As a new season begins, can the Michigan State Spartans not only start off on the right foot but also cover the College Football Odds point spread against Western Michigan?
The Michigan State Spartans used to be the team that could not win bowl games or conference championships. The team won the Big Ten in 2013, and it has now won four straight bowl games after coming from 20 points down to beat Baylor, 42-41, in the 2015 Cotton Bowl. Michigan State was just one of two teams to make a comeback of 20 or more points in the fourth quarter of a game last season. Baylor was the other one.
The Michigan State Spartans come into the season with a great deal of belief in their ability to perform when it really counts. This is a team that got blown away in the second half by Ohio State last year, but Ohio State turned out to be the best team in college football. The Spartans needed to beat Baylor in the Cotton Bowl to show that they really belonged among the elite, and when they successfully completed a 20-point fourth quarter comeback, they knew that they had remained a part of college football’s power structure. The offense brings back quarterback Connor Cook, who should be very comfortable in the Spartans’ offense. Having that quality should be extremely important in a season-opening road game at night in Kalamazoo against Western Michigan, which was a bowl team last year. The Spartans might be vulnerable to opening-night rust just like all other college teams and athletes are, but because they have veterans at the right positions, they’re probably less vulnerable than others in college football.
The Western Michigan Broncos didn’t win their bowl game, losing to the Air Force Falcons in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. However, they still made a radical improvement, a big leap, from where they were in 2013. Western Michigan was 1-11 in 2013, 8-5 last year. Head coach P.J. Fleck is a rising star in the coaching business, and with his energy, Western Michigan is being taken very seriously. The Broncos have their program headed in the right direction, without question.
Michigan State opened as a 19-point favorite, but the line immediately moved to 18.5 points and has begun to settle into a holding pattern in which it varies between 17.5 and 18 points. It appears that early College Football picks seem to have landed on a meeting place of sorts. The initial drop in the line by almost two points can be attributed to the fact that one of Michigan State’s key defensive players, a seasoned veteran linebacker named Ed Davis, has been knocked out for the season with an injury suffered in August. That, and the fact that Western Michigan will be playing at home before a frenzied crowd, brought the line down.
The Davis injury for Michigan State is one of two which looms over this game and the betting line. A few other reserves might not be available for the Spartans, but the other key starter who will be out is cornerback Darian Hicks, who is suffering from mononucleosis.
Western Michigan has no injuries of note at this time.
Handicapping The Game
The fact that Michigan State is missing a linebacker and a corner probably won’t matter against Western Michigan, but the underdog Broncos have to try to attack the Spartans’ backups. That’s their only chance, and if they do have success, then this game could be close. However, Michigan State has cultivated depth on defense, and last season, Western Michigan’s best offensive player was a running back, Jarvion Franklin. Can Western Michigan throw the ball well enough to win? It’s doubtful that we will see the College Football Odds upset on Friday. Meanwhile, Michigan State should score a ton of points with its veteran offense.
College Football Free Pick: Michigan State -17.5 at Pinnacle