The Michigan State Spartans may be undefeated and ranked fourth in the country, but they are also 0-5 ATS and may go to 0-6 visiting Rutgers in Big Ten play Saturday night.
The current fourth ranked team in the country has been burning the money of its supporters all season, and that may continue on the road in Big Ten play Saturday night when those undefeated Michigan State Spartans (5-0, 0-5 ATS) pay a visit to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-2, 1-3 ATS) at High Points Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, NJ at 8:00 ET in a game televised nationally on Big Ten Network.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Rutgers as a double-digit home underdog for this contest with the current line at +13½ with odds of -112.
5-0 But 0-5 ATS
While Michigan State deserves credit for being undefeated it is also rather amazing that the Spartans have not covered a point spread yet. And outside of a narrow 31-28 victory over Oregon, it is not as if Sparty has faced a grueling schedule either as the other four non-covering wins have come over Western Michigan., Air Force, Central Michigan and Purdue.
Rutgers has actually done well to go 2-2 with a team that has been decimated a bit by suspensions, although it helped to face a slump-buster in an awful Kansas team when the Scarlet Knights were the winning college football picks and snapped a two-game losing streak 27-14 when they last played two weeks ago. Now Rutgers gets a major piece back with leading wide receiver Leonte Carroo back from suspension, reinstated when his assault charge was dropped.
Michigan Up Next
Michigan State has had several near-upset losses, and last week was another one when the Spartans nearly blew a 21-0 lead before holding on for dear life 24-21 vs. a less-than-mediocre Purdue team that is now 0-4 straight up vs. FBS schools this year. Sparty has gotten by with some uninspired play thus far this season, and tonight could be another unfocused effort considering that Michigan State could already have one eye on its date at Michigan next week!
The biggest decline in the Michigan State team so far relative to recent seasons has been on defense, where the Spartans are ranked just 43rd in the country in scoring defense at 20.8 points per game and a disturbing 65th in total defense yielding 376.8 total yards per contest. They have been particularly vulnerable vs. the pass ranking 92nd allowing 248.8 passing yards per game, and that is where the return of Carroo can allow Rutgers to be competitive in this game.
Two Weeks to Prepare
Thus far the Rutgers offense has been run-heavy averaging a nice 211.0 rushing yards per game led by the dynamic duo of Josh Hicks and Paul James, but now the offense can be more balanced with Carroo reinstated after he had seven receptions for 181 yards (25.9 yards per catch) and three touchdowns in only two games!
That is not to say that the passing game has been totally ineffective in Carroo’s absence as quarterback Chris Laviano has completed 72.0 percent of his passes on 7.9 yards per attempt, but he had four interceptions vs. two touchdown passes in the two games that Carroo missed while forcing the ball more than usual. He can now relax with that no longer a concern, and remember that the Scarlett Knights scored 97 points over the first two weeks with the team in tact.
And do not underestimate the importance of having two weeks to prepare for this game with the bye week following the big win over Kansas, as that may have allowed the Scarlet Knights to game plan some innovative ways to have Carroo attack the suspect MSU secondary.
Rutgers Can Build on Last Performance
Finally, Rutgers piled up 513 yards in their win over Kansas in their last game, which is significant because the Scarlet Knights are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games after gaining more than 450 total yards in their previous game.
Now, with Michigan State playing lethargic football so far this year and quite possibly looking ahead to its big game at Michigan next week, look for that winning ATS pattern for Rutgers to continue and for the Spartans fall to 0-6 against the spread even while probably going to 6-0 straight up on Saturday.
College Football Pick: Rutgers +13½ (-112)