College Football Picks: Can Michigan State Avoid Trap vs. Air Force?

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, September 15, 2015 10:42 PM GMT

All things being equal, No. 4 Michigan State should have little trouble with visiting Air Force on Saturday. But this could be a huge letdown game for Sparty off one of the big wins in school history. MSU is an opening 26-point favorite on college football odds.

Sparty Still Riding High
The Spartans beat No. 7 Oregon 31-28 in a thrilling game last Saturday night, easily the most anticipated and biggest non-conference game we are going to see in the 2015 season. Sparty senior quarterback Connor Cook boosted his Heisman chances --  now at +1200 at Bovada -- by completing 20-for-32 for 192 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He will move up to third on the all-time MSU yardage list in this game. Madre London rushed 18 times for 103 yards and freshman LJ Scott added 11 carries for 76 yards and two scores.

Did Michigan State get a bit lucky? Yes. On Oregon's final drive, Ducks quarterback Vernon Adams should have hit a wide open Byron Marshall for a 33-year touchdown, but Adams, who it has been revealed is playing with a broken finger, overthrew Marshall. The Spartans then sacked Adams for a loss of 10, and his pass on fourth-and-16 was incomplete. MSU stopped Oregon on fourth down four times in the game. Michigan State also held Oregon to 123 yards rushing, the fewest single-game total by the Ducks since they were held to 64 vs. Stanford on Nov. 7, 2013. Michigan State scored 30-plus points for the 10th consecutive game, extending a school record

What that win does is perhaps allow Michigan State to lose a late-season game in Columbus to top-ranked Ohio State, as long as it's competitive, and still perhaps make the College Football Playoff. Obviously it depends what happens in the other four power conferences -- it would certainly help MSU's case if Oregon won out and repeated as Pac-12 champion.

Why might the Spartans be caught napping against Air Force? How can there not be a letdown after winning the first game between AP Top 10 teams at Spartan Stadium since 1966? Also, Air Force is a rare FBS team to run a triple-option offense so it's tough enough preparing for the Falcons.

But Sparty is 23-2 under Coach Mark Dantonio against non-conference foes. Michigan State’s offensive line and tight end averages 6-foot-4 and 302 pounds. Air Force’s defensive line averages 6-3, 240 pounds. The Spartans will be without right tackle Kodi Kieler likely for a couple weeks due to a right leg injury.

 

Air Force Loses Starting QB
Air Force  opened the season with a 63-7 rout of Morgan State and beat San Jose State 37-16 last week, so this will be the Falcons' first road game of the season. Last week, tailback D.J. Johnson was the star, carrying 21 times for 103 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Nate Romine attempted only 11 passes and hit three for 24 yards and a score,. He also rushed 19 times for 116 yards and a TD.

Unfortunately for Coach Troy Calhoun's club, Romine's season is over. He reportedly tore his ACL and MCL in that game, at least according to what he posted on his Facebook page.  Air Force hasn't confirmed that as of this writing. But presumably Karson Roberts will get the start at quarterback. The senior from Houston hasn't seen the field yet this season and attempted just one rush and no passes in three very brief appearances last year.

Air Force offensive coordinator Mike Thiessen said that the offense won't change: "Instead of identifying who he is now, we'll let his production over the next 10 weeks prove who he is at the end of the year. We'll find out."

This will be the first time Air Force has played Michigan State and its 18th game overall against the Big Ten. The Falcons are 5-10-2. Air Force is 17-71-4 all-time vs. nationally ranked teams. It hosted No. 21 Colorado State last November and won 27-24. The win snapped a six-game losing streak vs. ranked teams. The highest-ranked team Air Force has ever beaten was No. 6 Stanford in 1970.

College Football Picks: Dantonio usually has MSU keep its focus. Give the points and go 'under' with your college football picks at Bookmaker. The Falcons are 2-7 ATS in their past nine road games. MSU is 7-3 ATS in its past 10 at home. The 'under' is 10-4 in AFA's past 14 non-conference games.