Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 8:31 PM
Last year, Boise State at Michigan State would have been one of the most-hyped TV games of the year. You had highly regarded teams in the national polls led by productive quarterbacks who were hoping to have big seasons. It certainly would have had a Rose Bowl fell to it, even if neither the Broncos nor the Spartans ultimately qualified for a BCS Bowl.
This year, the marquee value is still there because these are ranked teams. But, as we continue our stat previews of this weekend’s TV games here in the NOTEBOOK, we have to note that big question marks are looming over the matchup.
*Both teams are starting brand new quarterbacks…and there’s just no way to know for sure how these young men will handle the pressure.
*Boise State returns limited experience on defense, while Michigan State has some uncertainties in its offensive line. Good luck making heads or tails out of that.
*Boise State disappointed down the stretch last season, making many wonder if the program had already peaked and was now trending downward. All the drama about finding a conference to play in sure couldn’t have helped recruiting, or the mindset of the players.
Let’s run through some key numbers and try to get a firmer grasp of best expectations for this much anticipated TV showdown…
BOISE STATE AT MICHIGAN STATE (8 p.m. on ESPN)
Las Vegas Spread: Michigan State by 6.5, total of 46
There were some places showing Michigan State by 7 as we went to press. Home field advantage is typically three points in college football. But, it could be as high as four in a game like this where you have an inexperienced visitor playing a night game in front of a huge crowd. The market is telling you Michigan State is about 2.5 to 3.5 points better in Power Rating assessments heading into the new season. They would be favored by a field goal or a little more if this were a neutral site bowl game. Early betting action has been on the Under in terms of the total because of the quarterback inexperience. The first offshore numbers were inexplicably in the mid 50’s. Most openers were around 50…and the number has been bet down to 46 as we go to press.
2012 AP POLL RANKINGS
Boise State: 24th
Mich. State: 13th
This is consistent with what the market is telling us. Michigan State is seen as the better team…and has the talent to almost crack the top 10 even with a new starting quarterback. Boise State is getting “program respect” from what its accomplished over the past years. If you rank in the 20-25 range…the media generally doesn’t know what to make of you. Either you’re a darkhorse with a chance to arrive…or you’re a former stud who’s drifting back to the pack. Boise State will get a chance to define itself very quickly in this high profile matchup.
2012 ATHLON MAGAZINE RANKINGS
Boise State: 24th
Mich. State: 18th
The summer assessments had these teams closer together. Boise State was still in the same place. But, Michigan State wasn’t in the top 15. This suggests that the media and the sharps have liked what they’ve seen in terms of the buildup to the season. Michigan State has the look of a divisional contender again in their Fall practices. Kind of like…on further review, Michigan State was better than it first seemed.
Boise State: Chris Petersen
Mich. State: Mark Dantonio
These are known quantities…and what we know suggests that we could have a very entertaining game. That will be determined by how much confidence either man has in their new quarterback. Last year…it may have been a 41-38 overtime thriller because of quarterback quality. This year, both the side and total will likely be determined by what the new quarterbacks are capable of doing, and what they’re allowed to try through the course of the game. These coaches WANT to attack on offense. Will they be able to?
Boise State: Joe Southwick
Mich. State: Andrew Maxwell
With names like that, they might as well be your buddies from down the street. Maybe both will make names for themselves this week and in the coming season. Maybe one or both will be out of a job by October. You just never know for sure with new starters. Many major programs have been surprised by misreads with their initial starter…only to find out their initial backup was better than they had realized. Vegas lines are extremely vulnerable whenever new QB’s are involved. See if you can get a read on Southwick and Maxwell Friday Night so you can use that assessment for September and October profit before the line catches up.
Boise State: Returns 6 starters from the 40th ranked offense
Mich. State: Returns 4 starters from the 56th ranked offense
Boy, does that open up a can of worms for this game. Michigan State had moments of offensive greatness last year, but also struggled way too often. They return few starters from an offense that wasn’t as great as many remember. They have particular concerns about some offensive line positions given their new quarterback too. And, frankly, Boise State ranking 40th on offense with their schedule is horrible. This is a team that typically runs up the stats on bad programs to create illusions about their offense. Last year, they couldn’t do that. With the big play quarterbacks gone…can teams who didn’t get all that much volume score with new signal callers?
Boise State: Returns 1 starter from the 11th ranked defense
Mich. State: Returns 8 starters from the 6th ranked defense
The clearest known quantity amongst the personnel units is that Michigan State’s going to have a defense this year. They ranked very high last year. And, even if that was inflated a bit by facing some lousy Big 10 quarterbacks…they still know what they’re doing on that side of the ball. Boise State is rebuilding from scratch almost. It’s worth remembering that Petersen has done a great job of recruiting size to Boise (particularly by raiding California high schools). Thinks may not be as stark as that makes it look.
It’s hard to use the word “best” when talking about a game with two brand new quarterbacks. You can see why Michigan State is favored based on their defensive advantages. If the QB’s cancel out, one could make the case that Michigan State should be an even bigger favorite because of home field AND a powerful defense. If Boise State can’t score much…then a single digit spread is smaller than it seems. JIM HURLEY is definitely thinking about the Under given the QB indicators, but he realizes that much of the value has been bet out of the opening line. Making picks on game day for clients is different than betting openers when they go up on the board. Maybe the line has moved too far and it’s time to buy back on the Over.
You can purchase our Friday football right here at the website with your credit card a few hours before kickoff. Tennessee/NC State and San Jose State/Stanford are also on the schedule tonight…along with great pennant race baseball games like St. Louis/Washington, Baltimore/NY Yankees, and Chicago White Sox/Detroit.
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There may be new names at quarterback for these nationally ranked teams…but there’s only one name you need to know year in and year out in the world of sports handicapping. And, that name is JIM HURLEY!