College football fans and sports bettors love big in-state rivalries. When the teams involved are also nationally ranked the game draws extra interest. This weekend sees an even more rare occurrence. Two undefeated Top 10 teams from the same state, playing their 8th game of the season. The Michigan Wolverines vs Michigan State Spartans matchup this weekend is as good as it gets.

The importance of this year’s game goes well beyond the rivalry. The Wolverines travel to Spartan Stadium in East Lansing with a lot more than just bragging rights on the line. At stake is first place in the Big Ten East Division and with it the chance to move right in the middle of the picture for a BCS playoff spot. And of course, the maintenance of an as-yet undefeated campaign.

For bettors who can avail of sports betting in Michigan, there will be a keen interest in the betting lines for this one. U.S. sportsbooks have Michigan a 4.5 point favorite at the time of writing:

Michigan Wolverines (ranked #6) = -4.5 -110, Money line -200, over 52 -110
Michigan State Spartans (ranked #8) = +4.5 -110, Money line +170, under 52 -110


Strengths and Weaknesses

From a handicapping perspective, it’s hard to get a beat on either of these teams. While they are both undefeated, they are also both untested. Neither will benefit from the BCS rankings system (when released) because of relative schedule weakness. In 14 combined games to date, neither the Wolverines or Spartans has played against an opponent ranked in the top 25. It’s fair to say that these two rivals are equally unknown quantities.

On offense, Michigan is very much a run-first football team, currently ranked #9 in the nation for total rushing (253 ypg). The backfield of RB Blake Corum (104.1 RYPG) and RB Hassan Haskins (86.0 RYPG) have combined for over 190 yards per game on the ground. Conversely, their passing game is nothing to fear with only seven touchdowns through the air on the season.

When the Spartans’ offense is on the field, the Wolverines will be facing a balanced attack. QB Payton Thorne is leading the way with 243.0 yards passing per game with 15 touchdowns against only 4 interceptions. The star on offense is RB Kenneth Walker III, who has rushed for 142 ypg and 9 touchdowns.

The advantage on offense goes to the Spartans.

On defense, the Wolverines rank among the best defenses in the nation, giving up just over two touchdowns a game. They are particularly strong against the run and will be looking to put Walker in check, telling the Spartans they will have to beat the Wolverines through the air.

While the Wolverines’ defense can at times be dominant, the Spartans also have a pretty good defensive unit. They are only giving up a little over 18 ppg. However overall, the advantage on defense goes to the Wolverines.

As the stats would indicate, it’s difficult to separate these two teams.


Finding Betting Value

Sportsbooks don’t often post lines that are far off the mark. Professional sports bettors are very proficient at picking off bad lines. So why do they have the Wolverines listed as 4.5 point favorites on the road?

A look at series history shows the Spartans have dominated in recent years, going 9-4 over the last 13 meetings. However, the Wolverines did win the last two times they visited East Lansing, in 2016 and 2018.

The gut says the Spartans represent great value as a home dog based on the fact these two teams seem evenly matched. The only reason for pause is how strongly the experts seem to favor the Wolverines. Based on general guidelines, bookmakers are indicating the Wolverines would be favored by 10 if this game were being played in Ann Arbor.

As curious as the point spread looks, the over/under of 52 seems even more curious. Neither team is an offensive juggernaut and both teams have a very capable defense. The 52 just seems to be a bit too high given that both teams figure to be running the ball and stopping each other.

From a handicapping perspective, it’s best to find value by looking for an angle. As of now, there is rain in the forecast for East Lansing on Friday and into Saturday. Both teams should be approaching this contest with a conservative game plan. If that is the case, there may be value in betting the under. Furthermore, parlay bettors might want to go with Michigan State and the under. Fan of sports betting in Michigan are spoilt for choice and can get off to a great start with our BET MGM Promo:

Bet MGM Michigan Sportsbook