Michigan State Spartans at Northwestern Wildcats
Saturday, 10/23/2010, 12:00 PM EST, TV: ESPN
Opening Point Spread: Michigan State -6.5
Current Betting Line: Michigan State -5
Opening Total: 51.5
Current Total: 53.5
Current Moneyline: Michigan State -215 / Northwestern +185
Michigan State is 7-0 for the first time since 1966 when the Spartans won their first nine games and it marks the sixth time in school history. “Not a big deal”, head coach Mark Dantonio stated. The Spartans picked up a 26-6 Homecoming win over Illinois last week and the squad is ranked in the AP top 10 for the first time since October 26, 2003, currently sitting at No. 8 nationally. It’s also important to point out that the team is ranked No. 7 in the Bowl Championship Series Standings, which were released over the weekend. In posting a 26 points versus the Fighting Illini, Michigan State failed to score at least 30 points for the first time this season. MSU has gone 5-2 ATS this year and the total is 3-3 Over/Under in those contests.
The Spartans are led by a rushing attack that ranks fourth in the Big Ten and 26th-nationally in averaging 206.1 yards per game. Sophomore Edwin Baker (100.9 ypg) and freshman Le’Veon Bell (80.3 ypg) rank fifth and sixth, respectively, in the conference in rushing. Michigan State has also benefited in ranking seventh nationally in creating 18 takeaways and has a fantastic +1.14 turnover ratio. Michigan State totaled only 14 takeaways during the course of the 2009 season. Defensively, the team is surrendering just 16.6 points per game and allowing 325 yards per game in total offense. The secondary is a major strength for the unit, collecting three interceptions in each of the last two games and 12 total for the year.
Northwestern begins the second half of its schedule with a monster matchup and is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 20-17 loss to Purdue on October 9. The Wildcats had won eight consecutive regular-season games before the defeat, its longest winning streak since the 1995 Rose Bowl team that won nine. Northwestern enjoyed three weekdays away from the field during its bye week, but now must refocus for Saturday’s homecoming clash. Until last season, the visiting team had dominated this series in winning four straight games before the Spartans’ 24-14 win at Spartan Stadium. With one more victory, the program will be come bowl-eligible for a fourth consecutive season. Over the last three seasons, NU is a perfect 6-0 as an underdog of 3.5 to 10 points and 33-14 ATS in this situation in its last 47 tries.
The Wildcats rely heavily on the passing of quarterback Dan Persa due to the team failing to have a 100-yard rusher in 19 straight games. “This is what we do here,” Persa said. “We throw it around. We’re perfectly comfortable throwing it every down if we have to. The short passes are an extension of our running game.” He ranks among the nation’s top five in total yards (326.3 ypg) and passing efficiency (173.27). On defense, Northwestern must start creating turnovers again, picking up just three in its first two league contests. The unit forced 12 takeaways in the club’s four non-conference games.
Bettors will be interested to find that the Spartans are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games as a favorite of 3.5 to 10 points. Northwestern is a dismal 2-7 ATS in its last nine home games, but 8-1 ATS as a home underdog of 3.5 to 10 points. For our free winner we are going to take the points with the Wildcats, we considered releasing this as a premium pick but after the line moved we lost a little too much value to give it out as one of our 7 plays, but it is still worth a small wager at +5.5.
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