Last week ATS: 8-7-1 (4-1 National, 4-6-1 B1G)
Season ATS: 18-14-1 (8-3 National, 10-11-1 B1G)
Last week’s national game predictions were pretty spot-on, but the same can’t be said for MC&J’s Big Ten picks. We were tripped up by a bunch of big underdogs not performing anywhere close to where I thought they would. Even with how bad the picks were, we still found a way to squeak out four wins, and keep the week from being a total bust.
Did you miss yesterday’s national picks? Don’t wait too long to check them out since MC&J picked Friday night’s Washington State/Houston matchup, along with four other big games on Saturday.
Pitt v. No. 13 Penn State (-17.5) - 12:00 PM EST - ABC
Pitt and Penn State will do battle on Saturday for the 100th time, but it could be the last time they square off for a number of years. After this year’s meeting, the next time these two schools could meet is 2024 at the earliest, but nothing is official yet when it comes to their next meeting.
Penn State has dominated the series in State College, not losing at home to the Panthers since 1988. The Nittany Lions have won the last two games in the series, beating Pitt 33-14 in State College in 2017, followed by a 51-6 rout of the Panthers last year in Pittsburgh.
We still don’t really know what we have with Penn State this year. Their offense has been rolling, but the Nittany Lions have only played Idaho and Buffalo. Quarterback Sean Clifford has put up some big numbers, but he’ll be tested more on Saturday against a Pitt defense that has been able to put some pressure on the quarterback.
At first glance I thought Pitt should be able to keep this game inside the number, but I’m not convinced now. The Panthers have done a terrible job at protecting the quarterback so far this year, which could spell big trouble. After a sluggish first half last week against Buffalo, I feel like Penn State puts a strong full game performance together to earn Keystone State bragging rights.
Penn State 38, Pitt 17
No. 21 Maryland (-7.5) v. Temple - 12:00 PM EST - CBS Sports Network
Maryland came into last year’s game against Temple in a very similar position. Expectations were high after the Terrapins beat Texas and Bowling Green before taking on the Owls. Temple slowed that momentum by beating Maryland 35-14 in College Park.
I highly doubt we see a repeat of last season. The Terrapins are rolling with Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson at quarterback. What’s scary about the Maryland offense is they haven’t even really gotten running back Anthony McFarland Jr. going. Last year McFarland averaged 7.9 yards per carry, but through two games this year the sophomore is averaging just 4.7 yards per carry.
Temple has just one game under their belt this year, beating Bucknell in the season opener. Quarterback Anthony Russo threw for over 400 yards, but it’s hard to see them doing that this week against a Maryland pass rush that has already registered 12 sacks. With a new head coach and some of their stars from last year’s defense gone, I have a hard time seeing Temple keeping pace with a potent Maryland offense.
Maryland 45. Temple 27
Eastern Michigan v. Illinois (-7.5) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Eastern Michigan has just as many wins against Big Ten teams over the past two seasons as Illinois does. After beating Rutgers in 2017, the Eagles upended Purdue 20-19 in West Lafayette last year.
Last week Illinois struggled against UConn, never really getting close to the large number they had to cover, as the Huskies hung around and only lost by eight points. Things should be a little better for the Fighting Illini this week, as running back Reggie Corbin should be back after missing last week’s game. Michigan transfer quarterback Brandon Peters continues his strong play as Illinois wins by double digits.
Illinois 31, Eastern Michigan 20
Georgia Southern v. Minnesota (-16.5) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Minnesota has really had to sweat in their first two games of the season. The Golden Gophers needed fourth quarter comebacks in wins over South Dakota State and Fresno State, with the latter going to double overtime before Minnesota could secure the victory.
At some point the Golden Gophers have to get an easy result, and this feels like that game. Normally I would be leery of a team taking on an option attack, but Minnesota showed they could handle it when they shut down Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl last season. With plenty of talent returning, expect a similar result, especially since there are questions about the status of Georgia Southern quarterback Shai Werts.
Minnesota 35, Georgia Southern 13
UNLV v. Northwestern (-18.5) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Hunter Johnson, your time is now. The Clemson transfer was horrendous in his Northwestern debut, completing just six passes for 55 yards and tossing two interceptions against Stanford. Johnson split time with T.J. Green in the opener, but Green will be out for the rest of the season due to injury.
Northwestern had a bye last week, which should help Johnson develop a little more chemistry with the offense. Also, playing UNLV will help. The Rebels got trucked in Las Vegas by Arkansas State last week. Pat Fitzgerald’s team has had an extra week to think about their awful performance against Stanford, and will take out their frustrations on UNLV.
Northwestern 38. UNLV 17
Arizona State v. No. 18 Michigan State (-15) - 4:00 PM EST - FOX
These two schools haven’t played a lot, but when they have defense has dominated. In three meetings since 1985. neither team has scored more than 20 points in a game. Last year the Sun Devils and Spartans met in Tempe, with Arizona State earning a 16-13 win over Michigan State.
Arizona State has been dominant on defense so far this year, allowing a total of 14 points in the first two games. After taking on Kent State and Sacramento State so far, the Sun Devils will take a huge leap up in competition when they square off against the Spartans.
Michigan State scored 51 points against Western Michigan last week, which feels like a month’s worth of points for the Spartans. Brian Lewerke looked good against the Broncos, but I feel like we’ve seen this bit of false hope from Lewerke before, and usually what follows is a terrible performance.
I would say Arizona State would be wise to try and get running back Eno Benjamin going, but that seems unlikely with Michigan State giving up nothing on the ground to opponents. Even though the Spartans are the more complete team right now, I don’t see them winning by more than two touchdowns.
Michigan State 27, Arizona State 14
No. 19 Iowa (-1.5) v. Iowa State - 4:00 PM EST - FS1
El Assico has some extra flair this year, with College GameDay heading to Ames for the first time ever. There’s no doubt the crowd in Ames will be hyped, but it’s not like Iowa hasn’t dealt with bigger, wilder crowds before in some of their trips around the Big Ten.
Nate Stanley is quietly putting together a very strong start to the season, throwing for 488 yards and six touchdowns through the first two games of the season. Complimenting Iowa’s passing game is a running attack that is averaging just over 200 yards per game. Add in a very stingy defense, and Iowa is a very tough team to beat no matter where you play them.
Iowa State was saddled with some high expectations heading into the season, but they fell flat in their first game. Even though the Cyclones were able to beat Northern Iowa, they needed three overtimes to avoid the upset attempt of their FCS foe. Quarterback Brock Purdy is back, but David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler are both gone.
It’s hard to go against recent history in El Assico. The Hawkeyes have won four straight overall against the Cyclones, and haven’t lost in Ames since 2011. The Cyclones have had an extra week to prepare for Iowa because of a bye last week, but that won’t matter as A.J. Epenesa is in Brock Purdy’s grill all game long.
Iowa 24, Iowa State 17
TCU (-2) v. Purdue - 7:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Elijah Sindelar is questionable for this game because of a concussion he suffered, making an already difficult game to predict even tougher. While as an Ohio State fan, I should know to never doubt Purdue at night in West Lafayette, I feel like performances like from last October that we are trying to forget are saved for the Buckeyes.
TCU has their own issues at quarterback, with Max Duggan and Alex Delton sharing snaps. Duggan looked alright in the Horned Frogs season opener, while Delton was more of a running threat. TCU did have a bye last week to get some extra preparation for this game, but really all the Horned Frogs need to know is to never lose sight of Rondale Moore.
Even if Sindelar is healthy, the Boilermakers should just let Moore play quarterback and throw passes to himself. The Purdue offense would pretty much be unstoppable. TCU has some speed that will help them at least slow down Moore enough to earn the victory in an entertaining game.
TCU 41, Purdue 34
Northern Illinois v. Nebraska (-14) - 8:00 PM EST - FS1
Northern Illinois shocked Nebraska in 2017, leaving Lincoln with a 21-17 win. The Cornhuskers won’t be caught sleeping on the Huskies this year. Nebraska has to be disappointed after having the game against Colorado in hand, but for the second year in a row letting a victory against the Buffaloes slip through their fingers.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Northern Illinois is a solid team, but they are in a bad spot. Not only are they going to be playing a ticked off Nebraska team, but last week the Huskies traveled to Utah and lost a physical game to the Utes. Imagine having to turn around and hit the road again and take on a Nebraska defense that is trying to get back to respectability. Scott Frost’s team takes out some of their frustrations on Northern Illinois on Saturday night.
Nebraska 38, Northern Illinois 20
No. 6 Ohio State (-18) v. Indiana - 12:00 PM EST - FOX
Ohio State hits the road for the first time in 2019, and really for the first time with Ryan Day as their head coach. Last year the Buckeyes traveled to Dallas to take on TCU, but the game was played at JerryWorld. While Ohio State always has a strong contingent of fans in Bloomington, this will be the first true road game with Day calling the shots.
The Buckeyes head into this game brimming with confidence after a 42-0 win over Cincinnati last week. The defense was dominant, while the offense showed progress from the season opening win over Florida Atlantic. The biggest difference for Ohio State in their second game of the year was the performance on J.K. Dobbins, who ran for 141 yards and a touchdown against the Bearcats.
A game that was going to be tough for Indiana, just got even tougher, since it was announced quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is questionable for the game. Penix has thrown for 523 yards and three touchdowns in the first two games for the Hoosiers. If Penix can’t go, the Buckeyes will try and tee off on Peyton Ramsey, who threw for 322 yards and three touchdowns against Ohio State last season in Columbus.
After a couple games where the Buckeyes saw a lot of two tight end sets, Indiana will try and crack the improved Ohio State defense with the spread offense. Unfortunately for Indiana, this is the exact type of offense that the Buckeyes have been gearing up for, most notably by introducing the “bullet” position to their defense. While not a lot has been seen from Brendon White so far this season, expect a heavy dosage of the Rose Bowl Defensive MVP.
I was burned last week by thinking Cincinnati would stay within a couple scores of Ohio State. I’m not going to make the same mistake this week. Even though Indiana has some talent, the Buckeyes are loaded. No matter who starts at quarterback for Indiana, Chase Young is going to make their life miserable. I know the Buckeyes have struggled at times in Bloomington, but they won’t on Saturday.
Ohio State 45, Indiana 17