Pick – Analysis
The target on Michigan State’s back is getting bigger by the day despite sporting an unimpressive 0-3 ATS record to start the season. Yet, the Spartans are now No. 2 in the nation after jumping past TCU and Alabama in the most recent AP Polls. Will they finally get their first cover in another in-state matchup, this time against Central Michigan, as a -26.5 point favorite (at mybookie.ag)?
Michigan State’s defense is noticeably behind previous versions, as they have now allowed 20-plus points in three straight Games. That could easily continue against a formidable Central Michigan offense. The Chippewas have had some tough Games on their Schedule, covering (and competing) against both Oklahoma State and Syracuse. Even CMU’s defense has been somewhat impressive, having not allowed more than 30 points to either of those teams, including just 24 against Oklahoma State.
The last two times these teams met, the Spartans ran away with both Games while covering, but that was back in 2011 and 2012. It also can’t be forgotten that Central won in East LAnsing six years ago in a huge upset. While the Chips may be a competitive team in the MAC this year, nothing points to them having a chance in this Game.
Michigan State’s defense is worse, but Central doesn’t really have a good ground Game, which is something new for them. The Chippewas are averaging just 2.6 yards per carry with Devon Spalding (107 yards) leading the way, and that won’t cut it against Michigan State. Quarterback Cooper Rush has picked up where he left off after throwing for seven TDs in last year’s bowl Game, but without a solid running Game, can he do the same against the Spartans? That may be enough to come within 26 points, which is all CMU backers need.
It’d be interesting if Michigan State started the season 0-4 against the spread because that would mean the perennial underrated Spartans are getting somewhat overrated. Connor Cook has been solid for them so far, but the only way the Spartans will cover this Game is if the running Game can get back to business. against Air Force, they only mustered 77 yards on 42 carries, which was a bit of a surprise, considering the Falcons aren’t known for having a great run defense.
Central’s defense has been good so far, but this will be the best offensive line they’ve gone up against, and easily the best quarterback. The Chippewas don’t really have enough to stop Cook and receiver Aaron Burbridge (374 yards, 4 TDs), but as seen last week, to cover in a big spread like this, Michigan State needs a better ground Game. The success of Madre London and LJ SCott will be extremely vital to covering this Game. If they can move the chains in the second half, that will keep CMU’s offense off the field and burn the clock, while the Spartans have a likely lead. They couldn’t do that against Air Force and were outscored 14-7 in the second half.
Cooper Rush will get a chance to show a bigger audience what he can do, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he threw for more than 300 yards for the third straight Game. MSU’s secondary has had its problems this year (and injuries) and Rush has shown he can throw on anyone. And if Michigan State’s running Game struggles again, that should mean a cover for Central.
Our Pick – Had this Game taken place last season, Our model would have had the Spartans on top by a score of 55-14. However, if we run the model with only data from this season, the margin shrinks to 32-15. No play for us here, howeber we’ll lean towards over 54