Central Michigan’s football team will visit East Lansing on Friday night for its season opener against Michigan State, marking the 12th time the in-state programs have ever met.
Remarkably, the Chippewas upset the Spartans in their first two meetings, following a 20-3 1991 win with a 24-20 victory the subsequent year. But it’s been all State since, with only an Antonio Brown-led 2009 Central squad further blemishing the Spartans’ 8-3 record against the Chippewas.
This year’s tilt, which will be broadcast on FS1 at 7 p.m. ET, finds both squads coming off subpar seasons and with questions behind center. As of Wednesday evening, neither school had named a starting quarterback for the opener, which has seen bettors hammer the point total down from 51.5 to 45.5 at BetMGM.
“The weather is calling for a cooler kick with temperatures in the mid-50s and light winds,” PointsBet’s Jake Fisher wrote Tuesday in an analyst’s note. “Look for Sparty’s strong defensive front to disrupt a run-first CMU attack that has yet to commit to a starting quarterback. On the other side of the ball, bettors may be down on a Michigan State offense that lost last year’s starting QB (Payton Thorne) and top wideout (Keon Coleman) to the transfer portal in the spring.”
Whether MSU coach Mel Tucker decides to start junior Noah Kim or untested redshirt freshman Katin Houser at QB, he can be expected to rely heavily on last season’s leading rusher, junior Jalen Berger. He ran for 798 yards and seven touchdowns for the Spartans, who posted a disappointing 5-7 record after being ranked 15th in the AP’s 2022 preseason poll.
The Chippewas’ top returning rusher is quarterback Bert Emmanuel Jr., who ran for 496 yards and seven touchdowns last season. But Emmanuel only appeared in four games, which allowed him to retain his redshirt status as he enters his “freshman” year with a considerable leg up on most first-year players.
Emmanuel picked up 293 yards and three TDs in a single game on Nov. 9, dashing through the snow in a win over Buffalo. But he threw only eight passes last season, completing four, while his top rival for the job, sophomore Jase Bauer, completed 35 of 59 tosses for a touchdown and five interceptions.
Bulk of betting concentrated in Michigan
The Spartans opened as 15.5-point favorites against Central and have since been bet down to 14.5 at BetMGM, where 41% of all tickets and 47% of handle are on State. A spokesperson for the sportsbook said Monday that 40% of all bets nationally originated in the state of Michigan, with 76% of all money on the under as it gradually crept downward.
BetMGM has MSU’s moneyline price set at -650 (+450 for Central), with far juicier odds available for folks willing to bet that the Spartans will win by between 1 and 6 points (5/1) or 13-18 points. Chippewa fans hoping for a repeat of the ’91 miracle can bet Central to win by between 13 and 18 points at odds of 28/1.
BetRivers is offering the same 14.5-point spread on the game, with MSU as a -670 moneyline favorite. The sportsbook told MI Bets that the game was the fourth most popular betting option on the entire college football slate, and that 85% of all MSU-CMU game bets were placed in the state of Michigan.
Oddsmakers are expecting a repeat this season of last year’s deflating campaign by the Spartans. BetMGM has set State’s season win total at a paltry 5 (-135 on the over, +115 on the under), while both BetRivers and PointsBet are forecasting a slightly more optimistic 5.5 victories and offering plus money on the over.
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