This week's Big Ten picks not enough for you? Check out the picks for five of this week's best national games that posted yesterday.
Indiana v. Penn State (-6.5) - 12:00 p.m. - ESPN
After narrowly losing to Ohio State last week, Indiana has to head to State College to take on Penn State, who they have only defeated once in 18 meetings. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard were both injured in the game against the Buckeyes last week, and while both will travel this weekend, their status for the game is still unknown. The Hoosiers already had a tough task with Sudfeld and Howard in the lineup, and if they can't play it's hard to imagine Indiana winning with Zander Diamont taking the snaps against Penn State's tough defense.
What in the world is going on with Christian Hackenberg? Coming into the season, Hackenberg was talked about as a possible first round pick in the NFL Draft, but the way he's play it's hard to even imagine him getting taken in the seventh round. Hackenberg has only thrown for more than 156 yards in one game this year, and while he hasn't been blessed with a very good offensive line, he has to start making some plays if the Nittany Lions want to make some noise in the Big Ten. The injuries to Sudfeld and Howard make me uneasy of taking Indiana in this one, and I'm also worried they may have a hangover from the tough loss to the Buckeyes. On the other hand, I'm not exactly confident in Penn State laying points against anyone right now, but I'll trust their defense to help give the Nittany Lions a cover.
Penn State 27 Indiana 17
Illinois v. #22 Iowa (-11) - 12:00 p.m. - ESPN2
I'm not sure what I'm more surprised at right now, Illinois being 4-1 or Iowa being undefeated. Somehow the Fighting Illini were able to get past Nebraska in Champaign, despite some incompetence from the Big Ten refs earlier in the game. Quarterback Wes Lunt has been great this year for Illinois, and it's like the Fighting Illini will need Lunt to continue his strong play since they are going against an Iowa defense that is giving opponents next to nothing on the ground. The Hawkeyes are the only team in the country who has yet to give up a rushing touchdown this year.
Iowa's win last week against Wisconsin wasn't pretty but a win is a win. The Hawkeyes look to stay undefeated this week before they head to Evanston to take on Northwestern next Saturday. Running back Jordan Canzeri looks to return to the end zone this weekend after last week's game in Madison marked the first time this season he didn't score a rushing touchdown in a game. I'll take my chances that this might be a bit of a sandwich game for the Hawkeyes after the big road win last week and next week's trip to Northwestern. Illinois keeps things close enough to make the Hawkeyes sweat a little bit.
Iowa 28 Illinois 20
Wisconsin v. Nebraska (-1) - 3:30 p.m. - ABC/ESPN2
Before the season began, some probably had this pegged as a game that would be important to the Big Ten West race. While the conference schedule is still in its early stages, neither team has looked much like a team that is going to threaten for a division crown. A lot of the disappointment can be blamed on injuries both teams have had to endure so far this season. While Wisconsin still has plenty of questions to answer on offense, they at least do have a defense that is allowing less than 10 points per game. Since allowing Alabama to score 35 points in the season opener, the Badgers have only allowed a combined 13 points in their last four games.
Nebraska might have a little bit of a score to settle with Wisconsin after what happened last year in Madison. Melvin Gordon ran for 408 yards and four touchdowns in three quarters against the Cornhuskers, and with the victory, Wisconsin has won three of four against the Cornhuskers since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, with the Badgers scoring at least 48 points in those wins. Nebraska will need Tommy Armstrong Jr. to play a lot better than he did last week against Iliinois. The junior quarterback went 10-31 for 105 yards against the Fighting Illini. There's not a lot of rhyme or reason as to why I'm going with Nebraska here, but for some reason I just feel like they are going to earn a close victory over Wisconsin.
Nebraska 20 Wisconsin 17
Minnesota (-3) v. Purdue - 3:30 p.m. - ESPNU
I'm not exactly sure if there are words to describe just how bad Minnesota looked last week against Northwestern. The Golden Gophers managed no points and only 173 yards of offense against the defense of the Wildcats. Mitch Leidner got pulled in the third quarter, and it seems like pretty much every defensive back Minnesota has is injured. The Golden Gophers need to find some sort of a running game to take the pressure off of whoever starts at quarterback, but they have only been able to manage a little over 140 yards per game on the ground.
What is it about Purdue when they play Michigan State lately? The Boilers seem to like to dig themselves an early hole only to engineer a comeback that falls just short. Even with the loss, Darrell Hazell's team had to have gained some confidence by hanging with one of the best teams in the country. Purdue might have found their running back of the future in Markell Jones. The freshman running back ran for 157 yards against the Spartans, and current ranks third among freshman FBS running backs with 405 yards on the season. With how many issues Minnesota has right now, it's just hard to lay points on the road with them. I think Purdue builds on last week's second half and pulls out a victory against the Golden Gophers.
Purdue 24 Minnesota 21
#13 Northwestern v. #18 Michigan (-7.5) - 3:30 p.m. - Big Ten Network
We had a feeling both of these defenses were going to be good, but I'm not sure anybody knew they would be this good. Michigan has pitched shutouts in their last two games, while Northwestern has had two shutouts of their own so far this season. This marks the first time since 2005 in which both of these teams have been ranked when they've squared off. There's not a whole lot more you can say about this game, as offense is likely going to be at a premium on Saturday in Ann Arbor. Two of the last three games between these schools have gone to overtime, and I would be very surprised if this one is decided by more than a touchdown. Michigan denies Northwestern their first 6-0 season since 1962, but they have to dig deep to get the victory.
Michigan 14 Northwestern 9
#4 Michigan State (-13.5) v. Rutgers - 8:00 p.m. - Big Ten Network
Right now there are a lot of similarities between Ohio State and Michigan State. Both teams are big favorites pretty much every week, but they keep shooting themselves in the foot with stupid mistakes which continually sees them miss on covering. Last week the Spartans jumped out to a 21-0 lead on Purdue and then slipped into cruise control and barely survived a Boilermaker comeback. While the Michigan State offense has found a nice balance on offense, the defense hasn't been quite as dominant as they have been the last few years.
Rutgers has been quite a mess so far this season, but they got some good news earlier this week when star wide receiver Leonte Carroo was reinstated to the team after charges against him were dropped. The Scarlet Knights have had a week off to prepare for this game following their 27-14 over Kansas a couple weeks ago. This is the first time Michigan State has hit the road since their season opener against Western Michigan. With how the Spartans have handled the role of the favorite this year, along with the crowd in Piscataway likely being pretty crazy with this being a night game, I'll take Rutgers to keep this within a touchdown.
Michigan State 34 Rutgers 27
Maryland v. Ohio State (-33) - 12:00 p.m. - Big Ten Network
Should I just copy and paste what I've pretty much written the last four weeks and just substitute in the names of Maryland's players? I said Indiana wasn't very good last week, when they actually played really well. Maryland is a lot worse. The Terrapins don't have the combination of Sudfeld and Howard in the backfield that Indiana has. Brandon Ross is a nice running back but quarterback Caleb Rowe is a trainwreck. So far this season Rowe has thrown 12 interceptions, so hopefully the Buckeyes can create some turnovers to make up for what the offensive has committed the last few weeks. As long as Ohio State keeps the ball out of Will Likely's hands on kickoff and punt returns, they should be fine.
You can't say Ohio State hasn't had their chances to cover a number of games so far this season, but turnovers and red zone inefficiency have crushed any of those chances. Luckily the Buckeyes now get to take on a team that has lost their last two games by a combined score of 73-6. Not to mention they allowed Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson to throw for nearly 500 yards and six touchdowns early this year. Hopefully Cardale Jones can have a big day against this weak Maryland defense and take a little bit of the heat he is taking from a lot of fans off of him heading into next week's game against Penn State.
Ohio State 51 Maryland 14