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Michigan State

vs.

Michigan

College Football

Free Pick

10/7/17

The battle for Michigan is Saturday with one team getting an extra week of rest as the Wolverines got last weekend off. While that may not matter in the end, it still gives another edge to the home team, which was a -13 point favorite early in the week at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

This game will receive a bit more hype than a year ago when Michigan State was 2-5 entering the matchup and the Wolverines still had hopes of winning the Big Ten. While MSU still put up a fight in that game, Michigan left East Lansing with a mostly easy 32-23 win that wasn’t as close as the score. The spread remains high between these teams in this year’s game, but it could end up coming down to the fourth quarter.

Nothing has looked easy for Michigan this season even if the Wolverines have won every game by double digits. They've only covered two of those games and haven’t blown anyone out similar to a year ago. The defense is still dominant, but the offense has had major issues putting together drives at a consistent rate.

Early in the week, it was unknown to which quarterback Michigan would turn to as a struggling Wilton Speight was hurt last game, but he was declared out on Monday. John O’Korn came in and from the perspective of many fans, played better than Speight had been. Even with O’Korn starting, this game will depend on how well Michigan can run the ball. So far, the Wolverines haven’t had many issues running on teams through a trio of Ty Isaac (356 yards), Chris Evans and Karan Higdon. As for O’Korn, he’s seen limited time the last two seasons with the 2013 and 2014 seasons the last time he saw significant time at Houston.

Once again, Michigan State has built its defense upon a solid front and that was seen in the win against Iowa last week in which the Hawkeyes ran for just 19 yards. Michigan will try and establish the ground game early, but if that doesn’t work, it will come down to what O’Korn can do. And with a spread up to two touchdowns, it will be tough to take the Wolverines, even playing at the Big House.

But the other side is the main reason to take Michigan as this defense has the ability to completely shutdown anything Michigan State does. A week after scoring just 17 points on Iowa, the Spartans will have to deal with an even better defense on the road. Quarterback Brian Lewerke has shown sparks throughout the first month of the season, but he’s been far from consistent and that’s seen in the 35 total points this offense has scored in the last two weeks. Another issue for MSU is that they lack a great running game. Lewerke leads the team with 248 rushing yards, while LJ Scott has had fumbling issues and is just at 3.7 yards per carry. The Spartans managed 217 rushing yards in this game last year and it still wasn’t enough.

If Michigan State can’t find any room on the ground, it wouldn't be surprising if this offense doesn't reach double digits. But on the other end, there is little reason to believe the Wolverines will score more than 24 points. Michigan will be the more popular team playing at home, but there are solid reasons to take each side in this one.

Our Pick - Our model has this game right around the number with a predicted margin of 10 in a low scoring game. So, technically, this would be a pass. But we'll make a slight call on the dog here. If the model is correct, and the game is in fact a low scoring affair, the +10 could loom large. Michigan State +10

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