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-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Michigan State running back Elijah Collins. (Image Source: MSUSpartans.com)
Here are my picks against the spread for Week 3 (Last Week: 1-0; Overall: 1-0):
MICHIGAN STATE -14 Arizona State
Arizona State is 2-0, but they sloshed their way to a 19-7 win against Sacramento State last week as a 35-point favorite. The biggest problem? ASU’s offensive line is an absolute mess right now.
Senior left tackle Zach Robertson left team after practices started which forced the switch of center Cohl Cabral to tackle. Replacing Cabral at center is a true freshman who was projected to redshirt and he’s flanked by a redshirt freshman, while their right tackle has moved over from guard.
They have a true freshman center snapping to a true freshman quarterback and are ranked 94th in rushing despite having one of the top NFL prospects at running back in former Iowa commit Eno Benjamin.
Going into East Lansing to face one of the best defenses in the nation is a bad matchup for the Sun Devils. They’re going to be at the wrong place, at the wrong time, which is why I expect it to get ugly when ASU has the ball.
Ugly is a word that has been often used to describe Michigan State’s offense, but the Spartans opened things up last week. An adjustment from Week 1 was made and MSU went with a lot of three-wide receiver looks, which took some pressure off their maligned offensive line.
The running game was spurred on, as freshman Elijah Collins exploded for 192 yards to help Sparty put up 51 points in a blowout victory. They had nine plays of 20-plus yards and this formation allows them to get their best personnel on the field. Maybe most importantly, quarterback Brian Lewerke looked healthy and like his old self with 314 yards and three touchdowns while completing 71.9 percent of his passes. In addition to the RPO’s, look for MSU to use Lewerke as a runner more.
While the Spartans are a bad favorite when needing to cover by 20-plus points, a two-touchdown spread is within their range.
At least one casino has the line at 14. If you’re seeing 14.5 and tempted to buy the half-point, do it now because it’s more likely to go to 15 than back down to 14.
Iowa -2 IOWA STATE
The Cy-Hawk Series features a better Iowa team and what might be an Iowa State squad that isn’t as good as last season despite all their preseason hype as a Big 12-sleeper pick for many.
This appears to be the most balanced Iowa offense in years. With All-American candidate Tristan Wirfs leading the offensive line the play in the trenches is really coming together which has resulted in a strong run game so far (5.0 YPC compared to 3.95 last season).
What makes this unit so balanced is the Hawkeyes also have their best receiving corps in years. Through two games, four different receivers have scored touchdowns, compared to just three all of last season. They have depth and a very athletic big-play threat in all-purpose dynamo Ihmir Smith-Marsette who can take advantage of Nate Stanley’s arm.
Without David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler, Iowa State’s offense is looking for playmakers to complement Brock Purdy. Even with the tackle-breaking Montgomery the running game wasn’t very good in 2018 and while they have some reliable pass catchers, none are the consistent deep weapon that Butler was.
Iowa’s tough front seven should continue their strong play against the run, which will allow their pass rush to get after Purdy when the Cyclones fall behind schedule. The ISU offense could be in trouble, especially if center Colin Newell can’t go, as their tackles will have their hands full with potential top-10 pick A.J. Epenesa, arguably the nation’s best pass rusher.
This is Iowa’s best team since they went 12-0 in the regular season in 2015 and this isn’t the year their Cy-Hawk winning streak (four games) is going to be snapped, as the Hawkeyes win their fourth-straight in Ames.
Maryland -6’ TEMPLE
I feel a bit like a square this week jumping on Maryland after they’ve beaten Howard by 79 and Syracuse by 43. Last week, the Terps were the unranked team taking on a ranked foe. Underrated and overlooked. Now they’re the team with a number next to their name heading to Temple.
Are they for real? Offensively, the answer is yes. They could always run the ball and had one of the most explosive attacks in the Big Ten last season. With a deep stable of backs returning, we knew they’d be able to run the ball again. The difference this season is their ability to make teams pay through the air, as Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson is the best quarterback Maryland has had in years. They’re averaging an impressive 7.9 yards per play and have been extremely effective with their RPO’s.
When they have the ball, you should fear the turtle. I was hesitant at first to pull the trigger, but when the line dipped below a touchdown it brought me out of my shell. I’m not ready to say the Terps are ready to crack the Big Ten East’s Big 4 but they deserve more respect than this. This team is talented—fifth in the B1G and 27th nationally according to 247Sports.com’s team talent composite—which is why I picked Maryland to go over four wins and make a bowl.
This is also a revenge spot, as Temple handed it to the Terps last season 35-14 in one of their poorest efforts of 2018. They won’t be held to 63 yards passing or 195 total yards this time around.
Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards.
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