Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Wolverines
This Saturday in Ann Arbor marks the biggest college football game in the state of Michigan in arguably the last decade. This rivalry hasn’t had much impact on the national stage in recent years, but this one will always mean something to the residents of the Great Lake State.
This year’s matchup features both teams ranked in the top ten with undefeated records and will directly impact the standings in the Big Ten East. Mel Tucker’s Spartans got one of their only wins of 2020 against Michigan, so Harbaugh and company will be looking for revenge.
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Michigan State Spartans Team Preview
The Spartans are coming off a bye week in preparation for the rivalry game. The Spartans are 7-0 on the season after winning just two games in Mel Tucker’s first season in East Lansing. One of those wins did happen to come against Michigan, so the new man in charge got a little leeway with the Spartan faithful.
The big driver behind the success of Michigan State comes from transfer running back Kenneth Walker III. Walker leads the Big Ten and the country in rushing at 142 yards per game and has found the end zone 9 times.
Walker shares the backfield with quarterback Payton Thorne who ranks second in the Big Ten in quarterback rating behind Ohio State lead man CJ Stroud. Thorne has thrown for 15 touchdowns on the season and only four interceptions.
Michigan State is 5-1-1 against the spread this season, missing a cover against Nebraska by a half-point. In terms of the over/under total points line, the Spartans have played to the under in four of the seven games. Two of the Spartans’ wins this season have come as underdogs.
Michigan Wolverines Team Preview
Jim Harbaugh got an unexpected contract extension following a disappointing 2020 season, and now it’s looking like the administration made the correct call. The Wolverines are 7-0 and smack dab in the middle of the College Football Playoff conversation for the first time in Harbaugh’s tenure.
Much like the Spartans, the rushing attack has been key in the Wolverines’ success. Michigan leads the Big Ten in rushing and is 35 yards ahead of second-place Wisconsin. The passing attack ranks 11th in the conference but is more a function of the rushing success than a true deficiency at this point.
Michigan State gives up less than half of what the Wolverines are averaging on the ground, so this may be the week a passing attack is needed, where the Spartans rank dead last in the Big Ten.
Cade McNamara will need to show he can do more than he’s been asked so far, as the Wolverines quarterback ranks last in full-time starting quarterbacks in terms of passing touchdowns with five.
The Wolverines are 6-1 against the spread this season and have also played four of their games below the total points betting line.
Looking at the betting odds and lines, we can see that both BetUS and Bovada have the Wolverines as 4.5-point favorites at home, with a total points spread of 51. This game has all the makings of a low-scoring defensive affair between two Big Ten heavyweights, which is great news for those interested in totals betting.
Michigan State has shown to be weak against high-powered passing attacks. If McNamara can find balance on offense and provide some sort of challenge through the air, the Wolverines should be able to find success. The Michigan defense has been solid against the run and pass, but Michigan State will prove to be the toughest offense the team has played to date.
In probably Mel Tucker’s biggest game as coach of the Spartans, this will show if Michigan State can be taken seriously. If you are going to bet online, take Sparty in a low-scoring affair with the possibility of an outright win.