I wanted to preview what once looked like a big Alabama-Arkansas showdown in the SEC West this week. If anything, the Hogs’ shocking home upset to Louisiana-Monroe made this week’s game more interesting from Arkansas’ perspective. But it’s still not clear if Hogs all-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson will play due to a head injury that cost him the second half of last week’s game. Can’t make an informed choice without knowing if Wilson will play.
So then I was leaning toward USC-Stanford. After all, the Cardinal have had Southern Cal’s number like no other as USC star QB Matt Barkley looks for his first win vs. Stanford. But with no Andrew Luck in Palo Alto, I don’t expect Stanford to have much of a shot at the upset.
My game preview decision was made for me with the big news Wednesday that Notre Dame will leave the Big East for the ACC in all sports but football (and hockey, which the ACC doesn’t have). While that has no real effect on this year’s Irish team, Notre Dame will schedule at least five ACC clubs each season once it officially becomes a member, likely not until 2014 (Irish would have to pay a penalty to leave, much like Pitt and Syracuse did).
I believe this is relevant here because the Notre Dame-Michigan State rivalry could thus be in its final stages for a while. The Irish will have those five ACC opponents and have made it clear they want to keep a West Coast identity by playing Stanford and Southern Cal each year and also keeping Navy on the schedule. Thus that leaves only four remaining opponents on each year’s schedule. Some Midwest rivals are going to have to go (I would presume in-state rival Purdue is safe). Sparty could be one of them – MSU is on Notre Dame’s schedule as of now only through 2013. The schools have agreed to future games in 2016-2019, but, obviously, that could change with the Irish’s ACC move.
Notre Dame at Michigan State Betting Storylines
The Big Ten will officially be out of the BCS National Championship race if the Spartans lose this game. Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin all are out already after ugly losses, and that leaves only Michigan State as a possible option (Ohio State would be but is serving a one-year postseason ban).
The Spartans have looked like the best team in the conference in opening with wins over Boise State and at Central Michigan. That stellar SEC-like Spartans defense still has yet to allow an offensive touchdown. Offensively, first-year starting QB Andrew Maxwell was a little shaky vs. Boise State but much better vs. CMU, finishing 21-of-32 passing for 287 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. And Sparty has an early Heisman finalist in running back Le’Veon Bell. He followed his 50-touch, 265-yard opening effort with 70 yards on 18 carries and two scores vs. CMU. But MSU didn’t need him to carry the big load against the Chippewas.
The Irish, meanwhile, are 2-0 for the first time in four years thanks largely to not turning the ball over. They have just two giveaways in wins over Navy and Purdue, or eight fewer than Notre Dame’s first two games in 2011 when it started 0-2. First-year starting QB Everett Golson has been solid but was pulled late in the Purdue game as former starter Tommy Rees (suspended Week 1) led a game-winning field-goal drive. Brian Kelly has made it clear Golson is his starter but also that he has no problem going to Rees for a spark.
Notre Dame will also welcome back starting tailback Cierre Wood this week off a two-game suspension. While the Irish demolished smallish Navy with 293 yards rushing in the opener, they had just 52 on 36 carries vs. Purdue. Michigan State has allowed only 109 combined rushing yards so far on 2.4 yards per carry. Wood rushed for 1,102 yards last season and has averaged 5.1 yards per carry in the past two seasons. Kelly says Theo Riddick remains his No. 1 back with Wood currently the co-No. 2, but that doesn’t mean much.
Sparty had by all accounts a tremendous season in 2011 but was beaten 31-13 at Notre Dame in Week 3. MSU outgained the Irish but rushed for just 29 yards and had 12 penalties. The teams combined for five turnovers. Wood had 61 yards and two scores on 14 carries, while Bell was held to 27 yards on seven carries. Rees was 18-of-26 for 161 yards with a TD and a pick.
The Spartans have still won 10 of the past 15 in the series, including two straight at home, where they have a 15-game winning streak overall (fourth-longest active in nation).
Notre Dame at Michigan State Betting Odds and Trends
MSU opened as a six-point favorite, according to college football odds, with the total at 42.5 on WagerWeb. The Irish are 1-1 ATS this year (first true road game), while MSU is 0-1 ATS at home. “Over/under” records: ND 1-1, MSU 0-1-1.
Notre Dame is 1-5 ATS in its past six after a win. The Irish are 0-5 ATS in their past five games vs. teams with a winning record. MSU is 5-0 in its past five after a win and has covered 13 of its past 16 vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 5-0 in Notre Dame’s past five vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 6-2 in the past eight meetings in this series. The road team has covered in nine of the past 11.
Notre Dame at Michigan State Predictions and Football Picks
Expect a close game that perhaps ends on the final play. Why? Well, nine of the past 12 in this series have been decided by seven points or less. And this is a night game at Spartan Stadium. MSU has won four straight under the lights at home and two have come on the final play, including Notre Dame’s last visit in 2010 on that epic fake field goal call in overtime by Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio that led to a 29-yard touchdown pass.
Dantonio had a minor heart attack afterward and had surgery to put a stent in a blocked blood vessel leading to the heart (he wouldn’t be on the sideline the next two games). The coach memorably said the fake field goal touchdown pass was called “Little Giants” after that kids’ football movie. Apparently Dantonio loves that movie and names several trick plays after it.
I suppose you could call the quarterback matchup a wash in that both Golson and Maxwell are first-time starters. But Maxwell is more experienced and this will be Golson’s first true road start. I fully expect to see Rees. The Irish must stop the run to have a shot and they have been pretty good at it so far. But all Navy does is run and Purdue doesn’t have a threat anywhere close to Bell. If this line was 7.5, I would take Notre Dame. But at six, give the points and take Sparty as I believe MSU wins by a touchdown. Also the under.
Doc’s Sports wants to give you a great offer to try out our expert college football handicappers for free with no obligation, no credit card required and no salesman ever! These are the same college football picks that our clients receive from any of our Advisory Board handicappers and you can get $60 in picks credit in minutes. Click here for more details and to take advantage of this free $60 picks credit today.