NCAA Football Predictions: Week 9 Opening Line Report and Picks
Mark Dantonio is the winningest coach in Michigan State history and has led the Spartans to some amazing heights, including one College Football Playoff spot - the only Big Ten team other than Ohio State to make it.
However, it's time for him to go. The Spartans are 24-22 since beating Iowa in the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game and have lost back-to-back games this season in blowout fashion.
Last year, the Spartans hugely disappointed at 7-6 because their offense was atrocious. Dantonio is a fiercely loyal guy, so he instead of firing anyone, he simply reorganized everyone on the offensive staff (Dantonio is a defensive guy and that side of the ball has never been an issue). It hasn't worked as in the Spartans' losses to Arizona State, Ohio State and Wisconsin they have scored seven, 10 and zero points, respectively. Dantonio was asked after being blown out by Wisconsin 38-0 on Oct. 12 if it was a mistake for Michigan State to not bring in any new offensive coaches in the offseason.
"Well, I don't think we ask those questions right now," he said. "We're seven games into the schedule. I think that's sort of a dumbass question, to be quite honest with you."
In addition, it seems a new player enters the transfer portal every week. Six have done so in the past couple of weeks: receivers Weston Bridges and Cam Chambers, running backs Connor Heyward and La'Darius Jefferson, tight end Noah Davis and linebacker Brandon Bouyer-Randle.
Keep in mind that Michigan State cleaned house nearly everywhere else in the administration following the Larry Nassar scandal. New president Samuel Stanley and new AD Bill Beekman have no ties to Dantonio or his staff. In addition, the coach is being forced by a judge to answer questions following the season for a deposition in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by his former recruiting director Curtis Blackwell. He is suing Dantonio and others at Michigan State, saying he was made into a scapegoat as the program and the university responded to a series of sexual assault allegations in early 2017.
Dantonio has recruited some very questionable players in terms of their off-field backgrounds. If Dantonio is fired, expect it to happen by Jan. 15 because that's when he is due a retention bonus for $4.3 million.
The Spartans, coming out of a bye, are 5.5-point home underdogs this week vs. No. 6 Penn State. A big loss will only add to the Fire Dantonio bandwagon. Here are a few other Week 9 opening lines that caught my eye. Games Saturday unless noted. Picks are ATS.
No. 13 Wisconsin at No. 3 Ohio State (-14): Realistic chance this is the Big Ten title game, although Wisconsin will be in some trouble of getting there with a loss because it was stunned at Illinois on Saturday in the biggest Big Ten upset from a pointspread view in decades and the biggest anywhere this season. UW closed as a 30.5-point favorite. The Big Ten really needs to realign divisions because Wisconsin has it so easy in the West (although unbeaten Minnesota is on the rise), while Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State all have to beat up on each other every year in the East. It's the first meeting between UW and OSU since the Buckeyes beat the Badgers 27-21 in the 2017 Big Ten title game. That knocked out Wisconsin from a likely spot in the College Football Playoff. Pick: Wisconsin … although I'll be holding out for +14.5.
No. 5 Oklahoma at Kansas State (+21): The Sooners put their 22-game true road-game winning streak on the line; that's the longest in the nation since the 1953-57 Bud Wilkinson Sooners teams won 25 consecutive road contests in the midst of their NCAA record 47-game winning streak. The Sooners are off a 52-14 home rout of West Virginia as Jalen Hurts boosted his Heisman chances in passing for three scores and rushing for two more. Oklahoma leads the nation in scoring and has put up at least 34 points in 17 straight games, the second-longest such streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision since 1980. K-State snapped a two-game skid with a 24-17 home win vs. TCU on Saturday. QB Skyler Thompson rushed for the winning 3-yard scored with 2:45 to go. Last year, OU thumped the visiting Wildcats 51-14 behind a big game from Kyler Murray. Pick: K-State … although I'll be holding out for +21.5.
No. 9 Auburn at No. 2 LSU (-11.5): It's an SEC West elimination game for Auburn as a second conference loss ends the Tigers' division hopes. LSU's Tigers could lose this but still take the division with a win at Alabama on Nov. 9 and then assuming Auburn loses again (which it probably will to Georgia or Alabama). LSU quarterback Joe Burrow already has set the school's single-season record for touchdown passes and has played just seven games. Burrow has moved into the favored role for the Heisman Trophy too; LSU's SEC West chances also might have gotten much better on Saturday when Alabama lost QB (and former Heisman favorite) Tua Tagovailoa to a high-ankle sprain. Race against time on whether Tua will be able to play on Nov. 9 vs. LSU in the game of the year. LSU beat Auburn 22-21 early last season on a 42-yard field goal as time expired. Two late pass interference calls vs. Auburn helped get LSU in position. Pick: Auburn.
No. 8 Notre Dame at No. 19 Michigan (-2.5): ABC prime-time game. I can't remember in my lifetime when these rivals played this late in the season; they usually do in the first week or two. That it's a night game is good for the Wolverines as they are 5-0 all-time in them at home. UM and the Irish opened the 2018 season with Notre Dame winning in South Bend 24-17. The programs have not, for now, renewed the series after this season - that's a shame. A loss for the Irish ends their College Football Playoff hopes. They catch a break, though, coming in off a bye week. Michigan's CFP hopes already are gone and Jim Harbaugh still is yet to win a game as an underdog after Saturday's defeat at Penn State. Pick: Notre Dame.
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