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The Spartans have come a long way since two non-covers to start their season against Western Michigan and South Florida. Now, they're in the Big Ten Championship game and aiming for a BCS bowl. The Gophers have come a long way as well and actually have a better ATS record. Michigan State -15 point favorites at sportsbook.com with a total of 41.
The last time the Spartans were this big of favorites, they ended up with a 14-0 win over Purdue (as 28-point favorites). Now with their offense picking up the slack, they have destroyed the spread in four straight games.
The Golden Gophers may have lost last weekend to Wisconsin, but they put up a bigger fight than many expected, losing 20-7. They held the Badgers power rushing attack in check for the most part and ran the ball quite well themselves. The only problem Minnesota had was in the passing game, where Phillip Nelson struggled.
Michigan State won in this matchup a year ago 26-10 on the road as 8-point favorites. Before that game, Minnesota had covered in five straight meetings.
Minnesota is one of the surprise teams of the conference this year and they do it with a solid defense and heavy rushing attack. Running back David Cobb wasn't the starter at the beginning of the year, but has taken the role in stride now with 1,010 yards and seven touchdowns. He wasn't terrible against Wisconsin (4.0 yards per carry), but with no passing game he couldn't do it all. QB Phillip Nelson went just 7-for-23 for 83 yards against the Badgers. He will likely have another tough game against the vaunted Spartan secondary that many label as one of the best in the country. If MSU goes up early, watch out because Nelson isn't the type of QB to bring them back.
Excluding the 41-28 Nebraska win, Michigan State has held opponents to 15 points in the last four games. Some of those opponents haven't been great, but that's still a nice stat.
Minnesota will have to worry about the improved MSU offense led by suddenly competent quarterback Connor Cook and running back Jeremy Langford. Cook has been a silent assassin lately for the Spartans, completing passes when needed. His 16 TDs and three INTs are a testament to how well he's been playing. Jeremy Langford has been a beast this year on the ground with 1,076 yards and 15 TDs. He was an unknown at the beginning of the year, but now has six straight 100-yard games along with eight TDs in his last four games.
Minnesota will not be an easy task, but they can be beat, especially with decent quarterback play from Cook.
The Gophers are 4-1 ATS in their last five road games and have covered in four straight against teams with a winning record. The Spartans are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven games following an ATS win, but just a surprising 4-10 ATS in their last 14 home games. The underdog is 10-2 ATS in the last 12 meetings between these teams and the Gophers have covered in six of the last seven meetings in East Lansing.
Tough one to handicap. Minnesota has covered 5 straight games and 8 total this year and has earned a measure of respect. At the same time, they have the 118th ranked passing game and while their rushing attack is top 30, they are going up against the #1 ranked rush defense.
Michigan State not exactly an offensive powerhouse and a case could certainly be made for Minny staying within the spot here. But we're going to side with the Spartans to end their regular season with an exclamation point. Mich St -14.5
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