Free College Football Picks: Michigan at Michigan State Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 10/30/2013
Michigan and Michigan State really don’t like each other. There has never been any love lost between the two, but in recent years the rivalry has intensified. They are playing for more than a win here. That is what makes college football so great.
At this point it seems like there is one good team in the Big Ten — Ohio State. Both of these teams are looking to prove that they can be strong contenders and Legends Division winners. The way that Nebraska has been playing recently, this game is essentially a one-game playoff for a berth in the Big Ten Championship — or at least the winning team will be in the driver’s seat en route to that game. It’s a clash of styles. Michigan State’s offense is painful to watch — especially through the air. Their defense, though, is stellar — currently ranked first in both rushing yards and total yards allowed in the whole country. Michigan’s defense hasn’t scared anyone — especially against the pass. Their offense, though, is explosive — they are averaging more than 48 points per game in their last three games. Both teams can’t play their preferred style in this one. The team that can dictate the style and pace of play will come out on top. For handicappers, then, the job is simple — pick out the alpha team, and you’ll have the winner.
Michigan at Michigan State Betting Storylines
Michigan QB Devin Gardner is the X-factor in this game. At his best he is almost unstoppable. Against Indiana last time out he passed for a school-record 503 yards, including 369 to favorite target Jeremy Gallon. He also ran 15 times for 81 yards and three scores. He was a force of nature — as he was against Notre Dame and Central Michigan. Against Akron or UConn, though, he was just plain lousy. He was at least as effective finding opponents as his own receivers, he played without a shred of confidence, and he was easily rattled. He wasn’t strong in key moments in the loss to Penn State, either. Michigan State is by far the best defense he has faced. Second best, though, would be Notre Dame, and that didn’t bother him at all.
Michigan State has been stellar defensively. The most explosive offense they have faced, though, is Indiana, and the Hoosiers’ two quarterbacks combined for 259 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception. In head-to-head competition, Devin and his offense proved they are superior to Indiana, so it is no lock that the Spartans are going to dominate — if Gardner is the good Gardner and not the bad one, that is. The biggest asset he has going for him is the one-two punch at receiver. Gallon and Gardner have ridiculous chemistry. Now that Devin Funchess has been moved from tight end to wide receiver on most plays, he is an almost unstoppable force because of his size and speed. The Spartans’ secondary will be well tested.
One area where the Spartans should be able to assert themselves defensively is on the ground. For the most part Michigan’s run game has been a disaster. They hit rock bottom in the Penn State game when lead back Fitzgerald Toussaint ran 27 times for just 27 yards. The offensive line is young, and the personnel keeps changing, so the backs have really struggled. Against a team that is allowing just 54.4 rushing yards per game, Michigan could be forced into a one-dimensional passing offense. That will put tremendous pressure on Gardner — and may make it harder for him to excel.
Recent games in this series have been very physical and at times dirty. When the game has gone into the trenches, it has been the Spartans who have had the edge. They fight nasty and don’t back down. The 2011 game was the high point on that front — the Spartans just bullied their way into a two-touchdown win. Michigan knows that this has been a real issue, and they have focused hard on making sure things are different this year. Whether words can be turned into actions, though, remains to be seen.
Michigan at Michigan State Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Michigan State favored by 4.5 points at home. Action is evenly split between the two teams, yet the line is now at six points — a clear sign that sharp money is siding with the Spartans. We aren’t likely to see a whole lot more movement, though, because of the significance of the key number of seven. If the line was to move to or through that number, we would know that the sharps really don’t like the Wolverines. The total sits at 46.5.
Michigan ended a four-game winning streak by the Spartans last year, but Michigan State has covered each of the last five games — including three times as favorites. Michigan has gone “over” the total the last four times they have played a team with a winning record. Despite the smothering defense, Michigan State has still gone over the total three times in their eight games to date. Michigan has gone over in five of seven, including their last three.
Free College Football Picks: Michigan at Michigan State Predictions
As a Michigan fan, I am admittedly biased in this one. That aside, the Wolverines are the clear play to me. Their defense is far from spectacular, but it is solid — especially against a challenged offense like this one. The Spartans are not going to be able to go wild offensively. To cover this spread they need to win by a touchdown, and I just don’t think it is the most likely outcome for that to happen — not with their challenges scoring and the explosiveness of the Michigan offense. If the Spartans win — which is unfortunately a very real possibility — it is more likely to be by a field goal or a handful of points. This is too many points to give Michigan, so there is value here.
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