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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, November 20, 2015 at 7:00 AM

Before the season began, everyone was pointing to Saturday’s Michigan State/Ohio State game as one of the most important of the whole season. That’s held true…as defending national champion Ohio State enters undefeated and very much in the thick of the 2015 title chase…while Michigan State is within striking distance if they can win out.

Yet…this meeting doesn’t feel that special because…

*Both teams have looked lethargic and disinterested way too often

*Both teams were doing that vs. very soft schedules

*Michigan State has the stats of a team outside the Top 25

*Both seem like they’d have lost once or twice already if they were in the SEC

Such wasted seasons! But, you can get away with that in the weak Big 10…where even a relative mediocrity like Iowa can stay undefeated for a long time because they rarely play anybody. At least the Big 10 leaders will start crashing into each other in short order. The Spartans and Buckeyes play Saturday. Ohio State still has dangerous Michigan again (and MSU was very lucky to beat the Wolverines). Iowa will face the OSU/MSU divisional survivor in the title tilt in a few weeks.

We’re likely going to have at least one Big 10 team in the Final Four (the Pac 12 is probably already OUT). Time to start scouting! Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicators stats have to say a showcase showdown you’ll be watching Saturday afternoon on ABC…


Won-Lost Records

Michigan State: 9-1 (5-1 in the Big 10 East, with a road loss at Nebraska)

Ohio State: 10-0 (6-0 in the Big 10 East)

Michigan State should probably be 8-2 given what happened vs. Michigan. And, this could easily be a 6-4 type team if they had to play in the SEC West. Ohio State has the talent to dominate most of the nation. That’s a great won-lost record…but the pieces just aren’t fitting together the way they did last year. Ohio State would be an underdog to Alabama in a Final Four meeting…and not significantly ahead of some of the other top contenders.


2015 Yards-Per-Play

Michigan State: 5.7 on offense, 5.5 on defense

Ohio State: 6.5 on offense, 4.3 on defense

You can see what we mean about Michigan State. That’s just +0.2 while playing a soft schedule! What if they had to face some real teams? It’s true that Sparty’s conservative style can cause their numbers to “play ‘possum” a bit…understating their true quality. But…that’s pretty pathetic in context. The team may just not be very good this year. Ohio State does impress here…yet those yards aren’t always turning into points because of sluggish quarterback play in the red zone. Big question for handicappers…is Ohio State’s DEFENSE really as good as it looks in those numbers?


2015 Turnover Differential

Michigan State: +13

Ohio State: -1

This is where things get interesting. Ohio State has underachieved their stats because the offense is too sloppy. Michigan State keeps finding ways to win because they don’t make mistakes and take advantage of opponent miscues. This category makes MSU a dangerous dog regardless of what the YPP data suggests. Easy to hang close and try to steal one if you’re getting the best of the turnover category.


2015 Market Performance

Michigan State: 3-7 ATS

Ohio State: 4-6 ATS (2-8 to the Under)

Both teams have been overrated. It’s tough for a program like Ohio State to cover consistently because they’re always priced at perfection. Still, using an “opponent and Under” approach would have gone 14-6 through 10 games because Ohio State’s offense has been such a disappointment. Well…credit to the stingy defense AND some blame to the OSU offense. Michigan State’s been a relative disaster. They’re not priced to perfection…yet are still only getting the money at a 30% clip.



Michigan State: Connor Cook (175-311-4-2482 with 21 TDs)

Ohio State: J. T. Barrett (56-85-3-622 with 8 TDs)

Cook got banged up last week, and may not be at 100% physically. He’s certainly planning on playing and giving 110% effort. Ohio State’s offense has been sharper with Barrett at the helm. Cardale Jones must have spent the offseason reading press clippings and eating Buffalo wings. That said, it’s not like Barrett has been a superstar. He’s just been better than Jones, and is basking in that glow.


Current Line: Ohio State by 13, total of 53

That’s a big number for a team that’s struggled on offense. The fact that Ohio State is laying something close to two touchdowns tells you how bad Michigan State has looked to the quants…and to those using the eye test too. This number is really only justified if it’s assumed Michigan State won’t be able to move the ball with a banged up quarterback against an elite defense.

JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his on-site sources to get a read on Cook’s health. If he’s ready to go…then Sparty’s capable of winning the game, not just covering. But, if he can only throw short passes vs. this Buckeyes defense, then OSU may be coasting by the third quarter. If there’s a play worth making here…NETWORK clients will get it!

You can purchase the final word for Saturday’s full college slate right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended football service, please call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155.

Big football bashes continue on the immediate horizon. Here’s what’s ahead in the NOTEBOOK…

Sunday: NFL TV Preview… Cincinnati at Arizona

Monday: NFL TV Preview… Buffalo at New England

Midweek: NFL TV Preview…Chicago at Green Bay (Thanksgiving Night!)

Friday-Saturday: College Football TV Preview…either Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, Notre Dame at Stanford, or Ohio State at Michigan

The games you’ve been all season for are finally arriving on the college football schedule. Be sure you GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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