The Michigan State Spartans have quite possibly been the most disappointing team in the country, but they should become bowl eligible with a win over a Minnesota team with internal squabbles on Saturday.
Nobody expected the Michigan State Spartans (5-6, 3-1 away) to need to win their final game to become bowl eligible, but that is the case as they close the season with a visit to the Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-5, 4-2 home) on Saturday afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN at 3:30 ET in a game televised nationally on the Big Ten Network.
The point spread at Bookmaker Sportsbook has Michigan State as a road favorite for this contest with a current line of -7½ at odd of -110.
The Spartans are coming off of back-to-back 11-win seasons and they had a statement win over Georgia out of the SEC in the Outback Bowl in January, so Michigan State entered this season nationally ranked and with Rose Bowl hopes.
Instead, the offense has taken a major step back with quarterback Kirk Cousins now in the NFL and the team has a losing record through 11 games, with five conference losses by a grand total of 13 points to go along with a 20-3 non-conference loss to undefeated and top ranked Notre Dame. In fact, the worst of the five Big Ten losses was by just four points!
The defense has held up its end of the bargain, leading the Big Ten and ranking seventh in the country in total defense while allowing only 289.4 yards and 16.9 points per game. We do like that defense to smother the discombobulated Golden Gophers this week as the Spartans get the needed win to go bowling, and for running back Le’Veon Bell to spark the offense enough to get the cover.
Bell has been just about the lone bright spot of the Michigan State offense, as he has rushed for 1382 yards and 10 touchdowns for a team that ranks just 95th in total offense and is averaging 19.7 points per game. Last week’s 23-20 home loss to Northwestern was just par for the course, as Bell rushed for 133 yards on 32 carries but quarterback Andrew Maxwell completed less than half of his passes (22-for-46) and threw two interceptions.
Luckily, the Spartans are facing a Minnesota team with more problems then they have, and when you add in the bowl motivation, Michigan State should win handily just with its defense and Bell alone.
First of all, Minnesota already earned the sixth win to become bowl eligible vs. an inept Illinois team two weeks ago, making last week’s 38-14 loss at Nebraska basically meaningless and not leaving the Gophers with much motivation for this week either. The bigger story in Minneapolis though is leading wide receiver A.J. Barker leaving the football team on Sunday.
Barker had missed the last two games with an ankle injury, two games that saw the Golden Gophers score a grand total of 31 points, and he was called out in front of the whole team by Coach Jerry Kill for not rehabilitating the ankle hard enough and was forced to work out last Tuesday. Well, an MRI the following day revealed ligament tears above his heel, and he left the team Sunday via a scathing email to Kill that he later made public on his blog.
Add in the fact that Barker was supported by some teammates and the morale in the Minnesota locker room simply cannot be conducive to winning football right now. Against that backdrop, give the points with the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday.
College Football Pick: Michigan State -7½ (-110)