Northwestern Michigan State Spread

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The Michigan State Spartans have an impressive 9-1 record, including a 6-0 record in Big Ten play.  The Spartans lone loss this season came by just four points, and on the road against Notre Dame.  Since that loss the Spartans have won six consecutive games.  The team ranked at the time of play, aside from Notre Dame, came three weeks ago against Michigan.  After that win they had a bye week before traveling to Nebraska to pick up a 13-point win.

After opening the season with a 4-0 record, the Wildcats have since lost six-consecutive games.  Two of those games have come in overtime, including last weeks triple overtime loss against Michigan.  The Wildcats were within 10 points against Ohio State earlier this season, and have lost their last four games by eight-points or less.

Kick-off takes place this Saturday at 12:00 PM ET with television coverage being provided by ESPN.  The oddsmakers have Michigan State dominating this game, listing them as 7.5-point favorites over the Wildcats.

Why Michigan State Covers

The Spartans are scoring 30.9 points per game this season, but they have a great opportunity to surpass that average this week against Northwestern.  The Wildcats have allowed opponents 165 rushing yards per game on four yards per carry.  The Spartans are a strong running team, gaining 188 rushing yards per game on 4.4 yards per carry.  The offense has barely been slowed down when playing on the road, with Michigan State putting up 30.5 points per game.  They have averaged just shy of typical rushing averages with 173 yards per game.  The offense totals 377 yards, which is right in line with the numbers put up by the Wildcats.

Michigan State is 9-1 ATS in road games against teams completing over 58% of their pass attempts.

Michigan State’s defense is their biggest advantage in this game.  The Spartans have allowed a mere 13.2 points per game this season.  When playing on the road they are still holding opponents to below average figures at 15.5 points per game.  The run defense may be the best in the Big Ten giving up a mere 57 rushing yards per game on 2.1 yards per carry.  The strength of this defensive unit is definitely the front seven, but the secondary has also played extremely well this year.  They have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete a mere 47.3% of their pass attempts for 171 passing yards per game.

Why Northwestern Covers

The Wildcats have had no problem putting points on the board this season, especially when playing at home.  They average 31.2 points per game, and have done so with a strong running game, and great play from their quarterbacks.  The Wildcats average 184 rushing yards per game on 4.3 yards per carry.  They are completing 67.9% of their pass attempts when playing at home for 229 passing yards.  The offense as a whole has averaged 416 yards in home games.  The fact that Northwestern is a mere 3-3 at home has forced the oddsmakers to overcompensate with this line.  Their 1-5 ATS record at home is actually a big reason we are getting so many points this week.

Northwestern is 41-24 against the spread as an underdog of 3.5 to 10 points.

The Wildcats defense has been a bit inconsistent this season, but they have also played an extremely difficult schedule.  Their opponents have averaged 30.1 points per game, but the Wildcats have held them to just 25.3 points per game when playing at home.  The run defense has yielded 157 rushing yards on four yards per carry,but the strength of these defense is definitely the secondary.  The Wildcats have held opposing quarterbacks to a 58.4% completion percentage overall, and 57.1% when playing at home.  They have given up 217 passing yards, and will face a Spartans team that has struggled to gain yardage through the air.  The Spartans are completing just 55.5% of their pass attempts on the road, and have averaged 189 passing yards per game in all games this season.

My Prediction

The Northwestern Wildcats are a much better team than they get credit for.  They should have no problem keeping this game within a touchdown, especially since Michigan State has been so inconsistent on offense.  Take the points with the home team because if the Wildcats are not able to pull off an upset they will certainly be within seven points.

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