The Michigan State Spartans have won and covered four straight in the sibling rivalry with Michigan but they are big underdogs Saturday at the Big House.
The Wolverines were 9.5-point favorites at most sportsbooks tracked by OddsShark.com earlier Thursday as the battle for the Paul Bunyan trophy gets set to kick off in Ann Arbor (3:30 pm ET, Big Ten Network).
Can State overcome some recent struggles to make it five wins in a row in this series or is their 1-6 ATS mark in 2012 a sign of bad things to come?Or can Big Blue finally take that trophy back?
"The Spartans haven't won straight up as a big underdog like this since 2004 when they upset Minnesota," said Jack Randall, a football analyst at OddsShark.com.
Michigan State began this season with a 17-13 win over Boise State, then won at Central Michigan 41-7. But since then the Spartans have alternated losses and victories.
MSU got outplayed in a 20-3 home loss to Notre Dame; struggled in beating Eastern Michigan 23-7; lost at home to Ohio State 17-16; had to come from behind to win at Indiana 31-27; then last week fell again at home, this time to Iowa in double-overtime 19-16.
Because of some injuries and some shuffling along the offensive line the Spartans have had some trouble running the ball as of late. They gained 149 yards vs. Iowa, but it took them 39 carries to do it; and against Indiana they ran for 120 yards but on 42 carries.
That's about 3.3 YPC over their last two games.
Michigan, meanwhile, opened this season with that 41-14 drubbing at the hands of Alabama, then looked only average in beating Air Force 31-25. The Wolverines then beat up on FCS Massachusetts 63-13, then lost at Notre Dame 13-6.
But Big Blue has since recovered to open the Big Ten season with consecutive victories over Purdue and Illinois by a combined score of 89-13.
So Michigan, at 2-0, is tied with Iowa for the lead in the Big Ten's Legends Division, while defending division champion Michigan State, at 1-2, sits in fifth place, a game and a half back of the Wolverines.
Earlier this week, Michigan started off as a 10-point favorite for Saturday's game, and that number had held steady into Thursday.
The Wolverines are 3-3 ATS this season, while the Spartans are 1-6 ATS. Which about sums up both teams at the moment.
As mentioned above, Michigan State has won the last four games in this series, including the last two games played at the Big House. Last year in East Lansing, the Spartans out-rushed Michigan 213-82 on their way to a 28-14 victory.
Free Pick: Even though 10 points might be a lot in this rivalry matchup, we like Michigan here to break its four-game losing streak in this series. So we give the points and go with the Wolverines. (courtesy of PickShark.com)
All odds, stats and trends mentioned courtesy of OddShark.com. Mike Pickett is a Contributor to Bleacher Report.