Following the loss last week in Columbus, the walls of MSU’s season are starting to close in and fans are starting to feel a bit claustrophobic. At the beginning of the season, the schedule looked challenging, but potentially manageable. MSU had 8 very winnable games and 4 tough ones. My summer analysis suggested that MSU had a 50-50 shot to win all 8 of the “easy” games, and a about a 50-50 shot to pick off 2 of the tough ones. Just based on this very simply analysis, 8 or 9 wins seemed quite reasonable, and even 10 wins seemed not out of the question, if everything went well.
But, so far everything is not going that well. MSU took a serious mulligan against Arizona State and now has already lost one of the four tough ones. MSU’s ceiling is slowly descending. For better or worse, MSU seems to be playing the 4 tough games in reverse order of difficulty. Psychologically, that is probably the toughest way to go, because even if the games are getting a little easier, it gets harder and harder to get back on the horse once the losses start to accumulate.
I am the eternal optimist, and I think that there certainly is plenty of hope and plenty left to play for. I think that there is enough potential on this team to find their way to some level of glory, but they need to figure things out in a hurry. The schedule maker did not do MSU any favors by scheduling Wisconsin right after the Buckeye.
I think the game plan for Wisconsin is actually pretty simple. MSU needs to stack the box, stop the run, and force Wisconsin to try to win through the air. Moreover, MSU needs to find a way to get a lead and put some game pressure on the Badgers. They have not trailed for even a second this year, and I am curious to see how and if they can play from behind. Despite only putting up 10 points on the Buckeyes, MSU’s offense (when they weren’t in pass-only desperation mode) moved the ball pretty well. Wisconsin’s defense is good, but its no Ohio State defense.
If nothing else, the Northwestern game two weeks ago showed that the Badgers are mortal. While I saw a narrow path to victory against Ohio State last week, I see a much wider one this week. If MSU can simply harness their potential this is a game MSU can and perhaps even should win. I honestly like this match-up. Also, I think MSU is due for a little bit of good luck. It seems like a long time ago that MSU caught a real break.
If MSU can get the the win this weekend, the rest of the season will start to look a lot more manageable again. MSU will get a chance to rest, while Penn State will be coming off back-to-back games against Iowa and a night game with Michigan. And, let’s be honest, as long as you look across the field and see James Franklin on the opposite sideline, you know your team has a chance. I actually really like MSU’s chances there. No matter what happens in MSU’s next two games, I still like the Spartans chances in Ann Arbor on November 16th to steal a victory there once again.
But, MSU needs to be sharp and they can’t just get stuck in the dumps after last week’s loss. They need to continue to climb and scratch and claw if they want to get back on top (or closer to the top) of the heap. It won’t be easy, but I actually have a good feeling about this. Hope springs eternal.
As for the numbers on the MSU game this week, the Spartans opened at +10 in Madison, which corresponds to a 24% chance that MSU can score an upset win. For reference, MSU closed as a 10-point underdog at Michigan in 2017. The computer models tend to agree with the line. The FPI feels every so slightly move optimistic about the Spartans and has us at +9.6. My model, however, has turned to the dark side and has MSU at +12.9. The over/under of right around 40 suggests a final score of maybe 24-14 Wisconsin. My model actually likes a few more points than that and likes the Badgers 30-17. Either way, I would not bet on it.
As is my tradition, to put things into perspective, here is the preview chart for Week 7 showing my calculation margins of victory versus the opening Vegas lines.
For comparison, here is the same chart using ESPN’s FPI
For my recommended bets this week, I once again have quite a few. My algorithm suggests a total of 11, with the FPI chipping in 3 more. The summary table is shown below:
For a 2-team parlay, the math suggests taking San Jose State and North Texas, but I must say the Indiana line (-25) versus Rutgers might just be the bet you’re are looking for.
As for upset picks this week, my model and the FPI combined have 8 total to recommend, but only one is in the Power 5 (Virginia over Miami). Two of the other upset picks would have major implications in the Group of 5. My model has Houston upsetting Cincinnati and Hawaii upsetting Boise State, despite the fact that the Warriors are 13.5-point dogs on the road. The full table is shown below:
My weekly Monte Carlo simulation suggests that we will observe 13.2 ± 3.0 upsets, which is the largest predicted number so far this season.
That is all for now. Check in after the games to see once again how bad (or good?) my advice was. Until next time, enjoy, and Go State, Beat the Badgers!