Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, September 11, 2015 at 4:00 PM
Michigan State is currently the #5 team in the nation. Everybody in sports knows that there’s nothing worse than being the fifth team at the Final Four! Michigan State knows that a win over Oregon will position them well for a chance to reach the final brackets…while a loss virtually eliminates them already from national championship consideration.
*If Michigan State beats Oregon, then only loses the rest of the way to super-powerful #1 Ohio State…they will have a strong resume come December for the selection process. That’s particularly true of the SEC West beats each other up…and Oregon wins the Pac 12. There’s a lot of football left to be played. But…11-1 with the only loss coming against OSU has a real shot to earn the #3 or #4 spot in football’s Dance.
*If Michigan State loses at home to Oregon as a favorite, then is unable to derail the Ohio State juggernaut…there’s just no way a 10-2 record against a soft schedule is going to get into the mix. Saturday night’s game against the Ducks is an elimination game if Sparty can’t perform.
You probably watched last year’s meeting in Eugene, where Oregon rallied from a 24-17 halftime deficit to earn a 46-27 victory. Let’s quickly review some numbers from last year’s teams before trying to determine how the rematch is likely to play out…
2014 Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Oregon: 13-2 (#20 schedule in USA Today)
Michigan State: 11-2 (#49 schedule in USA Today)
Michigan State’s only other loss was to Ohio State. And, they had a dramatic come-from-behind win themselves over Baylor in a major bowl. Oregon also fell to the Buckeyes. That was, of course, in the national championship game. No doubt that Oregon was the better team last season. Better record. Tougher schedule. Head-to-head victory by 19 points.
Oregon: 7.3 on offense, 5.5 on defense
Michigan State: 6.6 on offense, 5.1 on defense
Very solid differentials. Just remember that Oregon’s +1.8 came against the tougher schedule. Michigan State’s +1.5 did have the better defensive performance. That’s worth remembering for the rematch because MSU’s defense won’t have to deal with Marcos Mariota this time around. Better defense plus home field…plus possibly the better of the two quarterbacks. Great scenario for a revenge-minded team!
2014 Turnover Differential
Michigan State: +19
These were the two best teams in the country in turnover differential! You know the risk/reward scenario means a lot to us. Oregon’s wide-open attack is particularly lethal with a quarterback who doesn’t make high impact mistakes. Michigan State is generally pretty conservative. They opened things up in Eugene last season. The 2-0 loss in that game in turnover differential was arguably the difference-maker. Both teams were moving the ball and scoring. Michigan State had more failed possessions because of the giveaways. (Note…if you throw their head-to-head meeting out, both teams were at +21.)
2014 Market Performance
Oregon: 10-5 ATS
Michigan State: 9-4 ATS
We often point out that really good teams are capable of beating the spread consistently. There’s a school of thought that “public” teams are so overpriced that you should never bet on them. Well, the public was fully aware last year that these were both very good teams. They combined to go 18-8 against the spread when not playing each other! Remember that in 2015 with the most highly ranked programs. Some will be overrated. Those capable of running up the score will probably do so again.
Oregon: 6 on offense, 5 on defense
Michigan State: 6 on offense, 7 on defense
Slight edge to MSU in those numbers. And, of course, Marcos Mariota’s departure is the single biggest story in the game. You just can’t know how good Oregon will be this season until Mariota’s replacement is battle tested.
Oregon: Vernon Adams (transfer from Eastern Washington)
Michigan State: Connor Cook (24 passing TDs, 8 Interceptions last season)
Both quarterbacks had two TD passes and 0 interceptions in their 2015 debuts last week vs. relatively soft competition. Adams is highly regarded, but truly an unknown quantity in terms of how he can play under fire against tough competition. This game will tell us a lot about how he’ll fare against a tough Pac 12 schedule this season. Cook has an NFL body…but would help his pro cause tremendously with a big performance here.
Current Line: Michigan State by 4, total of 66
The line has been bet up through the week…just as it was in the “Game of the Year” preliminaries from the Golden Nugget through the summer. The market is skeptical about Adams for now. Michigan State has revenge, home field, and a quarterback who has been through the ringer. It will be very interesting to see if Adams is up to the challenge.
JIM HURLEY has been studying this game for MONTHS. Everyone knew it would be a high profile Week Two encounter. He’s fully confident he has a read on the new Oregon quarterback. This matchup could result in a MONSTER by itself, or be part of a TV Parlay featuring the most exciting matchups of the day.
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We turn our attention to pro football the next time we’re together. Prime time previews in the NFL will be focusing on these matchups…until “Roll Tide” rolls around a week from today…
Sunday: NFL TV Preview…NY Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Monday: NFL TV Preview…Minnesota at San Francisco
Midweek: NFL TV Preview…Denver at Kansas City
Friday-Saturday: College Football TV Preview…Ole Miss at Alabama
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