This weekend gives us the fiercest in-state rivalry the Big Ten has to offer as the no. 15 Michigan Wolverines welcome the Michigan State Spartans to the Big House. Kickoff is at noon EST on Saturday, November 16 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. The game will be televised nationally on Fox.
The Wolverines are currently listed as 13.5-point favorites at home over their rivals. The over/under for the game is set at 44 points. Be sure to check out all of the Week 12 college football betting odds.
Michigan State enters this game in dire straights, having lost four games in a row. It must be mentioned that three of those losses came at the hands of Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Penn State. However, there is no defending last week’s home loss to Illinois, a game the Spartans once led 28-3. MSU ended up being outscored 27-3 in the fourth quarter and conceding the game-winning touchdown pass with five seconds left.
The loss leaves Mark Dantonio and company at 4-5 on the season and just 2-4 in Big Ten play. The Spartans are only a few years removed from going 3-9 and missing out on a bowl game and will be desperate to avoid the same kind of season. The good news is that Michigan State has winnable games against Rutgers and Maryland to close out the season. However, they will be desperate to end their losing streak so those don’t have the pressure of must-win games.
As for Michigan, they are fresh off a convincing 38-7 win over that same Maryland team last week. The Wolverines dismantled Notre Dame 45-14 prior to that, so Jim Harbaugh’s team has responded well to their close loss to Penn State a few weeks ago. Michigan has now won five of their last six games, putting them at 7-2 on the season.
Unfortunately, Michigan’s Big Ten title hopes are all but dead. But the Wolverines still have a chance to win 10 games and play in a major bowl game. They also want to stay sharp in preparation for their showdown with Ohio State the last week of the season.
Of course, rarely do either one of these teams require extra motivation to face the other. After all, the Paul Bunyan Trophy is on the line. In an interesting twist in this rivalry, the road team has won four in a row, including a 21-7 Michigan win in East Lansing last year. However, the Spartans have won in four of their last five trips to Ann Arbor, so they shouldn’t be lacking in confidence coming into the Big House, despite a four-game losing streak.
A month ago, there’s no way I would have swallowed two touchdowns in Michigan’s favor against the Spartans. However, Michigan State has proven to be utterly worthless against quality teams, losing by at least 21 points to Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Penn State. Meanwhile, Michigan has turned things up a notch with lopsided wins in back-to-back weeks. I know crazy things happen in this rivalry, but it’d take something ridiculous for the Wolverines not to win this game by a comfortable margin.
In Michigan State’s defense, they’ve been able to score points against lackluster defenses like Indiana and Illinois. But they’ve done nothing against the upper-echelon Big Ten teams. Even with freshman running back Elijah Collins starting to emerge, the Spartans are one of the worst rushing teams in the Big Ten. More importantly, they aren’t getting the kind of quarterback play from Brian Lewerke to make up for averaging less than four yards per carry on the ground. Lewerke has completed just 55% of his passes on the season and threw three game-changing interceptions last week against Illinois.
At this point, I have little confidence in the MSU offense going up against the Michigan defense. Remember, the Wolverines worked Notre Dame a few weeks ago, holding the Irish to 180 total yards and completely befuddling Ian Book. In fairness, the weather played a part in the game, but the weather in Ann Arbor in mid-November is also far from ideal.
I’m even losing faith in the Michigan State defense to keep the Spartans within striking distance. They couldn’t do much against Ohio State or Wisconsin. Even more concerning, the MSU defense couldn’t hold a 25-point lead last week against Illinois. Michigan transfer Brandon Peters threw for over 350 yards against the Spartans, connecting on touchdown passes of 46 and 83 yards.
Again, that doesn’t bode well for this week’s game against Michigan. The Wolverines have better skill players than Illinois and a big-arm quarterback in Shea Patterson who won’t mind taking shots down the field. Harbaugh’s team appears to be hitting their stride late in the year, averaging 36.5 points over their last four games. I don’t think the MSU defense can continue to get stops for four quarters, especially considering the state of their offense.
It’s tough to lay down this many points in a rivalry game like this. But I can’t justify giving the Spartans the benefit of the doubt. They haven’t been able to keep up with a top-flight Big Ten team all season. Michigan State may make a game of this in the first half. But I like the Wolverines to run away in the second half and cover the spread.