Fiesta Bowl Odds: Michigan a Strong Favorite Over TCU

The College Football Playoffs (CFP) is finally here, and the Michigan Wolverines are all set to face off with the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs this Saturday. The Wolverines are -7.5-point favorites across the major sportsbooks, highlighting the heavy odds TCU is up against. 

In TCU’s first-ever appearance, they are matched up with the Wolverines, who, on paper, appear to be too big of a challenge for a variety of reasons. 

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Fiesta Bowl Odds: Can Michigan Cover More Than a Touchdown?

DraftKingsMichigan -7.5 (-110)
TCU +7.5 (-110)
Michigan -305
TCU +255
Over 58.5 (-110)
Under 58.5 (-110)
CaesarsMichigan -7.5 (-110)
TCU +7.5 (-110)
Michigan -320
TCU +250
Over 58.5 (-110)
Under 58.5 (-110)
BetMGMMichigan -7.5 (-110)
TCU +7.5 (-110)
Michigan -300
TCU +240
Over 58.5 (-110)
Under 58.5 (-110)

Strength on Strength

One thing that has been consistent for the Horned Frogs this year is their run game. Junior running back Kendre Miller finished the season with 1,342 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns. Despite the success of the Horned Frogs’ starting QB Max Duggan, it is Miller that makes the offense go. That is going to be a challenge for them in this matchup because one of the Wolverines’ biggest strengths is their run defense. 

The Wolverines are ranked third in the nation in run defense. The Big Ten Conference has three 1,200-yard rushers (excluding Blake Corum) and an additional five 900-yard rushers, so they have had plenty of reps against good running backs.

TCU’s Defensive Woes

The Wolverines, much like the Horned Frogs, have one of the most potent offenses in college football. They have scored 40 or more points in seven outings this year. To accompany that offense, they also have the No. 3 overall defense in the nation. TCU, on the other hand, does not measure up on the defensive side of the ball. The Horned Frogs currently hold the 74th-ranked defense in the country, allowing 235 passing yards, 149 rushing yards, and 25 points per game to opposing offenses.

If this game turns out to be the shootout the Over/Under suggests it will be, the likelihood of it being TCU that gets the key stops in this high-scoring game does not seem favorable given its defensive numbers this year.

Horned Frogs’ Shot at Defying the Odds in the Fiesta Bowl

Despite the heavy odds against them, the game still must be played. One of the areas the Horned Frogs may look to expose is Michigan’s starting QB, J.J. McCarthy. Wolverines’ head coach Jim Harbaugh took the unusual route of starting two different QBs in the first two games of the season to decide who should get the full-time job. That is not a normal decision, especially if a coach feels they have a star available. 

McCarthy has done his job so far, considering his team in the CFP. However, he has done so as more of a game manager, as opposed to someone who goes out and wins a game. He has thrown for 2,376 yards this season, good for 72nd in the nation. He makes throws on time and does not turn the ball over.

Harbough has pulled the best out of him, but it would not be possible without Corum’s production. Strategizing to make McCarthy do more may be the golden ticket for TCU. The Horned Frogs’ defense will have to be consistent with bringing pressure to stop the run and put an emphasis on not letting quick pressure-beating passes turn into big plays.

Forcing McCarthy to be the anchor in keeping pace with TCU’s offense would make for an interesting game. However, that requires a perfect game from TCU. It is not impossible, but the variety of ways Michigan can win this game makes them hard to bet against. 

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