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Michigan State Spartans vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers Preview and Pick

Michigan State Spartans (4-4) (3-4 ATS) v. Minnesota Gophers (4-4) (3-5 ATS) Saturday, Oct. 31, 8pm ET, TCF Bank Stadium, Big Ten Network

by Evergreen of

Point Spread: Michigan State -3.5/Minnesota +3.5
Over/Under Total: 47

The fall weather has the leaves turning all over the country and the bowl prospects for many college football teams are starting to turn one way or another as well.  The Minnesota Golden Gophers welcome in the Michigan State Spartans to the Twin Cities for a primetime game that will send one team under .500 as both come in even at 4-4 overall.  Both teams have been up and down this season and both need a win to stay relevant when the Big Ten gets its bowl invitations.  The game kicks at 8pm ET and can be seen regionally on the Big Ten Network.

The line for this game opened with the Spartans as 6 point favorites, but has been bet down to -3.5 at most online sportsbooks.  Michigan State is typically -160 or -170 on the money line with Minnesota at +150 or so and the over/under total for the game is at or near 47.  The underdog has won seven of the last eight against the spread in this series with the last meeting coming in 2006 when the Gophers beat the Spartans 31-18.

Michigan State opened up the season in disappointing fashion, going 1-3 in the early going, but reeled off three wins in a row after that, including a 26-20 win versus Michigan.  That good run came to an end last week as Iowa clipped Sparty 16-13 on a TD pass as the clock switched to all zeros, but State has been a much improved team from the early part of the schedule.  On the road, Michigan State has fared well against the spread, winning 11 of their last 16 as visitors, but has struggled with the Gophers, going just 2-6 in the last eight games of the series.

Minnesota was sitting at 4-2 two weeks ago with solid efforts in their losses against Cal and Wisconsin, but has not looked good in the last two, losing at Penn State and Ohio State.  Neither of those games were supposed to produce an upset, but the Gophers managed just seven points total in those contests and look a little dead in the water offensively, especially with the loss of Eric Decker, out for the season with a leg injury.

Minnesota has not been helped by the home cooking recently either, losing five of the last seven against the spread at home, spanning both games at the Metrodome and the new TCF Stadium.

Offensively, Michigan State brings a nice balance to their attack, but is certainly stronger through the air, averaging 273 pass yards per contest, good for 22nd in the nation.  The backs add another 130 rushing yards and the team averages 27.2 points per game.  The kicking game could be a big plus for the Spartans this week as they are 5th in the NCAA with a 92% field goal conversion percentage.  The defense is adequate, holding the opposition to 20.8 points on average and allowing just over 100 yards on the ground, but can be beat through the air.

Kirk Cousins calls the signals for State and has had a nice season so far, completing 61% of his passes for 1,508 yards and throwing 10 touchdowns against 4 interceptions.  Larry Caper leads the team with six rushing scores and the combination of Blair White and B.J. Cunningham have accounted for 81 catches and all ten scores with no other receiver grabbing as many as 20 balls behind them.

Minnesota will have to get creative on offense in the absence of Decker, and they were already struggling with him in there, averaging just 292 total yards and 21.1 points per game.  The defense is average, but has had to be out there too much given the offensive woes and is currently giving up over 400 yards per game and 25 points on average.  The over had been a good bet in Gopher games recently, hitting in six of the last seven conference games, but that should backslide if they can’t put up consistent numbers.

Adam Weber takes the snaps for the Gophers and has hit the skids recently, throwing for zero touchdowns and five picks in the last five games.  On the year, he is completing less than 55% of his passes and now has 11 interceptions to go along with his six touchdowns.  Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge are now the best playmakers for Minnesota with the backs accounting for eight of the team’s ten rushing scores and the duo of Troy Stoudemire and Brandon Green will likely be saddled with the task of replacing Decker’s receiving duties.

Michigan State is reporting FB Josh Rouse, OL J’Micheal Deane, and S Trenton Robinson as questionable for the game due to injury with Minnesota reporting P Dan Oreseske as out due to illness in addition to the loss of Eric Decker.

Evergreen’s Pick:  It is too bad the Minnesota’s inaugural season in their new facility will likely end poorly amid inconsistent play and injury, and this week could be the worst one yet for Gopher fans.  The Spartans look like they are poised to go on a run despite the Hawkeye setback and have just too much offense in this match up.  Give the points and take State with the score in the 30-13 range…sorry Goldy.

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