Last season ATS: 111-113-5 (58-56-3 National, 53-57-2 B1G)
It feels so good to be back! And while it seems like most years Money, Cash, & Joes pretty much sits right around even by the end of the season, we still have a lot of fun getting there.
This week is going to look a little different than how the rest of the season will run. Normally on Thursday’s our national picks will be posted, and then the Big Ten picks will come on Friday. However, with two Big Ten games on Thursday this week, those days have been flipped.
B1G games (All games Saturday unless otherwise noted):
New Mexico State v. Minnesota (-21) - Thursday 8/30 7:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
New Mexico State may have a game under their belt already, but in that game they lost to Wyoming 29-7 at home. If the Cowboys are able to do that to the Aggies in Las Cruces, what are the Golden Gophers going to do to Doug Martin’s team in Minneapolis?
Minnesota has plenty of questions they’ll still need to answer at quarterback, as freshman walk-on Zack Annexstad was named the team’s starter just days ago, but the Golden Gophers won’t need all the answers this week. P.J. Fleck would be wise to put the ball in running back Rodney Smith’s hands early and often, especially after New Mexico State gave up 312 yards on the ground to Wyoming last week.
The Golden Gophers find the current to their liking as they should have little trouble in rowing the boat over New Mexico State.
Minnesota 37, New Mexico State 13
Northwestern v. Purdue (-1.5) - Thursday 8/30 8:00 PM EST - ESPN
Are there any healthy quarterbacks for this game? Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson tore his ACL in the Music City Bowl, while Purdue’s Elijah Sindelar played the last three games of the year with a torn ACL, and David Blough’s season ended in early November due to an ankle injury.
Thorson’s status is still up in the air for tonight’s game, which could make things even more difficult for Northwestern, who will be adjusting to life without running back Justin Jackson. Even if Thorson plays, there is no telling how effective he’ll be.
Northwestern’s defense is going to give a lot of teams fits this year, but I think Jeff Brohm’s offensive attack will be just a little too much for the Wildcats to handle to start off the season. Ross-Ade Stadium will be rocking, as the Boilermakers earn a hard-fought conference win to open up 2018.
Purdue 31, Northwestern 24
Utah State v. No. 11 Michigan State (-23.5) - Friday 8/31 7:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
More often than not, Michigan State has taken a while to get going in their season openers. Last year the Spartans had little trouble with Bowling Green, but in years past— in a couple games against Western Michigan, as well as against Furman in 2016— Michigan State has been less than impressive.
However, with 19 starters returning this year, I think it is unlikely we’ll see a slow start from the Spartans this time. For their part, Utah State returns 18 starters of their own, so they can’t be taken lightly, but there is no doubt that Michigan State is the more talented team.
Expectations are high for the Spartans this year, and Brian Lewerke and a stout defense should put in a strong performance before they head out to Tempe next week for a battle with Arizona State. It won’t be quite a beatdown like Utah State suffered at the hands of Wisconsin in last year’s season opener, but the Aggies have little answer for what the Spartans will throw at them.
Michigan State 44, Utah State 14
Western Kentucky v. No. 4 Wisconsin (-36.5) - Friday 8/31 9:00 PM EST - ESPN
With Jonathan Taylor and all five starters on the offensive line back, in addition to a slew of talented defensive players, Wisconsin could pretty much name their score in this contest. Western Kentucky is overmatched, and the disparity is even greater since the Hilltoppers will be trying to replace quarterback Mike White, who threw 26 touchdowns last year.
Even though Paul Chryst’s team has a cupcake to start the season, the Badgers won’t cover the spread. I’ve seen this play before, where the Badgers jump out to a big lead and their running game chews up clock. Western Kentucky will find just enough points to cover the point spread late in the game.
Wisconsin 51, Western Kentucky 17
No. 23 Texas (-13.5) v. Maryland - 12:00 PM EST - Fox Sports 1
If Maryland wasn’t dealing with the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, which has led to head coach D.J. Durkin being placed on administrative leave, I’d like the Terrapins a lot here. They have both Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill back at quarterback, as well as Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison III at running back.
Is Texas back? Not quite yet, but Tom Herman looks to have them on the right track. Now if the Longhorns could somehow rid themselves of Tim Beck. If Herman calls the plays for Texas, then the Longhorns will be fine. If Tim Beck calls the plays, then Texas is so screwed.
If this number was over two touchdowns, I might be on the other side, but I feel like the Longhorns are the right play in this game.
Texas 33, Maryland 14
Kent State v. Illinois (-16.5) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
The thought of Illinois laying this many points in a game is almost enough to make me break out in hives. The even scarier thing is that I sorta like the Fighting Illini in this spot.
New Kent State head coach Sean Lewis is going to bring an up-tempo offense to a Golden Flashes team that failed to score 20 points in all but three games last year, but those changes will take some time to be successful.
Lovie Smith’s squad is a little bit further along in their rebuild, and the Fighting Illini score an easy win to open the 2018 campaign.
Illinois 41, Kent State 21
Texas State v. Rutgers (-16.5) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
If you need a storyline for this game, it can be about a matchup between former Ohio State coaches. Everett Withers is in his third year in charge at Texas State, and has posted a tremendous 4-20 record in two seasons in San Marcos.
Believe it or not, Chris Ash has seen slightly better results in Piscataway, seeing his record sit at 6-18 after two years with the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers is hoping that an experienced defense can make up for any growing pains that freshman starting quarterback Artur Sitkowski will undoubtedly experience.
I can’t possibly lay this many points with Rutgers though. I feel like between this game and the Illinois game, this is the one that has the chance to be the closest. Rutgers wins, but never really pulls away.
Rutgers 31, Texas State 17
Appalachian State v. No. 10 Penn State (-24) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Remember that time Appalachian State beat Michigan in Ann Arbor to open the season? That was awesome. However, that won’t happen here, but I just had to bring it up because it is still hilarious.
Penn State lost pretty much everybody but Trace McSorley and James Franklin. The Nittany Lions will still be good this year, especially at home, but I think their ranking might be a little lofty.
Appalachian State has a habit of playing Power 5 schools tough. The problem for the Mountaineers is that they have to try and replace Taylor Lamb at quarterback, but at least they still have Jalin Moore, who has rushed for 1,000 yards the past two seasons. The Mountaineers keep it just close enough.
Penn State 41, Appalachian State 20
Northern Illinois v. Iowa (-10.5) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Just take the points here. The last two meetings between these schools have been decided by four points. I don’t care if it has been five years since they last met. It’s Iowa football, weird things will somehow happen in a game like this.
Iowa 27, Northern Illinois 21
Indiana (-10.5) v. Florida International - 7:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
I have no idea what to think of Indiana football. I mean I know that’s usually the case, but it seems like this year especially. The Hoosiers suspended starting running back Morgan Ellison, which puts even more pressure on Peyton Ramsey, who was just named the starter about a week ago.
Butch Davis had a successful first season at Florida International, earning a bid in the Gasparilla Bowl, finishing with an 8-5 record. The Panthers have to replace a lot of key players from last year’s team, but they could give the Hoosiers a run in Miami.
Indiana 34, Florida International 27
No. 14 Michigan (Pick) v. No. 12 Notre Dame - 7:30 PM EST - NBC
Not gonna lie, I sorta missed this game while it was away. It seemed like it was always good for some shenanigans. Now, the Wolverines and Fighting Irish are back to battle for the right for one of these fanbases to get way too excited before almost certain failure later in the season.
Brandon Wimbush will start at quarterback for the Domers, but I’m having a hard time seeing the senior finding much success against a strong Michigan defense. Notre Dame doesn’t have a Josh Adams like they did last year, which is why I think the Fighting Irish will struggle.
Could Shea Patterson earn the coveted Denard Robinson September Heisman? Don’t be surprised if the Ole Miss transfer has a big game to send Michigan fans into a frenzy. Don’t worry though, things will quite down in October.
I’m just hoping this game is supremely stupid. There would be nothing better than watching dueling Jim Harbaugh and Brian Kelly struggle faces. We’ll all be winners if that happens.
Michigan 27, Notre Dame 20
Akron v. Nebraska (-24.5) - 8:00 PM EST - FOX
Let the Scott Frost era begin in Lincoln. The former Cornhuskers quarterback doesn’t have as big of a task as when he took over an 0-12 UCF, but there certainly is a lot more pressure to produce results at his alma mater.
Frost better hope that freshman starting quarterback Adrian Martinez is a quick study, because the Cornhuskers host Colorado next week, and travel to Michigan in three weeks. At least Martinez has the services of returning starting wide receivers Stanley Morgan Jr. and JD Spielman.
I was trying to find reasons to pick Akron here, but I just don’t see Akron keeping pace with Nebraska. The Cornhuskers return a lot on defense, which doesn’t bode well for an Akron team that didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard last year, and has to replace their starting quarterback.
Nebraska 48, Akron 21
Oregon State v. No. 5 Ohio State (-39) - 12:00 PM EST - ABC
Finally, the game that everyone has been waiting for. The battle to see which OSU is the best in the world. Sorry Oklahoma State, when Mike Gundy got rid of his mullet— then you lost any chance at a claim that your OSU was the best.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Ohio State will be without Urban Meyer for this game, as well as the two thereafter. I don’t think it makes a big difference in this spot, and, if anything, it makes the Buckeyes even more dangerous. Ohio State will likely feel slighted for the way Meyer has been treated in this situation, and they’ll be playing angry to try and honor their coach.
There’s no question that Ohio State is light years more talented than the Beavers. Last year Oregon State lost nine of their 11 games by at least 14 points, and while they do return 17 starters, it’s hard to see them having much success against the Buckeyes. The job got even tougher with news that sophomore safety David Morris, who recorded 75 tackles last year, will miss the game due to injury.
There’s really no reason Ohio State shouldn’t score at least 50 points in this game, and I think it’ll be closer to 60 by the time the dust settles. Dwayne Haskins will gain some more comfort at quarterback, while J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber chew up yardage on the ground. With the game well in hand, Ohio State will look to their backups, who will continue to put some points on the board. The Beavers will have no answer at all for what is thrown at them by the Buckeyes.
Ohio State 56, Oregon State 10