ll serve as the interim head coach while Harbaugh is still suspended.
The Wolverines had no problem winning 30-3 last week against East Carolina, but it’s fair to wonder if the run schemes would have been sharper with Moore on the sidelines – four of Michigan’s five starting offensive linemen earned PFF run blocking grades below 60, meaning they were below-average.
J.J. McCarthy picked up the slack with a highly impressive passing performance – he completed 86.7% of his passes and threw three touchdowns. It helped that he was kept clean on 80% of his dropbacks per PFF, but even when he was under pressure, he averaged 9.8 yards per attempt on six total passes.
I’d like to suggest UNLV could keep this game relatively close with that offensive approach, but I have concerns about quarterback Doug Brumfield after he averaged a paltry 4.8 YPA against Bryant, a team that went 4-7 in the FCS last year. It’s difficult to imagine that improving now on the road against the Wolverines.
I do like the over in this game, however. Michigan’s offense should look a lot cleaner this week with Moore calling plays. Meanwhile, UNLV can sustain a couple of drives with its unique offense that’s difficult to prepare for. Both of these teams rank top 60 in seconds per play in this young season, giving further credence to the over here.
UNLV Rebels Vs. Michigan Wolverines Odds
Michigan is currently laying 37.5 points in this game, which isn’t surprising the caliber of opponent they’re facing. UNLV played one Power Five team last season, and they lost 44-21 to a Notre Dame team going through some growing pains. The over/under for this game sits around 57 points with a 56.5 currently available at FanDuel with -115 odds.
UNLV Rebels Vs. Michigan Wolverines Key Matchups
UNLV’s “go-go” Offense vs Michigan’s Defense
It’s always fun seeing teams run unique offensive schemes in the world of college football, and UNLV certainly fits the bill. The Rebels hired Brennan Marion, the former Texas pass game coordinator, to be their new head coach, and he’s implementing his innovative “go-go” offense.
The base formation in Mario’s offense is a two-back set with both running backs lined up to the same side of the quarterback. This creates personnel advantages in the run game that can be exploited to gain chunk yardage. Last week, the Rebels ran for 275 yards and five touchdowns on a blistering 7.6 YPC clip against Bryant.
Rebels have a very deep backfield – seven different players had rushing attempts for them last week. Even quarterback Doug Brumfield got in on the action with 56 yards on three attempts. He isn’t a very consistent passer, but he can uncork some deep balls if Michigan opts to load the box to slow down this rushing attack.
Of course, the matchup here is much more difficult, but Michigan could get caught sleeping against this opponent. Michigan held East Carolina to just 100 yards on 26 rushing attempts last week, but there certainly isn’t anything quite like Marion’s offense in the Big Ten, and the Wolverines won’t be used to this style of offense.
The quality of players in Michigan’s defense is much greater than that of the UNLV offense, but as the saying goes, styles make fights, and I’m excited to see how these two teams match up on Saturday.
J.J. McCarthy vs UNLV’s Secondary
Could we be turning a corner in the development of J.J. McCarthy as a passer? Over the offseason, I wrote about how I felt that the upside to Michigan’s offense could only be unlocked if McCarthy improved on pure drop back passes. He was first in PFF passing grade on play-action passes but just 55th on non play-action throws.
McCarthy was a stable starter for the Wolverines last year, but the offense ranked just 97th in overall explosiveness as he wasn’t asked to uncork the deep ball all that often compared to some other blue chip passers across the country. However, McCarthy worked closely with new quarterbacks coach Kirk Campbell over the offseason to refine his mechanics, and it showed in Week 1.
UNLV had a difficult time keeping offenses in front of them last year as they ranked 92nd in 30+ yard passes allowed. Perhaps the new coaching staff can help rectify those issues, but I believe McCarthy will be given the opportunity to test that as he was last week when 46.6% of his passes were 10+ yards from the line of scrimmage.
The hype is building for McCarthy. Can he break Michigan’s single season passing touchdowns record? Is he a potential Heisman candidate? Will the NFL consider him a first-round caliber talent? All of those questions will be answered in due time, but this matchup should provide another great opportunity for him to show off his improved mechanics and overall passing efficiency.