Penn State-Michigan State Betting Guide: Which Spartans Will We Get?

Penn State-Michigan State Betting Guide: Which Spartans Will We Get? article feature image
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USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Trace McSorley and Brian Lewerke

Penn State-Michigan State Betting Pick, Odds

  • Line: Penn State -13.5
  • Over/Under: 53
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: Big Ten Network

>> All odds as of 7 a.m. ET on Friday. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.


One year ago, Michigan State capped its resurgent season by ending Penn State’s College Football Playoff hopes. This year, the Nittany Lions have remained a contender, while MSU has fallen off in a big way.

Michigan State scraped by Indiana, Utah State and Central Michigan in its three wins in 2018. In its two losses to Arizona State and Northwestern, it has scored 32 total points.

But which Spartans team will we see Saturday? The giant-killer that consistently gives the country’s best teams fits, or the one that laid down against Northwestern last week?

Market Moves for Penn State-Michigan State

By Danny Donahue

There’s not much to note as far as the betting market is concerned in this game. Penn State is getting 66% of bets — as should be expected — but this line has yet to move off -13.5 since opening at Pinnacle.

The total is only a bit more interesting. Bettors are slightly favoring the over, which has picked up 54% of bets, but the total has fallen a few points since opening, indicating potential sharp action on the under.

Trends to Know

By John Ewing

Top-10 teams tend to be overvalued by the betting market at home. Since 2005, teams ranked in the top 10 playing at home have gone 413-445-17 (48%) ATS. In the last five seasons, these teams have cost bettors even more money, going 125-165-5 (43%) ATS.

By Evan Abrams

Under Mark Dantonio, the Spartans are 7-8 SU and 11-4 ATS as an underdog against a top-10 team, making him the most profitable coach vs. top-10 teams.

Michigan State’s last game in this spot? Nov. 4, 2017 vs. Penn State — the Spartans won 27-24 as a 9.5-point underdog.

Where Michigan State Is Strongest

By Steven Petrella

Michigan State might have the best run defense in the country. It’s allowing just 1.32 yards per carry, and ranks first nationally in efficiency, stuff rate (runs for zero or negative yards) and opportunity rate (runs for fewer than 5 yards). Teams also run on Michigan State just 35.46% of the time, by far the lowest mark in the country.

We know the Spartans can and will take away Miles Sanders, just like Ohio State did. But can it stop Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley on the ground? Because it won’t stop him through the air.

MSU allowed Central Michigan quarterback Tommy Lazzaro to run for 48 yards on eight carries (6.0 per) and Arizona State’s Manny Wilkins to go for 40 yards on six carries (6.66 per). Both those totals don’t include sack yardage.

Those aren’t gaudy numbers by any means, but McSorley is a much more talented runner than either of those guys, and quarterback runs are the only way anyone has moved on Michigan State’s rush defense.

Where Michigan State is Weakest

By Collin Wilson

The handicap with Michigan State is the injuries to their offensive line and the secondary. Both units have been the reason for its decline. Michigan State’s offensive line ranks 92nd in opportunity rate and 69th in stuff rate, so even with a healthy LJ Scott, the Spartans would have issues moving the chains. Quarterback Brian Lewerke hasn’t been protected in recent games, with the offensive line ranking 87th in adjusted sack rate on passing downs.

The secondary for the Spartans has also been an issue, ranking 113th in defensive pass completion rate. That isn’t a stat you want to carry into a game against McSorley. Michigan State is also 98th in adjusted sack rate on passing downs, which will give McSorley plenty of time to make a quality decision through the air or on the ground.

The Spartans secondary is 90th in havoc rate, and McSorley ranks 29th in passing downs explosiveness.

I’m not making a large play on this game as I swim with the public downstream, but I am backing Penn State until the Michigan State offensive line and secondary get a pulse.

Bet to Watch for Michigan State-Penn State

By Ken Barkley

Michigan State has been a particularly perplexing team to watch this season. It came into the year with a ton of hype that was driven predominantly by returning production (per S&P, the Spartans were third in returning offense and fifth in returning defense, really insane numbers).

However, what’s happened isn’t so much cluster injuries at a specific position, but the offense in general. Scott hasn’t been healthy the entire season, multiple receivers are on the injury report every week and the offensive line has reshuffled multiple times.

When injuries this significant hit an entire side of the ball, returning production doesn’t mean a whole lot. Michigan State’s leading rusher last week against Northwestern was a receiver (Felton Davis), and after him, the next leading rusher had 15 yards. Lewerke threw the ball 51 times. None of this is conventional Michigan State football.

The question is really whether or not that is likely to change against Penn State, and because the struggles aren’t driven by performance or coaching but rather by missing pieces, it’s hard to imagine. The problem for bettors is, the market already knows Michigan State is struggling mightily; we all saw it last week, and the line for this game is ripe to overreact to the previous week’s results.

There may have been value here at one time — Westgate opened it PSU -7 in May — but with Penn State having a week off, and Michigan State off such a brutal performance, there’s just no reasonable chance of line value on the Nittany Lions coming into this game.

What is still appealing, however, is the total. Penn State is still getting some residual respect from its pre-Ohio State games where scoring was off the charts, but those aren’t very predictive of what will happen in the meat of a Big Ten schedule. Michigan State has its aforementioned injury woes, and it’s tough to imagine any kind of high-powered offensive attack on display in this game.

If anything, I could see a recommitment to the running game with Scott back (he is reportedly “close” to returning) and an attempt to keep the ball out of McSorley’s hands. The defenses on each side are really impressive units that should be able to hold their own in this game, and much like with Ohio State-Penn State, the raw points-per-game and offensive numbers are more of a mirage because of the competition involved.

I lean under.