Air Force Falcons (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS) vs. Michigan State Spartans (2-0 SU, 0-2 ATS)
NCAA Football Week 3
Date/Time: September 19/12pm ET
Where: Spartan Stadium
by Evergreen, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: AF +26.5/MSU -26.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
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There have been so many upsets and close shaves for Top-25 NCAA football teams in the early going that it is starting to feel like the dial-a-win programs are forgetting they are supposed to be jobbing for the big boys. While I am mostly kidding there, the service academies always put up the best effort when they go against any opponent and that will certainly be true this week as the Air Force Falcons take on Michigan State in East Lansing. Of course, the Air Force remains the polar opposite of the kind of offense its name would suggest and brings the 2nd ranked ground game into Spartan Stadium. Michigan State is fresh off what is likely the biggest win in all of College Football this season after downing Oregon last week and the Spartans will be keen to avoid a letdown game.
Michigan State moved to No.4 in the AP poll after last weeks win and the online betting sites like them as 26.5 point favorites against Air Force. The Falcons have done well against non-conference foes of late, with four ATS wins in their last four such games. That luck has not extended away from home however with Air Force just 2-7 ATS in their last nine road games. Sparty is 7-3 against the spread in their last 10 at home and have 18 ATS wins in their last 27 games overall.
You absolutely know what you are going to get when Air Force plays and that is simply a ton of rushing attempts. The Falcons are averaging 411 yards on the ground after two weeks and their 63-7 opening win against Morgan State featured 16 players with at least one rushing attempt. Nate Romine is the Falcon QB and is reportedly one of the best passers to man the position in some time but he has attempted just 18 passes in two games. He is an accomplished runner and joins D.J. Johnson and Jacobi Owens to form the main running attack. The trio has accounted for 417 yards and 5 touchdowns through two contests.
You get much more balance with Michigan States offense, led by QB Connor Cook. MSU has had a reputation of steady and smart play from their quarterbacks in recent year and Cook enters the week with four touchdown passes against one interception. Madre London and LJ Scott lead a two-headed backfield with both ball carriers averaging over 5.2 yards per carry and two touchdowns. Cook has a playmaker in senior WR Aaron Burbridge who leads the team with 12 catches for 218 yards. That talent and balance will be tough for the Air Force defense to contain and while the Falcons have given up just 242 yards on average, they are taking a major step up in quality of opponent.
Michigan States defense has done what it needed to do in two wins but has given up points. Western Michigan passed its way to 24 and Oregon notched 28 on 432 total yards. Air Force doesnt possess the firepower of the Ducks or even the Broncos but they will fearlessly line up and take on MSUs front seven. The Spartans have allowed just 70.5 rush yards per game but that has more to do with opponent scheme and gameflow than sheer dominance.
I think the Spartans breeze to a straight up win this weekend but the betting outcome rests with Air Forces ability to put points on the board and the overall effort of MSU. If Michigan State has any big-win hangovers or lapses of concentration, early or late, expect the Falcons to take advantage. Service academies are notorious for exploiting the smallest failures by their opponents and it wouldnt surprise anyone if Sparty is a bit sloppy after a huge primetime game. If the Falcons get 14 on the board, it will be a tough task for Michigan State to come up with the 41 it will take to cover the spread. Air Force runs so much no matter the score that MSU might not have time to score 41 as the Falcons keep the clock running nearly non-stop.
Michigan State has become a trendy pick to sneak in the College Football Playoff and they are understandably looking forward to those bigger and better things. They wont completely overlook Air Force in this one but I think the MSU performance will be just a bit off and that will let the Falcons get some traction in this game. Holding MSU to a couple of field goals might even be enough to swing this one and it is bad form to run up the score against a service academy do dont look for Sparty to be pushing the pace at the end if they are up 20. There are a lot of intangibles going in this one but add it all up and I think you are looking at an 0-3 ATS start for Michigan State. MSU 35 AF 10
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Air Force
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