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Ohio State looks to hold on to Illibuck in Week 6’s Big Ten action

The Buckeyes have their sights on their 10th-straight win over Illinois. Northwestern will try and stay perfect, while Penn State and Michigan meet in a Big Ten East tickle fight.

Indiana v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Last week ATS: 9-4 (4-2 B1G, 5-2 National)

Season ATS: 56-46-2 (17-12-2 B1G, 39-34 National)

Last week got off to a rough start with Purdue getting robbed by the refs against Minnesota. The result on Friday night had me wondering if a tough week was ahead for MC&J, but luckily there wasn’t too much more than went wrong on Saturday. Hopefully last week provides a little momentum for the holiday weekend, which has some meaty matchups on tap. First we tackle the Big Ten games.


B1G games (All games Saturday unless otherwise noted):

Nebraska v. Iowa (-13.5) - Friday 11/27 1:00 PM EST - FOX

Good thing Nebraska fought so hard for football this year. The Cornhuskers are really making the most of their opportunity! Nebraska not only lost to Illinois last week, the Cornhuskers lost by 18 points. What disrespect by the Fighting Illini to do that to Nebraska on Scott Frost Day!

After starting the season 0-2, Iowa has really turned their season around, outscoring their opponents 125-35 in the last three games. While the Hawkeyes aren’t going to wow people with what they do on the field, Iowa does a lot of the little things really well. Quarterback Spencer Petras is starting to find a little more comfort behind center, while Mekhi Sargent and Tyler Goodson provided a solid combo at running back.

Last week Iowa saw both Sean Clifford and Will Levis at quarterback for Penn State, and the Hawkeyes had little trouble shutting both down. Iowa could see a similar situation this week with Luke McCaffrey and Adrian Martinez. Whoever lines up at quarterback for Nebraska is going to be in for a long day against the Iowa defense. The Cornhuskers have way too much uncertainty at quarterback right now for me to trust backing them. Iowa continues their strong play with an easy win over their neighbors.

Iowa 38, Nebraska 20


Maryland v. No. 12 Indiana (-11.5) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN2

One of the games is going to make no sense this week. This feels like the game it could be. Maryland hasn’t played in two weeks because of COVID-19 issues, and the stoppage came at the worst possible time for the Terrapins. Last time we saw Maryland, the Terrapins were running all over Penn State. Taulia Tagovailoa had accounted for eight total touchdowns in the last two games, both wins for Maryland.

We know what Indiana is about. Even though the Hoosiers trailed Ohio State 28-7, Indiana never gave up, pulling to within a touchdown of the Buckeyes. Ty Fryfogle has recorded back-to-back 200-yard receiving games, while Michael Penix Jr. already has 14 touchdown passes this season. About the only hiccup in Indiana’s game so far this year is they are getting pretty much nothing on the ground.

Indiana doesn’t lose their second straight game, but Maryland at least keeps it closer than the experts think. The defense of the Terrapins is leaky, which is why I’m not picking them to upset Indiana. The younger Tagovailoa continues his recent outstanding play, which allows Maryland to at least hang around on Saturday.

Indiana 41, Maryland 34


Penn State v. Michigan (-2) - 12:00 PM EST - ABC

Penn State-Michigan has the chance to be the best comedy film of 2020. The Nittany Lions and Wolverines have combined to go 2-8 so far this season. The only thing that would have made this game even funnier is if Michigan hadn’t been able to defeat Rutgers in overtime last week.

Sean Clifford or Will Levis? Does it even matter? Penn State can’t run the football since both Journey Brown and Noah Cain are already out for the season. The passing game for Penn State isn’t much better. Jahan Dotson has been great, but the Nittany Lions took a huge hit when it was announced Pat Freiermuth won’t play again this season after suffering an injury against Ohio State.

If Joe Milton sees the field again this season, Jim Harbaugh should be fired on the spot. Obviously Milton isn’t the answer at quarterback, leaving Cade McNamara to start. McNamara was efficient after taking over for Milton, throwing for 260 yards and four touchdowns in the win over Rutgers.

Michigan at least will get back to .500 this week. I’m still skeptical about the Michigan defense, but I do at least have a little more confidence with their ability to move the football with McNamara taking the snaps. Penn State will be lucky to win a game this year, and even if the Nittany Lions don’t go winless, they won’t get the win this weekend.

Michigan 31, Penn State 17


No. 8 Northwestern (-13.5) v. Michigan State - 3:30 PM EST - ESPN2

The only thing that worries me about taking Northwestern here is the offense of the Wildcats. Can Northwestern score enough points to cover? After defeating Maryland 43-3 in the season opener, the Wildcats have won their other four games by a combined 26 points.

An unexpected week off came at just the right time for Michigan State. After beating Michigan, the Spartans have lost their next two games by a combined score of 73-7. Michigan State can’t run the football, putting even more pressure on quarterback Rocky Lombardi. The junior answered the call against Michigan, but hasn’t come anywhere close to matching that success since.

Northwestern and Peyton Ramsey have the advantage in pretty much every area of the game. Having said that, the Wildcats just don’t blow opponents out with any regularity. We have seen in the past how tough trips to East Lansing can be, even when Michigan State isn’t playing well. The Spartans frustrated Northwestern, but they don’t have enough to hand the Wildcats their first loss of the season.

Northwestern 21, Michigan State 13


Rutgers v. Purdue (-11.5) - 4:00 PM EST - FS1

What a season debut it was for Rondale Moore. The Purdue wide receiver caught 15 passes for 116 yards against Minnesota. The only thing missing from Friday night’s game for Purdue was a victory. Jack Plummer stepped in for an injured Aidan O’Connell, nearly leading the Boilermakers to victory before the refs stole the game from Purdue with a phantom offensive pass interference call.

Rutgers threw everything they had at Michigan last week, almost beating the Wolverines before falling in triple overtime. The Scarlet Knights have earned plenty of moral victories for some of their performances this year, but it’s not translating to wins on the field. Rutgers still has turnover issues, as Noah Vedral has already thrown eight interceptions this season.

Purdue always finds a way to make a mountain out of a mole hill. All four Purdue games this season have been decided by seven points or less. The Boilermakers will also be without defensive standout George Karlaftis, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week. I can already see this game playing out in the most beautifully stupid way possible. Take the points.

Purdue 31, Rutgers 27


No. 4 Ohio State (-28) v. Illinois - 12:00 PM EST - FS1

Ohio State knows what they have to do these next few weeks. Not only do the Buckeyes have to win, they have to win big. The Buckeyes were slotted in the fourth spot in the first College Football Playoff rankings, which is about where they belong. Ohio State has been impressive in the first half of games, while sleepwalking through the second half. To really sway the voters into thinking Ohio State might deserve a higher ranking than fourth, the Buckeyes need to put together a complete game.

Just how spoiled are Ohio State fans? A 300-yard passing performance with three total touchdowns has some asking what was wrong with Fields last week. Indiana is a good team with a solid defense. If anyone thought Fields was going to finish the season with more touchdown passes than incompletions, then you might want to get a mental evaluation. Fields is still one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy, so the sky is not falling like some Buckeye fans seem to think it is.

What was really good to see on Saturday was how effective the Buckeyes were running the football. Master Teague ran for 169 yards to lead Ohio State, who rolled up over 300 yards on the ground against the Hoosiers. The Buckeyes should be able to have another big day rushing the football against an Illinois defense that is giving up nearly 200 yards per game on the ground.

Illinois is coming off one of their best performances during Lovie Smith’s time in Champaign. The Fighting Illini not only saw Brandon Peters throw for 205 yards and a touchdown in his return to the field, but Illinois also received 100-yard rushing efforts from Mike Epstein and Chase Brown. Illinois has now won two-straight games after beating Rutgers by a field goal the week before.

Ohio State should have no issue keeping ownership of Illibuck. Since losing to Illinois in 2007 in Columbus, the Buckeyes have beaten the Fighting Illini in nine-straight meetings. While trips to Champaign always seem to contain at least some shenanigans, I don’t think we’ll see much of that this year. Ohio State has to feel a little slighted being only ranked fourth in the country, but they also know they have to play better football. We see a more complete performance from the Buckeyes on Saturday.

Ohio State 54, Illinois 17