No. 5 Michigan State Spartans (11-1 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes (12-0 SU, 7-5 ATS)
College Football Week 14
Date/Time: Saturday December 5th, 8:00PM EST
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium Indianapolis, I.N.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MSU -3/Iowa +3
Over/Under Total: 52.5
One of the most interesting games of the weekend will take place inside Lucas Oil Stadium when the no. 5 Michigan State Spartans meet the no. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes for the Big Ten Championship. The stakes for the Big Ten Championship Game are perhaps bigger than any other around the country this Saturday simply because the team that wins will lock their selves into the College Football Playoffs.
The Hawkeyes have been perfect on the season with a 12-0 record but some may argue that they have had an easier scheduled throughout the season. Meanwhile Michigan State despite a loss to Nebraska, has scored multiple quality wins against Michigan, Oregon, and Ohio State. Several cases could be made for both teams entering this Saturdays showdown in Indianapolis. Luckily for this playoff scenario, it will be decided on the gridiron when both teams square off for a chance at the playoffs.
The good news for the Spartans is that they are healthy once again at the quarterback position. Quarterback Connor Cook returned last week after a shoulder injury to hit 19 of his 26 passes for 248 yards and 3 touchdowns in his final start inside Spartan Stadium. The Spartans actually proved they could win without Cook just a week ago when backup quarterback Tyler OConnor led the Spartans in a huge 17-14 victory over Ohio State. However, the Spartans are still a more complete offense with Cook under center and his return means Michigan State should have the bulk of their firepower back for this Saturdays game.
Offensively, the Spartans still rely heavily on their ground game which is averaging 159 yards per game. Running backs LJ Scott and Gerald Holmes have shared touches this season to combine for 18 touchdowns and an average of 5 yards per carry. However, it is still the Spartans passing offense that gives them flexibility to attack Iowas defense with different looks. WR Aaron Burbridge has had an outstanding year with 75 catches resulting in 1,158 yards and 7 touchdowns. There is no doubt that the Hawkeyes have a tough defense as they rank 21st overall giving up just 331 yards per game. However, it will be interesting to see if they can match Michigan States toughness up front and simultaneously stop the passing attack when Cook is put in passing situations.
For the Hawkeyes, they will present an interesting matchup with the Michigan State defense. Iowas offense keeps the ball on the ground at a near 2 to 1 clip to average over 200 yards per game. The Hawkeyes have a couple of talented runners in Jordan Canzeri and LeShun Daniels. The two running backs have shared carriers to combine for more than 5 yards per carry totaling nearly 1,500 rushing yards with 20 touchdowns on the season. However, it will be interesting to see if Iowa can sustain that type of success running the football this weekend against Mark Dantonios Spartan defense.
The Spartanss defense has not been quite as strong as years past but they are still very respectable ranking 27th in the FBS yielding just 349 total yards per game. However, this defense still has a few holes and it will be interesting to see if Iowas relentless ground game can wear down this Michigan State defense. However, my concerns surround what happens if Michigan State does answer the bell against Iowas rushing attack.
A lot of times these championship games late in the season are defensively oriented which does not favor the offensive side of the football. If that dogma holds true, Iowa will have to put their offense on the arm of quarterback C.J Beathard. Beathard has not been bad with a season passing line of 60.7% for 2,354 yards with 14 scores and 3 picks. However, I am not convinced that he can lead the Hawkeyes to a victory in a game of this magnitude with Michigan States defense bearing down on the run. For that reason and a few others, I think the Spartans take care of business and win this game convincingly.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Michigan State -3
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