A busy Week 1 of the NCAAF regular season continues on Friday night with another slate of games. Two Top 25 Big Ten squads will be opening up the season, including a Michigan State Spartans team which has its sights set on some big improvement in the coming year. They’ll begin their quest to make it happen at home when they welcome the Tulsa Golden Hurricane to town.
The Spartans open up the year as the #18 team in the nation according to the preseason AP Top 25 poll. Along with Penn State, they’re essentially in the running for being the 3rd-best team in the Big Ten East division behind Ohio State and Michigan. As for Tulsa, they’re coming in off of a poor campaign and enter 2019 with lots of questions to answer.
Michigan State is a big favorite for their home opener, and naturally looking to start the season with a bang. They opened up last season at home as well and wound up having a pretty tough time with visiting Utah State. The Spartans were big 23.5-point favorites at game time, but they had to rally at the end to escape with a 38-31 victory.
Can the Golden Hurricane surprise and give Michigan State another tough opening week contest this time around? Let’s dig into this game in full detail and find out.
Tulsa vs. Michigan State, 7 PM EST, Fri. August 30, FS1
Betting odds provided by Sportsbetting.ag
Tulsa vs. Michigan State Pick:
Tulsa opened up 2018 at home with a 38-27 win over Central Arkansas. That victory would prove to be the high point of the first two months of the regular season. The Golden Hurricane would respond to the season-opening win by dropping the next seven games in a row. Three of the losses were by double digits, including a 24-0 loss at Arkansas.
As mentioned, Michigan State had a tough time in the opening victory over Utah State. The Spartans traveled to Arizona State the following week, dropping a 16-13 decision. Two straight wins would follow, but a 29-19 home loss to Northwestern brought that streak to an end. The Spartans closed out October by winning two of three with the loss coming at home to rival Michigan.
|Michigan State||7-6||5-4||243||223||L1||4-B10 East||NA||L-RedBox|
The Golden Hurricane stood at 1-7 as they entered the final month of the season. Encouragingly, the team didn’t fold up the tents. They finally stopped the bleeding with a 49-19 home win over UConn. Another two losses followed, but Tulsa managed to close out the year on a high note. They played SMU at home in the final game of the season, winning 27-24 to close the year at 3-9.
The Spartans were 5-3 heading into the final month, and they would follow a similar trajectory over the last four games. A 24-3 road victory over Maryland was followed by two straight losses – 26-6 at home versus Ohio State and 9-6 at Nebraska. Michigan State closed out the year with a 14-10 home win over Rutgers to finish at 7-5. The team was invited to the RedBox Bowl, losing 7-6 to Oregon.
On an overall statistical basis, Michigan State is clearly the better team on paper. They have a big talent advantage to boot. However, the Spartans had some shortcomings in 2018, mainly on offense, which produced rather anemic results for the season as a whole.
Last year, Tulsa scored an average of 24.1 points per game and allowed 29.6 points per contest. That ranked 103rd and 81st in the nation respectively. Michigan State only managed to produce 18.7 points per game, which ranked 126th. The defense fared much better, ranking 13th in the country with an average of 18.0 points allowed.
Philip Montgomery returns for his 5th year of leading the Golden Hurricane. There are a lot of questions to be answered on offense, and improvement on the line is imperative for a squad which allowed 39 sacks a season ago. On defense, nine starters are returning, but the unit as a whole needs to step it up.
This will be Mark Dantonio’s 13th year of leading the Spartans. The record stands at 107-51 thus far. He has hit double-digit wins in six of his seasons at Michigan State. The team has hired Brad Salem to serve as offensive coordinator, and the expectation is the offense will be more fast-paced under his watch.
Brian Lewerke returns behind center. There’s a good amount of returning talent around him. The defense should pick up right where it left off a season ago as it’s chock full of talented pieces.
There are no recent matchups between these two squads to glean information from. Last season, the two teams were in range during the regular season on an against the spread basis. Tulsa was 5-7 ATS in 2018 versus an actual record of 3-9. For Michigan State, it was 4-8 ATS against a final record of 7-5.
On totals for the regular season, the Golden Hurricane were 4-8, while the Spartans checked in at 4-8 as well. As an away underdog in 2018, Tulsa was 2-4 ATS. Michigan State was 0-4 as a home favorite.
Michigan State disappointed on an overall basis in 2018. This is largely due to the poor output on offense, as the team had one of the best defense in the nation. A new offensive coordinator is in town, and that could turn out to be a cure for the team’s ills.
As a result, the Spartans could take steps forward in 2019 and are a team to watch in the Big Ten. Not much is expected out of Tulsa this year, and they’ll be walking into a lion’s den on Friday night. We like Michigan State minus the points.