If you need a refresher course on yesterday's national game picks, you can find them here
#17 Iowa (-2) v. #20 Northwestern - 12:00 p.m. - ABC/ESPN2
After shutting out two opponents earlier this year, last week Northwestern got a little taste of their own medicine when they were shutout by Michigan 38-0 in Ann Arbor, which marked the first time since 2003 that Northwestern was shutout. From the opening kickoff, which the Wolverines returned for a touchdown, nothing went right for the Wildcats. Even though Northwestern returns home this week, they may have trouble getting Justin Jackson and the rest of their running game going against an Iowa defense that has been very strong so far this year.
While Northwestern wasn't able to get any offense going last week, running back Jordan Canzeri was all the offense Iowa needed. Canzeri won Big Ten Player of the Week honors after carrying 43 times for 256 yards in the 29-20 Iowa win over Illinois. Should the Hawkeyes be able to knock off Northwestern, it isn't outside the realm of possibilities to see them finish the regular season 12-0. I keep thinking a patented Iowa slip-up is going to happen, but I don't think it's this week. It won't be easy for Iowa but they leave Evanston with a win.
Iowa 23 Northwestern 17
Purdue v. Wisconsin (-24) - 12:00 p.m. - Big Ten Network
After losing their previous two games to tough opponents by a combined 10 points, I thought Purdue was headed in the right direction and would have a shot to beat Minnesota last week. Wasn't even close to being right on that. It seems like only a matter of time before Darrell Hazell joins the ranks of the fired head coaches this year, as he is 5-25 during his time at Purdue, with the Boilermakers having lost their last 11 games to FBS opponents.
Last week Wisconsin barely slid past Nebraska 23-21, but they shouldn't have nearly as much trouble this week. The last time Purdue scored 20 points against the Badgers was back in 2005. While the Badgers have enjoyed dominance over Purdue the past decade, I don't feel great about laying 24 points in this one. Something feels off about the Badgers this year, so I'll take my chance hoping the Boilermakers can get a couple touchdowns to barely squeak out a late cover. Had Wisconsin's Corey Clement been healthy I'd probably take them in this spot, but it sounds like he isn't quite ready to return.
Wisconsin 34 Purdue 14
Nebraska v. Minnesota (-2) - 3:30 p.m. - ESPN2
Nebraska might be 2-4 right now, but they are just a few plays away from being undefeated on the season. The Cornhuskers have lost their four games this year by a combined 11 points. Nebraska will need to find some wins down the stretch if they want to become bowl-eligible in Mike Riley's first season in Lincoln. If quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. can return to some of the form he exhibited during non-conference play, it would help greatly. At least he should get a little help with De'Mornay Pierson-El rounding back into shape.
Minnesota rebounded from being shutout against Northwestern a couple weeks ago with an offensive explosion against Purdue. Still I'm not convinced the win against the Boilermakers fixes all that ails the Golden Gophers. If feels like Minnesota is the "anti-Nebraska" having won three of their games by just a combined nine points. The Golden Gophers are still pretty banged up and even though Nebraska's defense hasn't been great this year, I'm still wondering how the Golden Gophers will be able to find enough points to win.
Nebraska 28 Minnesota 21
Rutgers v. Indiana (-6.5) - 3:30 p.m. - Big Ten Network
Last week Rutgers got wide receiver Leonte Carroo back and this week they'll get the return of head coach Kyle Flood. Now as long as quarterback Chris Laviano doesn't spike the football on fourth down they might have a good shot against Indiana. With Carroo back, the Scarlet Knights are sort of dangerous on offense because they have the capability to beat opponents through the air as well as on the ground. Now if they can just stop doing the stupid Rutgers things they like to find a way to do at important junctures of the game.
I almost get the feeling like Indiana is Northwestern from a couple years ago. Ohio State went on the road to Evanston a couple years ago and narrowly beat an undefeated Wildcat team early in Big Ten play, and after that Northwestern was garbage the rest of the year. Last week the Hoosiers got mashed by Penn State in Happy Valley, and now they are laying nearly a touchdown to a Rutgers team who looks to be getting a little stronger? While the Scarlet Knights could possibly be looking ahead to Ohio State next week, I'll take my chances with the points here.
Rutgers 38 Indiana 31
#7 Michigan State v. #12 Michigan (-7.5) - 3:30 p.m. - ESPN
Everything seems to be pointing to a Michigan win in this one. The Wolverines have a streak of three straight shutouts going, and their only loss of the year came in the season opener at Utah, who is currently ranked fourth in the country. Michigan has all facets of the game working right now, and scored on offense, defense, and special teams last week. As long as Jake Rudock doesn't throw picks, something he has improved on since the season opener, Michigan is hard to beat.
While Michigan may be flourishing right now, Michigan State hasn't had a lot to cheer about lately, even though they are still undefeated. The Spartans are having a hard time finishing opponents, something they'll have to change very quickly as the season gets later and the opponents get tougher. Michigan State is 0-6 against the spread this year, but I am feeling like they might be in line for their first cover on Saturday. Everybody is counting out the Spartans it seems, and while their defense isn't quite the same as the past few years, if Shilique Calhoun can pressure Rudock, it could force Rudock into some turnovers. I don't know if I'm quite to the point where I think Michigan State wins this game, but I at least think they keep it within a touchdown.
Michigan 20 Michigan State 17
Penn State v. #1 Ohio State (-18.5) - 8:00 p.m. - ABC
Last week was yet another case of Ohio State getting close to covering a big spread but not quite having enough juice to finish the job. The Buckeyes shot themselves in the foot by allowing a few big plays in the first half, but they really turned it on after halftime. I'm still not totally sure what to think of Cardale Jones getting most of the snaps and then J.T. Barrett taking over in the redzone, but really I don't care who Ohio State uses at quarterback as long as it leads to touchdowns and wins.
I know that I should be nervous about laying points with Ohio State given their 1-5 record against the spread this year, but I have a good feeling about Saturday night. Not only will Ohio State be rocking since it's a night game, but I'm liking what I have been seeing lately from the defensive line. Joey Bosa looks to be hitting his stride lately, last week he recorded his first solo sack of the year, and the emergence of Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard is fun to watch. Look at what Temple did to the Penn State offensive line earlier this year. If the Owls can do that and get to Christian Hackenberg, imagine what Ohio State can do.
Both of these teams have played down to their competition numerous times this year, but I just think Ohio State has too much offense for Penn State to keep up with. The Nittany Lions do have an outstanding defense, there is no question about that, but they haven't faced anyone close to the caliber of the Buckeyes yet this year. As long as Ohio State's offensive line holds true and keeps whoever is playing quarterback clean, the Buckeyes should be ok. It won't be 63-14 from a couple years ago under the lights here in Columbus, but it also won't be 31-24 in double overtime like last year in Happy Valley. Ohio State wins by three touchdowns.
Ohio State 42 Penn State 21