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MC&J: Ohio State opens their season Thursday at Minnesota, while ranked clashes rule Saturday in the Big Ten

Ohio State tangles with Minnesota on Thursday to kick off the week in the Big Ten before two battles between ranked teams highlight Saturday’s action.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 19 Big Ten Championship Game - Northwestern v Ohio State Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last season ATS: 89-84-4 (63-59-2 National, 26-25-2 B1G)

Another season of college football is upon us (well technically it has already started) and Money, Cash, & Joes will be with you throughout the season, giving you betting advice that is sometimes best to follow, and other times best to fade. I don’t really go too deep into the numbers — a lot of times I leave things to feel when I do my picks. I also try and add a little humor into things to at least make this a somewhat enjoyable read.

Hopefully you’ll follow MC&J on our journey through this season as I pick games (for entertainment purposes only in some states). I think this is the seventh or eighth full season I’ve done picks on games, and it’s always a fun ride! If you’re new to the program, usually picks for marquee national games go up on Thursday and Big Ten picks go up on Friday, but sometimes those get swapped depending on what the schedule looks like.

B1G games (All games Saturday unless otherwise noted):

Temple v. Rutgers (-14.5) - Thursday 6:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network

There is actually a little bit of buzz around Rutgers, which is something we aren’t used to. Greg Schiano already has the program back on the rise after returning for his second stint with the Scarlet Knights after the 2019 season. Noah Vedral returns at quarterback for Rutgers, but we still don’t really know how good the Nebraska transfer is. At least Vedral will have a couple key players returning in running back Isaih Pacheco and wide receivers Bo Melton and Shameen Jones to work with.

Temple was downright dreadful last year, posting a 1-6 record, which was their worst since 2013 when the Owls went 2-10 in Matt Rhule’s first season. Rod Carey’s team should be a little better this year, as Temple was able to bring in Georgia transfer quarterback D’Wan Mathis. While Mathis is light on experience, he does have some raw athletic ability that could allow Temple to surprise some people.

I’m confident that Rutgers is going to win their season opener, I’m just not convinced that it’ll be by more than two touchdowns. I feel like we see more of the scrappy effort that we have become used to in Temple games, and less of the mess they were last year. Plus, Rutgers can’t be all that used to playing with a lead so I don’t think they pull away from the Owls.

Rutgers 31, Temple 21

Michigan State v. Northwestern (-3) - Friday 9:00 PM EST - ESPN

Northwestern only had two blemishes during their 2020 season, and one of those losses came at the hands of Michigan State. Despite the loss, the Wildcats would go on to play in the Big Ten Championship Game and the Citrus Bowl, where they beat Auburn. Things likely won’t be so easy for Northwestern this year, especially with the season-ending injury to running back Cam Porter.

After a season of uncertainty at quarterback, Michigan State is hoping that Temple graduate transfer Anthony Russo can provide some stability. Along with an experienced passer, Michigan State also has Elijah Collins and Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker III at running back. The Spartans do have some pieces, which could help accelerate Mel Tucker’s rebuilding process in East Lansing.

Not everything goes according to plan in the first week of the season. I think one of the surprises is going to be Michigan State beating Northwestern. Expectations for the Wildcats might be a little high after last season. We still don’t know what we’ll get with Northwestern quarterback Hunter Johnson, but things certainly got a lot tougher after losing Porter in the backfield. The Spartans pull out a game that comes down to the wire.

Michigan State 24, Northwestern 20

No. 19 Penn State v. No. 12 Wisconsin (-5.5) - 12:00 PM EST - FOX

Remember last year’s opener for Wisconsin when Graham Mertz went 20-21 and threw five touchdowns against Illinois? It felt like there was a new sheriff in the Big Ten. Then Mertz tested positive for COVID-19 and Wisconsin’s season fell apart after the Badgers drubbed Michigan. While I expect Mertz to rebound this season, I still don’t know what to think about the running game of Wisconsin. Whoever thought we’d be saying that? The Badgers do have talent with Clemson transfer Chez Mellusi and Jalen Berger, it just remains to be seen if we’ll see Wisconsin run the rock like they used to.

It feels like Sean Clifford has been at Penn State for nearly a decade. Clifford must be doing something right to continue to start at quaterback for the Nittany Lions, I just don’t really see it. Then again, Penn State might not need for Clifford to do all that much since they do have some solid running backs in Noah Cain, Keyvone Lee, and Baylor transfer John Lovett.

Some people think Penn State could be a sleeper to win the Big Ten East. I’m not one of those people. Clifford doesn’t impress me, and I think even less of James Franklin. I think we are going to see a bounce-back season from Wisconsin this year, which starts with a rather convincing win over the Nittany Lions.

Wisconsin 34, Penn State 21

Western Michigan v. Michigan (-17) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN

As funny as it would be to laugh at Michigan struggling with a directional state school, save your laughs for later in the year when it comes to the Wolverines. There’s not a whole lot that Michigan does well, but one thing it regularly does is beat up on lesser foes in September. Once the calendar turns to October, then things tend to get real for Jim Harbaugh and company. This year will see some of those staples that we have become familiar with when it comes to Michigan football.

Michigan 45, Western Michigan 17

No. 17 Indiana v. No. 18 Iowa (-3.5) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network

This feels like one of the most possible games that Indiana could have started with this year. The Hoosiers are ranked in the AP Poll going into the season for the first time since 1969. The Hoosiers might not be ranked going into their second game though, since Kinnick Stadium will undoubtedly be rocking as it will have fans in the stands for the first time since 2019.

Both teams have their starting quarterbacks from the 2020 season returning. Indiana’s Michael Penix Jr. will have more questions surrounding him though, as he suffered a season-ending knee injury last year. Iowa’s Spencer Petras won’t put up big numbers like Penix, instead he is tasked with moving the Hawkeye offense down the field without making mistakes. Petras just has to be efficient enough to open things up for running back Tyler Goodson.

Until they prove me wrong otherwise on a consistent basis, I’m just going to assume that Indiana is still Indiana. By this I mean that I can’t trust them. I know the Hoosiers want you to think that they’ve left their past behind them, but I don’t know if they are ready to leave Iowa City with a win against a ranked Iowa squad. This should be a fun game that sees the Hawkeyes eventually wear down the Hoosiers.

Iowa 27, Indiana 20

West Virginia (-2.5) v. Maryland - 3:30 PM EST - ESPN

One of the weirdest teams in college football last year was Maryland. First the Terrapins get destroyed in the opener against Northwestern, and then they come back and notch wins over Minnesota and Penn State before losing their last two games of the season. While the Terrapins have Tualia Tagovailoa, I’m still waiting for a few players to step up to support him.

This isn’t the West Virginia that you grew up with. Under RichRod and Holgo, the Mountaineers were all about outscoring their opponents. Now with Neal Brown leading the team, West Virginia is going to make opponents earn every yard. Quarterback Jarret Doege was solid for West Virginia last year, and should put up even better numbers this year.

The last two times Maryland played a team from the Big 12 in the season opener, the Terrapins won. I do feel like the Mountaineers are a lot better coached team than Tom Herman’s Texas teams were. Plus, it’s not like playing in College Park is going to give the Terrapins much of a home-field advantage. Even though they are on the road, West Virginia is the smart play here.

West Virginia 30, Maryland 21

Oregon State v. Purdue (-7) - 7:00 PM EST - FS1

Purdue is playing OSU under the lights in West Lafayette? Are you getting flashbacks like I am? Pretty sure I don’t need to look into anything else about this game since I’ve seen this snuff film before. At least the OSU in this game is Oregon State and not Ohio State.

Purdue 41, Oregon State 28

UTSA v. Illinois (-6) - 7:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network

While I don’t know a whole lot about UTSA, they can’t be worse than Nebraska. Just imagine how bad the Cornhuskers would look if Illinois loses to the Roadrunners this week. Honestly though, I wouldn’t be too surprised if it happens. Not only is the status of Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters unknown after suffering a shoulder injury last week, UTSA does have a lot of veteran players returning this year. While I’ll spare Illinois getting bit by the upset bug in BERT’s second game, the Roadrunners will make Bielema sweat even more than he already does.

Illinois 30, UTSA 27

No. 4 Ohio State (-14) v. Minnesota - Thursday 8:00 PM EST - FOX

I know that I’m ready to get back to a more normal college football season. Even though Ohio State went to the title game, the season just felt strange. The late start, no fans, COVID cancellations all made last season feel like more of a chore than an enjoyment. Even with how tough as last season was to get through, the Buckeyes still almost won the whole damn thing.

Ohio State hits the road to start of their 2021 season, and I’m sure they aren’t all that broken up about going to Minnesota before fall hits. The last time the Buckeyes were in the Twin Cities it was about four degrees in mid-November. It certainly won’t look so strange if any of Minnesota’s coaches decide it is time to eat a Dilly Bar.

This might be one of the few years where Ohio State was wishing they were opening up the season with an easy non-conference foe, since it will be C.J. Stroud’s first start at quarterback for the Buckeyes. Luckily for Stroud he has everything you could want surrounding him on offensive. Stud wide receivers, talented running backs, a nasty offensive line. The pieces are there for Stroud to succeed, he just has to trust in his natural abilities.

The biggest questions for Ohio State in this game will came on the defensive side of the football, mainly at linebacker and in the secondary. While it will be great not having to watch Tuf Borland move at dial-up speed at linebacker, the new linebackers haven’t seen a whole lot of time on the field and will need someone to step up and take over as the leader of the group. My money is on Teradja Mitchell to do just that.

Last year’s pass coverage from Ohio State left a lot to be desired. Hopefully with a full offseason, the Buckeyes can tighten things up on the back end and not let opponents exploit that area. Who knows, maybe opponents won’t even have time to get passes off with the likes of Zach Harrison, Tyreke Smith, Haskell Garrett, and a number of defensive linemen creating pressure.

Minnesota could give Ohio State one of their tougher games this year. Not only do the Golden Gophers have Tanner Morgan at quarterback and Mohamed Ibrahim at running back, they also have a veteran offensive line. The problem is, Ohio State is just too talented all-around for Minnesota. While the Golden Gophers might hang around early, eventually the depth advantage Ohio State has is going to show up. The Buckeyes will want to send a message out to Oregon on what awaits them next week.

Ohio State 42, Minnesota 24