Michigan Wolverines at Michigan State Spartans +4
Michigan State has been one of the biggest surprises in all of college football. Under second year coach Mel Tucker the Spartans have thrived on both sides of the ball. The Spartans have Heisman candidate Kenneth Walker in the backfield. Walker has run for 997 yards and 9 touchdowns on the season. The Spartan offense will lean on the run, but they also have a solid passing game behind QB Payton Thorne. Thorne has thrown for fifteen touchdowns and just four interceptions. The Michigan front is tough but they will be forced to stack the box to stop the run, which will allow for man coverage for Thorne to pick apart. Thorne has two different receivers, Jayden Reed and Josh Nailor, both have 27 catches and both are going to be big problems for the Michigan defense.
Michigan has the exact same strategy on offense. They will lean on the run in order to set up the pass. The Wolverines have two runners, Blake Corum and Hassan Hankins both have run for over 600 yards on the season. The Michigan State defense has been very good against the run. The Spartans are holding opposing Big Ten teams to just 3.3 yards per carry. If Michigan cannot establish the run they will have to rely on Cade McNamara for the first time this season. McNamara is averaging just 21 throws per game and has only thrown two balls over 40 yards.
Both teams average 200 yards on the ground, both average 30+ points per game. Both have solid defenses, giving up just 18 ppg (Michigan) and 14 ppg (Michigan State). The difference will be the QB play. Payton Thorne has the ability to take over the game, Cade McNamara has not shown that same ability. Jim Harbaugh has not won the big game in his career at Michigan, this one is the biggest game of 2021. The Spartans are not the team of 2020, their explosive offense will set them apart on Saturday, as well as their advantage at home. I love the Spartans at +4, but it’s worth it to go after the ML.
Pick: Michigan State Spartans ML +160 or +4 for safety net
Arkansas State Red Wolves at South Alabama Jaguars -9
South Alabama QB Jake Bently has led the Jaguar offense all year. Bently has thrown for 1,825 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season. The Jaguars are 3-1 ATS at home this season. The offense will be able to put up points against a putrid defense, but their key advantage will be on the defensive side of the ball. South Alabama is top 5 in the country against the pass. Bently and company will be able to put up points at will and their defense matches up perfectly with the Red Wolves biggest strength.
Arkansas State has lost 6 in a row, including all three of their road contests. The Red Wolves have been a powerhouse through the air this season (348 yards per game). Most of their air yards have come due to the inability to stop the opposing offense. The Arkansas State defense ranks dead last in the country against the run and dead last in rush offense. The Red Wolves inability will make it tough for QB James Blackmon to run the offense that they want.
South Alabama is coming off of a bad loss to UL Monroe, they will be motivated in front of their home crowd to make a statement. The defense will be the difference in a high scoring affair. The Jaguars will take a few punches but they ultimately will take the lead and run with it.
Pick: South Alabama Jaguars -9
Kentucky Wildcats at Mississippi State Bulldogs
Kentucky is coming off of a miracle cover over powerhouse Georgia two weeks ago. They got a week off and now will go on the road to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Wildcats are 2-0 ATS on the road, both against SEC opponents. In contrast the Bulldogs are just 1-3 ATS at home.
The Bulldogs are good offensively. QB Will Rogers has completed 73% of his passes, helping his team to average 423 yards of offense per game (50th in nation). Rogers has had his struggles during the season, throwing seven interceptions and getting sacked 20 times. Mississippi State will have to try and limit the Kentucky pass rush. The Wildcats are very good at applying pressure at 6.78% sack percentage while only giving up 17 ppg on the season.
Kentucky will not have a walk in the park on offense. The Bulldogs shut down the run, allowing just 98 yards per game. The matchup of the Miss State defense against star RB Chris Rodriguez should make for an interesting matchup. Rodriguez has rushed for 775 yards, adding 5 touchdowns as the cornerstone of the Kentucky offense. Kentucky QB Will Levis will give him some room to run, his dink and dunk game should allow them to move the ball downfield and wear down the defense.
This game is going to be a gritty matchup between two teams that rely a lot on their defense. The Bulldogs have had a problem protecting the QB and that will be exasporated on Saturday. Kentucky will get pressure on Will Rogers which will lead to turnovers and Wildcat touchdowns.
Pick: Kentucky ML -105