The prime time game this Saturday night (8:00pm ET) features two top-25 ranked, defensive-minded, geographical rivals that have played each other very tough in recent meetings. The 19th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-0) travel to East Lansing, MI to face the 10th ranked Michigan State Spartans (2-0) of the Big Ten. The Irish are 1-1 ATS this season, easily covering a 14.5 point line in their opener over Navy with a 50-10 win, and failing to cover the 14 point line in a 20-17 squeaker in their home opener over Purdue last week. The Spartans are also 1-1 ATS this season, defeating a tough Boise St. team in the opener 17-13 while failing to cover the 8.5 point line, and routing Central Michigan on the road last week 41-7 to cover an 18 point spread.
The Fighting Irish come into the game with a bit of a quarterback controversy as red shirt freshman Everett Golson is the starter, but last year’s starter Tommy Rees returned last week from suspension to lead the game-winning drive for ND in the final minutes against the Boilermakers. Golson is a dual-threat who has thrown for 433 yards and averaged 8.8 yards per attempt in the two ND victories, while Rees is a stronger passer with plenty of experience in big games. Expect both to play and the Spartans will have to prepare as if they will see either. Golson is also nursing a slight hand injury that was a partial reason for his absence at the end of the Purdue game.
Michigan State features one of the top defensive units in the nation led by a fierce pass rush from defensive end William Gholston. MSU ranks 14th in the nation in scoring defense with 14 PPG allowed and 8th in total defense with 225.5 YPG allowed. Those numbers are legitimized by facing the high-flying Boise St. attack in their opening game. The MSU offense is geared toward running the ball with tailback Le’Veon Bell (280 yards rushing, 4 TDs), but has shown the ability to throw behind their new starter under center, junior Andrew Maxwell (523 yards passing, 2 TDs).
Notre Dame vs. Michigan State Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish +6
@ Michigan State Spartans -6
Over 43.5 (-110)
Under 43.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Notre Dame vs. Michigan State Pick:
Notre Dame is 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games against the Big Ten, and 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games overall. MSU is 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games overall and 13-3 ATS in their last 16 games against teams with a winning record. The under is 5-2-1 in ND’s last 8 games against Big 10 teams, and 4-1-1 in their last 6 road games. The over is 9-4-1 in MSU’s last 14 non-conference games and 5-2-1 in their last 8 games overall. In head-to-head play, ND is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 trips to East Lansing, and the road team is 9-2 ATS in their last 11 meetings. The over is 6-2 in the last 8 meetings between ND and MSU, and the over is 5-2 in the last 7 games in East Lansing.
This is the type of game that likely will come down to the very end, and possibly to overtime as it did two years ago at MSU when Spartans coach Mark Dantonio made his famous fake field goal call to win it. MSU is not a great team against the spread, and the Irish have not been good against the line recently either. The over/under is the play to make here. With two outstanding defenses taking the over seems counterintuitive, but these two teams have not had trouble putting points up against each other, and the low total here makes the over a strong play with the number coming in over that total in 7 of the last 8 meetings. Irish coach Brian Kelly and the Spartans Dantonio tend to open up the playbook for this game and pull out all the stops, so take the over here.
PICK = Over 43.5