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Michigan State

vs.

Michigan

Big 10 Football

Pick with Analysis

10/20/12

Remember when this game actually meant something in the football world? You should, considering that was only a few weeks ago. Michigan State started the season with a nice win over Boise State and since then, things haven't been easy. The Spartans have lost three of their last four home games, scoring no more than 16 points in any of them. Their most recent was a disappointing two overtime loss to Iowa when they were seven point favorites. Michigan, on the other hand, is carving through the Big 10 with wins over Purdue and Illinois. Their only two losses were to Alabama and at Notre Dame which are both respectable.

Michigan State has surprisingly won and covered four straight games in this meeting, but enters this one as 10-point underdogs. This is the biggest spread between these two teams since 2006, when Michigan was still a powerhouse.

After a rough start to the season defensively, the Wolverines have not allowed more than 13 points in their past four games. Considering Michigan State's weak point is their offense, it wouldn't be surprising if they continued that streak.

The Spartans offense is run through Le'Veon Bell and everyone knows that so defenses stack the box on him. He's had at least 17 rushes in every game this year and has at least 29 carries in four of seven games. Bell ran for 140 yards and a TD against Iowa last week and the Spartans still let the Hawkeyes drive down the field late in the game to win. Edwin Baker ran for 167 yards against Michigan last year on 26 carries and they'll implement the same strategy in this game with Bell. The difference for the MSU offense this year is their quarterback play. Andrew Maxwell is in his first season as a starter and he's struggled in every game. Even though he's only thrown one interception since Week 1, Maxwell hasn't had a completion percentage above 65 and sits at 54.3% for the season. He went 12-for-31 last week against Iowa. The loss of tight end and leading receiver Dion Sims was the main reason for that and he is questionable for this weekend's game.

Defensively, Michigan State has confused Denard Robinson. In the two previous meetings, Robinson has managed four total touchdowns and four interceptions. His yardage totals have also been less than average. Last year, he threw for 123 yards completing 38% of passes with only 42 rushing yards. The Spartans defense is as good as they were last year, if not better, and will have to put in another performance like that to have a chance in this game.

Robinson is destroying teams at the moment. He's had at least a 9.8 yards per carry rate in four of six games. He has 804 rushing yards and six TDs to go with 1,101 yards through the air with nine TDs. His downfall is the passing game though where he already has eight interceptions. Even with Robinson's success, their starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint isn't doing great. He has 231 yards on the ground with just a 3.3 YPC average. After 72 catches in 2010, wide receiver Ray Roundtree is having another disappointing year with 11 grabs for 128 yards.

Michigan State has not covered in five straight games, but is 5-1 ATS in their last six road games. Michigan is 6-2 ATS in their last eight home games, but 7-18-1 ATS against a team with a winning record.

With the Spartan having won 4 straight in this series, which ties their longest winning streak in this series, this looks to be good spot for the Wolverines to get some revenge. Our model has Michigan by 10 to 14 points here, largely due to the Spartans inability to put points on the board. It's a big number, but we'd lean towards the Wolverines here if we had to pick a side. Fortunately, we don't HAVE to pick a side, so instead, we'll go with a total here. Our model predicts 32 total points being scored here, so we'll go with the under 44.5.

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