Can Michigan’s Stingy Defense Bring a Title to Ann Arbor?

Can Michigan’s Stingy Defense Bring a Title to Ann Arbor?
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

The Michigan Wolverines will have a shot at vanquishing 27 years of championship futility in the New Year, when Jim Harbaugh’s team squares off against the Alabama Crimson Tide in Pasadena in the College Football Playoff (CFP) semifinals. Michigan sportsbooks are anticipating the action that comes with UM’s big opportunity.

The Jan. 1 showdown at the Rose Bowl comes a year after the Wolverines lost a shootout to Texas Christian, 51-45, in the 2022 CFP semis. It put a sour note on a historic season for UM. Fast forward a year and the No. 1-seeded Wolverines enter this year’s CFP semis as a 1-point and -120 moneyline favorite over the Crimson Tide at ESPN BET Michigan.

One thing that should bolster Michigan football odds is the fact that they’ve given up the fewest points per game (9.46) in the nation heading into the CFP. Since the four-team event began in 2014, no team that has won the title has given up fewer PPG entering the CFP.  looked at the points per game each national champion allowed heading into the College Football Playoff.

Points Allowed Per Game by CFP Champs

There will be a deluge of information on college football betting this bowl season. Here are some stats you won’t find on the many fine Michigan sports betting apps.

SeasonChampionPoints AllowedPer Game
2023Michigan (?)9.46
2014/td>Ohio State21.2


Teams Struggle to Score Against Michigan

The Wolverines’ defense has been spectacular to say the least in 2023, allowing 9.46 points per game, which ranks ahead of Georgia’s ferocious 2021 unit that allowed 9.54 PPG as the No. 1 unit in the CFP era. To put that figure in greater context, the next closest team in terms of scoring defense in this year’s CFP is Texas, which ranks 13th nationally at 17.54 PPG allowed. Alabama ranks 17th overall (18.38 PPG allowed) and Washington ranks 48th at 23.62 PPG allowed.

While this year’s Michigan defense is superb, the team’s PPG allowed ranks behind the Wolverines’ last championship team. The 1997 Wolverines led the nation by allowing a mere 8.2 PPG in 1997, capped off with a 21-16 Rose Bowl victory over Washington State.  This year, it’s safe to say that oddsmakers see a similar result in Michigan’s future, with ESPN BET Michigan listing the Wolverines atop their CFP odds board, at +185 to win the program’s first title since that 1997 campaign.

For coach Jim Harbaugh and company, that road begins in the Granddaddy of Them All, when the No. 1 ranked Wolverines will look to take down the mighty Crimson Tide on New Year’s Day.  If you are looking to bet on any college football action, be sure to have Michigan sports betting promos handy.

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Christopher Boan is a staff writer for He has covered sports and sports betting for more than seven years and has worked for publications such as, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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