Michigan Wolverines (3-4 SU, 3-4 ATS) vs. Michigan State Spartans (6-1 SU, 4-3 ATS)
College Football Week 9
Date and Time: October 25 3:30pm ET
Where: Spartan Stadium
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MICH +16.5/MSU -16.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
Rivalries are what NCAA Football is all about and Saturday sees another installment of a heated in-state rivalry when Michigan travels to East Lansing to take on Michigan State. This series dates back to 1898 with the Wolverines owning a 68-33 edge in the win department as we head into the 108th meeting. At times, Sparty was an afterthought as the Maize and Blue focused on Ohio State but Michigan State has won five of the last six games, going 6-0 against the spread in that stretch. Brady Hoke is on the hottest of seats after a 3-4 start and a clunker against MSU might be enough to shut down all those fire coach Hoke websites.
Michigan State is the 5th ranked team in the country according to USA Today and the online betting sites are treating them like it, tabbing them as 16.5 favorites. Michigan is 5-1 against the spread in their last five conference games but State is 5-1 ATS in the last six at home. The favorite has managed a 6-2 ATS record in the last eight meetings with the under riding a 5-0 streak going back to 2009.
Michigan is a mess. Can I just leave it at that? Most of it has just been inconsistent play but lets not forget student protests after the questionable handling of Shane Morris injury. The Wolverines did manage to get the better of Penn State to end a three game losing streak but they still sit tied for 4th in their division with a 1-2 conference record. Not very familiar territory for this program. Any glimmer of hope for salvaging a good bowl starts with an upset this weekend.
Michigan State looks like the cream of the Big Ten crop after downing Nebraska a few weeks back. They possess a top-10 defense but the offense is averaging 47 points per game, good for third in the country. The lone Spartan loss came at Oregon and while MSU appeared out of their league against the Ducks offense, Michigan doesnt have the skill players to pose the same kind of challenge to the Spartan defense. MSU got the better of a 29-6 decision last year, holding Michigan to a record- low -48 rushing yards.
All indications are that Devin Gardner will start the game at quarterback for Michigan. Shane Morris is officially recovered from a concussion but will serve as backup. Gardner has thrown for 1,107 yards with six touchdowns against eight interceptions. He is a running thrower and is often at his best on the scramble, adding 149 yards and three scores on the ground. The eight interceptions are way too many for this offense to overcome but there just arent a lot of options for Gardner to utilize outside Devin Funchess. Funchess leads the team with 36 catches, 461 yards and four touchdowns but no other Michigan pass catcher has more than 15 grabs. Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith have been solid runners but the pass element has not been there and Michigan enters the week 113th in total yards gained.
Connor Cook has paced Michigan State masterfully from the QB spot, throwing for 1,641 yards with 16 touchdowns, adding two more touchdowns on the ground. Jeremy Langford and Nick Hill are an imposing duo out of the backfield as both runners average over 5.3 yards per carry and have combined for 1,129 yards and 13 scores. Tony Lippet leads Sparty with 786 receiving yards and eight touchdowns but seven different receivers have at least one touchdown catch.
Three scores is a lot to give up in conference but Im just not sure how Michigan mounts any kind of consistent offense against this defense and Im taking Michigan State. The Wolverines are at least proficient at running the ball, averaging 161 yards per game but they face the 8th best rush defense and Gardner as a passer just isnt a good thing. Michigan does have a solid defense of its own with top-10 ranks in rushing and total yards allowed but State is averaging over 520 yards of offense, including 260 rushing yards. Michigan should be motivated as they look to spoil the Spartan roll but that wont be enough against a very complete Michigan State team. MSU 33 MICH 14
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Michigan State