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Northwestern and Ohio State tangle in the Big Ten Championship Game

The Buckeyes will try and solidify their spot in the College Football Playoff. Plus, picks for the other three conference games on the schedule this weekend.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 05 Ohio State at Michigan State Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last week ATS: 4-7 (2-3 B1G, 2-4 National)

Season ATS: 70-68-2 (22-22-1 B1G, 48-46 National)

Another ugly week for MC&J last week. Our record is starting to look as sloppy as the rest of the 2020 college football season. At least there is still some time left to pick some winners. Who knows how many bowl games will end up being played, so we have to make the most of what is left on the schedule.

B1G games (All games Saturday unless otherwise noted):

Nebraska (-7) v. Rutgers - Friday 12/18 7:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network

Obviously I don’t have a handle on either of these teams, as evidenced by siding with Nebraska and picking against Rutgers last week. Of course the Cornhuskers went on to lose to Minnesota, while Rutgers beat Maryland in overtime.

If you told me that Nebraska would be playing in the northeast in December, I would have assumed the Cornhuskers had accepted a bid to the Pinstripe Bowl. Instead, Nebraska is just trying to finish out their season, which for many the end can’t come soon enough. One Cornhusker who has already announced an end to his season is offensive lineman Brendan Jaimes, who has started 40 games during his Nebraska career. The loss of Jaimes will make things even tougher for a Nebraska offense that has already been struggling for most of the year.

Rutgers may not be winning a ton of games this year, but they certainly have been competitive. Even though they trailed the Terrapins last week, Rutgers never gave up in the game, forcing overtime and eventually earning their third win of the season. It will be interesting to see if former Nebraska quarterback Noah Vedral is able to play against his former team. Vedral was injured last week in the victory over Maryland, which left Artur Sitkowski to finish out the game.

No matter who starts for Rutgers, I think the Scarlet Knights not only cover, but they add to Nebraska’s woes this year. This feels like a game where Rutgers forces a few turnovers, adding even more doubt into what the Cornhuskers are trying to do on offense. The Scarlet Knights not only get their fourth win of the season, they might even have a chance to finish at .500 this year if they can secure a bowl bid.

Rutgers 24, Nebraska 20

Minnesota v. Wisconsin (-12.5) - 4:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network

Normally I would want no business siding with a team that has scored just 19 points in their last three games. This is a little different situation though, since Minnesota was missing 33 players last week against Nebraska. The Golden Gophers might have more players available this week, but they certainly won’t be anywhere close to full strength.

Wisconsin has done very little right over the last three games, but they have at least been able to stop the run. Even though Iowa was able to beat the Badgers 28-7 last week, the Hawkeyes only averaged four yards per carry. Minnesota’s whole offense is pretty much running the football with Mohamed Ibrahim. Tanner Morgan has passed for just five touchdowns in six games, and top wide receiver Reshod Bateman recently opted out of the rest of the season.

Wisconsin has largely dominated the rivalry lately, with their last nine wins coming back 10 points or more. While this isn’t your normal season, I think the Badgers close out their Big Ten schedule with a win this year, beating a depleted Michigan team by at least two touchdowns.

Wisconsin 31, Minnesota 14

Illinois v. Penn State (-15) - 5:30 PM EST - FS1

While a lot of teams can’t wait for this season to end, Penn State probably wishes they had another five or six games to play. The Nittany Lions are playing their best football of the year as the season is drawing to a close. Penn State did have some hiccups early in last week’s game against Michigan State before turning it on in the fourth quarter and earning the cover against the Spartans.

Illinois is one of those teams who can’t wait for the regular season to end. The Fighting Illini did have a couple wins over Rutgers and Nebraska last month, but have fallen on their faces recently against Iowa and Northwestern. To top things off, Illinois fired Lovie Smith this week, leaving offensive coordinator to finish the season as interim head coach.

With Illinois giving up over 225 yards per game on the ground this year, Penn State will soften the Fighting Illini up on the ground with Keyvone Lee before hitting Illinois with some big shots down the field to Jahan Dotson. The Nittany Lions win their fourth straight game, putting them in position to get to .500 this year if they get a spot in a bowl game.

Penn State 38, Illinois 17

No. 14 Northwestern v. No. 4 Ohio State (-21) - FOX

This marks the second time in three years that Northwestern and Ohio State have met in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes beat the Wildcats 45-24 in Indianapolis in 2018, and things could get even worse for Northwestern this year. Ohio State currently holds the last spot in the College Football Playoff and as long as the Buckeyes don’t lose to the Wildcats on Saturday, expect to see Ohio State in college football’s “Final Four”.

Northwestern does a lot of things well. They are tough on defense, and their offense can make some noise at times. The Wildcats just aren’t at the same level as Ohio State. Northwestern hasn’t seen anyone this year that’s even close to what Justin Fields has to offer. The Buckeyes are going to give Northwestern’s Mike Hankwitz a pretty rude sendoff in the retiring defensive coordinator’s final Big Ten game.

Ohio State was more of the team fans had been waiting to see this season in the 52-12 win against Michigan State, which is even more puzzling considering the number of players the Buckeyes were missing in the contest. After not playing last week’s scheduled game against Michigan, Ohio State will be closer to full strength for this game, which is bad news for Northwestern.

What was great to see in the win over Michigan State was Trey Sermon finally bust a few runs. Sermon not only had a 64-yard touchdown run, but the Oklahoma transfer finished with 112 yards rushing on 10 carries. If Sermon and Master Teague can get going at the same time, the Ohio State offense will be tough to stop.

The Buckeyes know what they have to do in this game, and they’ll get it done. The College Football Playoff has been the goal of this team since the loss to Clemson last year. Now not only might the Buckeyes be able to get back to the playoff, they could also possibly get their chance at revenge against the Tigers. Ohio State impresses with a dominant performance against Northwestern, making it obvious that the Buckeyes are one of the best four teams in the country.

Ohio State 48, Northwestern 20