Bar set low for Wolverines

As first impressions go, Rich Rodriguez has made a poor one in his first year as Michigan coach.

These are strange days for the Wolverines, who are looking at a 3-7 record and no bowl game for the first time since 1974. And now Michigan is only a 3-point home favorite over Northwestern. Strange indeed.

But today is the final home game for the Wolverines’ seniors, and the team has not quit. That was evident in last week’s dominant 29-6 victory at Minnesota that would have made late coach Bo Schembechler proud.

Michigan rushed for 232 yards and held Minnesota to eight first downs and 188 yards total offense to retain the Little Brown Jug.

Sophomore quarterback Nick Sheridan was an efficient 18-for-30 for 203 yards, and he will get the start, with freshman Steven Threet available as a backup.

Look for the Wolverines’ seniors to lead the way to a win and cover.

Other selections for today’s games (home team in CAPS):

Purdue (+18) over IOWA: The Boilermakers’ defense held Michigan State to 300 total yards in last week’s loss at East Lansing. Purdue quarterback Justin Siller will start, and he led his team to a 48-42 victory over Michigan by throwing for 266 yards. Senior Curtis Painter might be available for limited action. Iowa could be in for a letdown after its upset of Penn State.

Minnesota (+14) over WISCONSIN: The Badgers were able to beef up their stats against injury-riddled Indiana in last week’s 55-20 win. Minnesota will be without top wide receiver Eric Decker, but the Gophers can hang tough in this Big Ten rivalry game.

Notre Dame (-31/2) over Navy at Baltimore: It’s hard to believe this is a big game for the Fighting Irish, but that’s the reality. Navy snapped Notre Dame’s string of 43 consecutive wins in the series last year. The Irish (5-4) have lost two in a row, and coach Charlie Weis is feeling the heat. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen should be able to exploit a weak Navy secondary.

OREGON STATE (-3) over California: The Beavers control their destiny, needing to win their final three games to go to their first Rose Bowl since 1965. Starting quarterback Lyle Moevao is expected to return to the lineup, but Oregon State also has Sean Canfield, who led the team to last week’s win over UCLA. Cal plays its second straight road game after last week’s physical loss to Southern California.

OREGON (-51/2) over Arizona: The Ducks’ ground attack continues to roll, racking up 307 yards last week against Stanford and averaging 274 yards per game. Wildcats quarterback Willie Tuitama will struggle to run the spread offense at one of the loudest stadiums in the Pac-10.

Brigham Young (-4) over AIR FORCE: The Cougars still can win a share of the Mountain West title with wins in their final two games. Air Force struggles against BYU’s pass-happy attack that averages 315 yards per game. Look for Cougars quarterback Max Hall to have a big game.

Nebraska (-6) over KANSAS STATE: These programs are going in opposite directions. The Cornhuskers have won six games under first-year coach Bo Pelini, and Kansas State has been a disappointment with coach Ron Prince on his way out.

Last week: 4-3-1 against the spread

Season: 33-34-1

Barry Holthaus, a handicapper for VegasInsider.com, is providing college football analysis for the Review-Journal this season. He can be heard on “Leroy’s Sports Hour” at 10 p.m. Saturdays on KLAV-AM (1230).

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