Washington State gets another chance in the Holiday Bowl after falling 17-12 to Minnesota last season. This time around, it gets Michigan State, which flipped its record from 3-9 to 9-3 in one season. For the Game in San Diego, the Cougars were early -2.5 point favorites as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
This should be a fun Game between two teams that have had their fair share of nice wins this season. Michigan State took down Michigan and Penn State, while Washington State beat USC and Stanford. But like any team playing in the Holiday Bowl, there were also some bad losses. The Spartans fell to Northwestern and were blown out of the stadium against Ohio State. The same could be said for the Cougars with all three of their losses by at least 21 points with the Cal beat down standing out.
Going further, both have been stout on the defensive side, but also have the ability to Scorein bunches. MSU has had a better rush defense this season, but that won’t work against the Air Raid. As for Wazzu, its defense has been solid against both air and ground, but the 4.2 yards per carry allowed could be a problem.
The Spartans will look to open the Game with running back LJ SCott and hope that works to plan. SCott has NFL-level talent, but he struggled to put in consistent results most of the season. If they can get him going, that would be an edge in this matchup off the bat. And even if SCott doesn’t go for more than 100 yards, quarterback Brian Lewerke has been competent enough to beat up mediocre defenses and that’s what could happen here. Lewerke was inconsistent in his first season as the starter, but back-to-back 400-yard Games showed his potential. He’ll look often to Cody White, who became his top receiver down the stretch, along with Felton Davis.
On the other side, it wouldn’t be surprising if Washington State completely ignored the running Game after averaging just 2.9 yards per carry as a team (sacks included). Jamal Morrow and James Williams are averaging more than that, but both have been more useful in the passing Game. The problem is that MSU’s defense may be on the same level as Washington’s and that matchup didn’t go well for Wazzu. The Cougars finished with -24 rushing yards (due to sacks), while LUke Falk threw it 55 times.
The issue for Falk is that top wide outs Tavares Martin and Isaiah Johnson-MACk, who had a combined 130 receptions, won’t be playing in this Game. Falk has huge numbers, but still has just 6.73 yards per attempt and struggled against better defenses. With a couple new receivers, it may be even more difficult for Falk to put together a solid outing. Sure, he could throw for 300 or 400 yards, but he threw for 369 against the Huskies and that only led to 14 points.
Washington State is favored, but it may be easier to take the team with the better defense in this matchup. That won out for Minnesota in last year’s Game and that could be the case again. The Cougars are 1-5 ATS in their last six against the Big Ten and 5-2 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. The Spartans have covered in their last Four bowls and are 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight at a neutral site. However, MSU is also 1-6 ATS in its last seven against the Pac-12.
Our Pick – Michigan State -1