College football game of the week preview and best bets: Michigan Wolverines vs Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State's Jeff Pietrowski and Jacub Panasiuk
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Ricky Dimon

NCAAF· 1 month ago

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

There are only 5 undefeated teams in the top 12 of the current college football rankings. Two of them — the Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Wolverines — are going head-to-head on Saturday. Both teams are sporting 7-0 records, although neither boasts any particularly impressive wins. That’s why a victory this weekend would be extremely important for either one.

Which team will remain undefeated and keep itself in the National Championship discussion? Let’s take a look at what could be in store for this rivalry game.

Breaking down the Wolverines

The jury is still out on Michigan, but it won’t be out for long. Head coach Jim Harbaugh’s program has not yet faced a top-25 opponent. However, three of its final 5 regular-season games come against teams currently ranked in the top 20, including this week in the form of No. 8 Michigan State and in the finale against No. 5 Ohio State.

Nobody other than Georgia plays better defense than the Wolverines. They are second in the nation in points allowed (14.3 per game) and they are giving up fewer than 300 yards per contest. Nebraska pinned 29 points on UM earlier this month, but no other team has managed more than 17. On the other side of the ball, Michigan has scored more than 30 points on 6 of 7 occasions. Quarterback Cade McNamara has accounted for 6 TDs with only 1 INT and the running back duo of Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins has combined for 1,331 yards and 20 scores.

Check out our reaction to what happened in college football during Week 8

Breaking down the Spartans

Michigan State heads into this one in an almost identical situation. Its best win is nothing more than a defeat of then-No. 24 Miami (FL), while 3 top-20 foes remain (this week against No. 6 Michigan prior to dates with No. 5 Ohio State and No. 20 Penn State). The Spartans also have victories over Nebraska (23-20 in overtime) and most recently Indiana (20-15).

They are built similarly to Michigan, as well. Sparty is surrendering a modest 18.7 points and 121.0 rushing yards per game. Offensively MSU features just one running back, but it’s safe to say one is enough. Heisman Trophy candidate Kenneth Walker III has rushed for 997 yards and a 6.6 yards per carry average and he has scored 10 total TDs. Payton Thorne has thrown for 1,701 yards to go along with 15 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

Check out our college football futures report heading into Week 9

Predictions and best bets

The Spartans were disrespected by the pollsters and the oddsmakers earlier in the year but are now comfortably in the top 10 and getting less than a touchdown against the Wolverines. That being said, 4.5 points should be enough (I already thought 3.5 points would be enough when it opened, and now MSU is getting even more). In a rivalry game and what should be a classic Big Ten battle between two stout defenses, I would not be surprised at all to see this game decided by a field goal or less. That’s why Michigan State should be the play. And under 50.5 looks good, as well.

At Pickswise we offer free expert College Football Picks and College Football Predictions for all games in the Power Five conferences and the top 25 teams outside of Power five, including our College Football Parlay picks each week.

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