Michigan State Spartans (6-0 SU, 0-6 ATS) vs. Michigan Wolverines (5-1 SU, 4-2 ATS)
College Football Week 7
Date/Time: Saturday, October 17, 2015 at 3:30PM EST
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan
By Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MSU +8/MICH-8
Over/Under Total: 40.5
The Michigan State Spartans come into Ann Arbor on Saturday to face the Michigan Wolverines in a massive Big Ten Battle. The 7th ranked Spartans are 6-0, but as evidenced by not covering the spread once this season, they have been a disappointment, with a few close escapes against conference doormats. Michigan, ranked 12th, has rebounded magnificently since a week 1 road loss to Utah, scoring 5 straight wins, including a 38-0 win over 13th ranked and unbeaten Northwestern last week.
There have been teams that got off to rough starts this season, before rebounding strongly, but not to the extent that Michigan has. Since losing to Utah, who is ranked 4th right now by the way, the Wolverines are 5-0, having outscored opponents 160-14. Hows that for a turnaround? Want to take it a step further? In their last three games, they have scored three shutout wins! In that span includes two shutout wins over ranked opposition, something only a small handful of teams have done in one season in the history of college football. So its safe to say that the Jim Harbaugh-engineered revamp of this team has taken hold pretty quickly. And its times like this where its hard to remember that last season, Michigan could barely do anything right.
Beating Northwestern last week was an eye-opener. Jehu Chesson returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and it was all downhill from there. Jordan Lewis returned an interception for a touchdown. And unlike the Wolverines of recent seasons, they were able to run the ball well, with both quarterback Jake Rudock and Derrick Lewis running for touchdown scores. RB DeVeon Smith made some nice runs and the Wolverines had over 200 yards on the ground. Opening the season, the offense was the major sticking point and theyre playing quite wellmore than good enough for a defense that is allowing nothing to opposing offenses. Four of their 5 wins have come at Ann Arbor, where theyve been dug in waiting for this massive matchup.
While Harbaughs handiwork has certainly been felt on the defensive side of the ball, the offense is still a work-in-progress. Rudock has been serviceable as starting quarterback. His stats arent terribly impressive, but he relies on a good ground game that features Smith, Chesson, Drake Johnson and Ty Isaac. Amara Darboh, TE Jake Butt, and AJ Williams are getting it done aerially, while the offensive line does its job. Theyve been putting up about 30 points a game. Michigan State looks to put a stop to that on Saturday.
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Whereas Michigan has been impressing with their performances; the Spartans keep dropping in the rankings, now at 7th after being as high as 2nd. Theyre barely beating teams they should be massacring. And by not covering any spreads, they have bettor confidence very low. Since beating then-seventh-ranked Oregon, Michigan State has labored, beating Purdue by 3 at home in a bad display two weeks ago, before coming from behind to beat Rutgers on Saturday.
Is it possible that theres another way of looking at it? Sure, the Spartans have looked shabby by their standards, but they are 6-0. They havent lost like Michigan has. And after beating Oregon, maybe they had this game circled and overlooked some of their foes this season. We cant be so sure that the Michigan State weve been seeing all season is the same Michigan State we will be seeing on the field on Saturday. This is a huge game for them too and a win here would give their 2015 cause some CFP clout.
Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook has 12 TD throws and just 3 picks. The Spartans aerial attack isnt bristling, but Cook and his receivers are able to get chains moving, as they set up a robust run game led my Madre London (questionable) and LJ Scott. But even the really good Michigan State teams are not ones that will typically blow you away on offense. Theyre usually a pretty low-key group. But make no mistakewatching them struggle against the teams theyve been playing has been a letdown and could cost them against a Michigan D that has registered three straight shutouts.
This is a spot we come across at different points in the season, where the takeaway or the obvious conclusion is almost too convenient. When betting on football, we need to be careful when we arrive at a conclusion a little too easily. The way most people are going to look at this game is that you have a Michigan team peaking against an utter disappointment in Michigan State that is laboring in close games with the likes of Purdue and Rutgers. Not that this perspective doesnt hold any water. After all, Michigan has looked dynamite in recent weeks, while Michigan State is struggling and certainly not doing anything good from a betting standpoint. But we often see how things are never as easy as they seem.
When a team looks bad, then turns it around suddenly and dramatically, its possible for the reverse backlash to be over-compensatory. People were thinking the Harbaugh rebuild was going to take a long time to manifest, so when it took hold immediately after the Utah loss, people may have gone overboard. While three shutouts in three games is nothing to sneeze at, imagine the faces of people in week one if you had said Michigan would be an 8-point favorite for this game. And while that scenario is certainly plausible, it seems to be a bit dismissive to Michigan State, who is after all, 6-0. Im taking the points.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Michigan State Spartans plus 8 points.
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