Betting the Under
The over-under on the upcoming game between Nebraska and Michigan State is 44.5. While that's a low number by college football standards, it seems downright lofty for this game. Last season saw NU win 24-3 (just 27 points total). Neither team had even 300 total yards. Michigan State didn't even get 200. Is the under for this week (to borrow the expression) a stone-cold lead pipe lock?
The Michigan State offense a year ago was better than this year's version. They still had a quality running back. They also had a star receiver and an NFL prospect at quarterback. That team scored a field goal against the Huskers. Even if the home field is worth a touchdown, what's that get the Spartans? 10 points?
The reason the total is set so high for this game has to be about Nebraska. The defense has played poorly on the road and the offense has been good everywhere. Still, the Huskers are coming off of a game where they held the Wolverines to just 9 points and their offense was held to 23. Michigan State's defense is better than Michigan's. So any year-over-year gains by the Husker offense is probably offset by gains by the Spartan defense. The crowd noise could be a problem for NU's offense as well. Expecting more than 24 points this year might be asking a lot. But even if you bumped the Huskers to 31, if you hold MSU to 10 you're still under that total.
Turnovers and special teams could make all the difference. They can set up easy scoring opportunities. Certainly, that's what Michigan State needs to count on. After the near-catastrophe for Nebraska against Northwestern though, we might be in store for nothing but fair catches and clearouts in the return game. A pair of turnovers and a shanked punt might still be worth only 10 to 13 points. The Huskers' general dominance of pocket passers could also set up interceptions (see Bellomy's performance in relief for Michigan) that lead to scores. But that will also keep the Spartans out of the end zone, which can be a bit of a wash.
Certainly, you can concoct scenarios where the two teams combine for 45 points or more. But recent history would say don't bet on it. Forty-five points sounds like a lot. For these teams, even a 24-20 final seems optimistic. The under sounds like a lock.