College Football Pick
Somewhat unexpectedly, Michigan State got some early-season respect in the AP poll as they are No. 5 in the nation, ahead of teams like Auburn, Oregon and USC. The Spartans have big plans this year, but with a difficult Schedule, may have an issue reaching them. They open the season with a secretly tough road Game at Western Michigan. Still, MSU is an -18.5 point favorite at 5 Dimes.
Usually known for its defense, this may be the year that Michigan State’s offense starts getting nation-wide recognition. Connor Cook is entering his senior season, his third as the starter, and is widely considered one of the top quarterbacks entering the 2016 NFL Draft. Cook improved in his overall play last season, throwing for almost 500 more yards than the previous year despite less pass attempts. Even without Tony Lippett (65 receptions) and Keith Mumphery, Cook should be just fine working behind one of the best offensive lines in the country that returns Four starters.
Running back may be the bigger question for the Spartans with Jeremy LAngford gone, but Madre London, who’s getting early comparisons to former MSU star Le’Veon Bell, shouldn’t be a huge step back. London leads a deep, yet unproven core of running backs. This offense should be able to Scorejust fine against the Broncos, but the other end may be another question.
Western Michigan has one of the better all-around offenses in the MAC, and this will be MSU’s first Game in quite some time without coordinator Pat Narduzzi (now Pittsburgh head coach) leading the way. The Spartans still have plenty of playmakers, defensive end Shilique Calhoun among them, but the secondary will be pretty fresh, especially at cornerback.
The Broncos return 18 starters in all, including nine on the offensive side. Quarterback Zach Terrell is back for his junior season after a successful 2014 campaign, throwing for 26 touchdowns at a 67.9% completion rate. He also gets back his top targets in Corey Davis (78 receptions) and Daniel Braverman (86 receptions), who could be problematic for the Spartans outside. In addition to that, running back Jarvion Franklin is a stud after totaling 1,551 yards and 24 TDs in his freshman season. Obviously, a lot of these big numbers were accumulated against MAC competition, but they did Score34 points against Purdue and 17 at a stout Virginia Tech team last year.
Considering the above numbers, it’s doubtful that Michigan State will take this Game lightly, but there’s no question they’ll have an eye on the Oregon Game the next weekend as they look for revenge. The Spartans have a difficult Schedule and it starts in the opener with the Broncos. Despite the 18.5 points, it wouldn’t be a surprise if MSU got out to a slow start.
For Western to cover, it will come down to how well their defense can stack up against MSU’s line because if the Spartans win that battle, it’s unlikely the Broncos will keep up on the scoreboard. Michigan State scored 43 points per Game last year and should start off the year with similar numbers. It’s just a question of how good their defense will be this year. Their first test is a balanced Western team that not many will be giving credit to.
Our Pick – All the indredients are in place for Western Michigan. They’ll have a sky high crowd for the opener, an ESPNU TV audience and all the motivation that comes with a team from the MAC stepping up in class to play a big time Big 10 team.
However, there’s a huge difference in class here. Western Michigan is 4-33 against the Big 10 going back to 1963 and most of those losses weren’t remotely close. Here, they don’t get just any ol Big 10 team, but a Michigan State team expected to do big things.
Only the margin is in doubt here. Providing Michigan State can keep from looking ahead (a big if), we like Our chances with the Spartans. Sure would like to get -17 or less. Watch the board. For now Michigan State -17.5