College Football Side Betting: Michigan State Spartans at Ohio State Buckeyes

The Michigan State Spartans have had much better success than any of their Big Ten counterparts against the Ohio State Buckeyes this decade. The Spartans have knocked off the Buckeyes in three of their eight meetings in the 2010s, including an upset of Ohio State in the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game. Michigan State isn’t being given much of a shot this Saturday, but that might be a mistake.

MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS AT OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
ODDS: OHIO STATE -20
TOTAL: 49

This line has moved in favor of Michigan State from where it originally opened. Ohio State was initially -20.5 per the college football betting odds, but the line quickly dropped under 20. It dipped down to 19 before stabilizing at 19.5, yet don’t be surprised if it falls even further closer to kickoff. The total opened at 49 and has fluctuated as much as a point in both directions, but this number is right back where it started.

INJURY REPORT

Michigan State has been dealing with a lot of injuries, particularly to its receiving corps. Jalen Nailor and Tre’von Morgan will miss this game, and Cam Chambers is questionable after missing last week against Indiana. The offensive line is banged up too with Cole Chewins and Kevin Jarvis out, while AJ Arcuri is questionable, and Blake Bueter is probable. Cornerback Shakur Brown is questionable too.

The Buckeyes won’t have tight end Cormontae Hamilton on Saturday, and he has not played since the season opener. Safety Ronnie Hickman, defensive linemen Noah Donald and Tyreke Smith, linebacker Teradja Mitchell, and offensive lineman Branden Bowen are all questionable.

WHEN OHIO STATE HAS THE BALL

Justin Fields hasn’t had to do a ton so far this season, but he has emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate. He has a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown in each of his first five games, and he has 23 total touchdowns. Fields has yet to throw more than 25 passes or total over 234 yards in the air in 2019, but he has not thrown an interception yet either. His play is a large part of why this offense is ranked fifth in SP+ this year.

Of course, the Buckeyes can run the ball too. They are averaging 6.1 yards per carry on the year, and J.K. Dobbins has had a fantastic year. He is second in the nation with 654 rushing yards this season, and Dobbins could end the season as the country’s leading rusher despite splitting carries with Master Teague III. That says something about Ohio State’s ability to run the ball effectively.

The Spartans have the second-best defense in the country per SP+, and they have made a habit of shutting down highly rated offenses under Mark Dantonio. Michigan State is allowing just 3.8 yards per play, and the run defense has been stout. Opponents are averaging 1.9 YPC against this front seven, so Ohio State may have a difficult time establishing the run. That should lead to Fields taking to the air more often than in any other game this season, so over bets on NCAAF player props featuring the young quarterback are wise.

WHEN MICHIGAN STATE HAS THE BALL

The Spartans have typically not had good offenses under Dantonio, and that’s the case again this year. Michigan State is ranked 62nd on that side of the ball per SP+, but the Spartans do have some reason for optimism ahead of this game.

Brian Lewerke has put up decent numbers this year. He’s completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 1,325 yards with 10 touchdowns against one interception. His offensive line has protected him well, allowing him time to throw and make plays through the air. Lewerke has been sacked just four times this year.

When Lewerke takes to the air, Darrell Stewart Jr. is likely to be his target. Stewart has hauled in 35 passes for 556 yards and three touchdowns this season, and he has twice as many receiving yards as the second leading receiver on Michigan State. That production has been needed too with the Spartans being held to just 4.0 YPC on the ground.

Ohio State’s defense has been excellent this season. The Buckeyes have been surprisingly sound despite the loss of Alex Grinch and Nick Bosa, holding their last four opponents to 10 points or less. Florida Atlantic would have likely been held under this total in the season opener too if the Owls didn’t score 15 points in the fourth quarter.

PREDICTION

Something has to give here. Michigan State’s defense has yet to face an offense as good as Ohio State’s, but the Buckeyes have not faced a defense anywhere near as good as this offense. We’re likely to see just how good a passer Fields really is, and while I think he will play well, I like the Spartans to cover. Michigan State should not be getting nearly three touchdowns per the NCAAF betting odds with a game plan that stalls out games.

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