Mark Dantonio’s Michigan State football team is the class of the Big Ten and poised to prove it today against unbeaten Nebraska.
I made the Spartans 10½-point home favorites and relish this chance to support them as 7-point chalk.
Dantonio’s team has covered the spread in all three of its home games this season, winning by 38, 59 and 42 points. The Spartans suffered their only defeat in the second week, falling at Oregon after leading by nine midway through the third quarter.
Junior quarterback Connor Cook has completed 69.2 percent of his passes with a 9-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also has rushed for two scores. His career TD-INT ratio is now 32-to-9.
Cook has one of the Big Ten’s top wide receivers in Tony Lippett, who has 22 receptions for 421 yards and six touchdowns. He also has one of the league’s top running backs behind him. Jeremy Langford, who ran for 1,482 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2013, has produced 340 rushing yards and three scores this season while averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
Nebraska hasn’t exactly thrived in road underdog situations in the past decade. During Bo Pelini’s tenure, the Cornhuskers are 4-4 against the spread in eight such spots. They are 7-11 ATS as road ’dogs since 2004.
This is a big step up in competition for Pelini’s team, which has only played one decent opponent in Miami. Nebraska has one of the nation’s top running back in Ameer Abdullah, but he’s facing the toughest defense the Cornhuskers have seen this season.
Also, Nebraska might be without star linebacker David Santos, listed as doubtful because of a knee injury.
I’ll lay the points with the Spartans, who will pull away in the second half to win by at least 14 points
Four more plays for today (home team in CAPS):
■ South Carolina-KENTUCKY (Under 56) — South Carolina’s defense is improving, and that was evident last week. The Gamecocks got 10 consecutive stops against Missouri, and the 41 combined points resulted in an easy winner for “under” backers. Kentucky’s first-team defense has given up only two touchdowns in regulation, both in the third quarter of a triple-overtime loss at Florida. In a 17-7 Kentucky win last week over Vanderbilt, the Commodores got their only score on an interception return. I made this number 52.
■ Stanford (-2½) over NOTRE DAME — Notre Dame is unbeaten against four opponents who have a 7-11 combined record. I have the Fighting Irish at No. 25 in my latest power rankings, so I clearly don’t think of them as an elite team like voters in other polls. Stanford’s defense is ranked No. 1 in the country. The Cardinal have thrived on the road during David Shaw’s tenure, compiling a 12-5-1 spread record. They are 10-5 as road favorites. I made Stanford a six-point favorite.
■ Baylor-TEXAS (Over 58) — Baylor has not had a total in the 50s since Week 1 of 2011, when it blasted Southern Methodist 59-24 to easily surpass the 56½-point total. The Bears have seen the “over” hit at a 5-1 clip in their past six games with a total in the 50s. They are averaging 56.9 points and get explosive wide receivers Levi Norwood and Clay Fuller back in the lineup today. Senior quarterback Bryce Petty is playing outstanding, throwing seven touchdown passes with one interception. He also has three rushing scores. I made the number 64.
■ Oklahoma (-3½) over TEXAS CHRISTIAN — I made Oklahoma an 8½-point favorite for its trip to Fort Worth, Texas. I like everything about the Sooners, who are gunning for this game because they know it is the toughest road assignment left on their schedule. TCU is 3-0, with wins over Samford, Minnesota and SMU, but this is a major step up in class. Oklahoma has covered as a road favorite twice this season, and TCU has limped to a 1-3 spread record in its past four games as a home underdog.
Last week: 1-3-1 against the spread
Brian Edwards of VegasInsider.com and BrianEdwardsSports.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.