Rutgers Vs. Michigan State: Will Spartans Roll In Mel Tucker’s Debut?

Written By Drew Ellis on October 21, 2020
Michigan State

Michigan State and Rutgers aren’t expected to be powerhouses in the Big Ten race for 2020.

Both teams are under a new coaching staff this fall and coming off a poor 2019.

Despite that, one of them will start their shortened 2020 NCAA football season with a win on Saturday at noon ET (Big Ten Network).

Michigan sports bettors can capitalize on the matchup of Rutgers vs. Michigan State at retail sportsbooks in the state.

Michigan State heavy favorites at home

Despite a lot of question marks entering the new season, oddsmakers believe Michigan State is the clear favorite for Saturday’s game with Rutgers.

DraftKings lists Michigan State as a 12.5-point favorite at home. The sportsbook also listed the over/under at 44.5 points.

PointsBet has Michigan State as a 13.5-point favorite with the same over/under.

Moneylines, however, aren’t appealing for the Spartans, as DraftKings has them at -625 while PointsBet is at -530. Rutgers could be the play there if you’re looking for a big payday. DraftKings (+420) and PointsBet (+390) are offering up around a 4-to-1 payout if the Knights win.

History lesson: Spartans dominate Knights

MSU and Rutgers have met 11 times in Big Ten history. The Spartans own an 8-3 advantage all-time.

Since Rutgers joined the Big Ten in 2014, Michigan State has won all six meetings with the Scarlet Knights. MSU is 4-2 against the spread in those six games. That includes a 27-0 win at Rutgers last November.

The under has been the play between these two teams. They have hit the under in five of their six Big Ten encounters, including all three meetings at Spartan Stadium.

Trends outside of the series aren’t terribly strong for either team. Michigan State is just 3-13 ATS in their last 16 home games and 1-7 ATS in their last eight Big Ten games.

Rutgers isn’t much better, going just 2-7 ATS in their last nine conference games and 2-5 ATS in their last seven games in October.

When it comes to public betting, bettors are siding with Michigan State as the double-digit favorite. The Spartans are getting about 60% of the wagers as of this writing.

Mel Tucker era begins in East Lansing

AP Photo/Al Goldis, File

MSU fans don’t have big expectations for 2020, but they are excited to see what first-year coach Mel Tucker will bring to the table.

Tucker takes over for Mark Dantonio, who retired following the 2019 season after 13 seasons coaching Michigan State. Dantonio was 114-57 with a pair of Big Ten Conference titles.

It’s been a rollercoaster for Tucker since joining the program, as COVID-19 wiped out spring football and kept him from installing his new system until the fall.

A big key for Tucker is to revamp the MSU offense that averaged just 22.4 points per game in 2019.

To do that, MSU has to find its new starting quarterback. An intense QB battle continues even this week between junior Rocky Lombardi, sophomore Theo Day, and redshirt freshman Payton Thorne.

One position locked in is running back, where Elijah Collins ran for nearly 1,000 yards as a freshman.

Even with offensive questions, Michigan State can rely on a defense that has been among the best in the conference for over a decade. The Spartans held opponents to 22.7 points and 319.2 yards per game last season.

Greg Schiano looks to reclaim glory at Rutgers

Following a 2-10 record in 2019, Rutgers went back to the well and hired Greg Schiano to run the program again.

Schiano was 68-67 from 2001-11 as head coach of the Scarlet Knights. That included an 11-2 record in 2006 where Rutgers finished 12th in the nation.

Over the last five seasons, Rutgers hasn’t won more than four games in a year.

Rutgers is also dealing with a QB battle. Schiano is going with either Nebraska grad transfer Noah Vedral or sophomore Art Sitkowski. Neither man has much playing experience.

Not surprisingly, Rutgers was dead last in the Big Ten offensively in 2019. The Knights averaged just 13.3 points and 273.1 yards per game.

Junior running back Isaih Pacheco will have to carry the unit in 2020. He rushed for 729 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore.

The Rutgers defense will have big strides to make as well. The Knights gave up 36.7 points and 433.6 yards per game in 2019. The unit produced only 18 sacks and created just 10 turnovers.

Photo by AP Photo/Tony Ding
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Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis is the Lead Writer of Playinmichigan, the No. 1 source for online gambling news in Michigan. A lifelong resident of the state, Ellis has been working in various forms of media since 1998, including more than a decade in the sports betting industry prior to transitioning into US casino markets in 2020.

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