No. 4 Michigan State Spartans (5-0 SU, 0-5 ATS) vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-2 SU, 1-3 ATS)
College Football Week 6
Date/Time: Saturday, October 10, 2015, 8 pm EST
Where: High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.
TV: Big Ten Network (BTN), DirecTV 610
by Badger, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MSU -15/RUTG +15
Over/Under Total: 51
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The 4th-ranked Michigan State Spartans may have a bit of a chip on their shoulders this weekend when they travel to High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, N.J., to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in conference battle on the Big Ten Network.
The Spartans fell in the polls this week due to a less-then-expected margin of victory over Purdue in their Big Ten opener last weekend, 24-21, as 23-point favorites at home in East Lansing. With injuries starting to mount up as high as the lofty expectations, Michigan State has to travel to New Jersey to take on a feisty Rutgers team this week with the hopes of getting back into the eye of pollsters.
Rutgers snapped a two-game losing streak on the same field two weekends ago in a win over lowly Kansas, 27-14, but the Knights have had the extra bye week to prepare for their battle with Sparty. Of course, Rutgers has been rocked this season by scandal including the suspension of head coach Kyle Flood, players arrests and now the announcement on Tuesday the week leading up the Scarlet Knights biggest game thus far this season that Rutgers University hired a law firm to deal with potential NCAA violations in the football program. Saturday cannot come fast enough for the Knights this week.
What is almost as interesting as the off the field issues at Rutgers these days is the roller coaster ride the betting line has already taken for Saturdays game. The game opened originally with Michigan State as 17-point favorites on the road, but within a matter of hours the betting line dropped all the way down to minus -14 at some of the bigger offshore sportsbooks on the Web. When books in Las Vegas opened up shop, they opened with the Spartans as 15-point favorites, and there are still some sportsbooks that have gone back up (or never came down) at -16 for this game, despite the fact that a strong majority of the money is still coming in on Michigan State.
I know the pollsters didnt take too kindly to Michigan State struggling a little with Purdue last week, but there were still plenty of positives that continue to look good for the Spartans. Namely, their running game, with L.J. Scott and Madre London getting 47 carries for 267 yards the Spartans still have one of the best run offense in the conference. Senior QB Connor Cook has yet to emerge at all in what was once billed a potential Heisman season, and injuries along the offensive line certainly do not help. But Cook should be able to take advantage of a Rutgers defense currently 109th in FBS in passing yards allowed by letting teams run wild in the secondary (274 ypg).
Rutgers sophomore QB Chris Laviano has done an admirable job in managing the game for the offense this season, hitting on 72 percent of his throws with more TDs (6) than picks (5). By far his roughest game this season came against Penn State, so look for the Knights to try and move the chains with Josh Hicks, who had a breakout 113-yard, two-score performance against Kansas last game out. The once feared Spartans defense just hasnt been there in 2015, due to injury, the loss of their longtime coordinator and player turnover, the current unit is just 65th in FBS in yards allowed including the 300 they gave up to Purdue last weekend.
Michigan State has yet to cover a point spread in 2015, going 0-5 ATS, with honestly on one of them coming within two points of being close to covering the number. They did destroy Rutgers in the Scarlet Knights inaugural Big Ten season, 45-3, in a game in East Lansing. The Spartans are also 5-2 ATS in their last seven conference games going back into last year. Rutgers is an abysmal 1-4 ATS in games coming off their bye week, so its hard to tell if the Knights can pull off the upset on Saturday.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: If the Spartans didnt have their wake-up game last week against Purdue, Id say this game would be a great spot to play Rutgers at home. But given the fact the Scarlet Knights program was hit with another scandal, possible NCAA violations, just this week I have a hard time believing the Knights players will be focused on football during the week. Im taking Michigan State minus the points.
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