Week 1 College Football Free Pick - Michigan vs. Florida

By Ryan Fowler @FreelanceFowler


FREE PICK: Florida +5 vs. Michigan
(Covers 56.6%)

*Note: All of Florida's suspensions are reflected in this simulation and pick analysis.

Jim Harbaugh's Michigan Wolverines face Jim McElwain's Florida Gators on a neutral site, AT&T Stadium, on Saturday afternoon. As is often the case, this matchup probably possessed more appeal when it was scheduled back in 2013. Both schools have swapped out athletic directors and head coaches since this game was added to the 2017 schedule. David Brandon and Brady Hoke are out and Warde Manuel and Harbaugh are in, while Scott Stricklin and McElwain replaced Jeremy Foley and Will Muschamp.

On the field, both teams enter their first game depleted, but for the different reasons.

Graduation gutted the Wolverines roster. They only return five starters, while they added 30 fresh-faced recruits to their program. Michigan does retain starting quarterback Wilton Speight (61.6 comp. % | 18 TD | 7 INT) for his senior season, but is that a good thing? With his top three receivers moving onto the pros, he lost nearly 2,000 yards or 69% of the passing game. The Wolverines ranked 58th in total offense in 2016 and we don't envision that mark improving in 2017. Harbaugh will once again lean on the defense – which only returns one starter – to guide the flow of the game. The incoming talent is highly touted as are most of Ann Arbor's recruiting classes, but the second-ranked defense of a season ago (261.8 | 14.1 PAPG) will experience growing pains as they turn their attention to 2018 and beyond.

The Gators suspended a bunch of players for this game including last season's leading receiver, Antonio Callaway (721 rec. yards | 3 TD). All of these suspensions certainly add up, as they clearly affect Florida's depth against quality opponents. Additionally, up until earlier this afternoon, the public still didn't know who the starting quarterback would be for the Gators ahead of Saturday's showdown in Dallas.

With the offensive picture cloudy with a chance of meltdown, turn your attention to the Gators defense, which returns 11 starters from a season ago. The unit was fifth-best in the country in total defense (292.8 YAPG) and held opponents to 16.8 PPG– sixth-best in the country. The Gators seasoned defense against a shaky-at-best Michigan offense presents a problem for Jim Harbaugh's crew and an opportunity for the Gators to control field position.

According to 50,000 games played our simulation engine at PredictionMachine.com, Michigan wins over Florida 55.5% of the time by an average score of 21.5 to 20.5. As a five-point underdog losing by an average margin of only one point, the Gators cover the spread 56.6% of the time, which would justify a $44 wager for an average $50 bettor.

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College football gets underway this week and as we look back on previous seasons using our ResultsFinder tool, we uncover some excellent results. Our strongest ATS pick each week in college football is a whopping 69-40 (63.3%) ATS all-time. Playable college football picks last season alone were a banner 296-243 (54.9%) ATS, producing $1,178 in profits for an average $50 bettor, while "normal" or better totals are 58% all-time and have been profitable in five of the previous seven years.