Heading into the 2021 Big 10 college football season, the Ohio State Buckeyes are again heavy favorites to take the title. They did so last year in a strange college football season that had to be altered due to the COVID19 pandemic. In 2021, players, coaches, fans, and sports bettors are looking for everything to return back to normal.

While it pains Michigan college football fans to see Ohio State stands as the heavy favorite at -167 to win the Big 10 Championship, there is more interest in evaluating the state’s most-watched rivalry, that being the Michigan Wolverines vs the Spartans of Michigan State. For the record, current betting odds per the Vegas Insider website shows Michigan State at +700 (2nd on the list) and Michigan listed at huge odds of +2500.

Let’s take an in-depth look at what to expect from these two teams in 2021. It’s the 2021 College Football season Wolverines vs Spartans preview special.

The Michigan Wolverines

It would be a gross understatement to say that the Wolverines had a tough 2020 season. With a record of 2-4 in a COVID shortened season, it sure wasn’t what Head Coach Jim Harbaugh had in mind. Even after last year’s struggles, Harbaugh was rewarded with a contract extension through the 2025 season.

With the pressure off for the coming season, the coach is going to have to figure out how to right this ship. At odds of +2500 to win the Big 10 title, the betting public and bookmakers are very skeptical of his chances of fixing things in 2021.

After starting off last year with a huge 49-27 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers, it looked the prospects for the season were good. It was an illusion as the wheels quickly came off with Michigan going 1-4 the rest of the way. It was the kind of season where the players looked unprepared on both sides of the ball.

This year, we should see a return to form for the Wolverines, at least somewhat. It’s probably going to be the kind of season where they beat up on the lower-tiered teams and struggle with the big boys. The good news is it will be a young team that should get better as the season progresses.

After sharing QB duties last year as a Sophomore, Case McNamara appears to have a good shot at landing the starting QB spot. His only real competition will likely come from true Freshman J.J. McCarthy who comes aboard after being the #2-ranked pro-style quarterback in the nation last year.

Where the Wolverines really need to improve is in the running game and on defense. Last year, they were ranked 154th in the nation with just over 131 rushing yards per game. That won’t get in done in Ann Arbor or the Big 10. The good news is last year’s leading rusher was then Junior Hassan Haskins, who should be able to improve on his meager 62 yards per game rushing with 6 TDs.

While Harbaugh has a good mix of veterans and youth on offense, the coach really needs to focus on a defense that gave up more than 34 PPG last year. The passing defense was particularly bad, recording a total of 8 sacks and 2 interceptions for the season,

If the young kids perform on offense and the defense can get more aggressive, the Wolverines will be looking at the possibility of an 8-4 season at best.

The Michigan State Spartans

In Mel Tucker’s first season in East Lansing, the Spartans were arguably one of the worst teams in the Big 10. They finished the season at 2-5 with the only wins being a road victory against the rival Wolverines and an upset of #14 Northwestern at home. To blame was an offense that ranked 166th in the nation and was only able to score 18 PPG.

Coach Tucker had a lot of slots to fill due to graduation and transfers and to his credit, he was able to nab a few quality transfers of his own from some Power Five.

With all the new blood coming in, it will likely take a few games before the coach has a realistic idea of what he has to work with. That could be a problem with three of last year’s nationally ranked schools on the schedule in the first six games.

With none of the returning players on offense able to impress when given the chance last year, it looks like Temple transfer Anthony Russo might land the starting QB role with fellow transfers Kenneth Walker III (Wake Forest) and Harold Joiner III (Auburn) joining him in the backfield.

With Michigan State slated to play all of the best teams in the Big 10, plus a very good Miami of Florida team, it’s hard to imagine why the bookmakers have the Spartans at +700. There’s a good chance that with a possible record of 5-7, Tucker’s team might not even get a bowl bid much less compete for a Big 10 Championship.

Verdict: With both of these teams likely to play second fiddle to Bog 10 teams like Ohio Stats, Northwestern, and even a surprising Indiana, fans had best keep their expectations low. As far as the Wolverines vs Spartans, the oddsmakers have it wrong. It’s far more likely the Wolverines (with the easier schedule) will be bowl-bound while the Spartans will be trying to build for next year