Last week ATS: 6-6 (3-2 National, 3-4 B1G)
Season ATS: 45-58 (17-24 National, 28-34 B1G)
To compliment this week’s Big Ten action, I picked five of Saturday’s tastiest national matchups. You can find out who I’m siding with here.
No. 6 Michigan (-7) v. No. 24 Michigan State - 12:00 PM EST - FOX
Michigan is on a roll right now. The Wolverines have gotten their offense going with Shea Patterson at quarterback, and the defense is playing lights out. Last week, Michigan put the rest of the Big Ten on notice with a blowout of Wisconsin in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines still have a couple of hurdles to clear, but Jim Harbaugh’s team looks to be on a collision course with Ohio State at the end of November.
It’s only fitting that after I essentially give up on Michigan State, they put things together and scored an upset win over Penn State last week. Brian Lewerke found Felton Davis III for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 19 seconds to go to secure the victory. Now they take on a Michigan team whom they have beaten in eight of the last 10 meetings.
I know weird things usually happen in the battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, but I’m not convinced that we will see shenanigans this year like we have seen in the past. Michigan State isn’t magically fixed with a win over Penn State. The Spartans may test the Wolverines, but in the end Michigan wins by more than a touchdown.
Michigan 28, Michigan State 17
Maryland v. No. 19 Iowa (-10) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN2
Maryland may have four wins this year, but take away the season-opening win over Texas and who have the Terrapins really beaten? Last week Maryland beat up on Rutgers, but a game against the Scarlet Knights is like passing go and collecting $200 in Monopoly.
Iowa has really found their offense over the last two games, putting up 40 points against Minnesota and Indiana, with both games coming on the road. Quarterback Nate Stanley has been spectacular in those contests, throwing 10 touchdown passes during that span.
Iowa should keep rolling against a Maryland defense that hasn’t been tested much this year. Even if the Terrapins do find a way to crack Iowa’s defense and score, I don’t see them putting up enough points to keep this inside the number.
Iowa 38, Maryland 14
Illinois v. No. 23 Wisconsin (-25) - 12:00 PM EST - FS1
Shutdown the Illinois rushing attack and you should have no problem beating the Fighting Illini. Purdue proved this last week with the whooping they put on Illinois in Champaign. Now the Fighting Illini have to travel to Madison to take on a Wisconsin team that is not only going to be playing angry, but they’ll be fighting to stay in the thick of the Big Ten West race.
What concerns me in this game is Wisconsin hasn’t really blown anyone out this year. The Badgers won each of their first two games by 31 points, but it’s hard to envision them doing the same to Illinois. The Fighting Illini have their faults, but they are still giving Lovie Smith a solid effort. The Badgers win comfortably, but I could see Illinois getting a late score or two to cover the spread in this one.
Wisconsin 41, Illinois 20
Northwestern (-20) v. Rutgers - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Rutgers has been epically terrible this year. The Scarlet Knights haven’t scored more than 17 points in a game since their season opener, and likely won’t reach that number against a tough Northwestern defense. The biggest goal for Rutgers this week is to see if Artur Sitkowski can limit the amount of interceptions that he throws. In four games this year, the freshman quarterback has tossed at least three interceptions.
Last week Northwestern scored an incredible comeback win over Nebraska to stay in control of their own destiny in the Big Ten West. With games against Wisconsin, Notre Dame, and Iowa coming up, it wouldn’t be hard to see the Wildcats not giving their complete focus to Rutgers this week.
The Scarlet Knights have at least been not bad at defending the pass this year, and since Northwestern can’t run the football at all, I see this game staying within three touchdowns.
Northwestern 31, Rutgers 14
No. 18 Penn State (-15) v. Indiana - 3:30 PM EST - ABC
The last six meetings between these teams in Bloomington haven’t seen Penn State win by more than 14 points, or Indiana win outright. Since I have no idea about either of these teams, after picking them last week and seeing neither really come close to covering. When in doubt try and find a trend to lean on. Of course now that I’ll be backing Indiana, Penn State will probably win by 75 points.
Penn State 34, Indiana 24
Minnesota v. Nebraska (-4) - 3:30 PM EST - BTN
Can you really trust Nebraska at all to win a game right now? The Cornhuskers had last week’s game against Northwestern in the palm of their hands, but they ended up destroying it like Chris Farley destroyed that dinner roll in Tommy Boy.
Minnesota might be shorthanded due to injuries, but they are still out there fighting. The Golden Gophers were a lot more competitive against Ohio State than I thought they’d be last week, and if they can get that same type of effort this week they’ll add to Nebraska’s woes. Zack Annexstad wins the battle of Big Ten West freshman quarterbacks.
Minnesota 31, Nebraska 27
No. 2 Ohio State (-13) v. Purdue - 7:30 PM EST - ABC
Imagine having a quarterback who is leading the nation in passing, sitting second in the rankings after seven games, and that still not being good enough. Sure, last week’s game against Minnesota was ugly, but the Buckeyes did something a number of other Top 10 teams couldn’t do last week. Win.
Dwayne Haskins has now recorded two straight 400-yard passing games, and it isn’t out of the realm of possibilities that he gets another one this week. Purdue is much improved on defense compared to recent years, but they still can be beaten. Illinois’ Drew Lock threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns last week, so just imagine what Haskins and the Ohio State wide receivers can do.
However, if Ohio State doesn’t dramatically improve their pass defense this week, we could see the two quarterbacks in this game combining to throw for at least 800 yards. David Blough put up a ridiculous 572 yards in the loss to Missouri, and has thrown for at least 296 in each of his four starts. Rondale Moore is an absolute terror to try and defend, and if Blough and Moore get their connection going early, we could see the Ohio State defense give up even more big plays this year.
The Buckeyes are no doubt going to get Purdue’s best shot. If Nick Bosa was available for this game I’d considering taking the Buckeyes, because Bosa could help get intense pressure on Blough and throw his timing off. Without Bosa, Ohio State has struggled to get heat on quarterbacks in recent weeks.
It would be nice if Ohio State could find a way to get J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber going in the running game, but at this point if Dwayne Haskins keeps slinging it like he is, then I’m just going to be resigned to the fact that the Buckeye rushing attack isn’t good for the first time in what feels like decades.
The Boilermakers are definitely back. Ohio State is the highest ranked team to play at Ross-Ade Stadium since Penn State in 1999. The train horn will be loud in the nuclear wasteland that is West Lafayette but it won’t be enough to earn the win under the lights in front of the home crowd. Ohio State may struggle at times this year, but they are just too deep and dynamic for Purdue to upset. The number is a little big for my liking with Ohio State’s poor defense of late, but the Buckeyes do enough to stay undefeated.
Ohio State 42, Purdue 31