Suddenly, Michigan State has become a player in the Big Ten, although the process hasn’t been pretty. That’s evident in the spread against Northwestern, a team that lost three of its first five Games. The line has moved a bit already, but the Spartans were -1.5 point favorites as of Monday at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
While this could be a fun Game, it probably won’t meet last year’s levels when Northwestern went into East LAnsing and dropped 54 points. In fact, nothing in that Game should be looked at going into this one. Northwestern ran for 209 yards while MSU could only muster 51 yards. If that happens again, everyone will be surprised, mainly because that’s how the Spartans have gotten out to a 6-1 record.
Michigan State has one of the best defenses in the country according to the numbers and its 93.4 rushing yards per Game allowed is what stands out the most. against a slew of bad quarterbacks, that’s all the Spartans have needed to pull out victories this season. That could be the case again because Clayton Thorson has not looked improved in his junior season, already tying a career-high nine interceptions to go with just eight passing touchdowns. The Northwestern offense still revolves around Justin Jackson and that’s seen in the last two wins in which he has 405 total yards on 60 touches. Jackson is going to see a ton of the ball again, but if he can’t find room, similar to Northwestern’s three losses this season, that will be trouble. That is, unless Thorson returns to last year’s levels and throws for close to 300 yards and a few touchdowns against this defense.
Expect this one to be much lower scoring with the help of a Michigan State offense that’s on the same level as Northwestern. The Spartans are churning out wins, but none of them have come by more than eight points and they only won by eight against Indiana because the Hoosiers let them walk into the end zone late in the Game. Similar to Northwestern, MSU’s offense is based around a ground Game that has been revived with the help of LJ SCott, who has 50 touches and 322 total yards in the last two Games. Quarterback Brian Lewerke hasn’t done much, but at least isn’t throwing as many picks as Thorson. Still, Lewerke hasn’t topped 212 passing yards in the last Four wins.
The selling point for Michigan State on the road is that Northwestern’s defense isn’t as good. The Wildcats haven’t stopped a semi-decent offense all season, although keeping Saquon Barkley and Jonathan Taylor mostly in check in those losses could be huge in this Game. If SCott or any of the Michigan State running backs can’t get going, this Game is going to be a slog. Expect a result similar to that of the MSU Game against Indiana last week. The Wildcats have a few more pieces on the offensive side with Jackson and Thorson and that could be the difference, especially at home. The Spartans may be ranked, but that may not be for long with PSU and OSU on the Schedule next.
The Spartans are 1-5 ATS in their last six road Games, but 5-2 ATS in their last seven Big Ten Games. The Wildcats are 4-1 ATS in their last five, but 1-6 ATS in their last seven home Games against a team with a winning road record.
Our Pick – Northwestern +2.5