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No. 22 MSU hosts No. 21 Michigan on Saturday
By: Mark Kern - StatFox
Published: 11/2/2013  at  4:21:00 AM
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MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (6-1)
at MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (7-1)

Kickoff: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Michigan State -5.5, Total: 46.5

No. 21 Michigan travels to East Lansing to take on in-state rival No. 22 Michigan State Saturday in a game with serious Big Ten implications.

Michigan is one quadruple overtime loss away from being undefeated, and has seen its offense really start clicking, averaging 48.3 PPG in their past three games. Last season, the Wolverines defeated the Spartans 12-10 in an absolute defensive struggle, with the two teams combining to go 11-of-32 on third down conversions. However, MSU covered in that game to make the club 5-0 ATS (4-1 SU) in the past five meetings in this series. This has always been a heated rivalry, but has been taken to the next level after former Wolverines players called the Spartans “little brother.” Expect another very physical and low-scoring affair. Quarterback play was inconsistent at the beginning of the season for both teams, but have seen the play from that position steadily improve. Michigan QB Devin Gardner threw eight interceptions in the team’s first four games, but has thrown only two in the past three outings. Two weeks ago against Indiana, Gardner had a career game, throwing for 503 yards and two touchdowns in a high-scoring affair (63-47 win). The Spartans decided on Connor Cook before their loss against Notre Dame, and he has been outstanding since that game. He has thrown 12 touchdowns on the season compared to just two interceptions. Even more important, defenses have to worry about him attacking deep, opening up the running lanes for the Spartans backs. The ability for the Spartans to put points on the board will be huge against an offense that seems to be clicking on all cylinders right now. Both teams have some negative trends here as Michigan is 1-10 ATS after allowing 17+ points in the first half of two straight games since 1992, but Michigan State is just 2-10 ATS as a home favorite since the 2012 season began.

Who will prevail in this Big Ten rivalry game? For the answer, connect to College Football Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 regular season and bowl season. The four experts are a combined 56% ATS (86-68-7) in college football Best Bets for the season, led by StatFox Gary who is 65% ATS (13-7-1) in college football Best Bets over the past seven weeks and 58% ATS (14-10-1) this year. StatFox Dave is also 58% ATS (28-20-2) in Best Bets this season, while StatFox Brian is 57% ATS (21-16-1) for yearly CFB Best Bets.

Of Gardner’s 503 passing yards against Indiana two weeks ago, 369 of them went to WR Jeremy Gallon, who was also able to score two touchdowns, including a 70-yard touchdown. Through seven games, Gallon already has more receiving yards (831) this season than all of last year (829). Gallon is extremely fast, with the ability to get behind the secondary. The Wolverines offense ranks eighth in the country with 42.3 points per game, while having great balance both passing the ball as well as rushing the ball. RB Fitzgerald Toussaint has 575 yards this season for the Wolverines, with 11 touchdowns on the ground. His ability to run the ball has forced an extra defender in the box, allowing Gallon the opportunities to make plays on the outside. However, the defense has not played well as of late, giving up 43.5 PPG in the past two games. In the victory over Indiana, the Hoosiers gained 572 yards of total offense, including 410 through the air. Senior safety Thomas Gordon was huge against the Hoosiers, intercepting two passes to help the Wolverines get the victory. He will be key against the Spartans offense that is continuing to improve.

Running back Jeremy Langford has been very good running the ball, rushing for 655 yards and nine touchdowns on the season Since its loss to Notre Dame, Michigan State has averaged 31.0 PPG. While that may not be a lot of points, it is more than enough for a defense that gives up only 12.3 PPG, which ranks third in the country. The defense is absolutely loaded, with stars at every level. Defensive end Shilique Calhoun is a star. Despite having only four sacks on the season, he forces the offense to double-team him, allowing other teammates to make big plays. Cornerback Darqueze Dennard has two interceptions on the season, and will be matched up against Jeremy Gallon all day in what figures to be an incredible matchup. This game will be determined when the Wolverines have the ball, and if they will be able to score against the vaunted Spartans defense.

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