With critics on the attack and negativity swirling, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio is backed into a corner. In times like these, he fights back. Dantonio is the definition of a hungry, ugly underdog this week.
The Spartans took butt-kickings on recent road trips to Wisconsin and Ohio State, outscored 72-10 in blowouts that exposed all of their offensive flaws. Another Big Ten heavyweight arrives on the schedule today as Penn State (7-0) rolls into East Lansing.
James Franklin is living in a different world than Dantonio after the Nittany Lions took down Iowa and Michigan in back-to-back weeks. Penn State was outgained in each game, however, and the Wolverines were especially effective last week while totaling 134 more yards with a 15½-minute advantage in time of possession.
Dantonio’s defense has slipped this season but still will make things difficult for the Lions’ Sean Clifford, who passed for only 117 yards against the Hawkeyes and 182 yards against the Wolverines. The concern for the Spartans will be their anemic offense, with senior quarterback Brian Lewerke facing a Penn State defense that ranks No. 4 in the nation by allowing 10 points per game.
But the Spartans just had a needed bye, and Dantonio upset the Lions the past two years as a double-digit ‘dog. This spot sets up for Michigan State to make a statement against a fat and happy road favorite. The line has dropped from 6½ early in the week but I’ll still take the five points.
124-TEMPLE (plus-12) over Central Florida:
The Knights have dropped four straight ATS and have not won on the road since Sept. 7, when they whipped Lane Kiffin. It’s tough to win on the road with a freshman quarterback, even one as talented as Dillon Gabriel, and Temple’s defense is respectable. The Owls are 4-0 in Philadelphia with a quality win against Memphis.
153-Washington State (plus-14) over OREGON:
Justin Herbert brought the Ducks back from a 14-point second-half deficit to beat Washington 35-31 in Seattle a week ago. Bettors (like this one) who took three points with the Huskies are still stunned about the loss. Oregon’s defense is not going to shut down the Cougars’ Anthony Gordon, who leads the nation with 2,981 passing yards and 29 touchdowns. Mike Leach has won and covered the past four versus the Ducks, with Washington State covering nine in a row in this series.
196-Texas Tech-KANSAS (Over 64½):
Brent Dearmon, the Jayhawks’ new offensive coordinator, recently installed a fast-paced system that treats each possession like a two-minute drill. Dearmon’s debut was impressive in Kansas’ 50-48 loss at Texas last week. Carter Stanley passed for 310 yards and four touchdowns, and Pooka Williams rushed for 190 and two scores. The Red Raiders are picking up their pace with Jett Duffey at quarterback, so expect another Big 12 shootout.
207-Notre Dame (pick) over MICHIGAN:
The Irish opened plus-4 at Circa Sports and I obviously liked them better as underdogs. It’s far from an ideal scheduling spot for the Wolverines after their emotional, physical battle at Penn State. Notre Dame is off a bye, so the edge goes to Brian Kelly, who’s a superior game planner and play-caller to Jim Harbaugh. The defenses are similar, but Kelly has the better QB in Ian Book and Tony Jones should be able to move the offense on the ground. Notre Dame ranks 15th in the nation in scoring defense (16.8 ppg), and Michigan ranks 21st (19.0). It should be a game dictated by the defenses on a rainy, windy night in Ann Arbor.
Play: Half-unit each on ND and Under 50.
152-STANFORD (-1½) over Arizona
171-Florida International-MIDDLE TENNESSEE (Under 58)
210-UCLA (plus-3) over Arizona State
Last week: 3-4-1 against the spread