The Michigan State Spartans are 9-1-1 against the spread in their last 11 games as underdogs. When they meet Stanford in the Rose Bowl on Wednesday, the Cardinal will be favored by a touchdown.
Stanford is favored by 6.5 points at most sportsbooks, according to OddsShark.com. Given the way Michigan State finished the season as Big Ten champions, that line is somewhat surprising. The Spartans stunned Ohio State, 34-24, in the Big Ten title game on Dec. 7 as 5.5-point underdogs to pick up their biggest victory of the year.
MSU was a profitable team to wager on this season away from home with a 4-0-1 record against the spread in their last five road games. They are also 4-0 ATS in their last four games played at a neutral site. They have been picked by the Odds Shark prediction computer to pull the upset, 38-35.
Michigan State (12-1 SU, 8-4-1 ATS, 5-8 OU) won the Big Ten this season behind a shutdown defense that ended the year allowing just 12.7 points a game. The Spartans did have some issues finding the end zone; they scored just 13 points in an early-season loss to Notre Dame and 14 points in victories over Purdue and Minnesota. They are pretty balanced on offense behind quarterback Connor Cook and tailback Jeremy Langford, though, and still put up an average of 30 points a week.
Stanford opened up as a 4.5-point favorite over the Spartans, but the line has climbed in recent weeks. If the last few years are any indication, the Cardinal should be a solid bet in Pasadena as the Pac-12 team has won against the Big Ten straight up and against the spread in five of the last six games.
Stanford's two SU losses this season were to Utah as a 7.5-point road favorite and to USC as a 3.5-point road favorite. The Cardinal (11-2 SU, 7-6 ATS, 5-8 OU) were 3-3 ATS this season on the road and hit the under in total points in six of their last seven games. They've covered in their last four bowl games and in 11 of their last 15 games outside the conference.
The Cardinal's offense averaged 33.2 points a game in 2013. They gave up an average of 18.6 points a game on defense, giving them one of the top units in the country. Kevin Hogan threw for 2,487 yards and 20 touchdowns while completing 61.4 percent of his 277 attempts. The real workhorse on this side of the ball was running back Tyler Gaffney, who rushed for 1,618 yards on 306 carries for an average of 5.3 yards a run. He also led the team with 21 total touchdowns.
These two last met in 1996 with the Cardinal rolling to a 38-0 shutout as 8.5-point underdogs on the road.
Rose Bowl computer prediction: 38-35 Michigan State (from Odds Shark's game predictor.)