Last week ATS: 3-15 (0-6 National, 3-9 B1G)
Season ATS: 20-34 (6-12 National, 14-22 B1G)
If you missed yesterday’s national picks as MC&J tries to rebound from a dreadful week, they can be found here.
B1G games (All games Saturday unless otherwise noted):
No. 10 Penn State (-28) v. Illinois - Friday 9/21 9:00 PM EST - FS1
The Nittany Lions have one last hurdle to clear before next week’s showdown with Ohio State. Luckily for Penn State this hurdle is only a couple inches of the ground, so they should have little trouble in navigating their Big Ten opener.
After barely avoiding Appalachian State’s upset attempt in the season opener, the Nittany Lions have won their last two games by a combined score of 114-16. Quarterback Trace McSorley actually has more touchdowns on the ground through three games than through the air.
Illinois keeps finding creative ways to be terrible. Last week the Fighting Illini looked to be on their way to a 3-0 start, leading South Florida 19-7 after three quarters. Lovie Smith’s team crumbled over the last 15 minutes, losing 25-19 to the Bulls. True freshman M.J. Rivers II took over for an injured A.J. Bush at quarterback, but if Illinois is going to hang around the Nittany Lions they’ll need a strong effort from running back Mike Epstein, who has rushed for 100 yards in each of the last two games.
I was burned last week in thinking Penn State wouldn’t completely blow Kent State out of the water, so might as well keep making the same mistakes. I think I was a week off in predicting Penn State to not cover. The Nittany Lions have to hit the road for a rare Friday contest, and with Ohio State next week their attention could be wandering a little. Penn State wins comfortably, but not by more than four touchdowns.
Penn State 44, Illinois 20
Nebraska v. No. 19 Michigan (-18) - 12:00 PM EST - FS1
Be careful what you wish for. Scott Frost’s return to Nebraska has gotten off to a rocky start. The Cornhuskers lost 24-19 to a good Troy squad to fall to 0-2 for the first time since 1957. Walk-on Andrew Bunch had to start at quarterback last week for an injured Adrian Martinez, who is questionable to play this week against the Wolverines.
Michigan had a little more trouble with SMU than many were expecting, but there was some positive signs for the Wolverines. The combination of quarterback Shea Patterson and five-star wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones is starting to blossom, as evidenced by the three touchdowns the sophomore caught against the Mustangs.
In his first year at UCF in 2016, Frost made the trip up to Ann Arbor with his team and got clobbered by Harbaugh and the Wolverines, 51-14. Things won’t be quite that bad on Saturday for Frost, but he’ll still be looking for his first win with the Cornhuskers when the game goes final. It doesn’t matter who starts at quarterback for Nebraska, as Michigan’s experienced defense puts relentless pressure on the Cornhuskers
Michigan 38, Nebraska 14
No. 23 Boston College (-7) v. Purdue - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN2
If we are being honest, Purdue is just a few plays away from this being a matchup between undefeated teams. What was supposed to be a season for Jeff Brohm’s team to build on the 7-6 record they posted in 2017 has turned into a nightmare. The Boilermakers have opened their 2018 season with three losses by a combined eight points.
Boston College is sorta fun to watch? What is this sorcery. The Golden Eagles are averaging 577 yards per game on offense, and are ranked for the first time since 2008. The combination of quarterback Anthony Brown and running back A.J. Dillon is something the Boilermakers will have to get a handle on, or else Purdue will be in even bigger trouble than they already are.
Even though Boston College is undefeated this year, the competition they’ve played hasn’t exactly been overwhelming. Purdue quarterback David Blough threw for a school record 572 yards against Missouri, so it isn’t like the Boilermakers have given up yet. I’ll get a little wild here and pick Purdue to spring the upset, but even if they don’t they’ll still cover the point spread.
Purdue 34, Boston College 31
Buffalo (-5.5) v. Rutgers - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
The Bulls are the best football team in Buffalo right now. Tyree Jackson might just be the best quarterback you haven’t heard of yet. The junior is better than any quarterback the Bills have on their roster right now.
Rutgers just lost to Kansas by 41 points. I’m not convinced the Scarlet Knights could even beat that JUCO team from Last Chance U in Kansas right now.
Buffalo 37, Rutgers 21
Minnesota v. Maryland (-1.5) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
I honestly don’t even know what to do with this game. Minnesota has a true freshman quarterback, their starting running back is out for the year, and they haven’t won a Big Ten road game in nearly two years.
Maryland feels like even more of a mess than Minnesota is right now. D.J. Durkin is still on administrative leave, and the Terrapins just got obliterated at home by Temple. Maryland has been dreadful passing the football, which should allow the Golden Gophers to key on stopping the run.
Since I have to pick a winner in this game, I’ll side with Minnesota to exercise some of their road demons in conference. I think this is going to be an ugly game, and when that is the case the best option is to take the team with the better defense.
Minnesota 21, Maryland 13
No. 24 Michigan State (-4.5) v. Indiana - 7:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
This line feels like it is trying to hook all the squares into taking Michigan State, and as evidenced by my record I’m just the idiot the bookmakers are fishing for. Even though the Spartans lost a couple weeks ago to Arizona State, they still have a lot of talent on both sides of the football. I wouldn’t be surprised to see L.J. Scott start making some noise on the ground after the running back was bottled up in Michigan State’s first two games.
A young Indiana team was able to gain some confidence with a 3-0 start this year, but the good feelings come to an end on Saturday. Freshman Stevie Scott has made some noise over the last two games, but Michigan State’s stout rush defense will be ready to shut the big running back down.
Even though they are 3-0, I still don’t think Indiana is all that good. I have picked against the Hoosiers in each of the first three games this year, and aside from last week it has been a successful strategy. Michigan State had a bye week to lick their wounds after losing to Arizona State and will be ready to hand the Hoosiers their first loss of the season.
Michigan State 33, Indiana 17
No. 18 Wisconsin (-3) v. Iowa - 8:30 PM EST - FOX
After what happened to Ohio State last year at Kinnick, I’m pretty sure I’m required by law to take Iowa in this spot. I’ve been trying to find reasons to pick Wisconsin in this game, but I’m just not feeling confident about backing the Badgers on Saturday night.
Wisconsin will be angry after getting stunned by BYU in Madison last week, but the Badger defense is banged up right now. A primetime game in Kinnick isn’t something you want to go into at less than 100 percent.
Jonathan Taylor has ran for over 100 yards in each game this year, but the Hawkeyes defense will be the toughest he has faced this year. Earlier this year, Iowa held Iowa State running back David Montgomery to just 44 yards on 17 carries. Taylor will have a little more success than Montgomery, but it won’t be enough in the end, as the Iowa defense makes life hell for turnover prone Badger quarterback Alex Hornibrook.
Iowa 24, Wisconsin 21
Tulane v. No. 4 Ohio State (-38) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Ohio State will welcome Urban Meyer back to sidelines on Saturday, but the Buckeyes didn’t suffer much during the head coach’s absence due to suspension. Acting head coach Ryan Day did as well as could be asked during Meyer’s suspension, and earned himself nearly half a million dollars for his three games of work.
The good news for Ohio State fans is Meyer said he was going to let Day and fellow co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson continue to run the offense, with Meyer being more of a “game manager”. Day and Wilson have done a great job at getting quarterback Dwayne Haskins comfortable in the offense in his first three games as starter.
While Ohio State has featured more of the passing game in their first three games, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the running game be featured a little more on Saturday. With Penn State on deck next week, I could see the Buckeyes keeping thing a little more vanilla, which would lead one to think that a heavy dosage of Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins could be on the way.
Tulane is going to try really hard on Saturday, but there’s not much else positive I can say about what the Green Wave when it comes to Saturday’s game. It’s not like Tulane is a bad team or anything, they just won’t have much to offer in terms of competition to the Buckeyes. Quarterback Jonathan Banks doesn’t usually turn the football over, throwing just six interceptions since taking over as starter last season, but he hasn’t had to face some of the defenders Ohio State is going to throw at him this week.
Thirty-eight points might seem like a lot until you remember that the Buckeyes beat Oregon State by 46 points and Rutgers by 49 points. Tulane is better than Rutgers, but not quite as good as Oregon State right now. Ohio State will have some extra motivation in Urban Meyer’s return, and I can see Haskins throwing a couple touchdowns, while Weber and Dobbins each run for over 100 yards.
Ohio State 59, Tulane 10