Wisconsin vs. Michigan State Odds, Picks: Saturday Big Ten College Football Betting Preview

Wisconsin vs. Michigan State Odds, Picks: Saturday Big Ten College Football Betting Preview article feature image

Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen.

  • Wisconsin, which has been a massive disappointment this season, looks to get things on track at Michigan State.
  • The Badgers are coming off of a beatdown of Northwestern, but they have three losses already this season.
  • Instead of targeting the spread or the moneyline, Brad Cunningham is diving into the total. Here's why.

Wisconsin vs. Michigan State Odds

Saturday, Oct. 15
4 p.m. ET
Wisconsin Odds
-110o / -110u
Michigan State Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Wisconsin looks to build momentum off of its blowout over Northwestern last week when it travels to East Lansing to take on Michigan State.

The Badgers won their first game of the post-Paul Chryst era game on Saturday, drubbing Northwestern, 42-7. The Big Ten West is completely up for grabs right now, and if Wisconsin can go on a run under interim head coach Jim Leonhard, it may just find its way back to Indianapolis.

Michigan State went from a preseason ranking of 15th in the country to 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the Big Ten after its 49-20 loss to Ohio State at home.

Mel Tucker has his work cut out for him to get Michigan State to a bowl game, as the Spartans still have Penn State and Michigan on the horizon.

Wisconsin Badgers

Badgers Offense

It seems that the firing of Chryst lit a fire under Wisconsin's backside, as the Badgers put up 42 points and averaged 7.6 yards per play against Northwestern on Saturday.

Bobby Engram is in his first season as the offensive coordinator after spending a number of years in the NFL as a wide receivers and tight ends coach. Saturday marked his first game calling plays, and Wisconsin was way more balanced with 30 pass attempts compared to 38 rush attempts.

When Chryst served as the offensive play-caller, Wisconsin was extremely run-heavy and conservative, running the ball on 64% of offensive plays in 2021.

The more balanced offense will really benefit Graham Mertz. Despite the question marks surrounding the Badgers quarterback, he's actually been a better passer this season than he was in 2021.

Through six games, Mertz owns a PFF passing grade of 90.0, is averaging 9.0 yards per attempt and has 15 big-time throws compared to only three turnover-worthy plays.

5️⃣ passing TDs today for @GrahamMertz5 👀

Badgers. Are. Hot. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/TXNDvKh1vR

— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 8, 2022

Mertz also has one of the best running backs in the country to take the pressure off of him in Braelon Allen, who's averaging 6.1 yards per carry.

Allen is also running behind an offensive line that owns the 23rd-best run-blocking grade, per PFF.

Badgers Defense

Even though Northwestern put only seven points on the board against Wisconsin's defense, the Wildcats — who rank outside the top 100 in EPA/Play — still averaged 5.0 yards per play. The problem was they turned the ball over three times.

That's been the story of Wisconsin's defense this season, as it hasn't been as dominant as in years past. This season, the Badgers are allowing 5.2 yards per play (38th in FBS) while ranking 50th in Success Rate Allowed and 54th in Finishing Drives Allowed.

Problems have been present all over the defense, but the Badgers' defensive line is struggling. Wisconsin ranks 57th in Defensive Line Yards, 85th in Stuff Rate and 119th in Power Success Rate Allowed.

That's not ideal when the only success Michigan State has had this season has come on the ground.

Wisconsin's secondary is also having some issues, as the Badgers rank 69th in Passing Success Rate Allowed, 77th in passing explosiveness allowed and 51st in EPA/Pass Allowed.

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Michigan State Spartans

Spartans Offense

The Spartans offense hasn't been as bad as their results have shown. They're still gaining 5.5 yards per play and rank 62nd in Offensive Success Rate.

They've been pretty effective running the ball, as they're 52nd in EPA/Rush and 45th in rushing explosiveness.

Lead back Jalen Berger — who transferred from Wisconsin — has been of the reasons they've been effective, as he's gaining 4.8 yards per carry. On top of that, Michigan State ranks eighth in terms of a run-blocking grade, per PFF.

Payton Thorne has struggled as a passer this season, averaging only 6.8 yards per attempt with a PFF passing grade of 65. His main target, Jayden Reed, has struggled with injuries this season, which could be a reason why Thorne has regressed.

However, even with those poor numbers, Michigan State still sits 63rd in Passing Success Rate.

Spartans Defense

The front seven has been halfway decent for Michigan State this season. The Spartans allow only 4.0 yards per carry while ranking 35th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and 30th in EPA/Rush.

However, Ohio State just ran for 237 yards and 5.2 yards per carry last week in East Lansing.

Perhaps the biggest mismatch in this game is Mertz versus the Michigan State secondary, which has been horrible this season. The Spartans have allowed 8.5 yards per attempt (118th in FBS) while ranking 119th in Passing Success Rate Allowed and 122nd in EPA/Pass Allowed. So, Mertz should be able to torch this unit.

Michigan State also sits 78th in Defensive Finishing Drives, while Wisconsin ranks second nationally in that category on offense.

Wisconsin vs. Michigan State Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Wisconsin and Michigan State match up statistically:

Wisconsin Offense vs. Michigan State Defense
Rush Success6535
Line Yards4379
Pass Success34119
Pass Blocking**1179
Finishing Drives278
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Michigan State Offense vs. Wisconsin Defense
Rush Success6160
Line Yards9757
Pass Success5869
Pass Blocking**12454
Finishing Drives6454
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling458
PFF Coverage18114
SP+ Special Teams70125
Seconds per Play29.8 (124)24.3 (27)
Rush Rate59.7% (22)45.0% (110)
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.

Wisconsin vs. Michigan State Betting Pick

Wisconsin is playing at a very slow pace, but Michigan State is not. The Spartans run a play every 23.8 seconds, which is the 30th-fastest mark in the nation.

MSU will likely be playing from behind in this game, and it's already used to playing at a fast pace. Add in the fact that these are two below-average defenses, and I think we'll see some points in East Lansing on Saturday.

I have 59.1 points projected for this game, so I like the value on over 49.5.

Pick: Over 49.5

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