Big Ten College Football Preview – Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State Spartans

The Spartans finished the 2017 season with a 10-3 overall record and a blowout win over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. They were 8-5 against the spread and 6-2 at home against the spread. Overall it was an exciting season where the Spartans showed up every game except for two blowout losses against Notre Dame and Ohio State.

The good news for the Spartans is they return 19 starters from last season, including all all major players at the skill positions. They are led by Quarterback Brian Lewerke who went for almost 2,800 yards in the air and over 500 yards on the ground. He is an exciting player with a competitive drive. He is joined by starting running back LJ Scott who fell just shy of a 900 yard season, although he was prone to turnovers. Three returning receivers are all capable, but none are particularly explosive. Nevertheless, they are competent possession receivers. The offense averaged 24.5 points per game last season, but we expect the number will rise this season.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Spartans return 9 of 11 starters from a unit that allowed 20 points per game last season. This number is a little skewed by the fact the Spartans gave up 38 to Notre Dame early in the season, 48 on the road against Ohio State, and 39 in a triple overtime loss to Northwestern. When Michigan State faces equal or inferior teams, they have been very strong allowing 10 or fewer points on six occasions. Overall the unit is solid, especially in the secondary.

The total over under season wins for Michigan State is 9 and the odds to win the conference stand at +650. We feel the win total correctly predicts the reasonable expectation for this season and will not recommend a wager either way. Although 6.5 to 1 is decent value for a team that finished 10-3 last season and brings back virtually the entire team, we feel the Big Ten is too loaded this season for the Spartans to win the Conference. They do benefit from having their toughest two games of the season at home against Michigan and Ohio State. However, we feel a few teams have slightly more overall talent and someone else will emerge as conference champion. Our true odds are closer to 10-1 to 12-1.

The season opens with a Week #1 game against Utah State. The current line stands at Michigan State -23. Utah State has had three consecutive losing seasons and has been blown out by top tier out of conference schools the last two year (USC and Wisconsin). We expect Michigan State to be very strong in week 1 and cover the number.

Week #2 is a road game in Tempe against the Sun Devils of Arizona State. Arizona State has a new head coach in Herm Edwards and an athletic quarterback in Manny Wilkins. However, they have struggled defensively the last few years. Depending on the line, Michigan State may be a worthy road favorite in this spot, but we will reserve judgment for Week #2. However, we do expect the game will yield significant points and will be looking at a potential over play in this spot.

Week #3 is a bye for the Spartans. They return with a road game against Indiana in Week #4. Despite the talent gap, Indiana has played Michigan State very well the last two years, with the Spartans winning close games. The game two years back resulted in an overtime three-point win. This year coming out of the bye we do not expect such a close affair and expect Michigan State to win by 3 touchdowns on the road.

Week #5 is a home game against the Central Michigan Chippewas of the MAC. MSU has won the last few meetings fairly handily, although they were upset in 2009. Central Michigan was a solid 8-5 in their conference, but was beaten handily by out of conference opponents Syracuse and Boston College. We do not see a major turnaround in this spot and expect Michigan State to win big, although the line will likely be prohibitive.