Betting Value Found in Big Ten Clash: Michigan State -3.5 the College Football Pick Over Iowa

Jason Lake

Tuesday, December 1, 2015 6:08 PM GMT

Everything's gone crazy in the Big Ten. No. 5 Michigan State visits No. 4 Iowa this Saturday for Champ Week, and the early college football odds are in Sparty's favor.

What does the Big Ten have to do to get some respect? Last year, the Ohio State Buckeyes barely squeaked into the inaugural College Football Playoff before going on to win the National Championship. This year, the No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes are on the bubble despite going undefeated thus far at 12-0 (7-5 ATS). It hardly seems fair. Maybe they should just use a computer-based model to decide which two teams play for the title.

Iowa can cement its place in the CFP by winning the Big Ten title this Saturday (8:00 p.m. ET,) against the No. 5 Michigan State Spartans. However, the Hawkeyes are 3.5-point “home” dogs on the college football odds, and two-thirds of early bettors are on the Spartans (11-1 SU, 5-7 ATS) as we go to press. Will Sparty end up going to the playoffs instead – or will they open the door for Ohio State (also 11-1 SU and 5-7 ATS) to get invited back?
 

Iowa, Indiana, Same Diff
Let's start with those “ironic” quotation marks. Iowa will be the home team on Saturday, but this game is being played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The crowd should still be favorable toward Iowa, and the Hawkeyes are 5-0 ATS in road games this year, so let's not get too worked up over the venue. Having said that, playing indoors could be just what Sparty needs to get the job done on Saturday.

Neither of these two teams has performed at an elite level on offense, but according to the S&P Ratings at Football Outsiders, Michigan State has some serious holes in its rushing attack, which ranks No. 108 out of the 128 FBS teams. While tailbacks LJ Scott (5.2 yards per carry, 10 TDs), Gerald Holmes (5.0 yards per carry, eight TDs) and Madre London (4.2 yards per carry, three TDs) are doing all right individually, it's QB Connor Cook (24 TDs, four INTs) who's running the show.
 

Don't Let It Snow
Meanwhile, Iowa's offense leans heavily on the feet of RB Jordan Canzeri (5.5 yards per carry, 12 TDs) and RB LeShun Daniels Jr. (4.7 yards per carry, eight TDs). Junior QB C.J. Beathard (14 TDs, three INTs) is in his first year as Iowa's starter; he's been an effective game manager for the Hawkeyes, minimizing mistakes while the ground game – on offense and defense – does the heavy lifting.

Playing outdoors in December would have benefited the Hawkeyes. Consider last week's 28-20 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers (+2.5 at home), where Beathard threw just nine passes on a wintry day while Canzeri rushed for 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 17 carries. Too bad the Hawkeyes won't be able to duplicate that on Saturday. Instead, we're following the sharp action and putting the Spartans in out NCAAF picks for Champ Week. They're on a 5-1 SU and ATS roll, their offensive line is intact after some early-season injuries, and they've been battle-tested after playing a tough schedule in the Big Ten East. If anyone from this conference is going to the CFP, it could be Sparty.

College Football Pick: Michigan State -3.5 at Pinnacle

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