Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan State Spartans, Saturday Sept. 24, Noon ET
The Big Ten has been the best conference to this point in the season, and in many ways the most surprising. We knew that Michigan and Ohio State were going to be very good and that Michigan State would not be an easy out. Right now, though, there are eight teams in the 14-team conference that are still unbeaten, and all but two teams are at .500 or better. There have been some big wins, too, including over teams like Oklahoma, LSU, Notre Dame and Oregon.
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Two of those teams with big wins and unbeaten records are lined up for a showdown here - the first time they have met since 2011. Wisconsin stunned LSU at Lambeau Field in their opener, and Michigan State looked pretty solid winning at Notre Dame. Only one can emerge from his one unbeaten. The stakes are high for both but likely higher for the home team, as any loss that drops them behind Michigan and Ohio State could be the end of their hopes of winning the division.
Wisconsin at Michigan State Betting Storylines
Wisconsin has three wins, and the first was one of the more stunning results of the season so far. Not Louisville curb-stomping Florida State level of shock, but still shocking. While they have that to their credit, what they don't have right now is a clear starting quarterback. There is drama here, in fact. Fifth-year senior Bart Houston was the starter, but he was replaced by redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook after Houston struggled badly last time out against Georgia State. Initially it seemed like Hornibrook would be the starter for this one, but when the depth chart was released on Monday Houston was listed as the starter. Coach Paul Chryst isn't saying who will actually start under center. There are two things we can likely deduce here. First, the drama probably seems more dramatic out here than it does within the program. It has become trendy this year to not let others know your starter, and Chryst is likely trying to keep Michigan State off guard. There is a good chance that the players know just what is going on. Second, it really doesn't matter. Neither player is good enough to singlehandedly make a difference, and the offense isn't built around relying on a guy's arm to win or lose. It's also likely that we see a good dose of both, so the role of starter is only a title.
The Spartans don't have a QB issue - at least not so far. Tyler O'Connor has started only three games in his career. In those games, though, he has already beaten Ohio State last year and Notre Dame this year. He won't be intimidated by this situation. He is far from the flashiest or most exciting QB in the country, but he completes a whole lot of passes - at least 72 percent in both starts this year. Defense is likely to be the defining factor in this game for both teams, and the teams are well matched on that front. However, Michigan State should have an edge on offense.
Wisconsin at Michigan State Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Michigan State favored by six points at home, but that quickly fell to 5.5. That line movement is somewhat surprising given the action. More than three-quarters of bets have been on the Spartans, so the line movement against that action is a good indicator that sharp action hit the Badgers early on. The total opened at 43 and has shown slight upwards movement to 43.5.
The Badgers are 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall, and 6-2 ATS in their last eight against teams with winning records. They are just 2-5 ATS in their last seven road games, though, and a dismal 3-8 ATS in their last 11 conference contests. The Spartans are a very strong 33-16-2 ATS in their last 51 against teams with winning records but just 1-5 ATS in their last six games played in September.
Wisconsin at Michigan State Predictions and Picks
Wisconsin earns plenty of respect for that opening win over LSU. The SEC isn't as strong as expected beyond Alabama, though, and that has to be factored in. They also enjoyed very strong crowd support in that one. Here they will be in hostile territory and against a team that is better right now than LSU. The sharp action being on Wisconsin is a concern, but not enough of a one to change my mind here. Michigan State is a playable team at 5.5 points - or anything less than a touchdown. Also, click here for more free college football picks for this weekend.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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