No. 17 Michigan State Spartans (5-0 SU, 3-2 ATS) vs. No. 18 Michigan
Wolverines (5-0 SU, 3-2 ATS), Week 6 NCAA Football, 3:30 p.m. EST,
Saturday, October 9, 2010, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich., TV: ABC
by Badger of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: MSU +4.5/Mich -4.5
Over/Under Total: 64
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One of the biggest games in college football this Saturday will
feature a battle for bragging rights in the state of Michigan when
the undefeated and 17th-ranked Michigan State Spartans travel across the state to face the undefeated and 18th-ranked Michigan Wolverines in the Big House of Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
Both teams set up the showdown game by winning their Big Ten
Conference openers last weekend in impressive fashion.
Michigan State played its best game of the season so far last
Saturday when they toppled the previously unbeaten Wisconsin Badgers
at home, 34-24. Quarterback Kirk Cousins rebounded from two early
interceptions to lead the Spartans balanced offensive attack to 444
total yards, while the defense held the Badgers running game in check
for the big upset win. The victory opened a lot of eyes to the
Spartans, as they moved up to No. 17 in the APs Top-25 rankings and
one spot ahead of the Wolverines.
The Wolverines didnt necessarily impress many with the final score
in their 42-35 victory over the Indiana Hoosiers last Saturday, but
it was how they won the game that could prove to be a big turning
point for the Maize-n-Blue this season. After watching the Wolverine
defense get torched for big yards and the game-tying score with just
over a minute to play, the offense and Heisman-hopeful quarterback
Denard Robinson responded with a length of the field drive for the
game-winning touchdown with just 17 seconds remaining on the clock.
Now the two undefeated teams will lock horns this weekend in what is
easily the biggest game for the Wolverines during head coach Rich
Rodriguezs tenure at the school. It is equally important to the
Spartans too, as they continue to rally the troops in the face of all
of the health issues surrounding their coach Mark Dantonio.
The oddsmakers out in Las Vegas opened the game with the home team
Wolverines as 4-point favorites in the showdown. Most of the early
action has been on Michigan as well, so the point spread has moved up
to 4.5 or even 5 at a majority of the sportsbooks on the Internet,
although you can still find a few at 4 that have yet to move the
number in either direction.
The over/under total is as high as 64 or 64.5.
On paper, this game looks like it will go to the team that
establishes the running game early and plays from in front, but in
reality it might depend on which team is more successful throwing it.
Theres no denying the fact they both like to run because both teams
are ranked in the top 20 in yards per game on the ground with
Michigan State averaging 220.2 (20th) and the Wolverines topping out
at 324.4 on the ground (3rd).
But the Spartans pulled away from Wisconsin last weekend due in part
to the game Cousins played, throwing for 269 yards and three scores.
But what could be bigger for Cousins and the Spartans is how the
balance on offense helped the team convert on 3rd- (9-for-18) and 4th-
downs (2-for-3) in a tight ballgame.
Michigans Robinson has made remarkable improvement in his passing
skills over last season, and his stats are actually better than those
of Cousins overall with a better yards per catch average (10.5 ypc)
and three less interceptions. But its the style of Michigans
passing game that feeds off of defenses over-committing to the run,
and Robinson has taking advantage of those downfield mismatches this
year where he was unable to do it in his freshman season last year.
The total for this game is set so high because both defenses will be
facing their first major test this weekend.
In running off five wins the Wolverines have been tested on the
ground (vs. UConn) and in the air (vs. Bowling Green and ND), but not
at the same time with the balance the Spartans can bring to the table.
Likewise, the Spartans defense performed great last week against the
Badgers stretch and off-tackle schemes, but they have yet to face the
kind of dynamic running that Robinson is and the read-option run
attack the Wolverines present each week.
If one of these two defenses can step up to the challenge and make
the other teams offense one-dimensional, or if one team can get out
to a big early lead and dictate the play-calling of the other, it
might be the only way to keep these two offenses from turning this
game into a track meet.
Michigan State has won two straight game in the series, including
last years 26-20 victory at home in Spartans Stadium. The Spartans
have also covered in the last two games as well, but overall the
series has been a coin-flip for bettors with both teams entering
Saturdays game with 5-5 ATS marks over the last 10 games.
The favorite is a solid 4-0 ATS in the last four head-to-head, with
the road team playing the spoiler with a 5-2 ATS mark going back
through the last seven meetings.
The over wager is also forming a solid betting trend, going 7-3-1 in the last 11 head-to-head games, including a 4-1 mark in the last five games in the series played in the Big House of Michigan Stadium.
Badgers Pick: I must admit that I dont have a lot of conviction for either side in this game, but I am leaning toward Michigan for
two reasons: the Spartans played a great game and spent a lot to get
past Wisconsin last week, emotionally and physically, and are due a
letdown of sorts; the Wolverines are at home and playing in their
biggest game ever since Rich Rod recruited them all to play for the
Maize-n-Blue. The combo of those two factors has me leaning, so Im
going to take Michigan minus the 4-points at home this week.