Casual fans might not enjoy the Rose Bowl betting matchup between Stanford and Michigan State, but for the football junkie this is an absolute dream. These are two balanced teams that each won their conferences handily while fairing moderately well against the spread. Stanford deserves to be favored simply by virtue of their performance this season, but I wouldn’t sleep on Michigan State in the slightest.
The Spartans are the best defensive team in the country by statistical metrics. Alabama fans would probably have something to say about that, but it’s easy to anoint the Spartans to the top because they ranked first in total yards allowed (247.8) and had the best rushing defense in the country, surrendering just 80.5 yards per game. They also allowed the 4th fewest points of any team with just 12.7 points against per game.
Ending the year with a 9-0 SU and 7-2 ATS streak that included squashing Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State also proved just how good this team is. Connor Cook is a great quarterback and he’s joined in the backfield by running back Jeremy Langford, who amassed 1,338 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns all season. Making a Rose Bowl betting free pick against these Spartans means that you doubt their team efficiency. And this handicapper doesn’t.
Stanford had an equally brilliant season, going 11-2 SU and 7-6 ATS while claiming the Pac-12 title with a win over Arizona State. They are one of the most complete teams in the country, and their offense is built around the often under appreciated Tyler Gaffney who piled up 1,613 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground. Finding room to work with against this viscous Spartan defensive line will be tougher than most people expect, even though Stanford has a very capable offensive line.
Stanford’s defense is also nothing to shake a stick at. They allowed the third fewest rushing yards with 91.7 on average, along with 18.6 points per game which made them a top-15 defense by most standards. Playing against the offensively loaded Pac-12 certainly didn’t help them pad their stats.
Of all the remaining bowl games left, this game has the LOWEST total by far, which should show you just how strong both of these defense fronts are. While Stanford is undeniably a great team, people are underselling Michigan State since they emanate from the Big Ten which has fallen off the wagon in recent years. We can debate the actuality of the numbers all day long, but Michigan State’s defense has proven that it belongs in the discussion as one of the best in the country.
I wouldn’t be surprised if a lucky break ends up deciding this game. But in a pressure cooker between two great defensive sides, I’m taking Michigan State in my Rose Bowl betting free pick. They’re a little bit more balanced and have been far less prone to coughing up a bad game. Michigan State has played full tilt all season. They won’t stop now, which is why they’ve earned my trust in Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.