Week 4 of the 2013 college football season does not feature many competitive match-ups, most of the games on the docket are non-conference mismatches that do no hold the promise of a compelling viewing (and betting) experience. The exception to this is a regional rivalry game featuring the Michigan State Spartans (3-0, 1-2 ATS) of the Big 10 traveling to Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN to take on the 22nd ranked Fighting Irish (2-1, 0-3 ATS) on Saturday afternoon (3:30pm ET). The Spartans routed Youngstown State 55-17 last week, to follow up their 21-6 win in week 2 over South Florida and their 26-13 win over Western Michigan to open the 2013 campaign. Notre Dame hung on for a 31-24 win at Purdue last week after dropping their week 2 meeting with then 17th ranked Michigan 41-30 in Ann Arbor and opening the season with a 28-6 win at home over Temple.
Michigan State has an impressive defensive unit that is allowing an average of 177.0 yards per game, the lowest in the nation. They are led by star defensive end Shilique Calhoun who has 3 defensive touchdowns already this season. The Spartans will go with Connor Cook at quarterback after the redshirt sophomore was 15 for 22 passing for 202 yards in last week’s win over Youngstown St. The Spartans offense accumulated 547 yards (277 yards rushing) in the win over the Penguins after only putting up 562 yards in their first 2 games.
Notre Dame is giving up 23.5 points per game after allowing 12.8 in 2012 to rank 2nd in the nation in scoring defense. The Irish allowed their most points in a regular-season game since 2009 in the loss to Michigan. QB Tommy Rees has thrown for over 300 yard in all 3 ND games this season; his main target has been wide receiver Davaris Daniels who had 8 receptions for 167 yards last week against Purdue including the game winner.
Michigan St. vs. Notre Dame Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Michigan State Spartans +7
@Notre Dame Fighting Irish -7
Over 40.5 (-110)
Under 40.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Michigan St. vs. Notre Dame Pick
Notre Dame won last season’s meeting 20-3 in East Lansing, and held the Spartans to only 50 yards rushing in the process. ND has a 9 game winning streak at home and has won the last 2 meetings with MSU after the Spartans took the previous 6 games. Michigan State is 8-1 ATS in their last 9 road games, a dominant 20-8 ATS in their last 28 road games against a team with a winning home record and they have an under record of 6-1-1 in their last 8 non-conference games. Notre Dame is 1-5 ATS in their last 6 home games, 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games and the posted total has gone under 14 times in their last 19 games.
The Spartans are by no means an offensive juggernaut at this point in the season, but they do have a very tough defense that is capable of forcing turnovers and making life miserable for Rees. Their running game should have a better day than they did last season, and with a defense as strong as MSU’s that could be enough to allow them to control the game. The Irish have not been a good pick against the spread this season, as their 0-3 record would indicate. The Spartans are a very strong road underdog and could very well pull off the upset in this game. With ND, and Rees in particular, struggling with turnovers this season and the visitors more than a 6 point underdog the pick in this game has to be MSU with a defense that has forced 8 turnovers in three games. In a game that could come down to the turnover battle, the advantage is with the Spartans. The Spartans may not win the game outright, but as has been the case in this series this should be a very close game with two excellent defenses battling it out. Take the Spartans and the points in this game.