Last week ATS: 5-6-1 (5-2 National, 0-4-1 B1G)
Season ATS: 58-68-1 (25-28 National, 33-40-1 B1G)
Let’s never talk about last week’s Big Ten picks ever again.
If you missed this week’s national game picks, you can check out predictions for five of Saturday’s best national games here.
Michigan State (-3) v. Maryland - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN2
What a mess Maryland is right now. A day after reinstating head coach D.J. Durkin, the Terrapins did the right thing and fired Durkin. How Durkin was even reinstated in the first place is a joke of a decision. Now Maryland can turn their attention to the Spartans, as both teams are trying to become bowl eligible. The Terrapins rolled up 712 yards in a 63-33 win over Illinois last week, but the Fighting Illini are terrible.
If somebody tells you they have Michigan State figured out, they are obviously lying. The Spartans are so Jekyll & Hyde it isn’t even funny. Last week with Rocky Lombardi at quarterback, Michigan State slowed down the Purdue train. There is still questions as to whether Lombardi or Brian Lewerke will start at quarterback, and who knows, maybe both will play.
I’m still not sold on Maryland, and I can’t imagine how prepared they’ll be after everything that happened earlier this week. I know I’m testing fate by taking Michigan State in this one, but I just think they are the better all-around team, even though they are dealing with plenty of injury issues. Since I’m picking the Spartans here, that makes Maryland a lock to cover.
Michigan State 27, Maryland 17
Rutgers v. Wisconsin (-30.5) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
I don’t care how much Wisconsin is struggling right now, there is no way I’m taking Rutgers here. The Scarlet Knights are giving up 224 yards per game on the ground, so Jonathan Taylor should have a field day in Madison on Saturday. The Badgers will be plenty pissed off after falling to Northwestern last week, and they’ll take out their frustrations on a hapless Rutgers team.
Wisconsin 56, Rutgers 10
No. 16 Iowa v. Purdue (-3) - 3:30 PM EST - ESPN2
Ohio State fans watching this game are going to be hating everything, since these two teams have decimated the Buckeyes almost a year apart. After beating up on Ohio State in West Lafayette two weeks ago, the Boilermakers fell trap to the classic hangover game, losing to Michigan State in East Lansing. David Blough was awful last week, tossing three interceptions in the loss to the Spartans.
Iowa had their own problems on the road last week, falling to Penn State. The Hawkeyes jumped out on the Nittany Lions early and looked to be in control, but then the wheels fell off. Nate Stanley was just as bad as Blough last week, only completing 18 of 49 passes and throwing two interceptions.
Iowa certainly doesn’t have the offense that Ohio State does, but they have the defense that the Buckeyes wish they had brought to West Lafayette. It’s not going to be easy to slow down Purdue, but one of the teams in the Big Ten I feel like that can do it is the Hawkeyes. They’ll take some pages from what the Spartans did last week and grind out the Boilermakers.
Iowa 24, Purdue 21
Minnesota (-9.5) v. Illinois - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
This isn’t so much a pick for Minnesota as it is a pick against Illinois. The Fighting Illini are playing gross football over the last three games, and while Minnesota might not be in the same class as some of the teams Illinois have lost to lately, I still think they are at least 10 points better than the Fighting Illini. The Golden Gophers showed some fight last week against Indiana, and they’ll be off that performance on Saturday.
Minnesota 41, Illinois 23
No. 14 Penn State v. No. 5 Michigan (-10.5) - 3:45 PM EST - ESPN
Penn State might not have the talent that they have had over the past few years, but they are still a tough out. The Nittany Lions looked defeated pretty early in the rain last week in State College, but they rallied to take down Iowa. Even with Michigan’s strong defense, Trace McSorley will give the Wolverines some problems with his ability to make plays not only with his arm, but also with his legs.
The last time we saw Michigan, they were getting a rare win against Michigan State. Really though, the Wolverines should have blown the Spartans out of the water. Michigan gave up less than 100 yards on offense to Michigan State, and only won by 14 points? For as much pub as the Michigan defense gets, their offense still has some questions to answer.
Both of Penn State’s losses this year were by a combined five points. Michigan’s blowout over Wisconsin three weeks ago doesn’t like quite as good anymore with the problems the Badgers are having. It’ll be interesting to see if the Wolverines can contain a quarterback that actually has a pulse and isn’t Alex Hornibrook or Brian Lewerke. Michigan wins but it is by a touchdown or less.
Michigan 31, Penn State 24
No. 4 Notre Dame (-10) v. Northwestern - 7:15 PM EST - ESPN
It’s not pretty, but Northwestern keeps racking up wins to stay on top of the Big Ten West. Now the Wildcats step out of conference play to try and throw a wrench into the College Football Playoff race. Northwestern still can’t run the football but they’ve used the veteran leadership of Clayton Thorson and a tough as nails defense to win four straight games.
Notre Dame is still a bit of a mystery. There’s no question Ian Book is the better option at quarterback than Brandon Wimbush, but the Fighting Irish have been guilty of playing down to their competition at times throughout the year. If Notre Dame puts forward the same effort that they did against Pitt, Ball State, or Vanderbilt they could see their undefeated season go up in smoke.
Not that they were ever really challenged by Navy last week, but we have seen how teams have problems a week after facing the Midshipmen. Northwestern might not play the cleanest football, but they seem to always find a way to be in the game at the end. Michigan had some problems when they traveled to Evanston. I’d love to see an upset by Northwestern here, but I think they’ll fall just a little bit short of adding to the chaos near the top of the rankings.
Notre Dame 23, Northwestern 20
Nebraska v. No. 10 Ohio State (-19) - 12:00 PM EST - FOX
There’s really not much we can say about Ohio State’s effort against Purdue two weeks ago. The Buckeyes were outplayed, outcoached, and outscored in West Lafayette. Now Ohio State has to put the loss behind them before it can ruin their College Football Playoff hopes anymore than it already is.
The good news for the Buckeyes is they had the bye week to take a deep look at what wrong against Purdue, and how to try and fix those issues so they don’t occur again this season. It’s become obvious the coaching staff isn’t going to totally blow up their schemes, but there are some fixes that can be made to try and restore the Buckeyes to some of the success they enjoyed earlier in the season.
A big area that Ohio State has to improve on as they prepare for the final four games of the regular season is with their pass rush. The Buckeyes are getting minimal pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which is allowing the Ohio State defense to get picked apart. If Ohio State doesn’t have a plan to create some pressure, it could be a long day against a Nebraska offense that is finding their legs.
The good news for Ohio State is they still Dwayne Haskins at quarterback. Had it not been for Haskins, who knows how bad Ohio State’s offense would be right now, since they haven’t been able to muster much of anything on the ground. Haskins will be down a target, as Austin Mack is lost for at least the rest of the regular season due to a foot injury, but the Buckeyes have been blessed with depth at wide receiver, which will help them deal with the injury.
Nebraska doesn’t have the depth that Ohio State does at wide receiver, but their two best receivers are a couple of the best in the Big Ten. Senior wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. has put together a strong career with the Cornhuskers, and by the end of the year he could hold school records for career catches and receiving yards. Whatever records Morgan sets this year, could fall in just two years, because sophomore JD Spielman is that good. Spielman is the first Nebraska receiver to record back-to-back 50 catch seasons before his junior year.
If Ohio State’s secondary is somehow able to get a handle on Morgan and Spielman, the rest of the defense will have a tough task in trying to shutdown Devine Ozigbo and the Nebraska running attack. The Cornhuskers have improved their rushing average by 113.1 yards per game this year, which is the second best improvement in the country. Ozigbo has been outstanding over the past five games, being tackled behind the line of scrimmage on just one of his 67 carries over that span.
After getting destroyed by Iowa last year, the Buckeyes returned home to put a whoopin’ on Michigan State the next week. This year Ohio State has had an extra week to try and fix their issues. It’s entirely possible that Ohio State takes Nebraska to the woodshed this week, but I think that is a lot less likely than the Cornhuskers staying within the number. Nebraska has some pieces on offense that should give the Buckeye defense trouble. Ohio State gets back in the win column, but I see it being by 14-17 points.
Ohio State 44, Nebraska 30