Thursday Six-Pack: Previewing College Football’s Opening Night



Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT

TV: Fox Sports 1

Las Vegas Line: Utah -5; O/U 46

The Harbaugh Harbaughs Harbaugh their way to Salt Harbaugh City to face…who, again? Oh, right, that team Popular Mechanics dubbed a cupcake, the Utah Utes.

Those same Utah Utes are coming off their best season since joining the Pac-12 in 2011 with nine wins and a Top 25 ranking. Among those victories was a lopsided decision at Michigan.

Utah’s win in The Big House last September prompted Devontae Booker, Utah’s Heisman Trophy-contending running back, to point out that Michigan’s not a cupcake.

The Wolverines should be improved over the dismal 2014 variety, but the Harbaugh Effect might be somewhat overstated. Michigan has the talent to compete with a good Utah team, but some national media would have you believe Thursday is a coronation for the Wolverines. They’re facing a fringe Top 25 team, in one of the toughest venues to play in the West.

Michigan entering Week 1 with a dicey quarterback situation also doesn’t bode well. Utah is one of the best defensive teams in the Pac-12, rivaling Harbaugh’s former club at Stanford. I don’t anticipate Jake Rudock or Shane Morris having much success passing, which means the talented Utes will go heavy in the box to stop the run.

Similarly, Utah needs wildly inconsistent Travis Wilson to be the good version in order to give Heisman candidate running back Devontae Booker lanes. This is Wilson’s fourth year as starter, so I trust him to work more effectively than either option Michigan has.

MY PICK: Utah 27, Michigan 17