The Rose Bowl: Stanford Cardinal vs. Michigan State Spartans Pick-Odds-Prediction 1/1/14
Michigan State Spartans (12-1) at Stanford Cardinal (11-2)
College Football: Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 5:00 pm (Rose Bowl)
The Line: Stanford Cardinal -2 -- Over/Under: 44 See the Latest Odds
Storyline: The Granddaddy of ‘em all features #5 Stanford up against #4 Michigan State, two sides who shook up the national title picture late in the season.
The Breakdown: Stanford’s road to its second straight Rose Bowl appearance took a hit early on when after opening the season with a #5 ranking and five straight victories, including wins over ranked Arizona State and Washington teams, it was upset 27-21 by unheralded Utah on a last-minute goal line stand. The Cardinal bounced back to make statements in their next three with consecutive wins over #9 UCLA, #25 Oregon State and #3 Oregon, squashing the latter’s title run for the second straight year. Stanford’s own title hopes would be snuffed out the following week, however, in a 20-17 upset at USC before ending the season on a three-game run that culminated with a 38-14 romp of Arizona State in the Pac-12 championship game.
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The Cardinal ranks 67th nationally in total offense, (413.1 YDs), 93rd in passing yards (202.2), 23rd in rushing yards (210.9) and 39th in points scored (33.2). They’re led by junior QB Kevin Hogan (2,487 YDs, 20 TDs, 9 INTs) and senior RB Tyler Gaffney (1,618 YDs, 20 TDs). Gaffney, who ditched a professional baseball gig with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season to finish his last year at Stanford, is the nation’s 8th-ranked running back. Junior WR Ty Montgomery (58 REC, 937 YDs, 10 TDs) is the team’s top target and doubles as one of the country’s most dangerous kick returners with a 5th best 997 return yards and two touchdowns. On the defensive side, the Cardinal field the FBS’s 10th-ranked scoring defense, allowing 18.6 points per outing and senior first team All-American LB Trent Murphy (58 Tackles, 13.5 Sacks, 1 INT) is one of the unit’s standouts.
Michigan State, meanwhile, also took one on the chin early, losing 17-13 to then #22 Notre Dame in week 4 after opening the season with three straight wins. Unranked and unheralded, the Spartans responded by rattling off nine straight, peaking with a 34-24 upset of then #2 Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, ending the Buckeyes' national title hopes.
Michigan State owns the nation’s 83-ranked total offense (384.6 YDs), 92nd-ranked passing offense (202.5 YDs), 51st-ranked rushing offense (182.2 YDs) and 60th-ranked scoring offense (29.8 points per). They’re led by sophomore QB Connor Cook (2,423 YDs, 20 TDs, 5 INTs) and junior RB Jeremy Langford (1,338 YDs, 17 TDs), the nation’s 17th-best rusher. The Spartans bring the country’s top-rated defense, ranking 1st nationally in total defense, allowing 248.2 yards per outing, 1st in rushing defense, allowing just 80.8 yards and 4th in scoring defense, allowing 12.7 points per. Senior first team All-American CB Darqueze Dennard (59 Tkls, 4 INTs) and sophomore DE Shilique Calhoun (36 Tkls, 7.5 sacks) are two of this unit’s standouts.
Rick’s Pick: The line in this matchup is currently set at -2 for Stanford with a 44 point total. While this game gives the appearance of a low scoring one, it does feature two of the country’s top running backs—Gaffney and Langford—and a serious home-run threat in Montgomery. The winning side is too close to call, but the over looks like a good play with these two averaging a combined 63 points per.
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