College Football Betting: Michigan Says Offense Will Be Spread, Up-Tempo
Stop if you’ve heard this before: Conservative, run-first college football coach has offseason epiphany; brings in new offensive coordinator to run “up-tempo” offense. That is what is reportedly on the docket this season for the Michigan Wolverines. Under Jim Harbaugh the Wolverines always grade out as one of the slower teams in the country. Last year, they ran a play just under every 30 seconds whereas teams that run “up-tempo” typically average around 19-22 seconds.
During the offseason, Harbaugh went out an poached Josh Gattis to serve as offensive coordinator. Gattis spent time with Penn State’s James Franklin as was most recently Alabama’s wide receiver/co-OC. The initial plan is to introduce facets of the RPO while throwing the football more and playing at a faster clip. There’s also rumblings of playing two quarterbacks which doesn’t seem very Harbaugh-esque.
“It’s helped our football team,” Harbaugh said last week at Big Ten football media days. “Really felt watching Shea Patterson especially and Dillon McCaffrey also, their play-making ability, their ability to operate as a passer and as a runner, how explosive they both are, Shea with his ability to make quick decisions, really fits the shotgun, really fits the RPO world, really fits the up-tempo.”
Throughout Harbaugh’s tenure, there’s been times where the offensive has been explosive. But more often than not, production and stats are boosted by bullying the weak. It’s when Michigan is pitted up against comparable competition that the offensive bogs down and Harbaugh gets ultra conservative. It’s part of the reason why the Wolverines covered only one of five games against ranked foes last season.
Most teams will tell you that winning a National Championship is the goal but only a few have the foundation to make that a reality. Michigan, in theory, does. But what has kept the Wolverines stuck in good-but-not-great purgatory is a lack of offense. Take a look at the offensive production under Harbaugh.
Offensive S&P National Rating
Yards Per Play vs. Big Ten
2018: 6.07 (7th)
2017: 5.17 (7th)
2016: 5.95 (2nd)
2015: 5.63 (6th)
Those aren’t “bad” numbers but they certainly don’t scream national title contender. As for the projected tempo increase, we’re cautiously optimistic. Coaches are creatures of habit and while Harbaugh appears willing to “get with the times” he’s notorious for reverting back to what he knows the minute things go awry. Perhaps most interesting about the new system being put in place is how it will play out from a betting perspective. Despite a plodding pace and a strong history of sitting on the ball in the second half of lopsided wins, Michigan has been an “over” team under Harbaugh. That’s a pretty strong example of how much impact market perception can have on your results.