Seven Big Ten games not enough for you? Yesterday I posted picks for five of this week's most intriguing national games.
#12 Michigan (-3.5) v. Penn State - 12:00 p.m. - ABC
Who would've thought the Michigan offense would look so good last week and their defense would look so bad? Jake Rudock is coming of a performance in which he threw for 440 yards and six touchdowns, but let's remember that was against Indiana. The main recipient of Rudock's extraordinary passing performance was Jehu Chesson, who hauled in 10 catches for 207 yards and four touchdowns. After starting the season slow, Chesson has caught fire with seven touchdown catches in the last three games.
Penn State's Saquon Barkley has to be licking his chops after seeing what Jordan Howard just did to the Michigan defense. Last week the Wolverines gave up 307 yards rushing to the Hoosiers, while Barkley had a week off to rest his gimpy ankle. I wouldn't expect to see a lot of offensive fireworks this week though, as Penn State hasn't given up over 300 yards this year at home. Michigan needs a win and a Michigan State loss to setup a showdown with the Buckeyes next week for the Big Ten East, but I don't think they get it. Penn State squeaks out a win and completes their first undefeated year at Beaver Stadium since 2008.
Penn State 21 Michigan 17
Purdue v. #5 Iowa (-23) - 12:00 p.m. - ESPN2
Even though they aren't winning very much, credit to Purdue for playing some of the best teams in the conference tough. Last week the Boilermakers only lost 21-14 to Northwestern, and earlier this year only lost by three points to Michigan State. If Purdue hopes to have any chance at giving Iowa a scare in this one, they'll need to continue to create turnovers, as their 18 turnovers are tied for third in the Big Ten.
It's pretty ridiculous just how balanced Iowa is this year, with the Hawkeyes rushing for 2,117 yards on the year and passing for 2,097 yards through 10 games. Just as ridiculous is Iowa has had three running backs rush for at least 195 yards in the game, which is the first time that has happened since LSU did it back in 1997. While the Hawkeyes will have success against Purdue's poor rushing defense, the Hawkeyes have been playing down to their competition lately, only beating Maryland, Indiana, and Minnesota by an average of 9.7 points. Iowa might get an easy win here, but they don't quite get it by more than three touchdowns.
Iowa 33 Purdue 14
Indiana v. Maryland (-3) - 12:00 p.m. - Big Ten Network
Indiana was so close to upsetting Michigan last week in Bloomington, but like a lot of their games this year they fell just short. Close losses have become a theme for Indiana, as they have lost four Big Ten games by eight points or less. Now the Hoosiers will need wins in their last two games to become bowl eligible this season. The good news for the Hoosiers is Jordan Howard might be all they need in those games, as the running back rushed for 238 yards against Michigan last week, and despite missing most of 10 quarters this year still sits second in the Big Ten with 1,199 yards rushing.
One team that won't be going to a bowl game this year is Maryland, as the Terrapins have lost their last seven games. At least Maryland gets to go up against the awful Indiana defense this week. It might not matter though if Maryland doesn't stop turnover the ball over. The Terrapins have thrown 28 interceptions in only 309 attempts so far this year. With both teams being 0-6 in the Big Ten this year, something has to give. Indiana has a little more to play for since they still have a shot to make a bowl, so I'll take Jordan Howard to power them to a victory.
Indiana 34 Maryland 27
Illinois v. Minnesota (-4.5) - 12:00 p.m. - ESPNews
After starting the season 4-1, Illinois has really struggled, losing four of their last five. The Fighting Illini running game can't get healthy at the same time, while Josh Ferguson is now healthy, freshman Ke'Shawn Vaughn is doubtful for this contest. At least Illinois has been able to find a receiver to compliment Geronimo Allison, as Desmond Cain has caught 16 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown over the past two games.
It's too bad Minnesota has lost their last four games, because Mitch Leidner hasn't deserved those losses with the way he's played during those games. Leidner has thrown for over 250 yards in his past four games, and he'll need to do more of that if Minnesota plans on getting wins in their last two outings to become bowl eligible. I know I have to pick somebody to win this game, so I'll side with Minnesota since the Golden Gophers have played a lot better at home.
Minnesota 30 Illinois 20
Rutgers (-5) v. Army - 12:00 p.m - CBS Sports Network
Nobody is going to be watching this game so I won't waste a lot of time on it. Rutgers has lost four straight games while Army has lost five of six. The Black Knights haven't beaten a Power-5 team since they took down Boston College in 2012. Even though Rutgers has to stop the triple-option here, I still think their offense gets on track behind a big game from Leonte Carroo.
Rutgers 38 Army 24
#20 Northwestern v. #25 Wisconsin (-10) - 3:30 p.m. - Big Ten Network
Northwestern is off to one of their best starts in school history, but lately they have been earning victories by the skin of their teeth. Last week they snuck by Purdue 21-14 after defeating Penn State by just two points a week earlier. The Wildcats do have plenty of defense, but right now their offense is pretty ugly. About all there is to speak of for the Wildcats on offense is Justin Jackson, who has rushed for 1,000 yards for the second straight season, and last year finished with 162 yards in the 20-14 win over Wisconsin.
Just when it looked like Wisconsin had Corey Clement back, the running back didn't play against Maryland and his status for Saturday's game is uncertain. Joel Stave might be forced to try and win this game with his arm, and he has actually been good through the air this year. With a win over Northwestern on Saturday, Stave would tie Brooks Bollinger for most wins by a Wisconsin quarterback with 30. I just don't see how Northwestern is going to score many points in Madison, as Wisconsin has only allowed three touchdowns in six games at Camp Randall and is only giving up five points per game at home.
Wisconsin 23 Northwestern 10
#9 Michigan State v. #3 Ohio State (-13) - 3:30 p.m. - ABC
This really was supposed to be a battle between undefeated teams, but Michigan State ruined that a couple weeks ago when they blew a late lead against Nebraska in Lincoln. The Spartans rebounded with a win in East Lansing over Maryland last week, but plenty of questions came out of that game with Connor Cook injuring his shoulder. While Cook says he'll be fine for the showdown against the Buckeyes, it'll be interesting to see how the quarterback feels when Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington, and the rest of the Silver Bullets are chasing him around.
Ohio State didn't show a whole lot against Illinois last week, but that might have been by design as to not give Michigan State any fresh tape to study. J.T. Barrett came back after his one-game suspension, but it was Ezekiel Elliott who did most of the work, registering his 15th straight game of 100 yards or more on the ground. Ohio State has some questions of their own on offense with some spotty offensive line play of late, something they'll need to fix quickly with stud defensive lineman Shilique Calhoun looking to add to his 25 career sacks.
Michigan State's defense hasn't been as dominant as the last few years, and that's why I think the Buckeyes win this game by 17 or more. I know in a game of this magnitude it's risky to lay so many points, but Ohio State is just better all-around. When I first saw the line I was tempted to take the points, but I'm not convinced that Cook is as healthy as he says he is, and who knows what a couple hits from the Buckeyes might do in terms of his arm strength. The Buckeyes come out fired up on Senior Day and get a big win before heading up to Ann Arbor.
Ohio State 44 Michigan State 27