If you missed yesterday's national game picks, you already missed two winners. It's not too late to sign up for the B-Leez train, y'all. I make WINNERS.
Illinois v. Penn State (-4.5) - 12:00 p.m. - ESPN2
After a win over Nebraska in the beginning of the month pushed their record to 4-1, Illinois has failed to make any more progress on becoming bowl eligible, dropping their last two games to Iowa and Wisconsin. The Fighting Illini were actually up by a field goal on Wisconsin in the third quarter, but ended up falling 24-13. Quarterback Wes Lunt has been solid this year, but he will certainly face a test against the stingy Penn State defense.
Despite only completing 13 passes last week, Christian Hackenberg put together his most productive game of the season, passing for 315 yards and three touchdowns in the narrow 31-30 win over Maryland. Hackenberg benefited from Maryland selling out to stop Saquon Barkley, who was only able to muster 65 yards on 20 carries. It'll be interesting to see if the Penn State pass rush can do anything against a Illinois offensive line that is only allowing a sack per game on the season. If this line was over a touchdown I probably would go with Illinois in this spot, but I think Penn State will do just enough to cover.
Penn State 24 Illinois 17
Nebraska (-7.5) v. Purdue - 12:00 p.m. - ESPNU
After a while you have to start feeling for Nebraska for having to deal with all these close losses. Last week the Cornhuskers fell 30-28 to Northwestern, which gave them five losses this year by combined 13 points. Even worse for Nebraska is quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. suffered an ankle injury during Saturday's game and is questionable to play against Purdue. If Armstrong Jr. is unable to play, junior Ryker Fyfe will make his first career start.
If there is a little bit of a silver lining with Purdue's struggles lately, at least they have covered two of the last three contests. Aside from that, there isn't much good to say about the Boilermakers. Nebraska's defense is awful, but I'm not exactly confident Purdue can take advantage of it. The Boilermakers haven't won a Big Ten game at home under Darrell Hazell and I don't see that changing this week. Even if the Cornhuskers have to start Fyfe, I still think they take this one by double-digits to give them a little bit of a reprieve from having a game slip away from them late.
Nebraska 33 Purdue 20
Rutgers v. Wisconsin (-20.5) - 12:00 p.m. - Big Ten Network
Nothing at all went right last week for Rutgers when they hosted Ohio State, unless you want to count the late touchdown to spoil the shutout attempt by the Buckeyes. Still, it's hard to count out the Scarlet Knights from covering in this one when they have Leonte Carroo lining up at wide receiver. To go along with Carroo, Rutgers has a trio of running backs that when given space can make things happen. The big question is will the defense of the Scarlet Knights, which is giving up nearly 460 yards per game, get enough stops to cover the big spread?
Wisconsin may have won their last three games, but it has come at a price. Center Dan Voltz is out for the year, wide receiver Robert Wheelwright will miss a big chunk of time, and quarterback Joel Stave is coming off a concussion but is expected to play. On top of all that, the Badgers still don't know when Corey Clement is going to return after hernia surgery early in the year. Wisconsin's defense will hold Carroo and company in check, but Rutgers at least stays inside the number.
Wisconsin 28 Rutgers 14
Maryland v. #10 Iowa (-17) - 3:30 p.m. - ABC/ESPN2
Don't get me wrong, Maryland is bad, but maybe they aren't quite as hot dumpster fire as they were a few weeks ago. The Terrapins put up a fight in the first half against Ohio State, and then only lost by one point to Penn State last week, in Mike Locksley's first game as interim coach. Perry Hills has shown a lot more than Caleb Rowe, and the defensive has a few players that can make things happen. I wouldn't be surprised to see another spirited effort this week in Iowa City.
It might not be enough though against an Iowa team, who is coming off a bye week, and looking to go 8-0 for the second time in school history. Jordan Canzeri got injured early in the Northwestern game, and all backup Akrum Wadley did was rush for 204 yards in the game. Maryland might have a problem getting their running game going against a Hawkeye defense that is only yielding 74.1 yards per game. 17 points seems like just a little too much, even though Iowa is at home.
Iowa 30 Maryland 17
#15 Michigan (-14) v. Minnesota - 7:00 p.m. - ESPN
The way college football moves, it feels like the Michigan State/Michigan game was forever ago (but still hilarious at the end), Luckily the Wolverines had a week off to recover from the devastating loss on the final play. The Michigan defense is still really good and should show it on Saturday night, against a Minnesota offense that isn't very good. The question will be is how Jake Rudock will be able to navigate a Minnesota defense that has a pretty good secondary.
What an awful week it has been for Minnesota after the resignation of Jerry Kill due to health issues. You have to be rooting for the Golden Gophers at this point with all the team has been through lately. At least the bye week last week allowed them to get some much needed rest after a rough first part of the season. Minnesota plays with emotion here to honor Kill, and while they don't win the Little Brown Jug, they make the Wolverines work for it.
Michigan 23 Minnesota 13