September 4, 2015 (Posted at 2:00 PM ET)
There are 2 college football picks on Friday and 3 that are released early for Saturday.
1) Take Michigan State at -17 spread against Western Michigan risking 3% of the bankroll.
The Western Michigan Broncos were one of the most threatening teams in the MAC last year and a big reason for that was due to their prolific offense. The team averaged 34 points last season and returns a majority of their starters this year. The two main focal points on the offense returning are RB Jarvion Franklin and QB Zach Terrell. Franklin was the main catalyst of this offense and rushed for 1551 yards and 24 TDs in 2014. Terrell had 26 touchdown passes a season ago and he’ll have his main targets in Daniel Braverman and Corey Davis retuning this season as well. While this team's offense may have been one of the most talked about in the MAC Conference, they will no doubt be taking a huge step up in competition in this contest against a team who has been known as one of the more stout defenses in the country.
For years, defense has been Michigan State’s calling card as the Spartans have ranked in the top ten in total defense each of the last 4 seasons. They are an extremely big and physical team up front with guys like Shilique Calhoun and Lawrence Thomas on the outside and Damon Knox and Joel Heath on the inside. The LB position is also extremely deep with guys like Darien Harris and Riley Bullough looking to play significant roles. The sheer size and speed of a Big 10 defense should be able to spend plenty of time in a smaller and less talent offensive line's backfield. Football games are typically won at the line and in the trenches and Michigan State is one of the more fundamentally sound teams in that aspect.
On the offensive side of the ball is where we really expect the Spartans to excel in this contest. Michigan State has the luxury of returning one the most elite QBs in the nation in Connor Cook. Cook threw for 3214 yards and 24 touchdowns a season ago. And although he is considered one of the best in the nation under center, Cook will likely be playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder as he was not named a captain during the spring. He comes into this matchup with quite a bit of momentum following one his most epic comebacks as he threw for 314 yards and led the Spartans to a 21-0 4th quarter against the Baylor Bears in the Cotton Bowl last year and is sure to be a Heisman frontrunner in the early part of the season.
The offensive line of the Spartans is the driving force of this offense. They are incredibly big and agile and not only provide adequate protection for Cook in passing situations, but they have shown their ability to break open running lanes. The sheer size and strength of the line have been a big reason why the team’s running backs often have great success. Players like L'Veon Bell and Jeremy Langford who are now playing in the NFL were products of Spartan football and we expect that the running back corps this season will have similar success and breed yet another top named running back. The offensive line of the Spartans should be able to keep the much smaller defensive line of the Broncos at bay, allowing Cook to march his team up and down the field nearly at will.
This is the opening game of the season, at home against a ranked opponent so there is no question that the Broncos will be motivated for this contest. The Broncos may be able to keep this game close in the early going, however Michigan State is simply too big in the trenches and will wear the Broncos down in the second half. A big reason why the Broncos offense was so successful last season was due to their running back Franklin. The Broncos likely won’t have a huge amount of success running against the big defensive line of the Spartans, so the question of whether the Broncos can keep this game close enough will rely heavily on the passing game. If Michigan State can keep constant pressure on Terrell, it should make it extremely difficult for the Broncos to move the football. The difference in talent level will become evident as the game wears on and the Spartans should come away with a blowout win. This one likely won't be close.
Other notable facts to consider:
- Michigan State is 6-1 ATS in their last 7 non-conference games.
- Western Michigan is just 3-10 ATS against teams from the Big 10.
- Michigan State is 17-5-1 ATS in their last 23 games played on turf.
2) Take Boise State at -11.5 spread against Washington risking 3% of the bankroll.
This is a matchup that no doubt has an interesting back story as the Boise State Broncos former coach; Chris Petersen will make his return back to the Smurf Turf tonight. While many feel that may give the Washington Huskies coach an edge, we don't necessarily believe that will be true. Let's not forget that current Broncos Head Coach, Bryan Harsin, was the offensive coordinate during Petersen's tenure. There is no doubt that Harsin is looking to put the stamp on his time in Boise and what better way to do so than to show up his former mentor and is in a great position to do so given the amount of talent he has returning to his team.
The Broncos ended last season on an incredibly impressive run winning 9 straight games to end the season including a Fiesta Bowl victory over the Arizona Wildcats. Boise State returns 17 starters from last season including their entire offensive line while also adding a new running back who is a transfer from the power running school, Stanford. Boise should have no problem owning the line of scrimmage and winning the battles in the trenches with the amount of experience they have up front.
Meanwhile, the Washington Huskies are a team that is no doubt in a transitional period. They had a rather disappointing 2014 season despite all of the talent they had on their roster. Washington lost 4 players to the NFL draft in the offseason and lost a major contributor in Shaq Thompson who split duties at both LB and RB. The team also lost 6 of their top 7 tacklers on defense. On offense, the Huskies lost their entire offensive line. With a total of 124 career starts last season, this team now has to break in an entirely new group of players. To make matter worse, the Huskies will also be starting a new QB under center. Coach Petersen has yet to name who will be starting, but the inexperience along will likely hurt this team going up against a much more experience defense.
Boise State opened up the season ranked in the Top 25 but being a team from what is considered a notably "weaker" conference in the Mountain West; Boise will have to use "style points" in order to elevate their status and to become a potential candidate for the 4 team playoff. The "style points" needed will mean that they will ultimately need to steamroll their opponents at every opportunity in order to allow them to stand out among the pact and be considered in the conversation as one of the best teams in the country. During the Kellen Moore era in Boise, the Broncos were often highly ranked in the polls and often flirted with playing in the National Title game simply because of their ability to soundly defeat their opponents. We believe this team has the talent and depth to potentially do the same and it should start tonight.
The Smurf Turf is an incredibly tough place for any team to play. Given the inexperience on both sides of the ball for the Huskies and the fact that the Broncos should come into this contest with an extra chip on their shoulders as well as the last time these two teams met it was the Huskies who were the more experience and more talent riddled team and walked away with a blowout win. The shoe is essentially on the other foot now and Boise is the team that has all of the advantages. This game has blowout potential written all over it and we believe Boise rolls.
Other notable facts to consider:
- Boise is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games in September.
- Washington is just 1-4 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games.
- Boise is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 non-conference games.
- Washington is 1-7 ATS in their last 8 games as an underdog of 10.5 or greater!
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