No. 22 Michigan Wolverines (4-0)(3-1 ATS) v. Michigan State Spartans (1-3)(1-2 ATS) 12pm ET, October 3, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Big Ten Network
by Evergreen of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Michigan +2/Michigan State -2
Its a case of little brother trying to knock off big brother this Saturday in East Lansing as theMichigan State Spartanshost the Michigan Wolverines. The Spartans look at Michigan as a chief rival every year but the Wolverines are typically more concerned with Ohio State, making this weekend a trap-game for Rich Rodriguez and his crew. The Wolverines are busy erasing memories of an awful 2008 season with a 4-0 start unlike the Spartans who are a disappointing 1-3 despite many picking them to finish third in the Big Ten. A win for State will at least keep hope alive for another week and Michigan will continue to be a legitimate conference contender if they can land the W.
Vegas opened this game with the Spartans asone point dogs, but the online bookies had Michigan State a two point favorite by Tuesday. Michigan is at +110 on the money line with MSU at -130 and the over/under total for the game is at 57.5.
Michigan is traveling for the first time in 2009 and the home cooking certainly worked for them as they are tied atop the Big Ten at 4-0 with Iowa and Wisconsin. The Wolverines struggled in last week’s conference opener against Indiana, but eventually cemented a 36-33 victory after picking off the Hoosiers late in the fourth quarter. Michigan’s big win came two weeks ago as they knocked off Notre Dame by a score of 38-34 and also have easy wins against Eastern and Western Michigan. The running game is winning games for the Wolverines and they have found a true playmaker in quarterback Tate Forcier.
Sparty rolled in the season opener against Montana State, but are currently on a three game slide with losses against Central Michigan, Notre Dame and Wisconsin. While the offense is putting up plenty of points, the State defense has given up way too many, allowing 100 points in the three losses. Michigan State’s strength is in the pass game, averaging 320 yards per game, good for eighth in the country. They’ll look to take advantage of the Wolverine defense that ranks 92nd in pass yards allowed and turn this one into a shootout.
Michigan State is looking to make it two wins ina row against Michigan after dropping the Wolverines last year 35-21. That game broke a stretch of six straight victories for Michigan with the Wolverinescompiling a 5-2 ATS mark since 2002. In recent meetings, the road team is 5-1 against the spread with the over hitting in four of the last five games regardlessof location.
The Michigan offense is back among the NCAA elite, ranking in the top-30 with 422 total yards per game and 16th with 37.5 points per game on average. A dynamic ground game is producing 240 yards per game to set the tone while the freshman Forcier is making enough plays through the air to keep defenses honest. The Michigan defense is pretty average, ranking outside the top-70 in total yards allowed and have given up over 240 to the pass, but manage to only allow 22.8 points per game.
Forcier has hit on 62% of his passes for 671 yards and seven scores against two picks while adding 127 yards and two scores on the ground. The combination of Carlos Brown, Denard Robinson and Brandon Minor have accounted for 677 rushing yards and seven touchdowns and Brown is leading the team with 111 receiving yards. Seven different Wolverines have at least five receptions with Maratavious Odoms leading the way with nine.
With the Michigan State defense giving up so many points, the Spartan offense has been forced to pass but have done so with success en route to 438 total yards per game. The ground game is good for MSU,gaining 117 yards on average, but the points come from the aerial attack as the Spartan QB’s have 12 touchdown throws already. The defensive ranks are similiar to Michigan’s, but the strength is inthe front seven that willtry to contain the Wolverine run.
Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol will both see time at quarterback this Saturday, as they have in every game so far. The combo has thrown for 1,253 yards with only four picks and Nichol brings a run dimension when he is in there. Larry Caper and Caulton Ray will tote the rock for the Spartans with both backs right at 140 yards a piece with three scores between them. Cousins and Nichol have hit seven different receiver with scoring throws, but Blair White is the best option for State, grabbing 23 balls for 350 yards and four touchdowns.
Tate Forcier is listed as probable this week along with safetyMichael Williams for Michigan and the Spartans have RB Edwin Baker, OL J’Michael Deane and FB Josh Rouse all listed as questionable.
Evergreen’s Pick: Michigan State needs this bad, but the Wolverine rush is too much for Sparty. Michigan should be able to put up enough points to allow them to focus on slowing the Spartan passing and Forcier is a true X factor that MSU can’t account for. State is 0-4 against the spread against teams with .500+ records and they lose another one this week as Michigan wins outright 34-24.