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Behind the lines

Unbeatens meet in East Lansing

September 15, 2007|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

A great deal of attention will be given to today's matchup between winless Notre Dame at Michigan, but there is a battle of two undefeated teams up the road in East Lansing, Mich., where Pittsburgh meets Michigan State.

The Panthers are 2-0 with victories at home against Eastern Michigan and Grambling State. Michigan State has wins over Alabama Birmingham and Bowling Green and is an 11-point favorite.

The game opened with the Spartans as eight-point favorites, but with the Panthers expected to start freshmen at quarterback (Kevan Smith) and running back (LeSean McCoy), money has flowed in Michigan State's favor.

The Spartans also have a few trends working for them, such as Pittsburgh's 0-5 record against the spread when it has been a road underdog and the Panthers' 1-5 record against the spread in their last six games.

But Pittsburgh Coach Dave Wannstedt's team could be ready to pull a surprise. McCoy, expected to step in for injured starter LaRod Stephens-Howling, ran for 107 yards and three touchdowns, and Smith completed 15 of 22 passes for 202 yards and one touchdown last week against Grambling State.

It also should be noted that Michigan State is 1-4 against the spread in its last five games as a home favorite and 1-5 against the spread against a team with a winning record.

And for those interested in Notre Dame and Michigan, the Wolverines are eight-point favorites, but the Irish are on the move after starting the week as 9 1/2 -point underdogs.

Both teams are starting freshman quarterbacks in Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame) and Ryan Mallet (Michigan), and the underdog in this series is 7-1 against the spread in the last eight games.

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Baseball

The big weekend series in Major League Baseball is being played in Fenway Park featuring the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, with today's game highlighted by the pitching matchup between Chien-Ming Wang and Josh Beckett.

Based on their previous three starts, Wang would seem to be the better choice with a 3-0 record and 1.69 earned-run average compared with Beckett's 2-1 mark and 3.74 ERA. Wang also has given up only 11 hits and four runs in his last 21 1/3 innings pitched. Beckett has given up 25 hits and nine runs in his last 21 2/3 innings.

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lonnie.white@latimes.com

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