Michigan State Spartans (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS) vs. Michigan Wolverine (4-0 SU, 2-2 ATS)
College Football Week 6
Date and Time: Saturday, October 7 at 7:30pm ET
Where: Michigan Stadium
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MSU +10/MICH -10
Over/Under Total: 41
We are creeping up on the halfway point of the NCAA Football season and the conference play really starts to separate the contenders from the pretenders. We get another edition of the Michigan State v. Michigan rivalry this week and it is a very big game for both teams. The Spartans are off to a nice 3-1 start but are taking a decided step up in competition this week and they leave East Lansing for the first time this season. Michigan was dealt a blow as their starting QB Wilton Speight suffered a back injury against Purdue and that could derail what has been a perfect start to the season. MIchigan State has won seven of the last nine in this series straight up, going 9-0 against the spread over that span. Michigan did get a win in East Lansing last year and look to make it back-to-back Ws with both teams coming off bye weeks.
The opening line for this game had Michigan as 12.5 point favorites but the early action has pushed the spread to ten points at nearly every online betting site. Apparently the Wynn knows something everyone else doesnt as they have Michigan at -14, so we will see how prophetic they are with that trend-breaking line. About 53% of the public money has come in on MSU as ten point dogs with the over/under total set at 41 and a half. This matchup features the #1 and #4 defenses in terms of yards allowed so the under is screaming to be taken. The Sagarin Computers have Michigan as the 13th rated school with Michigan State at 27th so this is one of the better pairing of the weekend by metrics and history. The Sagarin offense-defense predictor is calling for a 16-10 Wolverine win.
This game is absolutely vital to Michigan States relevance on the national stage. Sparty still has Ohio State and Penn State on the schedule and an 0-3 record against the top of the conference will define the season regardless of outcome in the other games. State was able to win three in a row from 2013-2015 but Michigan flexed its muscle and led 30-10 before allowing two late scores. This game was scheduled to be similarly easy for the Wolverines but the Speight injury complicates things greatly. John OKorn came on in relief against Purdue and led scoring drives but the Michigan offense was barely above average with Speight so any loss of production could be dangerous for the Wolverines prospects. OKorn did have a week to work with the first team and that will help but a starting assignment against the 8th ranked passing defense is not a great way to jump into the starting role.
Michigan State brings an advantage in all yardage gained categories on offense but their efficiency has not been up to par and their 24.5 points per game is nearly outside the top-100 in the nation. Brian Lewerke is a talented signal-caller and the single most important player on the field this week. He has thrown for 983 yards and eight touchdowns but also leads the team with 248 rushing yards, adding two more scores on the ground. Michigan will clearly focus on limiting the damage Leweke can do with his legs and State is cooked if their QB underperforms. LJ Scott is a veteran runner for the Spartans but is rather plodding at 3.7 yards per carry and now runs against the top-ranked run defense in the land. The Wolverines are allowing under 70 rushing yards per game so it may come down to the MSU passing game to move the ball at all. Lewerke has a good option in Felton Davis III who leads the team in catches, yards and touchdowns but only one other pass-catcher has grabbed more than ten passes. The Lewerke to Davis connection will likely have beat some double coverage by the Wolverines to stay productive.
Chances are, Michigan will try to absorb the Speight loss by running the ball even more than they had been. They ground out 44 rushing attempts to salt things away against the Boilermakers and another heavy carry load is in store for the three-headed Michigan backfield. Ty Isaac leads the team in carries and yards but Chris Evans and Karan Higdon both have multiple rushing scores and the Wolverines can punish the opposing defense with fresh legs all game. Michigan State has a top-20 rush defense but I cant imagine the Wolverines not putting that through a full test before going to the pass. Four different receivers have caught a touchdown pass for Michigan but no one has emerged to be a reliable, go-to receiver thus far and no one has likely developed a rhythm with OKorn just yet. I think there are only a few ways to cut this game up and all point to a trench fight with both teams looking to force the other to consistently stop the run.
Interestingly perhaps, I dont see a big advantage for Michigan simply because they are at home. Michigan State has plenty of experience in the Big House and Michigan is riding a 2-5 ATS streak in their last seven in Ann Arbor. They are also 0-5 against the spread coming off the bye so they havent taken advantage of extra reps either. During the current 9-game ATS win streak by MSU, four of those came at Michigan Stadium.
A special teams play or key turnover has the potential to swing this game either way but a straight up contest probably sees Michigan as a seven point winner. Lewerke might be the biggest swing player in the game but Michigan has depth in the backfield and the attitude to grind out a win. The Wolverines will rally around their back-up QB and OKorn is not some weak-in-the-knees freshman. There will be enough Michigan production to get the win but I think ten is too many points to lay given how hard Michigan State goes after their in-state rival. The MSU bye week was likely filled with wrinkles that Michigan will not have seen on tape and that prep could go a long way to the Spartans potential upset bid. Ultimately, it is a nervous night for Wolverine fan but they go home happy after a 20-14 win.
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Michigan State. Bet it for FREE by taking advantage of a 50% welcome bonus offered to new players at Bovada Sportsbook