College Football Odds & Pick for Michigan vs. Michigan State: Value on Saturday’s First Half Over/Under
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Mike Sainristil.
- After a rough loss to Rutgers last week, Michigan State will look to get back on track against an in-state rival Michigan squad that looked impressive against Minnesota.
- The Wolverines are unsurprisingly heavy favorites, but Collin Wilson has his eyes on the first-half total instead of picking a side.
- Check out Wilson's full betting analysis with updated odds below.
Michigan State at Michigan Odds
|Michigan State Odds||+21.5 [BET NOW]|
|Michigan Odds||-21.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+1000/-2500 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||51 [BET NOW]|
|Time||12 p.m. ET|
The battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy is upon us.
Michigan and Michigan State experienced very different first weeks, with the Wolverines picking up a victory over a ranked Minnesota squad on the road and the Spartans falling to Rutgers in East Lansing.
But in rivalry games, many preconceived notions are thrown out the window.
Michigan State Spartans
Plenty of game previews in the landscape will focus on the negative aspect of the Spartans’ opening loss to Rutgers. Sure, there were seven turnovers and just 50 rushing yards on 39 attempts, but the special teams unit did its duty. Matt Coghlin drilled both field goals with a long of 48, while punter Bryce Baringer booted two balls for an average over 50 yards. The defense did force two fumbles and an interception.
— Rutgers On BTN (@RutgersOnBTN) October 24, 2020
While the final score is a bit shocking, there’s more to consider in the advanced box score. Rutgers had just one explosive drive in 15 possessions and averaged 3.89 yards per play. While the national average for two-plus first down drives is 41%, the Scarlet Knights had just 26% in that category. Scottie Hazelton’s Michigan State defense can play, but things tend to get questionable when it comes to the offense.
In 36 rushing attempts, the Spartans were stuffed on 19 of them — more than 50%. The offensive line struggled in run blocking but did a favorable job in the passing game for quarterback Rocky Lombardi. The Spartans allowed just one quarterback hurry and three sacks.
Rutgers found itself with an average starting field position of the 45-yard line — a result of costly turnovers, not special teams play.
If the Spartans want to compete, the offensive line must do a better job in protecting Lombardi while improving on a run-blocking grade that was the worst in FBS, per Pro Football Focus.
The Wolverines could not have asked for a better start to the season, answering critics with 35 points in the first half against a ranked Minnesota squad. After an initial drive that included an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a punt, the Wolverines ripped off four touchdowns, a defensive ‘pop-n-score’ but missed two field goals in the remainder of the half.
— Collin Wilson (@_Collin1) October 25, 2020
The defense starts the season off with a 20% Havoc rate that includes eight tackles for loss and five passes defended. Minnesota posted a 27% Success Rate in passing plays and did not generate a single explosive drive. Despite finishing top-10 in PFF’s top-graded pass-rush rankings, there were low marks on rush defense and coverage. Gemon Green and Josh Ross pulled the highest grades of all players in the back seven, but defensive backs Vincent Gray and Makari Paige may see more targets down the road.
Betting Analysis & Pick
The market is predictably high on Michigan and down on Michigan State after their respective openers. There’s a small sample size for what Harbaugh does at home as a minimum two-touchdown favorite against the Big Ten, but since 2015, Michigan is 8-3 against the spread in this scenario. The pace of this game may make it difficult for Michigan to cover such a large number.
Michigan State finished with a pace that ranked sixth in FBS, but trailing Rutgers early dictated a quicker tempo.
Mel Tucker held his Tuesday presser ahead of the Michigan game and stated he wanted to be a run-first team and protect the quarterback in passing plays. Tucker also mentioned the need to “establish our culture, our brand,” which means no matter how bad the run blocking is, the Spartans will still run the ball.
Michigan’s offense needs further inspection after diluted stats that included plenty of garbage time in the second half. The Wolverines are currently ranked first in the nation in Rushing Expected Points, with an Offensive Success Rate in the top 10. Although the final numbers say Michigan ran an offense at a tempo of 26.6 seconds per play, the first-half splits say Josh Gattis ran the Wolverines at 23 seconds per play before garbage time started.
Knowing Michigan ran tempo in the first half when the game was competitive, the question becomes whether or not the Wolverines will run straight into a stout Spartans defensive front seven instead of passing. Michigan started 6-of-7 first-half possessions with a Joe Milton pass. Specifically, on all first downs in the first half, the Wolverines started with eight passes and seven rushing attempts.
The best way to attack this Michigan State defense is not to run straight at it. Instead, it would be beneficial to throw at cornerback Kalon Gervin and safety Tre Person; both gave up passer ratings over 100 to Rutgers. Considering Gattis’ tendencies to pass first in tempo during the first half of the Minnesota game, a first-half over is warranted.
The current market is coming down on the total, so shopping Saturday morning for a number south of four touchdowns is recommended.
Pick: First Half Over 28 or better