After winning their season opener, the no. 19 Michigan State Spartans will look to stay perfect when they host the Western Michigan Broncos. The two in-state foes will kick off at 7:30 EST on Saturday, September 7 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan. The game can be seen on the Big Ten Network.
Oddsmakers list the Spartans as 17.5-point favorites with an over/under of 44 points. Be sure to check out all of this week’s college football betting odds.
The Spartans got a win in their season opener against Tulsa, although the 28-7 score wasn’t enough to cover the spread. Nevertheless, it was a dominant performance from the MSU defense, which forced three turnovers and held Tulsa to a total of 80 yards. The Spartans also scored a defensive touchdown and a safety, giving the MSU defense more points than Tulsa. It was a good start to the season for Mark Dantonio’s team, as they look to improve from last year’s 7-6 record.
Western Michigan is also happy one week into the season. Tim Lester’s Broncos took care of business against FCS opponent Monmouth, winning 48-13. WMU got five touchdown passes from quarterback Jon Wassink, which was great to see after he missed the end of the 2018 season due to injury. Many believe the Broncos have a chance to compete in the MAC West division this year, and they have no problem challenging themselves early in the season with non-conference games against Michigan State and Syracuse lined up in September.
To no one’s surprise, the Spartans have dominated this series whenever they’ve crossed paths with Western Michigan. Dating back to 1921, MSU has won 11 in a row against the Broncos. The two Michigan schools last met in 2017 when Lester’s team stayed competitive with Dantonio and the Spartans, as Michigan State won 28-14. Games in 2013 and 2015 were decided by 13 points, as the Broncos tend to give the Spartans their best effort.
I think Michigan State has a chance to do some big things this year because their defense looks outstanding. But I’ve been consistently disappointed by their offense over the past few seasons, which makes 17.5 points a large spread for them. With Western Michigan being one of the better teams in the MAC this year and these schools having a history of playing competitive games, I’ll lean toward the Broncos to beat the spread, even in a loss.
As impressed as I was by the Michigan State defense last week, their offense was a major letdown. Granted, they didn’t need to do much scoring to beat Tulsa. But the Spartans could only muster one offensive touchdown against a team that’s probably going to be one of the worst in the country this season. It’s hard to reconcile that, even in a season opener.
The Spartans just don’t have a good excuse for not scoring more points against Tulsa. Brian Lewerke is a senior quarterback entering his third year as a starter, so there’s no reason not to air it out more with him. Connor Heyward is also a trustworthy running back, yet the Spartans barely eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground and averaged 2.7 yards per carry. If the Michigan State offense couldn’t do more damage against Tulsa, I’m not sure I can trust them to score enough points to cover the spread in this game.
Granted, the Western Michigan defense is far from elite. But the Broncos return eight starters from a year ago and bring back almost all of their top tacklers from 2018. They may not be as strong or athletic as Big Ten defenses at some positions, but the WMU defense should be able to hold its own against a Michigan State offense that was lackluster at best in the season opener.
On the other side of the ball, the Western Michigan offense has a fair amount of potential. Wassink looked sharp last week against an FCS opponent. He also has 35 touchdown passes to just 10 interceptions in his career, so he’s efficient and limits his mistakes. Wassink can also run a little, especially nearly the goal line, scoring nine touchdowns with his legs over the past two seasons. On top of that, the Broncos have a proven running back in LeVante Bellamy and have three starters back on the offensive line.
To be fair, I’m not delusional enough to think the Western Michigan offense will be running circles around the MSU defense. The Spartans racked up six sacks against Tulsa last week, which is why the Golden Hurricanes had -73 rushing yards. But Lester will pull out a few tricks and the Broncos have enough talent to put together a few good drives. I’d be surprised if the Western Michigan offense didn’t find the end zone at least once or twice on Saturday.
In the end, the Michigan State offense is the biggest reason I can’t eat the points in this game. Covering 17.5 points will either require a shutout or the offense creating explosive plays. I think Western Michigan is too good offensively to shutout while the Michigan State offense will continue to lack explosiveness. I’ll take my chances with the Broncos keeping this game close enough to beat the spread.