Last week ATS: 9-9 (2-3 National, 7-6 B1G)
It’s hard to complain about MC&J’s start to this year’s Big Ten picks. Even though the week finished just a game over .500, that’s a solid start. I guess I must be the expert on Illinois football now after hitting the score of the Ball State-Illinois game on the nose. Then again I probably shouldn’t be bragging about knowing a lot about Illinois football.
If you missed this week’s national picks, shame on you! There’s still time to atone for your sins though, as you can find them here.
B1G games (All games Saturday unless otherwise noted):
Ohio v. Purdue (-4) - Friday 9/8 8:00 PM EST - FS1
Had it not been for Lamar Jackson, Purdue would have scored an upset over Louisville to start the season. The Boilermakers held the lead into the fourth quarter before the Cardinals took the lead for good behind nearly 500 total yards from Jackson. The close loss should give Purdue some confidence heading into their first game in West Lafayette under new head coach Jeff Brohm.
Ohio got little resistance from Hampton in the season opener, easily dispatching the Pirates 59-0. It’s no secret the Bobcats will look to establish the run against the Boilermakers, as evidenced by the seven rushing touchdowns Ohio racked up in the season opener.
Frank Solich’s team will come into West Lafayette and give the Boilermakers a test, but in the end Purdue’s passing attack will be just a little too much for Ohio to keep up with.
Purdue 31, Ohio 23
Cincinnati v. No. 8 Michigan (-35) - 12:00 PM EST - ABC
The Luke Fickell era isn’t exactly getting off to the smoothest of starts in Cincinnati. Even though the Bearcats won their season opener, they looked pretty terrible in the 26-14 win over an Austin Peay team that has now lost 28 straight games. Now the former Ohio State defensive coordinator has to take his team to Ann Arbor.
Aside from a couple interceptions by Wilson Speight that were returned for touchdowns, Michigan looked very impressive against Florida. Even though they lost 10 starters, Michigan’s defense dominated the Gators. It’s hard to imagine Cincinnati’s offense having much success against the Wolverine defense after the Bearcats struggled against Austin Peay.
I have a feeling Jim Harbaugh is going to take out some pent up frustration on Fickell. After seeing little go right in his first two contests against the Buckeyes, Harbaugh might try and send a message to Urban Meyer with a blowout of his former coordinator.
Michigan 48, Cincinnati 10
Florida Atlantic v. Wisconsin (-32.5) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Can you really blame Florida Atlantic if they get rolled by the Badgers on Saturday? With Hurricane Irma bearing down on South Florida, it’ll be completely understandable if the minds of Florida Atlantic’s players and coaches are elsewhere.
Even if a hurricane wasn’t on the minds of the Owls, I still don’t think they would stand much of a chance in Madison. Wisconsin has to be licking their chops after seeing FAU give up over 400 yards on the ground to Navy. The Badgers not only put up big numbers on the ground, but they also get another strong game from tight end Troy Fumagalli in the easy win.
Wisconsin 51, Florida Atlantic 14
Northwestern (-3) v. Duke - 12:00 PM EST - ESPNU
The Brain Bowl could be one of the sneaky good games of the weekend. Northwestern struggled with Nevada in the first week, but Clayton Thorson at least was able to put up some big numbers, throwing for 352 yards and two touchdowns. On the other side, Duke had no problem with North Carolina Central in their season opener, winning 60-7.
I have no doubts that Duke is going to give Northwestern a very tough game in Durham, but I have a little more faith of the experienced combination of Thorson and running back Justin Jackson to handle everything the Blue Devils throw at them. The game is tight in the fourth quarter, but Northwestern ends up winning by a touchdown.
Northwestern 27, Duke 20
Iowa (-3) v. Iowa State - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN2
Is there really any better way to start a college football Saturday than with El Assico? Probably. This game has been up doing shots of crappy vodka and bonging beers in the parking lot since sunrise, so you know it is going to be spectacularly drunk. The Hawkeyes know how to handle their liquor better than the Cyclones and win their third straight in Ames.
Iowa 21, Iowa State 13
Pittsburgh v. No. 4 Penn State (-21.5) - 3:30 PM EST - ABC
Pitt has to be very worried heading into Happy Valley this weekend. The Panthers needed double overtime to get past Youngstown State on Saturday, and if Pitt plays anything close to how they played against the Penguins, Penn State will score an easy win.
The Nittany Lions were very impressive with a shutout win over Akron to open up the season. After rushing for 130 yards and five touchdowns last year in the loss to Pitt, Saquon Barkley is even better this year. The junior running back rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns against the Zips.
Penn State has been craving revenge since last year’s 42-39 loss in Pittsburgh. The Panthers don’t have Nathan Peterman and James Conner to lean on this year, which allows Penn State to score another easy home win.
Penn State 45, Pittsburgh 17
Indiana (-3) v. Virginia - 3:30 PM EST - ESPNU
Even though they lost handily, Indiana was able to at least gain some confidence on offense with how they were able to pass the football against Ohio State. If the Hoosiers are able to mix in at least a semblance of a run game, they’ll be a tough out for any team that plays them the rest of the year.
Virginia will be better in Bronco Mendenhall’s second season, but they don’t quite have the horses to keep up with the Hoosiers. Safety Quin Blanding is one of the best safeties in the country and will make some plays for Virginia, but he doesn’t have quite enough help to slow down Richard Lagow and company.
Indiana 38, Virginia 24
Western Michigan v. Michigan State (-7.5) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Michigan State didn’t have as much trouble in their season opener against Bowling Green, and now the Spartans get to host another team that should be in the mix in the MAC title race. If Michigan State can get the balance they showed throughout the year that they showed against Bowling Green, with over 200 yards rushing and 250 yards passing, the Spartans will be a tough out in any game they play this year.
Western Michigan hung with USC until the end in their season opener, but I’m wondering how much gas is left in the tank for a second tough road game in a row. Even though the Broncos don’t have to travel nearly as far this week, they show some of the effects of what last week’s game against the Trojans did to them.
Michigan State 30, Western Michigan 14
Eastern Michigan v. Rutgers (-5.5) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Rutgers and Chris Ash can haz win?
Rutgers 33, Eastern Michigan 21
Nebraska v. Oregon (-13.5) - 4:30 PM EST - FOX
I’m not exactly sure what to think of this Nebraska team after the first game of the season. While I think Arkansas State is better than many think, there’s still no excuse for Mike Riley’s team not doing a better job closing out last week’s game in Lincoln.
After looking like a total mess last year, Oregon is going to be a lot better under Willie Taggert this year, as evidenced by their season opener, where the Ducks rolled up over 700 yards. Royce Freeman rushed for four touchdowns in the win, and Nebraska will see a steady diet of the talented running back on Saturday afternoon.
I know it’s a pretty big spread for Oregon to cover, but I’m just not seeing Nebraska being able to match what the Ducks put up on the scoreboard. The Cornhuskers might hang around for a bit, but Oregon pulls away in the second half at Autzen.
Oregon 54, Nebraska 35
Western Kentucky (-7) v. Illinois - 8:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
I know Illinois is terrible, but I am skeptical if they are so bad they should be seven-point underdogs at home to Western Kentucky. I’m not saying the Fighting Illini win, but they don’t lose by more than a touchdown.
Western Kentucky 31, Illinois 27
Minnesota v. Oregon State (-2) - 10:00 PM EST - FS1
Is Tracy Claeys still coaching Minnesota? You might think so if you watched the listless 17-7 win by the Golden Gophers over Buffalo last week. The good news is Minnesota has a little more time to get comfortable with P.J. Fleck’s system before conference play starts.
Oregon State has looked pretty awful to start the season as well, first getting smashed by Colorado State in the season opener, and last week the Beavers barely squeaked by Portland State. Through two games this season Oregon State is allowing 241 yards per game on the ground, which is why I think Minnesota gets the road win in Corvallis on Saturday night.
Minnesota 24, Oregon State 17
No. 5 Oklahoma v. No. 2 Ohio State (-7.5) - 7:30 PM EST - ABC
What a showdown this is going to be on under the lights on Saturday night inside Ohio Stadium. After a rare start to the season on the road, the Buckeyes will play their first game this year at home, and there is no doubt Columbus will be rocking. Even though whoever ends up losing this game won’t be knocked out of the College Football Playoff race, the losing squad will essentially have to be perfect the rest of the way.
The Buckeyes certainly weren’t perfect in the first half last week against Indiana, but Ohio State was able to figure things out at halftime and put the Hoosiers away in the second half. J.K. Dobbins was the story of Ohio State’s season opener, breaking Maurice Clarett’s school record for rushing yards by a freshman in a debut. The Buckeye running game will get an even bigger boost with the return of Mike Weber. While Dobbins will get the start, Weber will see some time after recovering from the hamstring injury that kept him out of last Thursday’s game.
Want to slow down Oklahoma? Get in Baker Mayfield’s face. That formula worked very well for Ohio State last year in Norman, and it’s hard to see it not working again this year, especially with the Sooners losing a lot of key offensive contributors to the NFL after last year. Ohio State’s defensive line showed the chaos they were capable of in the victory over Indiana last year, but the Buckeyes might have a little harder time getting to Mayfield than they had getting to Richard Lagow, as Oklahoma has one of the best offensive lines in the country.
The Sooners were able to get their feet under them in life without Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon, and Dede Westbrook in the season opener against UTEP, but Ohio State is no UTEP. Also, this is Lincoln Riley’s first road game as head coach, and while Riley is going to have a long career as a head coach, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes will hand Riley his first loss.
The Ohio State passing game might not see J.T. Barrett hit as many long touchdown passes as they did last week, but they show more signs of progression from last year under new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. Oklahoma will likely go on to win the Big 12 again this year, but much like in Norman, Ohio State is just a step above the Sooners.
Ohio State 44, Oklahoma 31