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Big 10 Football Pick
Michigan State hosts Iowa Saturday in Big 10 Football action in a game that can be seen on ESPN at 12 noon. est. Michigan State opened as a -10 point favorite at 5 Dimes and SBG Global and has been bet down to -9.5 which is in line with the betting trends at sportsbook.ag which show 67% of the early action coming in on the Hawkeyes.
Like most of the Big 10 this year, each of these teams is not where they wanted to be at this point. Michigan State is currently unranked after starting the season in the Top 15. The loss of multiple components on the offensive end including quarterback Kirk Cousins are hurting more than anyone predicted. Iowa on the other hand, has struggled to put in an entire team effort until their game against Minnesota this past weekend. After losing home games to Iowa State and Central Michigan, the Hawkeyes won on both sides of the ball against previously undefeated Minnesota, 31-13. They'll need that same kind of effort in their first real road game of the season in East Lansing.
The Spartans were on the road last weekend and had a very tough time beating Indiana who has one of the worst defenses in the Big 10. After giving up 27 points in the first half, their defense stepped up big allowing none in the second half. Andrew Maxwell led the 14-point fourth quarter charge on the way to victory. Michigan State's weak point this year has been their quarterback play. Maxwell has been inconsistent at best completing 56.4 percent of his passes for 1,428 yards and only six touchdowns in six games. He played better against the Hoosiers, but again, they don't have a very good defense. Also, Maxwell's main target, tight end Dion Sims picked up an ankle injury in that game and will be out at least a few weeks. Their offense runs through Le'Veon Bell who already has 171 carries for 776 yards and seven touchdowns. Through all of 2011, he had 182 carries. His average falls every week because defenses know to focus on Bell and let Maxwell try and beat them. So far, it's worked for teams like Notre Dame and Ohio State.
It's hard to get a true marker on the Iowa defense because they haven't played any outstanding offenses yet, but they are allowing near 100 yards per game on the ground which isn't bad in college football. In 2011, MSU won pretty easily at Iowa 37-21. Bell rushed for 112 yards in that game while Cousins threw for three TDs. Iowa QB James Vandenberg completed under 50 percent of his passes and will have to be better this year if the Hawkeyes want to win on the road.
In five games this year, Vandenberg is still struggling throwing at just a 58.5 percent rate to go with 1,000 yards and a measly two TDs and two INTs. When playing tougher defenses like that of Michigan State, he will need to improve vastly for the Hawkeyes to compete. The positive in this offense is also the running game. After suffering a concussion a few weeks ago, running back Damon Bullock should be back on the field against the Spartans. In his place, Mark Weisman has filled in better than anyone could have thought rushing for 515 yards on 74 carries for seven TDs. Those numbers are only through three games of work.
A lot of the numbers go against Michigan State in this game, most notably their wretched 1-5 mark against the spread so far this season. The Hawkeyes aren't any better going 2-5 ATS in their last seven overall, but they have covered in five of the last six games in this matchup. The under has hit four times in the last five meetings in East Lansing.
There's plenty to like about the Iowa side in this game. Recent series history shows us that there is no talent gap here. In fact, if either team has the edge there, it's Iowa. Iowa has won 2 out of the last 3 and 4 of the last 6. In 2010, Michigan State was an 11 win team yet lost to Iowa 37-6. Michigan State did get their revenge last year with a 37-21 win but this years team hasn't been firing on all cylinders. They were lucky to get past Indiana last week.
These two are dead even when looking at their defensive yards per point numbers and this is against a schedule that is pretty much equal in strength. Offensively, the Hawkeyes have the slight edge though neither team lighting it up. Our model shows a 17-10 Michigan State win making the under worth a look here as well.
We think the +10 is a tad high and presents us with some value on the Iowa side. The series history and each teams numbers thus far in 2012 all point towards Iowa as being the right side here. This game has Key Release potential so be sure to check back prior to kick off. Iowa +10
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