The no. 18 Michigan State Spartans will be looking for some redemption for a loss last season as they play host the Arizona State Sun Devils this week. Game time is at 4:00 EST on Saturday, September 14 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan. The game will be broadcast nationally on Fox.
Oddsmakers view the Spartans as 13.5-point favorites at home. The over/under for the contest is set at 44.5 points. Be sure to check out all of this week’s college football betting odds.
After a disappointing 7-6 season a year ago, Michigan State has started off 2019 the right way, winning their first two games of the season. While the Spartans failed to cover the spread in their season opener against Tulsa due to a lackluster performance by the offense, the MSU offense woke up last week in a 51-17 win over in-state foe Western Michigan 51-17.
Of course, one week before the Spartans begin Big Ten play, they’ll play their first power-conference opponent of the season. As usual, playing in the Big Ten East makes for a difficult schedule. The Spartans are lined up to play three straight ranked teams in October, so it’s important for them to take care of business as favorites in September.
Meanwhile, Arizona State is also out to a 2-0 start, as they look to build off a surprising 7-6 record last season. However, the Sun Devils haven’t been all that impressive. They began the season with a somewhat ho-hum 30-7 win over Kent State and then struggled to put away FCS opponent Sacramento State last week. The Sun Devils only managed four field goals until a late touchdown pass put them up 19-7, which is how the game ended.
Moving forward, it’s safe to say that Arizona State no longer has any easy games on the schedule. The Sun Devils will play five ranked teams in their last 10 games. Even if they can’t steal a win this weekend, staying close with a ranked team would give ASU some confidence when they begin the Pac-12 part of their schedule next week.
As mentioned, the Sun Devils did manage to steal a win against Michigan State last year. The Spartans went to the desert as 5-point favorites but failed to hold onto a 13-3 lead at the start of the fourth quarter. Arizona State kicked a last-second field goal to pull off a shocking 16-13 win that ended up being the win they needed to get to a bowl game.
I’m a little wary of eating the points with Michigan State in this game because we’ve seen two different performances form their offense in the first two games. If scoring points is an issue again, covering two touchdowns will be difficult. But Arizona State hasn’t impressed me and I still like the Michigan State defense, so I’ll take my chances with the Spartans covering.
With true freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels leading the Sun Devils, the running game was supposed to be Arizona State’s biggest strength heading into the season. But Eno Benjamin, who rushed for over 1,600 yards last year, has been held in check through two games. Not only is he averaging just 3.7 yards per carry as a rusher, but he’s done so against Kent State and Sacramento State, teams he should be dominating. Daniels has saved the Sun Devils with his arm, but that could change against Michigan State.
Much like last season when the Spartans shut down Benjamin and nearly every other running back they faced, the Michigan State defense is outstanding against the run. They held Tulsa to negative rushing yards in their opener and limited Western Michigan to 67 yards last week. That doesn’t bode well for ASU’s chances to get Benjamin going on Saturday. The Michigan State secondary should also put up more resistance than the other teams Arizona State has faced this year.
Of course, while I’m confident in the MSU defense, covering the spread in this game will likely come down to how productive the Michigan State offense can be. In theory, the Spartans should be reliable on that side of the ball. They have a senior quarterback in Brian Lewerke and a senior wide receiver in Darrell Stewart who appears poised to have a breakout season. But that’s not what we saw in the opener against Tulsa, which gives me some pause. Arizona State has a talented defense despite not being challenged in their first two games.
The X-factor in this game could be MSU freshman running back Elijah Collins, who exploded for 192 yards last week against Western Michigan. A steady rushing attack is what the Spartans were missing last season, and getting that kind of production on the ground changes the whole shape of their offense, especially with an experienced quarterback like Lewerke. I’ll take a chance that Collins and the Spartans can run the ball effectively again this week. Between a balanced offense and an outstanding defense, Michigan State could be able to cover the 13.5-point spread.