BYU Cougars (2-3 SU, 4-1 ATS) vs. Michigan State Spartans (2-2 SU, 1-3 ATS)
College Football Week 6
Date/Time: Saturday, October 8 at 3:30pm ET
Where: Spartan Stadium
by Evergreen, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: BYU +6/MSU -6
Over/Under Total: 49.5
Man, we’ve marched right through half of the college football schedule already and it feels like we are just getting started. Several teams have answered the pre-season expectations and revealed themselves as contenders but a whole other set of teams are teetering on the brink of irrelevance after early losses. BYU heads to East Lansing this weekend to face Michigan State with both teams pretty desperate for a win. There has been good and bad for each team in their games thus far and the pressure is on to right their respective wrongs this weekend or exit week six with a losing record.
Tight games have been common for these teams so far this year and it is shaping up to be another close one with the online betting sites liking Michigan State as six point favorites. The line opened at -4.5 but was bet quickly to where it sits now and the over/under total is at 49, give or take a half point. The Cougars are 3-0 against the spread when listed as the underdog this season and are 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall. That loss came last week but BYU has rebounded well of late, going 5-1 against the spread in the week following an ATS loss. Michigan State is looking to reverse a trend that has seen them go just 1-6 ATS in the last seven non-conference games.
Brigham Young fans have been treated to five thrillers already. No BYU game has been decided by more than three points with four games featuring BYU scores with less than a minute left. The Cougars two wins have come on last second field goals, including last week’s 55-53 win over Toledo. Week two saw BYU score late at Utah and go for two unsuccessfully to drop a 20-19 decision. They have proved resilient as well in erasing 16+ point deficits to UCLA and West Virginia but couldn’t get the W in either of those games. The Cougars aren’t exactly a winning team at this point but they are certainly tested and appear comfortable playing in the close games.
It has been hard to get a handle on who Michigan State is this year. They should be good but they looked flat in an opening win against Furman and were outclassed at home by a good but not great Wisconsin team. They dropped a 24-21 overtime decision at Indiana last week after leading 14-0 late and have allowed their opponents to convert on 50% of third downs the last two weeks. Their only stretch of good football came in the first half against Notre Dame and it appears like there are more questions than answers in East Lansing. That is a scary though with Michigan and Ohio State still on the schedule.
The weak spot on BYU’s defense is the secondary with the Cougars allowing 310 passing yards per game. That has to be the focus for MSU QB Tyler O’Connor but the passing game has been spotty for the Spartans for most of the year. O’Connor has been reasonably efficient in hitting on 60% of his throws but he has five interceptions and the big plays have been few and far between. The running game has been pedestrian with LJ Scott averaging just 4.5 yards per carry and when you add it all up, the Spartans are averaging 22.8 points per game, good for 105th in the country. The Michigan State defense has suffered late in games as the offensive woes have put them on the field with short rest and that is a bad recipe against a BYU team that likes to play comeback.
BYU trots out fifth-year senior QB Taysom Hill and he represents a tough matchup for Michigan State. Hill has been reckless with the pass this season, throwing seven interceptions, but is slippery on the scramble and is second on the team with 221 rushing yards and two scores. Jamaal Williams is averaging 6.6 yards per carry and has eight touchdowns on the ground to lead the team. He needs a little over 200 more yards to become the all-time leading rusher in BYU history but he faces a stiff test with MSU allowing just 105 rushing yards per game. The BYU O-line v. the MSU D-line is the swing matchup this weekend, especially in how it relates to potential 3rd down conversions for the Cougars. BYU doesn’t have a standout playmaker in the passing game but five different Cougars have at least 12 receptions and 112 yards. Hill spreads the ball around nicely with all five of his touchdown passes going to different receivers. The Spartans have been thrown on and enter the week ranked 77th in passing yards allowed.
Michigan State is flailing a bit after consecutive losses and there is noise in East Lansing about the performance level, especially at quarterback. There were many that thought the Spartans were just a step behind Michigan and Ohio State but it doesn’t appear as if that was a correct assessment now. BYU is one of those teams that make you earn it. They play good special teams, protect the ball and play penalty-free for the most part. Michigan State doesn’t look elite in any phase of the game and are in a lot of trouble if they lose this weekend. I think they get their act together and win this one behind a solid overall effort but they won’t get too far away from the Cougars at any point. MSU goes to 3-2 overall but take BYU and the points with this game ending with a 26-23 kind of final.
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: BYU
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