MSU is off to a 3-0 start to the 2021 campaign but are still just -4 point favorites at home in the week 4 Nebraska at Michigan State matchup. Sparty has answered the question of going on the road to Northwestern in week and visiting #24 Miami and getting a dominant win last Saturday. Is the letdown game finally here for Mel Tucker’s team?
Michigan State definitely presents a challenge, but Nebraska is used to it after visiting Norman last week and losing just 23-16 as +22.5 underdogs. These two teams did not meet up in 2020, but the Cornhuskers have covered the spread in 6 of the last 7 head to head meetings.
All on Martinez
Nebraska goes as Jr. QB Adrian Martinez goes and so far he’s already shown improvement in 2021 compared to last season. Martinez threw for just 4 TD to 3 INT a year ago (7 games), but has 5 TD to 1 INT so far through a 2-2 record posting the best rating of his career so far at 166.6.
Martinez can’t just be good to get a win in the Week 4 Nebraska at Michigan State game – he’s got to be great. There are going to be 70,000+ rabid fans at Spartan Stadium their first full capacity night game and first Big Ten conference showdown since 2019. Martinez hit 19 of 25 for 289 and a TD vs. OU last week, and had 232 yards passing and another 111 on the ground in the season opening loss at Illinois.
Even if Martinez plays a near perfect game the Nebraska offense faces quite the challenge in this one. Michigan State has the #10 rushing offense in the country so far through their 3-0 start, and that includes high production outings against quality teams in Northwestern and Miami. Nebraska gave up a 194 yard game to Oklahoma last Saturday.
Running Game Impressive for Michigan State
Kenneth Walker III had a pretty solid year at Wake Forest in 2020, running for 579 yards and with 13 TD in 7 games. When he entered the transfer portal and came to Michigan State in the offseason nobody could have predicted the impact he’d have on this Spartans offense.
Walker has a 264 yard and a 172 yard performance this year in the Spartans’ two biggest games – a 38-21 win at Northwestern and a 38-17 victory at Miami. Really the only reason Walker was held to 7 yards in week 2 is because he had just 7 carries in the 48-14 win against Youngstown State. The emergence of the MSU ground game has taken pressure off of Payton Thorne who has 4 TD in each of the past two weeks and hasn’t yet thrown an INT on the season.
Martinez presents a tough test for the Spartans defense, but they gave up just 17 points to one time Heisman hopeful D’Eriq King last week. Miami’s QB did have 388 yards passing, but it took him 59 attempts to get there and he also had 2 INT to go with his 2 TD passes. King had just 7 yards rushing on 12 attempts, mainly because the Spartans also sacked him three times.
Week 4 Nebraska at Michigan State Pick
We would assume the fall flat game is coming for Michigan State, but how could it occur on a Saturday night at Spartan Stadium where 70,000 fans have been waiting almost 2 years to see a Big Ten game in person. If they relied on the pass or if Thorne was mistake prone you might expect MSU to come out too amped up, but how hard is it to hand off to Walker and let him run?
Michigan State 35 – Nebraska 22
Michigan State -4