Friday, October 16, 2015

Week 7 College Football Preview: MSU @ Michigan

(In case you missed them, I broke down the Florida State-Louisville game here and the rest of the noon games here.)

Now it's time for the two biggest games of the day. Two of the three best teams in the Big Ten on one TV, and two of the five best teams in the SEC on the other. (For the record, the rest of that list is Ohio State, LSU, and then maybe Florida and Ole Miss.)

Part 1: Michigan State @ Michigan (-7), 3:30, ESPN

After their opening week loss at Utah, Michigan has won 5 games by a combined score of 160-14.

Go re-read that sentence. The Wolverines lost away from home to the best team in the Pac-12 by one touchdown. Since then, they have absolutely creamed everyone in their path. BYU and Northwestern were both ranked when Michigan beat them (31-0 and 38-0, respectfully).

The Wolverine defense is out here lambasting fools. They:

  • are averaging 6.3 points against per game for the season (best in the nation)
  • are second in the nation in pass yards allowed per game and third in rush yards allowed per game
  • held Utah to 24 points (40.3 points per game in other games)
  • held Oregon State to 79 passing yards, 59 rushing yards, and 7 points (they stink though but still)
  • held UNLV to 7 points, and then UNLV put up 80 the next week (against Idaho State but still)
  • shut out BYU (33.2 points per game in other games)
  • held Maryland to 76 passing yards, 29 rushing yards, and 0 points (Terps kind of stink)
  • shut out Northwestern and held them to 38 rushing yards (Cats averaged 248.8 rushing yards and 25.4 points in their other games)
The closest Michigan State has gotten to an elite defense are Air Force (20th in yards against, 43rd in points against), Rutgers (86th and 60th), and Central Michigan (38th and 64th). Sparty put up 35 on Air Force, 30 on Central Michigan, and 31 on Rutgers. But there really is a huge gap between the *Elite* defenses and those three. Michigan isn't going to shut out MSU, but they'll hold them under 20. 

The question then becomes whether or not Michigan can score the 32 points per game they have been averaging since the loss to Utah. Here's what MSU's defense has been able to do:
  • Western Michigan scored 24 points and threw 2 interceptions. In their two other losses (Georgia Southern and Ohio State), they averaged just 14.5 points. In WMU's two wins (Murray State and Central Michigan), they averaged 46.5 points. That WMU team is so all over the map I don't even know what to make of them
  • Oregon scored 28 points. Besides their Utah game (when they only scored 20), the Ducks are averaging 50.3 points per game. That MSU-Oregon-Utah-Michigan connection has to mean something, and here I think it means the game should stay in the 20s?
  • MSU held Air Force at 21 points, below their average of 29.8 for the rest of their games
  • Central Michigan scored just 10 points, well below their average of 25.8 in the rest of their games
  • Purdue stinks, but even at 1-5 they've still averaged 25.8 points per game on the season, and 21 of them came against MSU
  • Rutgers has been all over the place offensively. Here are their point totals (in increasing order): 3-24-27-34-63. That 24 was last week against MSU
I think this is going to be very close to the spread. I like Michigan to win, and I think they do it by more than a touchdown. If you have a tease bag started already (like maybe with FSU?), throw the Wolverines in. If you're betting games on their own, I'm in on Michigan -7. 

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