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Big Ten battle in the heartland here as the Wisconsin Badgers host the Michigan State Spartans. Michigan State enters this one at 4-2, while the Badgers are still undefeated and ranked #8 in the latest AP poll. These teams last played each other back in 2016, when Wisconsin stomped them 30-6. Oddsmakers have the Badgers as a ten-point favorite for this one.
Michigan State took a huge step backward last year, but they entered 2019 with high hopes. The defense was still elite, and they thought the offense would bounce back. The offense has again been inconsistent though, and they've suffered two tough losses to Arizona State and Ohio State. They can still salvage their season with a signature win here, but it'll be tough.
Wisconsin's 2019 season has gone about as well as anyone could've possibly imagined. Not only have they raced out to a 5-0 record, but they've dominated in just about every game, including a massive win over Michigan. Jonathan Taylor looks like a legit Heisman candidate, and the defense has been smothering. Wisconsin has their sights set on the Big Ten title game, but they'll need to avoid a letdown here.
Lewerke Coming Through?Michigan State had very high hopes entering 2019, but things are starting to slip away. Last season was a bit of a mess, but the defense was elite. The offense couldn't do anything, and with Brian Lewerke coming back healthy this season there was hope the offense would be able to catch up with the defense. That hasn't materialized just yet, and Lewerke has been his inconsistent self yet again. That being said, things are still much better than they were last year. MSU blew a late lead and lost a heartbreaker to Michigan State, but other than that they've done just about as expected. They're coming off a big road loss to Ohio State, but nobody ever thought they'd have a chance in that game.
SPARTY GETS IT DONE!— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 13, 2018
Brian Lewerke to Felton Davis III secures Michigan State's upset over No. 8 Penn State! pic.twitter.com/0TnbwQIqYN
This is their chance to make a statement, and it'll be interesting to see what they look like. Lewerke has been up and down, but overall it's been pretty good. He enters this one with 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions, so at least he is limiting mistakes. The good news for Michigan State is that their defense is still one of the best in college football. The secondary has been nearly impenetrable, as they're only giving up 6.04 yards per pass attempt this season. Even in their loss to Ohio State, they became the first team to really limit Justin Fields, holding him to only 206 yards and forcing him to throw an interception. If their defense can play like that here, they'll be in good shape.
Wisco Back?Wisconsin has had a storybook start to the season. There was a lot of positive buzz surrounding this Badgers team all offseason, but nobody really knew what they'd look like with a new starter at quarterback. So far everything has been perfect, and they enter this one with a 5-0 record and ranked #8 in the latest AP poll.
They dominated Michigan, which got everyone excited. That being said, they've played a pretty easy schedule. Michigan clearly isn't as good as people thought, and Wisconsin's other games have come against weak teams like Kent State, USF, and Central Michigan. In their only other game against a competitive team, they only beat Northwestern by nine. They're coming off the Kent State game, and I think they could be pretty rusty here having to play a real team. Wisconsin is a very physical team, and they like to run the ball like they usually do.
They're being very conservative with new quarterback Jack Coan and they've run the ball nearly twice as many times as they've passed, which is unheard of in 2019. Jonathan Taylor has looked like a Heisman candidate, and it's obviously imperative they get the rushing attack going cause Coan won't have any success against this stingy MSU secondary. Unfortunately for Wisco, Michigan State also has an elite run defense. The Spartans are only giving up 3.03 yards per carry on the year, so Taylor might not have such an easy time. If Wisconsin gets down early on and has to start throwing, they're in big trouble.
- 2-5 ATS in their last 7 conference games
- 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games following a straight up win
- 4-9 ATS in their last 13 games after accumulating more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game
- 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games vs. Wisconsin
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I like the Spartans a lot here, and they'll keep this one close at the very least. Their stout run defense matches up very well with what Wisconsin wants to do, and Lewerke is better than a lot of people realize. MSU's defense is good enough to keep them in any game, and Wisconsin has quietly played a very weak schedule. It's time to pump the brakes on all this premature Wisconsin hype. They couldn't even beat Northwestern convincingly, and MSU might win this one outright.
Prediction: Michigan State +10.5
Full-Game Total Pick
I also like the under a lot here. MSU has one of the best defenses in the nation, and they're elite against both the run and the pass. They just held Justin Fields to 206 yards, so I don't see Coan having any success. I also think they'll be able to bottle up Taylor, at least more than most teams. Lewerke still isn't very good, and Wisconsin's defense has already pitched three shutouts this season and hasn't given up more than 15 points in a game. This one will be very low-scoring.