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Ohio State

vs.

Michigan State

Big 10 Football Pick

9/29/12

Michigan State hosts Ohio State Saturday at 3:30 pm est. in a game that can be seen live on ABC-TV. The Spartans are an early -2 point favorite over the Buckeyes at 5 Dimes and Betonline with the early betting action at sportsbook.ag favoring Michigan State to the tune of 74%.

Big 10 conference games are starting this weekend with the Michigan State-Ohio State match headlining. Each of these teams (much like every other B10 team) has disappointed so far. Even though Ohio State is 4-0 and ranked 14 in the polls, their four wins were anything but convincing. They have had problems with three straight mediocre teams while not covering in any of them. Michigan State has a nice Boise State win on their resume, but they also were only able to score three points at home against Notre Dame. Their quarterback play has been anything but perfect.

Both teams are coming into this game with a 1-3 ATS record to start the season. That will have to change for one of them. Michigan State won a defensive battle last year 10-7 in Columbus while covering as three-point underdogs. The Spartans have covered two of the past three in this meeting, but Ohio State has covered five of the past seven. In addition, the Buckeyes had previously won seven straight games against the Spartans before last year.

The difference in this game will come down to Braxton Miller against the Michigan State defense. On the season, Miller has totaled 14 touchdowns, seven through the air and seven on the ground. He has thrown for 754 yards and rushed for 441 yards. He is basically their team. Their leading running back, Jordan Hall, has 192 rushing yards and no rushing TDs. Week 1's starter Carlos Hyde is dealing with a knee injury and is questionable for this game. This is a much different offense than the one MSU faced last season with Joe Bauserman at QB. Still, the Spartans have showed in recent history that they can stop teams dominated by one player such as Michigan and Denard Robinson for three straight seasons. It won't be easy coming into East Lansing as this is Ohio State's first road game of the year.

The Buckeyes defense is also solid, but not like we've seen in the past. They gave up 16 points to Central Florida, 28 to California and 15 to UAB. None of these teams have great offenses. Maybe California, but they just scored nine points against USC. In these three games, Ohio State gave up at least 100 rushing yards to each team, including 224 yards for California. This is notable because the running game is basically Michigan State's entire offense.

Le'Veon Bell already has a ridiculous 117 carries (two games with 36-plus carries) for 610 yards and five TDs. Once again, Bell will be force fed. If Ohio State cannot stop the run, they'll be in trouble. The main problem for Michigan State this season has been Andrew Maxwell who's a first-year starter replacing Kirk Cousins. While he does have 869 passing yards, he has just three TDs and three INTs. Maxwell is having problems with accuracy and dropped balls by his receivers. They have 16 dropped balls in their past two games. Those numbers probably won't cut it in conference games. Tight end Dion Sims has stepped up for 22 catches, 277 yards and two TDs, but he also has dropped multiple passes.

A big number to look at for this game is that the Buckeyes are 22-4-1 ATS in their last 27 road games against a team with a winning record. That's pretty crazy. As for the Spartans, they are 5-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. Also in this meeting, the road team has won four straight games ATS.

No question Ohio State has had the upper hand in this series and has the better program. That being said, Michigan State certainly closed that gap last year with a dominating defensive effort. The game wasn't as close as the 10-7 score would indicate with Ohio State rarely making it past midfield. This year, the Michigan State offense is stumbling out of the gate and needs to find it's wheels, but the defense looks to be in good shape. Ohio State hasn't exactly dominated this year and the teams they have played simply haven't been that good. Michigan State on the road will be the Buckeyes stiffest test to date.

At -2, all we're being asked to do is pick a straight up winner here. We think the Spartans will bounce back from that Notre Dame embarrassment in this spot, and beat the Buckeyes for the 2nd consecutive time for the first time since 1999. Michigan State -2.

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