Michigan Wolverines at Michigan State Spartans Game Day

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Forums College Football Michigan Wolverines at Michigan State Spartans Game Day

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  • #191086


    The Michigan Wolverines are having a bad season, but it is always a good game when they play their rival in the Michigan State Spartans.
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    This thread will be updated daily with information on the game to include important news, injuries, and all essential information to picking a winner leading up to kickoff. Feel free to add anything about this game from news, opinion or picks, all comments and questions are welcomed!
    Good Luck this week!
    Cole (cool)


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    Through seven games, Michigan’s defense has kept most of the opposing rushers modest, but it’s given up far too many big plays to receivers.

    This Saturday, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s men must tighten up in both areas if they’re to give the Wolverines (3-4, 1-2) a chance versus No. 8-ranked Michigan State in East Lansing.

    Winners of five of the past six, the Spartans (6-1, 3-0) have the Big Ten’s No. 1-ranked scoring offense (47 PPG) and tout the league’s No. 2-ranked total offense: It’s entirely possible for Connor Cook, their quarterback, and Jeremy Langford, their running back, to set new season highs against Team 135, which gave up 404 passing yards to Rutgers’ Gary Nova and 183 rushing to Minnesota’s David Cobb.

    The Spartans are fresh off a 56-17 dismantling of Indiana, while the Wolverines scored their first conference victory two weeks ago, downing Penn State 18-13. Judging by stats and recent history, Oct. 25’s duel along the Red Cedar could end up being incredibly lopsided.

    Cook is 18-2 as a starter and has already crept into the upper echelon of Michigan State’s record books: With 4,490 yards, he’s No. 9 in total passing; his 39 passing touchdowns rank No. 7 in program history.

    In short, the 6’4”, 218-pound junior, who is 11-0 versus the Big Ten, is becoming an elite Spartans quarterback, and he’s known for busting loose during big games.

    Back in January, he threw for 304 yards and three scores during Michigan State’s 24-20 Rose Bowl win over Stanford. This season, he’s been one of the most talked about players in the Big Ten, steadily climbing up NFL prospect charts on a weekly basis.

    Michigan will have its hands full with Cook, who threw for a modest but respectable 252 yards and rushed for a touchdown during his team’s 29-6 series victory in 2013—he gets it done through the air and on the ground.

    Like Minnesota’s Cobb, Langford is one of the top backs in the country. His 664 yards are No. 6 in the Big Ten, which, on top of Langford and Cobb, features star running backs Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin and Tevin Coleman of Indiana.

    In 2013, Langford, who’s eclipsed 100 yards in each of the past four weeks, carried the ball 26 times for 120 yards and a touchdown against the Wolverines.

    By now, one thing should be clear: Michigan State has a great quarterback and running back who will test Mattison’s No. 4-ranked total conference defense (301 YPG; No. 2 in rush D, 93.6 YPG).

    But there’s more—much more.

    Led by Tony Lippett, a senior, Michigan State’s receiving corps should regularly pester Jourdan Lewis, Blake Countess, Ray Taylor and the rest of the Wolverines secondary, which was burnt to a crisp by Rutgers.

    And Notre Dame.

    That was bad.

    Prior to this season, defensive backs were thought to be one of Team 135’s strengths. However, Countess’ underperformance has hindered an otherwise solid position group.

    Capping Lippett, Keith Mumphrey, Aaron Burbridge and Josiah Price, a tight end, should be the goal. Limiting Cook’s options is a surefire way to disrupt progress for a team that averages 8.9 yards per completion.

    – UM’s D Must Be MVP

    The word—or one of them, at least—has been “together.” The defense especially has vocalized its chemistry for weeks on end. Countess and Lewis have each said that they believe in their secondary and vow to improve.

    And the secondary has. But it’ll need to give more Saturday. The Spartans have 18 passing touchdowns, the second most in the Big Ten. With 11, Michigan is one of five in the league to give up 10 or more through the air.

    Frank Clark, one of the team’s best linemen, has also expressed similar thoughts. He knows how good his defense can be. He just wants it to reach that level every week.

    The 6’2”, 277-pound senior is known for playing with great emotion and energy. Taking a leading role through practices and meetings isn’t only a good idea, but it’s necessary.

    The Wolverines need all the leadership they can get this week.


    • Author

    Michigan State -17; TOTAL:49

    The Michigan State Spartans have won five of the last six meetings with the Michigan Wolverines heading into Saturday’s Big Ten rivalry game in East Lansing. The Spartans are 6-0 against the spread in those games and will look to extend their five-game winning streak overall in hopes of staying in the national title picture.

    The Wolverines are simply trying to play spoilers at this point of the season after dropping three of their last four games. They are 2-4 ATS in their past six but broke a three-game losing streak with an 18-13 win over Penn State as 2.5-point home favorites before their bye week. Michigan has covered in its last three road games against Big Ten opponents and is 3-1 ATS in its past four as a road underdog.

    Michigan State battles the Michigan Wolverines, currently with a 3-4 mark (3-4 ATS). The over under records, important for totals betting, are 6-1 for the Spartans and 2-4-1 for the Michigan Wolverines.

    – How Michigan Wolverines vs Michigan State Spartans Stats Matchup

    Offensively, the game matches up the Michigan State Spartans No. 3-ranked offense (47 PPG) against a Michigan Wolverines defense that ranks No. 32 at 21.43 PPG. The Michigan State Spartans passing attack has averaged 265.14 yards per game, more than the Michigan Wolverines give up through the air (207.43 YPG on average).

    In comparing defenses, the Michigan Wolverines own the league’s No. 5-rated front 7 in terms of stopping the run, allowing 64 yards per game when on the road. Michigan State, on the other hand, rates No. 18 this week in generating rushing yards at home.

    – Michigan Wolverines vs Michigan State Spartans Betting Odds Trends

    Michigan is 2-4 ATS in its last 6 games
    Michigan is 3-7 SU in its last 10 games
    The total has gone UNDER in 9 of Michigan’s last 13 games
    Michigan is 8-16-1 ATS in its last 25 games on the road
    Michigan State is 10-4 ATS in its last 14 games
    Michigan State is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
    The total has gone OVER in 8 of Michigan State’s last 9 games
    Michigan State is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games at home


    • Author

    It’s hard to imagine that five years ago, there was a web site dedicated to getting Pat Narduzzi fired.

    Granted, firepatnarduzzi.blogspot.com contains all of one post and it came in the wake of Michigan State’s 38-30 loss at Wisconsin in 2009. But the fact there were any fans that wanted to see the defensive coordinator sent packing is hard to fathom.

    The last four seasons, Narduzzi has turned the Spartans defense into one of the best in the nation, and after last season when they finished No. 2 in the country in total defense, he earned the Frank Broyles Award given to the top assistant.

    During that span, Michigan State has won 11 or more games three times and two Big Ten titles.

    “Coach Narduzzi and how we function as a defense is extremely important in terms of how we play overall,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “I don’t care whether it’s this football game or another football game, and we’ve had a lot of success here because of it.”

    This football game is, of course, Michigan State’s matchup against rival Michigan. And coming off last season when the Spartans limited the Wolverines to minus-48 yards rushing, there is little doubt Narduzzi will be focused on trying to match that effort.

    That process began at practice Tuesday.

    “Every Michigan week he’s always amped up,” senior linebacker Taiwan Jones said. “He’s always enthusiastic, has high energy, and we kind of feed off of him through practice.”

    That energy, however, is on display every week, his players insist.

    “You guys pretty much see him in the fourth quarter of any game,” defensive end Shilique Calhoun said.

    “There is nothing different from that. He always has passion for the game. His attitude never changes towards any team. He wants to win and he wants perfection.

    “So I’m not going to say that he’s not excited for this game, because I’m pretty sure he is. But from what I’ve seen over the years, he’s been excited for every game.”

    It’s hard to doubt that considering the defense’s track record. They have been No. 1 in the Big Ten the last three seasons, and since 2011, the Spartans are one of four FBS teams to rank in the top 10 in total defense every year.

    That success has not gone unnoticed as Narduzzi, also the assistant head coach, continues to be among the first names that pops up each year when jobs open around the country. Last year, after Michigan State’s Rose Bowl victory, he was offered the Connecticut job before turning it down.

    He also reportedly was considered at Louisville.

    “He was offered positions, OK? Not just one,” Dantonio said before this season. “But what I’ve tried to do is make it very apparent to our coaches that they have a great place to be, a great working environment. And I’m gonna empower them as coaches.

    “When the time comes for them to leave, they should leave for the right job.”

    There seems to be little doubt that eventually will happen for Narduzzi, even after he was given a raise during the offseason that pushed his annual salary close to $1 million.

    But he’s also not leaving for just any job, and there is always the possibility he could remain at Michigan State until Dantonio decides to step down.

    “Pat wants to be a head football coach,” Dantonio said. “He wants to be a head football coach at the BCS level, and I think he wants to do that at one of the major conferences. But it’s got to be the right situation. And right now, from the standpoint of his salary, it’s gonna have to be a BCS job.”

    And, with Michigan State among the nation’s leaders — eighth in rushing defense, ninth in total defense, fourth in turnovers — it might come sooner rather than later.

    Where Michigan State’s defense ranks in the NCAA:

    Total: 9th (292.7 yards)

    Rush: 8th (100.3 yards)

    Pass: 19th (192.4 yards)

    Sacks: T-4th (3.21 average)

    Third down: 3rd (25.3 percent)


    • Author

    Michigan State has had its way with in-state rival Michigan recently, both from a straight-up and ATS perspective. The AP No. 8 Spartans try to keep it up in a big home encounter on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

    Michigan State has won five of the last six games against Michigan, covering them all. No point spread was higher than 8.5, with this one double that.

    The Line: Michigan State -17, Total: 49.5

    Line movement: The Spartans opened as 17-point home favorites Sunday at The Wynn, with the book adjusting to -17.5 midweek. The shops that opened Sparty -16.5 have been bet up to -17.

    Trends that matter: Michigan States has won its last 13 games within the Big Ten, going 9-4 ATS during that stretch. …Michigan State is 6-0 ATS in the last six meetings between the teams. …The UNDER is 5-0 ATS in the last five meetings.

    The OVER is 6-1 in Michigan State’s games this year.

    The UNDER is 4-2 in Michigan’s last six games.

    Cook should have his arm ready: The Spartans’ (6-1 SU, 4-3 ATS) only loss this year came at Oregon (46-27 as 14-point dogs) back in early September. The schedule has been pretty easy overall, as they’ve been favored by at least 16 points in five of the seven games.

    Junior Connor Cook (164 rating) is one of the most efficient and underrated quarterbacks in the country. This is a balanced offense that is third nationally in scoring (47 PPG), spurring the OVER to go 6-1.

    Running back Jeremy Langford has four-straight 100 yard games, but could get bottled up some against this Michigan run defense (93.6 YPG, 4th nationally). Cook would then be forced to throw more, although he’s usually up to the challenge.

    Running game needs a boost: The Wolverines (3-4 SU and ATS) have had two weeks to prepare for this game, last beating Penn State (18-13 as 2.5-point home favorites) to snap a three-game losing streak. They’ve covered the spread in their last two contests after going 0-4 ATS in the previous four.

    Quarterback Devin Gardner suffered a foot injury against Penn State, but is expected to play, although his mobility could be limited. Michigan’s passing offense is just 108th nationally (175.9 YPG) and the running game is also a question with De’Veon Smith (24 yards last game) still trying to fill the shoes of the injured Derrick Green.

    It’s going to be tough putting up points at Spartan Stadium. Michigan State is allowing just 14.3 PPG there this year, although Nebraska (27-22 win) was the only tough opponent.

    Injuries that matter: Michigan running back Green (collarbone) is out. Receiver Jehu Chesson and offensive guard Erik Magnuson are questionable with undisclosed injuries.

    Weather: The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the low 60s.


    • Author

    – When U-M has the ball

    This is not going to be good.

    Michigan squeezed out enough production to beat a Penn State team with an offensive line that is, remarkably, even worse than Michigan’s. As Spencer Hall and others noted in their postgame writings, this was a case of one team not losing, as opposed to winning.

    Needless to say, Michigan isn’t going to be able to bumble its way to a glorious not loss this Saturday.

    Michigan State’s defense is not quite as airtight as it has been in recent years, however — the 2013 MSU D finished second nationally in defensive FEI, while they currently sit at 23rd. So, basically they’ve gone from being a school of sharks with lasers to just regular old sharks, which, is still terrifying.

    They still rank 2nd in first down rate, 4th in the available yards category and 1st in the methodical drive category (i.e. the percentage of drives that go for 10 plays or more). Michigan is not going on any long drives anyway — maybe to the corner store and back — so don’t expect too many 10-play drives, if any, because this is the best team in the country at not allowing those so far this season.

    Sure, the Spartans did give up 46 at Oregon, but that’s Oregon, so it’s not necessarily surprising, even if most people (myself included) expected a better performance. More recently, Purdue dropped 31 one MSU in West Lafayette, albeit in a losing effort. Sadly for Michigan, the Purdue offense has looked far more potent in its recent three-game stretch against Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota than Michigan has at any point this season, so there might not be any hope to take from that game.

    Purdue quarterback Austin Appleby dinked and dunked his way to 211 yards passing on 37 attempts (5.7 YPA), with one touchdown to one interception (plus a lost fumble). In the run game, Purdue averaged a misleading 5.7 YPC; most of that yardage came on an Akeem Hunt 52-yarder and a Kevante Green 36-yarder.

    Even with Derrick Green, Michigan didn’t have much in the way of big play ability on the ground. Barring some sort of light turning on for the offense vis-a-vis how to take advantage of Devin Gardner’s legs or Justice Hayes’s shiftiness and quicks, a YPC of 2-point-something is likely the reality in this one.

    Other than the one unfortunate interception, Gardner was actually quite steady against the Nittany Lions. If he can somehow do that again and Michigan squeaks out a big play or two, maybe, maybe there’s a chance at keeping it competitive heading into the half.

    Any hope of that happening begins and ends with the offensive line giving Gardner a sliver of a chance to do anything. Unfortunately for Michigan, linebacker Ed Davis (6.0 sacks), defensive end Shilique Calhoun (5.0 sacks) and defensive end Marcus Rush (3.5 sacks) can all bring it in the pass rush department, to say the least. Linebacker Taiwan Jones also his 3.0 sacks to his name.

    Fifth-year senior safety Kurtis Drummond brings the pain and leads the team in tackles with 33, and is also tied for the team lead in interceptions with two (corner Trae Waynes has two of his own). At 6-foot-1, Waynes will likely match up on Devin Funchess.

    Up front, MSU doesn’t seem to have a monster in the middle a la Jerel Worthy, as defensive tackle Joel Heath checks in at 277 pounds and nose tackle Lawrence Thomas tips the scales at 280. Does that even matter? No, probably not, as smaller interior linemen have given Michigan problems, even though the interior of Michigan’s line is supposedly a tiny better better than it is at the tackle spots.

    Basically, Gardner will have to have the best game of his career, probably including a couple of 2012 Sugar Bowl Junior Hemingway-esque touchdowns along the way from Funchess et al. Pretty simple, right?

    – When the U-M defense is on the field

    While the Spartans have previously had the reputation of a team steamrolling a path through the Midwest solely on the back of its defense, that is really no longer the case. The Spartans are 45th in offensive FEI, but rank 21st or better in three of the advanced stat categories.

    Quarterback Connor Cook has developed in a way Michigan players (on either side of the ball) simply have not in recent years. Cook has completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 1,641 yards on 9.32 YPA and 16 touchdowns to five interceptions. Pair that with an offensive line that has paved the way for Jeremy Langford to run for 5.3 yards per carry (664 yards, 7 touchdowns), and this is an offense that can get things done.

    Then you add a 6-foot-3 playmaker in Tony Lippett (39 receptions, 786 yards, 8 touchdowns), and this is far from your average MSU offense of yesteryear. Tight end Josiah Price is of the lighter variety (238 pounds), but is second on the team in receptions with 15, for 244 yards and four touchdowns.

    If Michigan is to have any hope of avoiding the usual “defense holds relatively well for a while, offense struggles, defense eventually collapses” script, the Wolverines will have to stuff the run, a tall task five that Langford has run for 100+ yards in 11 of his last 16 outings (with two of those five games being blowouts against Jacksonville State and Eastern Michigan, and two others in which he racked up 86 against Oregon and 84 against Stanford in the Rose Bowl).

    Michigan has been stout against the run (currently 4th in run defense), save for that Minnesota game; if they want to prove that is a real thing and not some fanciful schedule-based that will crumble when exposed to sunlight, they’ll have to bring it in this one.

    Cook hasn’t made many mistakes, mostly because the running game has been so strong and he just doesn’t put himself in a position to do so. MSU ranks first in the country in sacks allowed, with four (and without wading through box scores to see, I’d be willing to bet Cook didn’t even take all of those, given the blowout nature of most of MSU’s game’s this season.

    When Cook does pass, he’ll look to get it out quick. This means it’s on Michigan’s back seven to simply make the tackles that are there. If 7 turns into 30 and 25 turns into 50 several times, this one is over.

    Michigan got to Hackenberg through PSU’s leaky offensive line six times in the Big House 12 days ago. A repeat of that performance is unlikely, but if Michigan doesn’t get to Cook at all, it will get ugly very fast.

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