Michigan State +6.5 at Iowa O/U 50.5
Recommendation: Michigan State
Saturday, 12:30 pm PT - ABC
The Michigan State Spartans travel to Iowa City for their toughest remaining test of the season as they shoot to stay unbeaten and on top of the Big Ten standings. MSU is 8-0 for the first time in over 40 years and ABC television will carry the action as Iowa tries to rebound off a disappointing 31-30 home loss last week to Wisconsin.
We’ve cashed big on the Spartans with a pair of top 20* Big Drive bombers when Michigan State beat both Michigan and Illinois by big margins. Last week the Spartans made a remarkable second half come back to beat Northwestern on the road, 35-27, and rewarded their betting backers with an even more miraculous pointspread cover thanks to a late touchdown after Northwestern turned the ball over on downs.
The breaks, trick plays, fake kicks, punts and solid fundamentals are all working for the Spartans and while the pressure may be building, so too is the confidence of the MSU players. The Hawkeyes have to be feeling deflated as many of their preseason goals were crushed last week in defeat. The one-point loss hurts when you have a botched extra point and lack a solid kicker with a freshman walk-on hitting just three field goals this season. The Spartans have one of the top kickers in the conference this season as Dan Conroy has made 13 of 14 FGs and all 33 extra points.
State has one of the nation’s strongest and most balanced offenses, as it runs for nearly 200 yards per game and passes for over 250 yards per game. Both running backs Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell average over 6.4 yards per carry. Despite a ground game that has been slowed the past two games, head coach Mike Dantonio has called all the right plays and the Spartans have a top signal caller as Kirk Cousins ranks among the top pass efficiency quarterbacks in the country. So does Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi, but we’re taking a full touchdown with the better team in my opinion and as a matchup indicator, the Spartans outgained Wisconsin by 150 yards at home and won by 10 despite three turnovers to zero for the Badgers. Iowa just lost to that same Wisconsin team as a 6-point favorite with essentially even stats and Iowa had no turnovers but couldn’t pull out the home win. Now the Hawkeye’s are laying -6.5 points against a better Spartans team.
Michigan State’s defense is solid, and while not quite as strong as Iowa’s, the Spartans have some superb playmakers at linebacker with seniors Greg Jones and Eric Gordon. Michigan State ranks high in pass efficiency defense and the Spartans defense allows 4.7 yards per play overall which matches the Hawkeyes. Iowa’s defense has allowed 297 yards per game, which is statistically 35 yards better than Michigan State’s defensive numbers and Iowa’s strong defensive line play is the difference.
Nearly the whole world lined up on Iowa last week and took a beating betting against the Badgers. I’m well aware Iowa is 8-1 ATS off a loss under head coach Kirk Ferentz, but note that the underdog is 16-4 ATS in this series and I’ll continue to ride the hot hand of Sparty as Michigan State plays this one tight to the end and should have a solid shot to cover its sixth straight game.
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