No. 11 Michigan State goes into Husky Stadium on Saturday night to face Washington in a matchup of undefeated teams. The Huskies aren’t ranked, but they enter as slight betting favorites against a Spartans team that still has plenty to prove. Could this game mark the start of a new era for Washington?
Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for this Saturday night matchup in Seattle.
Michigan State vs. Washington Odds
Washington enters as a 3-point home favorite over Michigan State at -155 on the moneyline. The over/under is set at 56.5 points.
It’s unusual to see a team ranked 11th in the nation as the underdog against an unranked opponent, but the Spartans are going on the road and haven’t faced tough competition yet this year. Washington hasn’t either, although transfer QB Michael Penix Jr. has gotten off to a promising start and has oddsmakers believing the Huskies can compete with Mel Tucker’s group.
Michigan State vs. Washington Prediction & Pick
It’s tough to feel fully certain about this game, considering neither team has faced much competition yet this season, but I’m a believer in this new Washington offense under Kalen DeBoer. Penix has a wealth of experience against Big Ten defenses and looks like he landed in the right situation with Washington.
Beyond Penix’s familiarity with the Spartans, this is a rare meeting between these two schools. The Huskies will be challenged by Michigan State’s different style of defense, but the Spartans could be thrown off by an offense that looks more dynamic so far than most offenses over in the Big Ten.
With the home crowd behind them, Washington has a great chance at a statement win early in DeBoer’s tenure.
Michigan State vs. Washington Key Matchups
Washington hasn’t faced Michigan State since 1997, but Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. has faced the Spartans twice. Penix knows Big Ten defenses very well from his time at Indiana, and that could help tremendously given the conference’s unique style of play.
Penix went 1-1 against Michigan State with the Hoosiers, finishing 33-42 for 286 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 2019 loss before throwing for 320 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions in a dominant 2020 win.
Michigan State’s defense will still be a challenge for a Washington team that is trying to incorporate a brand new offense. The Spartans allowed fewer than 25 points in 8 of their 13 games last season. The passing offenses of Western Michigan and Akron both couldn’t get anything going against Michigan State, whose defense combined for 12 sacks between the two games. Washington has only allowed two sacks so far this season, but it’s important to remember they haven’t been tested yet, either.
Of course, a brand new offense may work in Washington’s favor. Michigan State isn’t inherently familiar with new Huskies coach Kalen DeBoer, who was hired away from Fresno State in December. DeBoer has come in and transformed the offense, with the experienced Penix thriving to the tune of 6 touchdowns, 1 interception, and just under 700 yards through two games. Yes, the competition hasn’t been tough, but this is a much more fluid unit than what Washington was running out there under Jimmy Lake last season.
A lack of mobility may end up hurting Penix and Washington. If Michigan State’s defensive front continues to get to the quarterback, he won’t be able to evade the pressure. On the other side, Payton Thorne has to cut back on turnovers. The Spartans quarterback has already tossed three interceptions this season and was intercepted 10 times over his final 10 games last season. Without Kenneth Walker III to lean on this year, Michigan State can’t afford too many mistakes from the passing game.