Michigan vs. Michigan State Prediction, Pick Against the Spread, and Latest Odds

Michigan vs. Michigan State prediction and betting pick for this weekend's Top-10 matchup between these two rivals. Who wins on Saturday? Find out here
Alex Kirshner
Sun, October 24, 5:42 AM EDT

Michigan vs. Michigan State Prediction, Pick Against the Spread, and Latest Odds

Spread: Michigan -4 

Total: 51.5 

Game time: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, FOX

Where to Watch: FOX

Michigan vs. Michigan State odds

Michigan vs. Michigan State Prediction

Michigan and Michigan State tend to play games that follow a certain script: Michigan has more talent and comes in as the favorite, but Michigan State’s defense finds a way to muck things up, and Michigan makes a bunch of mistakes, the game slogs around with not a whole lot of scoring. Eventually, Michigan State covers –– MSU is 11-2 against the spread in this series since 2008 –– and often goes ahead and wins the game outright as an underdog.

As convincing as that trend might usually be, it’s not easy to get passionately behind a spread pick this year. The Wolverines have been ATS monsters in 2021, going 6-1 against the number, while Michigan State looks to have a much different (and more offensively high-flying) identity under Mel Tucker than it ever did under Mark Dantonio. It’s not clear that these teams will play the kind of game they usually play, and we might be better off just playing it straight and assessing how they’ve looked this season. But that’s hard, too, for spread purposes, given that computer systems like SP+ predict a margin pretty close to the Vegas spread, and that neither team has faced a test like the one it’s going to face in the other in East Lansing.

Ultimately, I think the defenses in this game will provide stiffer tests than the offenses. Michigan’s defense looks tremendous and the offense has been thoroughly mediocre in Big Ten play, and while MSU’s offense has been the story of its season, the Spartan defense is solid in its own right. Add in the deliberate pace at which these offenses move, and there’s reason to expect enough of a slog for the under to be the best value play on the board.

Michigan has yet to play an offense close to MSU’s level, but it’s worth pointing out that only one team (Nebraska) has exceeded 17 points against UM. Every other team to face Michigan has landed solidly in the negatives in expected points added on offense, save for Western Michigan, which only managed 14 points in a Week 1 drubbing. (Western Michigan later scored into the 40s in an upset of Pitt, which supports the idea that Michigan’s defense is serious.) Coordinator Mike Macdonald has pretty quickly righted a unit that got into a lot of trouble under ex-coordinator Don Brown in 2020. The Wolverines have been hard to throw on, and I think their front seven is a formidable match for MSU’s line and star running back Kenneth Walker III.

MSU’s offense, for its part, has been much improved over what the Spartans fielded in the latter Mark Dantonio years and in Tucker’s 2020 debut. But in two of the last four games, Michigan State has moved the ball poorly –– once in a narrow win over Nebraska, then in a clunker (and another narrow victory) over Indiana. The only good offensive performance MSU has had against a better-than-average defense was a 31-point output against Rutgers in Week 6, and Michigan’s defense figures to be a good bit more stifling than the Scarlet Knights’.

The Michigan offense has not embarrassed itself but has mostly flatlined in conference play after a blistering start against the likes of WMU, Washington, and NIU. MSU’s defense has been sturdy against the pass and weak against the run, which on one hand plays to Michigan’s strength (the Wolverines are a glorified triple-option team as long as they don’t trust Cade McNamara to make downfield throws) but on the other hand figures to run clock.

The offensive paces of these teams lend themselves to an under, too. Michigan State is running 65 plays per game, 100th-most in FBS. Michigan is running 70, which is 52nd. Neither team is exactly in a hurry, and it feels to me like the total belongs somewhere in the high 40s. As long as it sits above that range, it would be rude not to press the under.

Michigan vs. Michigan State Pick

Alex Kirshner
alex_kirshner
Alex Kirshner covers college football for the Moon Crew newsletter. He is a co-author of The Sinful Seven: Sci-Fi Western Legends of the NCAA, and he lives in Washington, D.C.
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