Florida Atlantic Owls (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS) vs. No. 17 Michigan State Spartans (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS), 12:00 p.m. EST, Week 2 NCAA Football, Saturday, September 10, 2011, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich., TV: ESPN2
by Badger, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: FAU +32/MSU -32
Over/Under Total: 50
With one week already in the books the 17th-ranked Michigan State Spartans are going to continue to build toward a showdown next week at Notre Dame, but first they must get past the Florida Atlantic Owls this Saturday in Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.
The Spartans were less than convincing in their, 28-6, victory in the season opener over Youngstown State, struggling at times against the FCS-school while playing very sloppy football (8 penalties) on both sides of the ball. The Spartans and coach Mark Dantonio are hoping Florida Atlantic turns out to be the tune up they need in order to clean things up for the trip to South Bend.
The Owls will be coming off of a game to forget in their opener last week, losing to the in-state rival Florida Gators in a landslide, 41-3. Now Florida Atlantic will try and avenge a loss to the Spartans from last year in old Lockhart Stadium, a task that will still be large for the Owls even if they catch the Spartans looking ahead to the Notre Dame game.
Just how large a task it will be for the Owls can be derived from the opening point spread, as oddsmakers in and around Las Vegas listed the Spartans as huge 33-points favorites early in the week. The number has since dropped to 32 at a majority of the sportsbooks in Vegas and on the Web, with early money all over the underdog in this game.
The over/under total opened at 50 on Wednesday, but hasnt had enough time to move in either direction yet.
Michigan States offense looked exactly like what they should be all season balanced and efficient. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was accurate en route to 222 yards and two touchdowns, running backs Edwin Baker (91 yards) and LeVeon Bell (40 yards, 2 TD) ran with authority and returning wideout B.J. Cunningham also kicked in with a nice game (130 yards, TD) to give the Spartans plenty of that balance in the opening win.
Florida Atlantic on the other hand struggled against the Gators on offense, gaining just 11 first downs all game and a measly 137 total yards. Its a little puzzling because the Owls do return some nice players in QB Graham Wilbert and RB Alfred Morris, but the offensive unit as a whole struggled with the Gators team speed and just never got any momentum going.
The Spartans defense might not be as good as the Gators were, but they should have plenty for the Owls to handle as they did limit Youngstown St. to 254 yards of total offense and just six points. If there is an area of weakness it might be the run defense, since the Penguins ran for 128 yards on the ground and a 3.8 yards per carry average.
The good news for the young and raw Owls defense is that they did force three turnovers on the Gators last weekend. The bad is that they were abused on about every other play to the tune of 468 yards of total offense including 271 yards passing and a 6-yard per carry average on the ground. The run defense is something Florida Atlantic will get plenty of work on this week, because you know Baker and Bell are chomping at the bit to get carries against this defense on Saturday.
Last years game in Boca Raton was not as close as the 30-17 score would indicate, since the Spartans were comfortably in front by double digits almost the entire game. Michigan State also ran for 231 yards in last years game (at an 8.3 ypc clip), so expect the Spartan offensive staff to just recycle the play script from last season again this year.
Florida Atlantic covered in last years game as huge 26-point underdogs, something that they really dont do that well since they are just 9-23 ATS in their last 32 games as a road dog.
The under has several strong betting trends for this game, with Florida Atlantic finishing under in ten of their last 11 games on grass and the under is also 4-1 in their last five against a Big Ten Conference opponent. The under is also 4-1 in the Spartans last five home games as a favorite, and its also 17-8 in the last 25 games as a home favorite of 10.5-points or greater.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This game has way too many points to chase to try and pick a side. It all depends on how quick Dantonio calls off the dawgs, because the Owls wont be much of a match for the Spartans. If I bet anything on this game, Id bet on the over because the Spartans might get to it by themselves in order to feel good about themselves going into Notre Dame week. Take the over of 50.
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