Wisconsin Badgers (3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS) vs. Michigan State Spartans (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS)
College Football Week 4
Date/Time: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 12pm ET
Where: Spartan Stadium
by Evergreen, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: WISC +5.5/MSU -5.5
Over/Under Total: 43
The familiar foe often brings out the best in a football team. Sometimes that foe also brings out the nastier side of things and in the Big Ten, that makes for some old-fashioned, heavyweight fights. The Wisconsin Badgers head to East Lansing this Saturday to open the conference season against the Michigan State Spartans. Someone is going home with their first loss of the season and that could be the start of a bad run with both teams facing Michigan and Ohio State later in the year. The Spartans were able to survive the B10 East and win the Big Ten Championship but their hopes of defending could take a big hit against a Badger team that has shown the ability to knock off any opponent.
The Badgers and Spartans have had some classic games in recent history but this is the first times these schools will meet since October of 2012. Michigan State is a 5.5 point favorite and defense is predicted to carry the day with a rather low total of 43 for the over/under. Wisconsin enters the week 4-1 against the spread in their last five games overall and 6-2 ATS in the last eight against an opponent with a winning record. Like I said, it has been a while since these two have squared off but Michigan State has won the last four against the spread.
Wisconsin came charging out the gates in the opener and pulled the 16-14 upset of LSU in Green Bay. An easy win against Akron in week two made it look like the Badgers were on cruise control but Bucky had all it could handle last week against Georgia State. UW actually trailed 17-13 in the fourth quarter before finishing off the Panthers, 23-17. Starting QB Bart Houston was pulled in favor of redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook and it appears that Hornibrook will get the start this weekend after providing a spark to the offense. The Wisconsin remains legit, even after losing a couple of starters to injury through three weeks. They are the top Big Ten defense in terms of yards allowed and have given up just 13.7 points per game, good for 17th in the country.
Michigan State hasnít shown all its cards yet with just two games played. They looked great last week for most of the 36-28 win against Notre Dame in South Bend but were flat as 37.5 favorites in their 28-13 opening win against Furman. That early bye leaves a little mystery to just exactly who the Spartans are this year but we know they are not going to stray from their proven model of running the ball on offense and playing strong D.
I think the swing matchup is the Wisconsin offense versus the Michigan State defense. The Badgers have had some good balance, averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground and through the air but the efficiency has been lacking. Too many Badger drives have stalled after good starts and the ground game hasnít been picking up the big chunks like we have seen so many times in years past. Corey Clement is battling an ankle injury and is questionable for the game. Taiwan Deal and Bradrick Shaw area also banged up, leaving Dare Ogunbowale as the only healthy Badger running back. MSU has a wall of a defensive line that has given up just 144 rushing yards to this point so it looks like Wisconsin will have to be good through the air keep the ball moving. Both Houston and Hornibrook have had their moments with both completing a high percentage but the over-the-top throws are few and far between. Tight end Troy Fumagalli is questionable with a leg injury and he represents one of the toughest defensive assignments for the passing game. The Badgers could be very limited in their gameplan based on how all the injuries progress.
On offense, Michigan State has gotten good production from Tyler OíConnor. The senior QB has completed 73% of his passes in the early going, throwing for 431 yards and five touchdowns. He spreads the ball around well with five different MSU receivers splitting those touchdown receptions and OíConnor is a tough runner that is not afraid to use his legs to pick up a key first down. LJ Scott is grinder at running back, getting stronger as the game goes on and he has found the endzone twice already. The Badgers defense is giving up just 82 yards on the ground and 178 through the air so it wonít be smooth sailing for the Spartans but MSU is the most complete offense Wisconsin has faced thus far.
I donít think there are going to be a lot of surprises in this game. Both teams are going to stick with the plan on offense by starting with the run and trying to soften up very strong defenses. Alex Hornibrook has tough assignment for his first collegiate start but he followed Paul Chryst to Wisconsin so there is something this offensive system that fits well with him under center. Wisconsin fumbled going into the endzone and missed a short field goal last week to let Georgia State stay in the game. It was a very clean game overall however with the Badgers committing zero penalties and I see them coming out in a similar fashion to the LSU game this Saturday. Michigan State jumped out huge against the Irish but allowed 21 straight points after going up 36-7. I donít they are hitting on all cylinders and while the offense is productive, I donít see them as overly dynamic and able to pull away from a top-notch defense. Wisconsin is too banged up to do anything special on offense either so maybe the under is the best play here but Iím taking the Badgers and the 5.5 with a prediction of a 23-20 Michigan State win.
Evergreenís Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Wisconsin
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