Last week ATS: 7-5 (3-2 National, 4-3 B1G)
Season ATS: 75-87-2 (32-37 National, 43-50-2 B1G)
Picking the Big Ten has been even harder this year than in recent years it seems. Last week we were at least able to pick up a game, but MC&J will need to find a lot more success this week to set up possibly making it back to breaking even in the Big Ten portion of our picks during the bowl season.
B1G games (All games Saturday unless otherwise noted):
Nebraska v. Iowa (-9) - Friday 11/23 12:00 PM EST - FOX
Both these teams won last week, but they did it in completely different ways. Nebraska used three field goals in the fourth quarter to defeat Michigan State 9-6, while Iowa absolutely dismantled Illinois 63-0. The Hawkeyes have gotten the better of this rivalry of late, winning the last three meetings, with the two most recent victories coming by a combined 72 points.
The Cornhuskers won’t be going bowling this year, but they have undoubtedly improved as the year has gone on. Nebraska has won four of their last five games, with the only loss during that span coming by just five points to Ohio State. After barely cracking 100 yards on the ground last week, the Nebraska rushing attack will again face one of the best rushing defenses in the country.
Iowa won’t be able to do whatever they want this week like they did last week against Illinois, but they should have some success on offense against a leaky Nebraska defense. What will keep this score a lot closer this week is that the Nebraska offense is a lot more balanced than what Illinois has to offer. The Hawkeyes make it four in a row against Nebraska, but Scott Frost’s team puts together a solid effort in Iowa City on Friday afternoon.
Iowa 34, Nebraska 27
Purdue (-4) v. Indiana - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN2
For the second straight season, the winner of the Old Oaken Bucket will also earn bowl eligibility. Last year, Purdue’s 31-24 victory over the Hoosiers sent the Boilermakers to their first bowl game since 2012. Purdue has to be kicking themselves for even being in this position this year, after starting the year with three close losses, and then dropping three of their last four after stunning Ohio State.
Indiana has used a couple of victories over their rival to go bowling as well. The Hoosiers used wins over Purdue in 2015 and 2016 to get to the magical six-win mark and bowl eligibility. After seeing Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor rush for 321 yards last week in a triple-overtime win over the Boilermakers, Indiana is hoping Stevie Scott can have similar success. The freshman running back has racked up 1,033 yards and nine touchdowns in his first season in Bloomington.
As hard as it is to trust Purdue right now, they are the better team. Rondale Moore has had a fabulous freshman season for the Boilermakers, hauling in 91 passes for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. With at least nine catches in five games this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Moore reach the 100-catch mark on the year. Moore reaches the milestone and the Boilermakers beat their rivals by a touchdown.
Purdue 38, Indiana 31
Maryland v. No. 12 Penn State (-13.5) - 3:30 PM EST - ABC
Maryland certainly defied expectations last week with their near-upset of Ohio State, but how much do they have left in the tank after giving everything they had against the Buckeyes? Freshman running back Anthony McFarland went over the 200-yard mark on the ground for the second-straight game, finishing with 298 yards against the Buckeyes.
There’s not much we can say about Penn State’s game against Rutgers last week. The Nittany Lions won their second-straight game, but they couldn’t get a whole lot going against the Scarlet Knights. I expect we’ll see more energy from Penn State this week in Trace McSorley’s final home game.
It’s a bit scary to be laying this many points against a team that just took Ohio State to the limit, but I don’t think the Maryland running attack will sneak up on the Nittany Lions quite like it did on the Buckeyes. Penn State puts together one of their better performances of the season and jumps on Maryland early, forcing the Terrapins to throw the football more than they’d like to.
Penn State 37, Maryland 21
Illinois v. No. 19 Northwestern (-17) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Northwestern just doesn’t blow people out. The biggest win of the season for the Wildcats was a 14-point victory against Wisconsin. With an eye likely on the Big Ten Championship Game next Saturday, I could see this game being relatively close throughout. The terrible Illinois defense will keep the Fighting Illini from pulling the upset, but their potent rushing attack will allow them to give Northwestern a bit of a scare.
Northwestern 31, Illinois 21
Minnesota v. Wisconsin (-10.5) - 3:30 PM EST - ESPN2
The Badgers have a decision to make; quarterback Alex Hornibrook is yet again questionable to play, which could leave Jack Coan taking the snaps for Wisconsin. The dilemma is if Coan does play, he loses his redshirt. If Hornibrook isn’t available to play, do the Badgers play Coan or do they turn to third-stringer quarterback Danny Vanden Boom? Not like whoever ends up playing quarterback for the Badgers is going to be doing much besides handing the ball off to Jonathan Taylor.
Minnesota needs a win to be eligible to head to a bowl game, but it’s unlikely that they are going to get their sixth win of the season. To do so, they’d have to snap Wisconsin’s 14-game winning streak in the rivalry. Paul Bunyan’s Axe stays in Madison as Jonathan Taylor hits 2,000 yards rushing for the season. The Badgers win this one by at least 14 points.
Wisconsin 34, Minnesota 17
Rutgers v. Michigan State (-27) - 4:00 PM EST - FOX
Can Michigan State even score 27 points? The Spartans have only crossed that mark in three games this season, and the last time they did so was back in late September. I thought Rocky Lombardi could get the Michigan State offense moving a little better than Brian Lewerke, but Lombardi looked extremely mediocre last week.
Even though they have won just one game this year, Rutgers has been playing better football lately. The Scarlet Knights have covered as big underdogs in their last four games. Even though the Rutgers offense is extremely limited, they won’t have to score much on Saturday to close out the season with their fifth straight cover.
Michigan State 24, Rutgers 7
No. 4 Michigan (-5) v. No. 10 Ohio State - 12:00 PM EST - FOX
This is the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The Game. This year’s edition marks the first time Michigan has been favored over Ohio State since 2011, and the first time in 51 games the Buckeyes have opened as an underdog. Could this be the year that Jim Harbaugh finally solves Urban Meyer, or do the Buckeyes hand the Wolverines yet another loss?
Things looked bleak when Michigan started the season with a loss to Notre Dame, but that loss is looking a lot better now that the Fighting Irish are undefeated entering the final week of the regular season. Michigan got the win that they needed last week against Indiana to setup this important showdown, but they didn’t look all that sharp. The Wolverines trailed 17-15 at halftime before outscoring the Hoosiers 16-3 in the second half.
There’s no secret what Michigan is going to try to run the football on Saturday, especially after seeing what Maryland was able to do on the ground against the Ohio State defense. Quarterback Shea Patterson brings a bit of the dynamic that Penn State’s Trace McSorley has, which could give the Buckeye fits. Pair that with running back Karan Higdon’s ability to break big runs, and it could make for a long day for the Ohio State defense.
Sort of forgotten in Ohio State’s win last week against Maryland was just how good J.K. Dobbins was. With Mike Weber out with an injury, the sophomore running back was the workhorse for the Buckeyes, rolling up 203 yards on 37 carries. Dobbins now sits just 85 yards away from his second straight 1,000 yard season.
It sounds as if Weber will be back for the Buckeyes this week, which hopefully will take some of the running responsibility away from quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Even though Haskins was effective on the ground against the Terrapins, on no planet do I want him running the ball 15 times against the tough Wolverines defense. I’d much rather Ohio State trust Haskins to beat Michigan with his arm and not his legs.
This is definitely a homer pick, but I like Meyer and the Buckeyes to continue their mastery of the Wolverines. If you’ve seen my tweets, it is no secret I’ve seen enough of Meyer and this coaching staff, but if there was one game I’d bank on them to put everything together, it would be this game.
Not only is this game important from a rivalry standpoint, but a win by the Buckeyes knocks Michigan out of the Big Ten Championship Game and the College Football Playoff. Ohio State certainly won’t be lacking for motivation in this one, and they’ll come out sharp. The Wolverines haven’t won in Columbus since 2000, and on Saturday the Buckeyes will ensure that that streak lasts until at least 2020.
Ohio State 31, Michigan 27