2019-11-16 09:00:271 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Iowa wide receiver Tyrone Tracy. (Image Source: Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports)
Here are my picks against the spread for Week 12 (Overall: 9-17):
IOWA -3 Minnesota
Despite their impressive win over Penn State, I’m not sold on Minnesota as a legitimate playoff contender and judging by this line, neither is Vegas. Which doesn’t mean the Gophers aren’t good, they are, but these teams are pretty evenly matched.
While the Gophers have the edge on offense, I’ll roll with the Hawkeyes defense this Saturday. They’ve been strong against both the run and the pass. The type of defense that can handle Minnesota’s balanced offense. They’re strong at the point of attack, while their defensive backs are underrated. Corners Matt Hankins and Michael Ojemudia are long, free safety Jack Koerner is their leading tackler, while strong safety Geno Stone is active.
A key in this game is the location. Iowa’s offense is much more comfortable at home in Kinnick Stadium, particularly quarterback Nate Stanley. At home, the senior has completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 8.2 yards per pass with nine touchdowns to just two interceptions. He has a solid set of receivers with Ihmir Smith-Marsette (14.8 YPC) and Tyrone Tracy (19.8 YPC) a pair of big-play threats.
With an undefeated top-10 team in rival Minnesota coming to Iowa City, expect the Hawkeye faithful to be up for this game despite last week’s loss. Conversely, it’s hard to imagine the Gophers will be able to match last week’s emotion, while at the same time dealing with the new-found pressure of being a top-10 team rising in the College Football Playoff rankings.
This is also by far Minnesota’s toughest road test of the season. In their three previous road games (Fresno, Purdue, Rutgers), Tanner Morgan has been sacked eight times (73 attempts) compared to nine sacks (120 attempts) in six homes games despite playing inferior defenses.
It all adds up to the Hawkeyes rising up to hand the Golden Gophers their first loss of the season.
MICHIGAN -13.5 Michigan State
These teams are headed in opposite directions. Michigan is coming off back-to-back blowout wins, while Michigan State has lost four straight.
Not only is Michigan on a positive streak, but they’ve really seemed to turn the corner since they found themselves trailing Penn State 21-0. Their last 10 quarters of football have been their best of the season, as the Wolverines are finally playing like the team that was ranked in the top 10 in the preseason.
Shea Patterson looks comfortable in the pocket, the offensive line has steadily improved, Jim Harbaugh has found his running game with a pair of freshmen backs, and they have big-play potential at wide receiver with Nico Collins (20 YPC), as well as Ronnie Bell (16.8 YPC), two of the more explosive wide outs in the B1G. Coming off an open week, there’s no reason to expect the offense to regress.
Especially against a Michigan State defense that isn’t what they were expected to be, as they’ve allowed at least 28 points in four-straight games and they’re without their leader, middle linebacker Joe Bachie.
The offense has struggled as well. Only Purdue runs for fewer yards among Big Ten teams, while they average 6.5 yards per pass with a 54.3 completion percentage, both near the bottom of the Big Ten. The O-line has been a problem all year and their best weapon Darrell Stewart Jr. is out.
I know this hate week in the Mitten State, this is a rivalry game, but Sparty has shown us no indication this season that they can rise to the occasion while the Maize & Blue could be primed for a strong finish.
The Wolverines have covered five of their past six games, while the Spartans have failed to cover their past five B1G games, including two-straight as a road dog (lost by 24 at OSU, by 38 at Wisconsin), which in the past had been a Mark Dantonio strength.
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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