Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:15 AM EST odds are subject to change.
CFP Semifinal at the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl - State Farm Stadium, Glendale, AZ
TCU +7½ over Michigan
4:00 PM EST. Unlike the other 41 bowl games, you certainly don't have to worry about voluntary opt-outs for this one, but there are still some situations to be monitored on the Michigan side. All-American running back Blake Corum is out with a knee injury after rushing for nearly 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns. Led by Corum, Michigan's rushing attack was No. 6 in the country at 243 yards per game this season. Corum missed large chunks of Michigan's last three games, so Coach Harbaugh has had plenty of time to adjust his game plan without him. The question marks come on the defensive side of the ball where two key contributors are battling injuries and one is battling a court case. Defensive linemen Eyabi Okie and Mark Morris (Big Ten defensive lineman of the year) were both injured at the end of the regular season and have been limited in prep for this game. Fellow lineman Mazi Smith was arrested for felony gun charges prior to the Big Ten Championship. He will play today but dude has been surrounded by reporters and answering questions.
Smith was pulled over on October 7th and during the traffic stop, he was found to be in possession of a handgun without a valid concealed pistol license or driver’s license. He was arrested on scene, processed at the police station and later released pending review by the prosecutor’s office. His sentencing was scheduled for December 29th but shockingly, it was moved to January 12th after the College Football Playoff. Mazi Smith is likely a first round NFL pick that is going to get paid millions. The only thing that could prevent that would be if he winds up in jail but Mazi Smith thought it was a good idea to drive without a license and carry a gun. Incidentally, Smith was taken to court in August by property management company McKinley Inc. for a failure to pay rent so it’s not like he’s flush.
Coach Harbaugh faced some criticism for not suspending Smith after his run-in with the law. The coach had been adamant about Michigan State players who were involved in a postgame fight in the tunnel at the Big House being disciplined and facing legal ramifications. If Smith was a third string lineman, Harbaugh would’ve dealt with it differently and so would have the Michigan courts. In any event, there are distractions all around the Wolverines.
Things are much quieter on the TCU side. Heisman finalist Max Duggan announced that he will be pursuing the NFL Draft after the dust settles on the Horned Frogs' season. We don’t often recommend that anyone hitch their wagon to one particular player, but TCU QB Max Duggan might be that guy. He’s got something that suggests going against him and his team when they have a one-TD head start is not worth your while. The thing is, with so much lead-in time before these games, a large consensus develops and unless we’re missing something, it seems that group-think is calling this “a bad match-up for TCU.” This is based on Michigan’s running attack having generated big numbers against just about everyone it has played this season, the team arriving here is 13-0 straight up, and, last but not least, TCU’s 3-3-5 defense being a style deployed to play against pass-based spread offenses, not Michigan’s abundance of power-gap runs. You’ll also hear about Michigan’s great defense until you can’t think straight anymore so let’s address that.
Half the teams in the B1G can’t move forward. Michigan’s first three games this year were against Colorado State, Hawaii and Connecticut. They also played Iowa (a team that is tooth and nail to score a FG), Rutgers, Illinois and Michigan State among others. Michigan’s defensive rankings are massively skewed because they played some teams that move backwards better than forward. We’re not saying that the Wolverines defense is poor but it’s not as good as the media says it is. Maryland scored 27. Ohio State gained plenty of yards (492) against Michigan. TCU’s offense has a better array of skill talent than any offense Michigan’s defense faced in the Big Ten besides the Buckeyes. Duggan is a headier and more versatile triggerman than any quarterback who has opposed it, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud included.
Perhaps most importantly is that Michigan has the weight of expectations on its shoulders while TCU has been called a number of different adjectives like, magical, lucky, unbelievable and others. The Horned Frogs may or may not be all of that but they are 100% feeling highly disrespected and that is as motivating as anything. The Horned Frogs have been quiet and focused. They are acutely aware that few give them a chance here. Even their coach, Sonny Dykes said in the last interview we saw, “We know we don’t stand a chance but we’ll play four quarters and we’ll see what the scoreboard looks like”. Dykes was being a bit facetious but he was just reacting to what he and his players have been reading and hearing all week. Extremely focused with no distractions, we’ll scoop up the points on TCU and see what the scoreboard says after four quarters.
TCU +7½ -103 (Risking 2.06 units - To Win: 2.00)