College Football Odds & Picks for UNLV vs Michigan: Defenses to Step Up?

College Football Odds & Picks for UNLV vs Michigan: Defenses to Step Up? article feature image

Louis Grasse/Getty Images. Pictured: UNLV Rebels head coach Barry Odom.

UNLV vs Michigan Odds

Sat., September 9
3:30 p.m. ET
-105o / -115u
Michigan Odds
-105o / -115u
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

East Carolina pulled out a fantastic cover against Michigan last week, putting together a fourth-quarter goal-line stand from its one-yard line down 30 as 36-point underdogs.

After that unlikely stand, the Pirates out-scored the Wolverines 3-0 over the final seven minutes, securing the cash for ECU backers.

Michigan is again five-touchdown home favorites, but this time, it comes against UNLV.

According to our Action Network Power Ratings, UNLV projects as a similar team to East Carolina. ECU ranks 95th (65 PR), while UNLV ranks 102nd (63 PR).

Can we expect a similar result in Week 2?

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UNLV Rebels

I’m somewhat high on the Rebels.

Barry Odom is a solid coaching hire. Hopefully, he can patch up a defense that struggled mightily last year (109th in Success Rate Allowed, 76th in EPA per play allowed).

Deep passing plays sunk the defense, with the Rebels finishing 92nd in 30-yard completions allowed. Three starters from last year’s secondary return, so better coaching and more experience could buck that trend.

The Rebels avoided explosive run plays (ninth in rush Explosiveness Allowed), but teams carved them up underneath (124th in Rush Success Rate Allowed, 157 rush YPG allowed).

However, the front seven has some solid pieces, including a promising linebacker corps led by seniors Fred Thompkins and Kyle Beaudry. Again, better coaching and experience.

The big news is the offensive coordinator hire, as UNLV welcomes Brennan Marion and the famed “Go-Go” offense.

The scheme is a no-huddle, rush-heavy attack with deep, vertical passing shots peppered in. Expect the (now aptly-named) Runnin’ Rebels to run the ball over 60% of the time, while the top receiver records over 20 yards per reception.

Although he was hired away from Howard, Marion has FBS experience with USC and Texas. He’s a legit offensive coordinator with a proven system.

The offensive line is weak, and so is the running back room. But Doug Brumfield is a good G5 quarterback (when healthy), and Ricky White is a legit No. 1 wide receiver, so the cupboard is not empty for Marion.

Again, coaching and experience…

UNLV smashed Bryant in their season opener, but we can’t conclude much from a 44-14 slaughtering of an FCS Big South opponent.

Michigan Wolverines

J.J. McCarthy looked sharp in Week 1.

Again, it was against East Carolina, but McCarthy’s production bodes well for Big Blue. The Wolverines will go as far as he takes them.

McCarthy has the support staff to continue his production. Michigan has as much returning production as any team in the nation (fifth in SP+ returning production, +5.5 net TARP).

The Wolverines have the nation’s top running back corps. They have a top-five offensive line with 145 career FBS starts, two returning starters and three Pac-12 transfers. Six of the top seven tacklers from last season’s dominant defense returned (Michigan finished 2022 third in EPA per play allowed).

The Wolverines are still missing head coach Jim Harbaugh because of his four-game suspension, so defensive coordinator Jesse Minter is filling in.

It’s tough to handicap the Wolverines without Harbaugh. It’s worth mentioning that the Wolverines’ 30 points last week were the fewest they’ve posted in a non-conference tilt since 2019 (24 against Army).

Michigan was missing some key wide receivers and defensive backs in that game, so keep a close eye on the injury report this week.

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UNLV vs Michigan

Betting Pick & Prediction

I’d like to see the final injury report before making any wagers, but I lean Under 57.5.

Michigan’s defense will show up. It's played seven low-level G5 opponents in the non-con since the start of 2021 and have surrendered a combined 54 points, or around a touchdown per game.

While UNLV will play up-tempo and no-huddle, it will mostly run the ball. Even if the Rebels have limited success, the clock will constantly tick, especially with the rule changes.

Meanwhile, Michigan probably runs the ball, too. It had a 50/50 split of run and pass plays in Week 1, but it’s too enticing to ground and pound behind Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards.

The key to this handicap is UNLV’s secondary. If the unit can prevent explosive passing plays — even moderately better than last year — McCarthy and Co. will settle for slicing and dicing underneath, again draining the clock.

Plus, there’s something about last week that spooks me. Between the injuries and coaching situation, Michigan wasn’t as potent as it usually is in non-conference tilts. Again, it was the lowest point total it’s posted in a non-conference game since 2019.

Interim head coach Minter might be happy to get out of dodge during the Harbaugh suspension. With Harbaugh in the fold, Michigan tries fine-tuning every aspect of its game before conference play (see: 50-point outings against Colorado State, Hawaii and UConn last year). It’s a different story without him — maybe the team is more conservative.

If the Wolverines' injury report is similar to last week’s, I expect a lower-scoring, rush-heavy, clock-draining grinder spearheaded by two conservative coaching staffs. Michigan may win by 30, but it won’t win by 40, and it won’t allow 20.

Our Action Analytics team projects this total at 56.5, while Bill Connelly’s SP+ projections make it 50 on the nose. So, I do see value, but I want to be sure of the personnel before I pull the trigger.

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