No. 16 Michigan State Spartans (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. No. 18 Washington State Cougars (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS)
College Football Holiday Bowl
Date/Time: Thursday, December 28, 9:00 PM EST
Where: SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, CA.
by Wilson, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MSU +2.5/WSU -2.5
Over/Under Total: 45.5
The Washington State Cougars find themselves once again in familiar territory as they prepare for yet another Holiday Bowl. This years opponent out of the Big Ten East is Michigan State. Ironically, the Cougs are favored although they are the lower ranked team. Traditionally, WSU has played well in the post season and it helps when you have a coach who has post season experience. WSU Head Coach, Mike Leach, is no stranger to bowl games and preparing for them. Leach took Texas Tech to 10 straight bowl games before arriving at Washington State. Both teams have the potential to lock down on defense and score points offensively. It should be a great matchup between two respectable conferences.
Michigan States most notable wins this season are at home against Penn State 27-24, at Michigan (in-state rival) 14-10, and home versus Iowa 17-10. Washington States most notable victories of the season are home versus USC 30-27, home against Stanford 24-21, and at Utah 33-25. This will be the Spartans first bowl appearance since 2015 when they were shutout by Alabama in the Cotton Bowl college playoffs. Also, the Spartans may be a bit motivated by the fact they were shunned in favor of rival Michigan to play in the Outback Bowl (the more prestigious bowl game). The Spartans had a stronger resume and beat Michigan this year but the Outback Bowl committee still chose the Wolverines over MSUtalk about a slap in the face, but now it will be WSU who becomes the potential innocent bystander of a team in the wake of this bowl shaft.
WSU played and lost in the Holiday Bowl game last season to Minnesota, so perhaps the odds makers are adding that into the mix as well as other factors which has given the Cougs the early
-2.5 line. Offensively, the Cougars are deadly when they are clicking, couple that with a much better defense than most years and they should give MSU plenty to worry about. WSUs defense stars Hercules Mataafa and Vita Vea, and Frank Luvu at linebackerall are big time playmakers. Cougar kicker Eric Powell is solid and rarely chokes. WSU QB Luke Falk who at times this season has faded away literally, in games, must show up for this one or things will go south quicklyhowever, when Falk is on the Cougs are on! The Cougs average 374.8 yards thru the air, and Falk has 3,593 passing yards, 30 TDs, and 13 INTs on the season. Falks biggest concern will be Michigan State safety, David Dowell. Dowell is 2nd in the Big Ten for picks with fivehe will be reading Falk closely.
Offensively for Michigan State, the key will be the play of QB Brian Lewerke. Lewerke is a dual-threat QB as he can pass and run. He completes 58 percent of his passes, has 17 TDs and seven INTs. Lewerke also has nearly 500 yards rushing and five TDs on the ground. Other factors to consider if you are getting action on this game will be the matchup between the MSU defensive line and the WSU offensive line. If MSU can hamper the Cougs running attack it only opens the door for them to put more pressure on Luke Falk. Falk does not scramble well and if hes forced out of the pocket it will benefit the Spartans. The key to this game will likely be the MSU defensive line establishing a two-fold attackstopping the run and pressuring Falk. WSU has more player experience while MSU uses 13 true freshmen. WSU will be without two of their best wide receivers who were cut from the team for violations. This will effect the Cougs offensive schemes. The players, Tavares Martin Jr. and Isaiah Johnson-Mack were both from the same Florida high school. It is unknown exactly what happened but it did. Theres never a dull moment with a Mike Leach team and this certainly attests to what most of the country is getting used to. Even without the two outstanding wide outs I believe the Cougs find a way to stop the Spartans.
I like the Cougs to cover.
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