If these six picks for this week's Big Ten games aren't enough for you, be sure to check out the five national game picks I posted yesterday.
#3 Ohio State (-16) v. Illinois - 12:00 p.m. - ABC
The Buckeyes looked like they were close to covering last week against Minnesota for a bit, but they weren't able to expand on a 21-0 lead, yet again failing to cover a big spread. I'm a little more optimistic this week against Illinois, and the main reason is because J.T. Barrett is back starting at quarterback. It's hard to fault Cardale Jones, especially since he has still yet to suffer a loss as a starter, but the offense just runs so much smoother with Barrett at the helm. If Ohio State can get Barrett playing like he did against Rutgers, along with Ezekiel Elliott hitting at least 100 yards on the ground for the 15th straight game, the Buckeyes will be tough to stop.
After all the turmoil before the season with the firing of Tim Beckman, Illinois actually hasn't played too bad this year, and is just a win away from become bowl-eligible for the second straight year. The Fighting Illini were boosted last week with the return of Josh Ferguson, who rushed for 112 yards in the 48-14 win against Purdue. Illinois is hoping to use Ferguson, in combination with Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns against the Boilermakers, to keep the football out of the hands of the Buckeyes.
Wes Lunt has been decent for Illinois this year, and who knows where the Fighting Illini would be had they had wide receiver Mike Dudek to combine with Geronimo Allison. Weird things usually do happen when the Buckeyes head to Champaign, but I don't think anything too strange will happen on Saturday. It might be a bit of a homer pick to think Ohio State wins big, but I think Urban Meyer wants a strong performance with Barrett back heading into Michigan State and Michigan.
Ohio State 38 Illinois 17
Maryland v. #13 Michigan State (-15) - 12:00 p.m. - ESPN
Even though Maryland's season is in the tank, I have to give props to them for competing. They have covered in their last four games since getting shutout against Michigan. Still it doesn't take away from the fact that they are terrible on offense. Perry Hills might be a running threat, but he is just as bad as Caleb Rowe throwing the football. Hills has thrown 11 interceptions in six games, and the Terrapins are 123rd in FBS in completion percentage.
This isn't the Michigan State that we have grown used to over the past few years. Last week against Nebraska, the Spartans allowed the Cornhuskers to score 13 points in the final 1:47 on their way to having their 12-game winning streak snapped in the 39-38 loss in Lincoln. You can't blame Connor Cook for Michigan State's problems though, as the quarterback has thrown for at least 328 yards in the last four games. Where Michigan State has struggled this year is against the pass, but they don't have much to worry about against Maryland on Saturday. The Spartans head into the showdown with the Buckeyes in Columbus next week on a high note.
Michigan State 42 Maryland 20
Purdue v. #18 Northwestern (-16) - 12:00 p.m. - Big Ten Network
After beating Nebraska two weeks ago, Purdue laid a dud against Illinois last week in West Lafayette. Little has gone right for the Boilermakers this year, but one bright spot has been running back Markell Jones, whose seven rushing touchdowns ranks fifth in FBS among freshman running backs.
Northwestern was able to squeak by Penn State last week in Evanston even though they lost quarterback Clayton Thorson early in the game. Running back Justin Jackson was able to pick up the slack, rushing for a career-high 186 yards in the win over the Nittany Lions. The key for Northwestern this year has been the play of Jackson, as in their seven wins Jackson has rushed for 862 yards and only 55 yards in their two losses. The Wildcats will get Thorson back for this game, and should have little trouble moving to 8-2 for the first time since 1996.
Northwestern 34 Purdue 13
Nebraska (-9) v. Rutgers - 3:30 p.m. - Big Ten Network
Nebraska finally got a close game to go their way, scoring two touchdowns in the last 1:47 to knock off Michigan State 39-38. Tommy Armstrong Jr. returned from injury to throw for 320 yards in the game, including 91 yards on the game-winning final drive. Prior to the late win, Nebraska was only the second FBS team since 2006 to lose four games in a season in which the opponent scored to win in the last 10 seconds or overtime to win.
Much like last year, Rutgers has hit a wall starting once they played Ohio State. In their last three games against the Buckeyes, Badgers, and Wolverines, Rutgers has been outscored 146-33. Some of that has to do with Leonte Carroo playing sparingly against the Buckeyes, and then missing the games against Wisconsin and Michigan. Rutgers might be able to find a little bit more success this week since Carroo is probable to play. I'm still not totally convinced one win fixes everything for Nebraska, and I could see this being a back-and-forth game which the Cornhuskers scrape a win out of.
Nebraska 37 Rutgers 34
#14 Michigan (-13) v. Indiana - 3:30 p.m. - ABC/ESPN2
Following their loss to Michigan State, and their close call against Minnesota, Michigan got healthy last week against Rutgers in the 49-16. Jake Rudock torched the Scarlet Knights defense for 337 yards in the win, his best output in his short time as quarterback for the Wolverines. Michigan has to be happy whenever they see Indiana on the schedule, since the Wolverines have won 19 straight against the Hoosiers, including the last eight in Bloomington.
After starting the season 4-0, Indiana is now in danger of again failing to qualify for a bowl game. The Hoosiers did at least get Jordan Howard back last week, and played Iowa tight before eventually falling 35-27. When Indiana does get Nate Sudfeld, who holds the school record with 49 career passing touchdowns, and Howard clicking together, they are capable of pulling an upset on a team that might underestimate them. If this spread was close to what it was last week against Iowa, I might consider backing Michigan, but I think Indiana will keep it within the number.
Michigan 27 Indiana 17
Minnesota v. #5 Iowa (-12.5) - 8:00 p.m. - Big Ten Network
At least a little bit of uncertainty was erased on Wednesday when the Golden Gophers removed the interim tag from Tracy Claeys' title, signing him to a three-year contract to coach the team. What really helps Minnesota is Claeys already has experience as interim head coach, filling in for Jerry Kill a few years ago, so it's pretty much business as usual for Minnesota. While the Golden Gophers haven't been victorious over the last few games, they have at least given teams their best shot, and I don't see any different on Saturday night in Iowa City.
Iowa will not only be regain Floyd of Rosedale on Saturday night, but they'll also be hoping to secure their first 10-0 start in school history. The Hawkeyes will get Jordan Canzeri back from injury, which will help to boost an already productive running game. C.J. Beathard hasn't been flashy, but he has done what has been needed to win, and the rest of the Iowa team seems to be taking their cues from their signal-caller. In a rivalry game like this, I think 12.5 might be just a shade too high. Iowa keeps their undefeated season going, but Minnesota keeps things at least somewhat close.
Iowa 30 Minnesota 20