Michigan State bounced past Western Kentucky for an energetic 48-31 homecoming win last week, inspiring fans and foes alike to consider: This team means it.
The resounding win bumped up Mel Tucker’s Spartans to No. 11 in Sunday’s Associated Press Poll. They headed into the tilt ranked No. 17.
Now 5-0 and off to their best start since 2015 — that squad started 8-0 — the Spartans take on a hungry Rutgers team in New Jersey on Saturday.
Will Michigan State keep rolling or will Rutgers get its first crucial conference win?
Michigan State vs. Rutgers college football odds
Spartans open as narrow favorites vs. Rutgers
Despite the big win for Michigan State and the huge loss for Rutgers in Week 5, oddsmakers are predicting a close one. As of Monday afternoon, at least three Michigan online sportsbooks offered the same spread and over/under for Saturday’s meeting.
DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars all have Rutgers as five-point underdogs with an over/under set at 50.5 points. The moneyline offerings are similar, too. BetMGM has Michigan State odds at -200 and Rutgers at +165.
Scarlet Knights takers get a +175 moneyline from DraftKings and Caesars. For Michigan State, the Caesars money line is -200, and it’s -210 at DraftKings.
Michigan State’s odds to win the national title continue to trend up after some sluggish movement early in the season.
Last week, BetMGM had the Spartans at an improved +8000 to win the title. Heading into Saturday’s game, BetMGM now has the Spartans at +6600 odds to be national champions.
How to watch: No. 11 Michigan State at Rutgers
- What: No. 11 Michigan State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) at Rutgers (3-2, 0-2)
- When: Noon, ET, Saturday
- Where: SHI Stadium, Piscataway, New Jersey
- TV: Big Ten Network
- Radio: Spartan Media Network
- Satellite radio: Sirius XM Channel 372 for Michigan State and Channel 196 for Rutgers.
Reed’s early punt return sets stage for Spartans’ big win
After barely escaping with an OT win against Nebraska in Week 4, Michigan State’s offense bounced back against Western Kentucky.
About a minute and half into the game, Michigan State wide receiver Jayden Reed’s 88-yard punt return for a touchdown, his second in as many weeks, ignited the homecoming crowd at East Lansing.
Michigan State doubled its total yards and then some from Week 4 to Week 5. Against Nebraska, the Spartans had 254 total yards compared with 519 against Western Kentucky. They also shook off the first downs struggles, getting 26 against the Hilltoppers.
A poised Payton Thornton had his best game of the season in terms of yardage, finishing 20-of-30 and throwing for 327 yards and a touchdown. The sophomore quarterback also had a rushing touchdown.
His performance was balanced by the supporting cast of Reed, Jalen Nailor and Kenneth Walker III.
Walker III rushed for 126 yards on 24 carries and scored three touchdowns.
Nailor, a junior, posted a season-high eight catches for 128 yards. Reed added four receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown to his score off the punt return.
Rutgers looks to court first conference win at homecoming tilt
Coming off two losses to now-No. 9 Michigan and now-No. 7 Ohio State, Rutgers needs a big conference win against Michigan State.
Ohio State won its eighth straight game against Rutgers on a career-scoring day from quarterback C.J. Stroud, who finished 17-of-23 for 330 yards and five touchdowns.
Rutgers couldn’t get it going at all after hanging with Michigan the week before in Ann Arbor. The Scarlet Knights turned it over three times and couldn’t spark its offense.
Senior quarterback Noah Vedral threw three interceptions, his first of the season. Vedral finished 16-of-26 yards for 152 yards and a touchdown.
Jamier Wright-Collins had four rushes for 39 yards. Aron Cruickshank had three receptions for 102 yards and a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Don’t count out Rutgers against Michigan State
The Spartans and Scarlet Knights have met 12 times since 1988, with the Spartans up in the series, 8-4.
They have met every year since 2014, when the Big Ten expanded to 14 schools adding Maryland and Rutgers.
Last year, the Spartans opened their season with a fresh coach and fresh loss to the Scarlet Knights, 38-27, at home. Rutgers was able to capitalize on Michigan State’s seven turnovers.
But that was then and this is now. Does Rutgers have a chance to rebound big or will the Spartans prove unstoppable?
Lead image credit: AP Photo/Al Goldis