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Michigan State

vs.

Minnesota

College Football

Free Pick

10/14/17

A year removed from a three-win season, Michigan State has already surpassed that total five games into 2017 and comes into this one having beaten Michigan in Ann Arbor. There’s clear reason to expect a let down this week, but the Spartans still opened as small -3 point (jumped to -4.5 on Monday) road favorites against Minnesota (as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook).

The main reason MSU is favored is because Minnesota has hit a wall in Big Ten play, losing its first two games against mediocre competition. The Golden Gophers were upset at home by Maryland two weeks ago and then fell at Purdue last week. After starting the season undefeated in non-conference play, they could end up being one of the worst in the conference. There’s still a long way to go and upsetting Michigan State under the lights is a good place to start.

The path to pulling off an upset is fairly simple. This is the same Michigan State team that went to the playoff a few seasons ago except worse in almost every area. The Spartans have a good defense, but it’s still not as dominant as 2015 and the offense is far from reliable. The Gophers used to be built on that same mold, but the defense has faltered giving up 31 points in each of the losses.

To win this game, Minnesota will need more production from quarterback Conor Rhoda as well as consistent work from running backs Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks. The main thing to worry about is that this offense couldn't figure things out against Maryland and Purdue and this MSU defense will be the toughest it’s seen all season. Rhoda hasn’t completed more than 50 percent of his passes the last two weeks to go with three interceptions and there’s a good chance that happens again. Smith and Brooks combined for 204 rushing yards against the Boilers, but the offense still only managed 17 points.

Scoring for the Gophers isn’t a guarantee in this game, similar to what Michigan did last week against the Spartans. After the Wolverines managed just 2.6 yards per carry, Minnesota could have a similar issue in this game.

Michigan State’s offense can’t be considered good by any means, but with how the Minny defense has played the last two weeks, Brian Lewerke could be set for a nice showing. Lewerke has been everything for the Spartans, from his nine passing touchdowns and only two picks to leading the team with 309 rushing yards on 5.8 yards per carry. Without him, this team would’ve likely lost last week. Speaking of that game, MSU had one of its better rushing performances of the season and it came against one of the best rush defenses in the country without top RB LJ Scott. If the Spartans can carry over that performance, that will be trouble for the Gophers.

This is a huge let down situation, but when Michigan State won improbably at Michigan two years ago, it came back with a huge win over Indiana. While this isn’t the same team, that at least gives faith to the Mark Dantonio backers. And it’s not like Minnesota is playing well. The Spartans are 1-4 ATS in their last five road games, with those losses coming last season. The Golden Gophers are 2-6 ATS in their last eight home games, but 7-1-2 ATS in their last 10 following an ATS loss.

Our Pick - Minnesota +4.5

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