Michigan State Spartans (8-0 SU, 2-6 ATS) vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-6 SU, 4-5 ATS)
NCAA Week 10
Date/Time: November 7th/7pm ET
Where: Memorial Stadium
by Evergreen, NCAA Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MSU -4.5/NEB +4.5
Over/Under Total: 58
Normally, a late season clash between Michigan State and Nebraska should have a lot of implications in the Big Ten, but there is really only one team with something on the line this weekend in Lincoln. The Spartans head to Nebraska to face the Cornhuskers this Saturday night with Sparty looking to stay perfect and strengthen their case to be included as a Top-4 College Football Playoff team. Nebraska has never gotten it on track this season under new coach Mike Riley and the Huskers are very likely to miss a bowl, something that has happened just twice since 1969. Memorial Stadium is a daunting venue and there is certainly pride left on the Husker sidelines so maybe Nebraska can play spoiler to Michigan States bid to stay undefeated.
It is not a familiar sight for Nebraska to be listed as a home dog but the online betting sites are in agreement with Michigan State as a 5.5 point favorite. The opening line of MSU -4.5 was quickly bet up and 58 is a near universal over/under total. While just 2-6 against the spread on the season, Michigan State is 5-2 ATS in their last seven conference games with Nebraska riding a four game ATS losing streak when they host a winning team.
It has not been clear sailing for the Spartans on their way to 8-0. The miracle punt attempt turned fumble recovery for TD at the end of the Michigan game is almost the only thing people have on their minds but MSU has survived a few more scrapes against lesser competition. Sparty struggled to beat Purdue by three early in the conference schedule and had all they could ask for during a seven point win at Rutgers. Those wins wont inspire a selection committee so it is in States best interest to put up a quality W this weekend like they did most recently in wasting Indiana by a 52-26 margin.
Nebraska has had its share of close games as well, but they havent been able to pull a single one out of the fire. The losses to BYU, Miami, Illinois and Wisconsin all had Nebraska ahead or tied in the fourth quarter but the Huskers inexplicably failed on each of those occasions. A 48-25 win at Minnesota broke that streak but a 30-28 loss against Northwestern followed and Nebraska was tossed a 55-45 loss at Purdue last week. The loss to Purdue is probably the worst effort Nebraska has put forth since joining the Big Ten with the Huskers allowing Purdue to convert on 50% of third and fourth down. Nebraska was down 42-16 before they appeared ready to actually play and even a furious second half left them down by 17 before they added a score in the final seconds.
Michigan State is not a flawless program but they are solid across the board. There arent any standout metrics on the offensive side of the ball but senior QB Connor Cook has led State on key drives so many times that you get the feeling the Spartans are at their best when the pressure is on. MSU enters the week averaging 33.4 points per game and that has been plenty room to let a stout defense go to work. Michigan State is a premier run-stopping team, allowing just 115 rushing yards per game and just 356 total yards on average. The Spartans and Cook should be able to take advantage a Nebraska pass defense that is allowing 315 yards per game but still look for plenty of LJ Scott on the ground as State looks to keep the Huskers honest.
The offense hasnt been the key culprit in Nebraskas losses and the Huskers own advantages over Michigan State in rushing, passing and total yards gained while averaging 33.3 points per game. A quick look at the defense shows where all the problems are however with Nebraska allowing 424 total yards and 28.1 points per game. The Blackshirts are just a fond memory at this point and even the 13th ranked run defense of Nebraska is skewed by teams simply throwing on a bumbling secondary. Bad tacking and a simple inability to get off the field on defense have put too much pressure on Tommy Armstrong, Jr. and while the versatile QB has performed well, there arent enough playmakers on the Husker offense to spread opponents out or score quickly. Terrell Newby is a highlight on the offensive side but the running back is questionable with an ankle injury as are depth receivers Brandon Reilly and Alonzo Moore. At some point, the realities of a lost season start to determine the status for injured players so keep an eye on who suits up for Nebraska, including Armstrong who is listed as probable but missed last week with a foot injury.
The vultures have circled Michigan States performances on many occasions but that only makes for a battle-tested team in the end. The Michigan game was the only one that truly goes down as a fluke but the Wolverines are much improved and MSU proved it could move on from that kind of emotion by throttling Indiana. I expect a very motivated Spartan team, one that is bent on making their case to be a playoff hopeful. If given the chance, they will put points on the board to make any win look as dominating as possible and that is a good thing when you are looking to dodge a backdoor cover. Nebraska has not been able to turn pride into wins and to be honest, pride is about all they have right now. I doubt there is anything Mike Riley can do at this point to fire the kids up and Nebraska is looking at staying home for the holidays. Michigan State will go about its business like we are used to seeing and Nebraska, while talented, will not be able to plug the holes in the defensive dam. I think it will be close through three quarters but the Spartans stay clean and beat the Huskers 34-21.
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Michigan State
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