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Purdue vs. Michigan prediction: Take the big points in Big Ten title tilt

Bet on the Boilermakers to cash yet again as an underdog when they battle the unbeaten Wolverines

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh has his team in the Big Ten championship game for the second straight season, this time with a perfect 12-0 record. Harbaugh and the Wolverines are favored by 17 points against Purdue on Saturday in Indianapolis. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh has his team in the Big Ten championship game for the second straight season, this time with a perfect 12-0 record. Harbaugh and the Wolverines are favored by 17 points against Purdue on Saturday in Indianapolis. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)Read moreGregory Shamus / Getty Images

This time last year, Michigan was coming off a stunning upset of Ohio State that put the Wolverines in the Big Ten championship game.

Fast-forward 365 days: Michigan is coming off another stunning upset of Ohio State, a victory that once again sent the Wolverines to Indianapolis for the conference title game.

There’s one significant difference, though. Michigan entered last year’s battle for Big Ten bragging rights with one loss. Thus it needed to claim the conference crown with a victory over Iowa to earn an invite to the College Football Playoff.

This season? Different story. The Wolverines (12-0, 7-5 ATS) head into Saturday’s Big Ten championship game against Purdue knowing that, win or lose, they will compete in the College Football Playoff for the second straight year.

So just like with top-ranked Georgia in the SEC championship game, bettors can’t help but wonder how motivated Michigan will be against an outclassed Purdue squad.

Sure, the Wolverines want to win a second consecutive league title. But will they pummel the Boilermakers by enough of a margin to cover a huge point spread? We’re not so sure.

Here’s our Purdue vs. Michigan prediction for the Big Ten championship game.

Note: Odds updated as of 1:30 p.m. ET on Dec. 2.

Purdue vs. Michigan Prediction

  1. Purdue +16.5 (at Caesars Sportsbook)

Purdue vs. Michigan Prediction: Analysis

Michigan is in a classic letdown spot following last Saturday’s 45-23 thumping of hated Ohio State in Columbus. But that’s not why we’re backing Purdue here.

After all, the Wolverines were in the exact same letdown spot in Indianapolis a year ago, and all they did was outscore Iowa 28-0 in the second half and cruise to a 42-3 win.

No, we like the Boilermakers because they’re a solid overall team with a strong defense — one that won’t have to face Michigan’s best offensive weapon Saturday.

Running back Blake Corum, a onetime Heisman Trophy candidate who hurt his knee in Michigan’s last-second win over Illinois two weeks ago, had season-ending surgery this week.

» READ MORE: Kansas State vs. TCU prediction: Look for Horned Frogs to stay unbeaten

Yes, the Wolverines got by just fine at Ohio State without Corum (who had just two carries), bludgeoning the Buckeyes for 252 rushing yards.

However, 160 of those yards came on two busted plays in the fourth quarter, as backup tailback Donovan Edwards galloped for touchdowns of 75 and 85 yards. Otherwise, Michigan had 96 rushing yards on 33 carries (a paltry 2.9 yards per carry).

And while Ohio State fields the nation’s 23rd-ranked rushing defense, Purdue isn’t far behind at 37th. And that’s after allowing 215 ground yards (on 44 carries) in last week’s 30-16 win at Indiana (71 of the Hoosiers’ rushing yards came on a first-quarter touchdown run).

On the whole, the Boilermakers’ defense was markedly improved down the stretch. After giving up between 26 and 37 points in five of six games from mid-September to late October, Purdue held its final four regular-season opponents to point totals of 24 (Iowa), 24 (Illinois), 9 (Northwestern) and 16 (Indiana).

The victory at Indiana was Purdue’s third in a row and seventh in the past nine games. It also clinched the school’s first conference championship game appearance.

Another reason to back the Boilermakers: During the 7-2 run, they’re 3-1 SU and ATS as an underdog.

They went on the road to begin October and upset Minnesota (20-10 as a 9-point underdog) and Maryland (31-29 as a 3-point pup). Then on Nov. 12, Purdue went to Illinois and prevailed 31-24 as a 6.5-point dog.

Obviously, Minnesota, Maryland and Illinois aren’t Michigan. Nor are any of the opponents Purdue has defeated (or lost to). But the Boilermakers also haven’t been this big of an underdog all season. In fact, it’s the first time they’re catching double digits.

Speaking of double digits, Purdue only has lost two games by that margin this year. It fell 35-24 at Wisconsin on Oct. 22 and no-showed the following week in a 24-3 home loss to Iowa.

» READ MORE: Heisman Trophy betting: USC’s Williams goes from late-season long shot to likely winner

Is Michigan better than Wisconsin and Iowa? Of course. But don’t forget that the Wolverines’ perfect season nearly went into the toilet just two weeks ago against Illinois. Coach Jim Harbaugh’s team needed a field goal at the gun to snatch a 19-17 home victory from the same team Purdue beat 34-27 the previous week (on the road).

Was Michigan looking ahead to Ohio State when it played Illinois? Probably. But what’s to say the Wolverines won’t be looking ahead to the College Football Playoff when they face Purdue?

Throw in the fact that the Boilermakers have scored at least 24 points in nine of 12 games, and we like their chances to cover this big number. Back the underdog in the Big Ten championship game at Caesars Sportsbook.

Purdue vs. Michigan odds (via Caesars Sportsbook)

  1. Point spread: Purdue (+16.5) @ Michigan (-16.5)

  2. Moneyline: Purdue (+600) @ Michigan (-900)

  3. Total: 52 points

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