Michigan State is 3-0 both outright and against the spread in its last three meetings with Penn State, but oddsmakers expect a reversal of fortune when the Nittany Lions, possibly playing for big stakes, host the Spartans on Saturday afternoon in Happy Valley.
Point spread: The Nittany Lions opened as 13.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).
College football pick, via Odds Shark computer: 35.3-24.5 Nittany Lions (College football picks on every game)
Why the Michigan State Spartans can cover the spread
Even as it plays out the end of a lost season, MSU is 3-1 ATS over its last four games after nearly pulling an upset over Ohio State last week. The Spartans lost a tough one to the Buckeyes, 17-16, but they covered easily as 20-point home dogs.
Michigan State actually led early last week 7-0 and 10-7, and it only trailed by one score late into the game. The Spartans then pulled to within a point on LJ Scott’s second touchdown of the game with just under five minutes to go. But in a gutsy call, MSU went for two points, only to have a pass intercepted. The Spartans got the ball back once after that, but another interception spelled the end.
On the day, Michigan State outgained the Buckeyes 334-310, as Scott accounted for 236 yards from scrimmage on a blustery day in East Lansing.
Two weeks ago, the Spartans bombed Rutgers 49-0, covering at -17.
Why the Penn State Nittany Lions can cover the spread
Penn State ran its winning streak to seven in a row last week with a 39-0 blanking of those same Scarlet Knights. The Lions started slowly and only led Rutgers 9-0 at the half. But a blocked punt early in the third quarter provided a jump-start, and they pulled away from there, eventually covering as 25-point favorites.
PSU outgained the Knights by a lopsided 549-87 margin, rushing the ball 49 times for 339 yards.
The Lions are also now 6-0 ATS over their last six games, covering twice as double-digit chalk.
At 7-1 in conference play, Penn State is tied with Michigan and Ohio State for the lead in the Big Ten East. But the Lions hold the tiebreaker on the Buckeyes, who host the Wolverines at noon ET on Saturday. With a win and a Michigan loss, Penn State goes to the Big Ten Championship Game for the first time ever.
The Lions are playing with all sorts of energy, winning their last four games by an average of almost 30 points per game. Michigan State, on the other hand, is just playing out the string and coming off a tough, emotional defeat. The smart money here plays Penn State.
The total has gone over in five of Michigan State’s last six games against Penn State.
Penn State is 6-0 ATS in its last six games against its conference.
Michigan State is 12-3-1 ATS in its last 16 games on the road against teams with winning records.
All college football betting lines and point-spreads data courtesy of Bleacher Report’s official odds partner, Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-movement updates and Odds Shark YouTube for picks and analysis, or download the free odds-tracker app.