No. 11 Michi­gan faces big test at No. 13 Wis­con­sin

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Ralph D. Russo

There is a strong temp­ta­tion in col­lege foot­ball to de­fine teams early in the sea­son, es­pe­cially when a tra­di­tional power de­liv­ers a high-pro­file clunker.

That’s where No. 11 Michi­gan is as the Wolver­ines head into the first re­ally big Big Ten game of the sea­son. They face No. 13 Wis­con­sin in Madi­son on Satur­day. Last we saw coach Jim Har­baugh’s team it was sur­viv­ing an over­time scare at the Big House against Army.

As is the case with most blue blood pro­grams — no pun in­tended — non-Michi­gan fans gen­er­ally revel in the Wolver­ines’ ev­ery mis­step. And with Har­baugh, the coach col­lege foot­ball fans love to hate, root­ing against Michi­gan has never been more pop­u­lar. It’s as if ev­ery­body not wear­ing maize and blue is sud­denly from Ohio.

As cringe-wor­thy as Michi­gan’s new-fan­gled of­fense was against Army, in­spir­ing a litany of doom-and-gloom take­aways, the Wolver­ines can flip that nar­ra­tive and re­new the play­off talk they opened the sea­son with by han­dling a bunch of Badgers who have yet to al­low a point.

The first three weeks of the sea­son have been light on games match­ing ranked teams. There have been just three, none last week. There are that many this week­end, plus a few other teams (No. 10 Utah, No. 12 Texas and No. 16 Ore­gon) that want to be thought of as play­off con­tenders fac­ing po­ten­tially tough con­fer­ence tests. The picks:

Fri­day

No. 10 Utah (mi­nus 3 1/2) at South­ern Cal­i­for­nia It’s get­ting late early for the Tro­jans, who have not lost to the Utes at the Coli­seum since join­ing Utah joined the Pac-12 in 2011 UTAH 28-24.

Air Force (plus 8) at No. 20 Boise State

Fal­cons have played the Bron­cos well since they have been Mountain West ri­vals BOISE STATE 35-24.

Satur­day

Char­lotte (plus 41) at No. 1 Clem­son

Tigers have two more sacks (14) through three games this sea­son than they had at this point last sea­son with one of the most dec­o­rated de­fen­sive lines in re­cent his­tory CLEM­SON 49-7.

South­ern Mis­sis­sippi (plus 38 1/3) at No. 2 Alabama

Tide QB Tua Tago­v­ailoa has thrown at least four touch­down passes in a game eight times, a school record. He has started 18 games in his ca­reer ALABAMA 56-14.

No. 7 Notre Dame (plus 14) at No. 3 Ge­or­gia An­other big game against an elite op­po­nent that will be very dif­fi­cult for the Ir­ish to hang with GE­OR­GIA 35-17.

No. 4 LSU (mi­nus 23) at Van­der­bilt Com­modores’ pass de­fense has been ter­ri­ble and LSU QB Joe Bur­row has been one of the best passers in the coun­try LSU 45-20.

Mi­ami, Ohio (plus 39) at No. 6 Ohio State

Led by pre­sea­son All-Amer­ica DE Chase Young (five), the Buck­eyes are sec­ond in the na­tion with 14 sacks OHIO STATE 49-7.

No. 8 Auburn (plus 3 1/2) at No. 17 Texas A&M Tigers have won all three meet­ings in Col­lege Sta­tion since the Ag­gies joined the SEC TEXAS A&M 24-22. Ten­nessee (plus 14) at No. 9 Florida

That matchup of Florida de­fen­sive line vs. Ten­nessee of­fen­sive line looks like a big ad­van­tage for the Ga­tors FLORIDA 28-10.

No. 11 Michi­gan (plus 3 1/2) at No. 13 Wis­con­sin Wolver­ines have lost four straight at Camp Ran­dall, dat­ing to 2005 WIS­CON­SIN 24-20. Ok­la­homa State (plus 5 1/2) at No. 12 Texas Longhorns have lost four straight in the se­ries, so maybe they’re not re­ally back un­til they take care of the Cow­boys? TEXAS 34-28.

No. 15 UCF (mi­nus 12) at Pitts­burgh

UCF fresh­man QB Dil­lon Gabriel is av­er­ag­ing 11.6 yards per pass and has yet to throw an in­ter­cep­tion UCF 31-21.

No. 16 Ore­gon (mi­nus 10) at Stan­ford

Car­di­nal have won three straight meet­ings, but the cur­rent ver­sion looks noth­ing like what we have be­come ac­cus­tomed to un­der coach David Shaw ORE­GON 35-23.

UCLA (plus 18 1/2) at No. 19 Wash­ing­ton State Progress would be keep­ing it close into the fourth quar­ter for the Bru­ins at this point WASH­ING­TON STATE 38-21.

Old Do­min­ion (plus 30) at No. 21 Vir­ginia

You know what, Cava­liers fans? Your team hasn’t been this good in so long, just go ahead of rush the field as much as you want VIR­GINIA 38-7.

No. 22 Wash­ing­ton (mi­nus 6 1/2) at BYU Cougars try­ing to make it three straight against Power Five teams WASH­ING­TON 31-23.

No. 23 Cal­i­for­nia (plus 2) at Mis­sis­sippi

Cal has the look of a one-week won­der in the rank­ings MIS­SIS­SIPPI 24-20.

Colorado (plus 7 1/2) at No. 24 Ari­zona State Good week for a break­out game for Suns Devils RB Eno Ben­jamin against a wonky Buffs run de­fense ARI­ZONA STATE 28-17.

SMU (plus 9 1/2) at No. 25 TCU

Horned Frogs have won seven straight in the crosstown Bat­tle for the Iron Skil­let TCU 38-24, BEST BET.

Twit­ter re­quests

Hous­ton (plus 5) at Tu­lane, Thurs­day — @jefe172

This is the fourth game in 18 days for the Cougars HOUS­TON 28-27, UP­SET SPE­CIAL.

Utah State (mi­nus 4) at San Diego State — @re­al­jakem­c­neil

QB Jor­dan Love and the Ag­gies have the No. 1 of­fense in the Mountain West; Aztecs are No. 2 in de­fense SAN DIEGO STATE 28-27.

Ap­palachian State (plus 3) at North Carolina — @matthewe­p­ley

The wrong team might be fa­vored here AP­PALACHIAN STATE 28-24.

Louisville (plus 6 1/2) at Florida State — @R—Barnes407

Ev­ery week is a ref­er­en­dum on the Semi­noles now FLORIDA STATE 31-23.

West Vir­ginia (mi­nus 4 1/2) at Kansas — @OKTXARPoke

Last time the Jay­hawks won three games in Septem­ber was 2009, which was also the last time Kansas won more than three games in a sea­son WEST VIR­GINIA 28-21.

Last week: 15-8 straight; 15-8 against spread. Sea­son: 54-17 straight; 36-32-2 against spread. Up­set spe­cials: 0-3 (straight up).

Best bets: 1-2 (against the spread).

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