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MC&J: Oregon-Ohio State and Iowa-Iowa State highlight a big weekend of non-conference action in the Big Ten

The Buckeyes host Oregon at high noon at Ohio Stadium before El Assico takes center stage later in the afternoon.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Season ATS: 9-6-1 (4-3 National, 5-3-1 B1G)

Hard to complain with the start MC&J had in the Big Ten. Wins by Michigan State and Iowa helped to offset some of the disappointment from misses on Wisconsin and underestimating Rutgers. Plenty of games are on tap this weekend to hopefully help is pile up some more wins.

If you missed MC&J’s picks for Texas A&M-Colorado, Stanford-USC, and four other national games, you can find them here.

B1G games:

Illinois v. Virginia (-10) - 11:00 AM EST - ACC Network

Either Nebraska is even worse than we thought, or UTSA is better than people think. I think it’s a little of both, which tells us nothing about Illinois. Then again, this will only be Bret Bielema’s third game as the head coach of the Fighting Illini, so we shouldn’t know much of anything after such a short amount of time. The one thing we have found out so far this year is Rutgers transfer quarterback Artur Sitkowski can throw it a little bit. Then again, we don’t know how much Sitkowski will play because starting quarterback Brandon Peters was injured in the season opener.

I feel like Virginia is just the Illinois of the ACC, except a little bit better. This spread feels a tad high here. It feels like if the Fighting Illini lose this game, it’ll come down to the end and they’ll lose in spectacularly dumb fashion. We see a better all-around performance from Illinois and they hang around but lose by a touchdown in the end.

Virginia 34, Illinois 27

Miami (OH) v. Minnesota (-20) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPNU

Last week had to have been a huge gut punch for Minnesota. They were leading the Buckeyes at half before Ohio State took over to earn a two touchdown win. If that wasn’t deflating enough, the Golden Gophers lost leading rusher Mohamed Ibrahim for the year. Good thing Minnesota has a coach like P.J. Fleck, who won’t let his team get too down on themselves.

The RedHawks were run dominated by Cincinnati last week. Things won’t get any easier for Miami this week as they travel to the Twin Cities. Even though the RedHawks are just two years removed from a MAC championship, they won’t be able to hang with Minnesota, even without Ibrahim. The offensive line of the Golden Gophers will still open up big holes for the running game, and Tanner Morgan will look better this week with more time to throw. Minnesota rebounds and wins by at least three touchdowns.

Minnesota 45, Miami (OH) 20

Rutgers (-2.5) v. Syracuse - 2:00 PM EST - ACC Network

I certainly underestimated the Scarlet Knights. Not that I thought Rutgers was going to lose to Temple, I just thought the Owls would keep things closer. Now Rutgers heads to Syracuse, but it’s not like the Carrier Dome is some impossible place to win at. If Greg Schiano can get another complete performance out of his team like he did in the season opener, it could be a long afternoon for the Orange.

Where does the Syracuse program stand? Apparently going on the road to Ohio and getting a win was a pretty big deal. Even though he is just a junior, it feels like quarterback Tommy Devito has been at Syracuse for around a decade. The Rutgers defense was disruptive in the season opener, and I see that continuing on Saturday. The difference in the game is turnovers. Rutgers gets the Orange to turn the football over at least three times.

Rutgers 31, Syracuse 21

Purdue (-34) v. UConn - 3:00 PM EST - CBS Sports Network

Purdue is a 34-point favorite on the road, and it feels like it should be favored by more. Not only was UConn just lost to Holy Cross, they were shutout 45-0 in their season opener. Randy Edsall quitting doesn’t change the fact that it looks like the Huskies have already quit on the season.

Purdue 55, UConn 10

Ball State v. No. 11 Penn State (-22) - 3:30 PM EST - FS1

Much like UAB-Georgia from yesterday’s picks, this feels like a sandwich game for the Nittany Lions. Penn State is coming off a big win last week in Madison, and next week they’ll be hosting Auburn. Ball State has a strong quarterback/wide receiver combo with Drew Plitt throwing to Justin Hall. The defense of the Nittany Lions is really strong, but I think we see a few mistakes with a big game on tap. This game feels like it’ll be decided by 14-21 points.

Penn State 37, Ball State 17

Buffalo v. Nebraska (-13.5) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network

I’m from Western New York so there’s nothing I’d like more than to see the Bulls make things difficult for Scott Frost and the Cornhuskers. I’m a little nervous about this game since this is life after Lance Leipold for Buffalo. Then again, former Michigan assistant Maurice Linguist, who never actually coached a game as co-defensive coordinator for the Wolverines, is already a rising commodity in the head coaching game. This game is closer than Nebraska wants it to be.

Nebraska 34, Buffalo 30

No. 10 Iowa v. No. 9 Iowa State (-4.5) - 4:30 PM EST - ABC

This might be the grandest EL ASSICO of them all. Who would’ve thought both teams would be ranked in the top-10 as they battle for the CyHawk. Iowa was even better than I imagined they would be in their season-opening win over Indiana. All the Hawkeyes need is Spencer Petras to not make mistakes since they had an outstanding running game and defense.

Iowa State had a tough time with Northern Iowa last week, but this sorta feels like something that Cyclone teams under Matt Campbell do. Struggle with lesser teams before big games. Brock Purdy is still one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Iowa’s defense will have their hands full with trying to slow Purdy down, but it’s not like they didn’t just smother Michael Penix Jr.

I’m rooting for the Hawkeyes in this one. Iowa is a darkhorse to head into the Big Ten Championship Game undefeated, and have won the last five against the Cyclones. In a game that will likely come down to the wire, I’m elated to be getting more than a field goal.

Iowa 23, Iowa State 20

Eastern Michigan v. No. 18 Wisconsin (-26) - 7:00 PM EST - FS1

In past years I might have looked at this as a game that Wisconsin would cover with no problem. It feels like in the last few years this type of game hasn’t quite been as automatic as it used to be when it comes to the spread. The Badgers will have an easy bounce-back win after their loss to Penn State. Eastern Michigan does just enough to stay inside four touchdowns.

Wisconsin 48, Eastern Michigan 24

Washington v. Michigan (-7) - 8:00 PM EST - ABC

I know it was fun to laugh at Washington losing to Montana last week. The thing is, Montana’s a very strong FCS team. Did the Huskies have any business losing to the Grizzlies? Not at all. I wouldn’t count Washington out of this game just because of what happened last week, though, It’s not like Michigan hasn’t ever started the season with an embarrassing loss at home.

Even a Michigan win comes at a price these days. The Wolverines lost receiver Ronnie Bell for the year in the 47-14 win over Western Michigan. With this game being under the lights in Ann Arbor, I’m expecting the Harbaugh follies to be in fine form. Even though they want to think otherwise, Michigan isn’t a very good team. Washington is better than they showed last week. The Wolverines end up winning this game late in the fourth.

Michigan 27, Washington 24

No. 12 Oregon v. No. 3 Ohio State (-14.5) - 12:00 PM EST - FOX

When I first looked Ohio State laying two touchdowns, I thought it was a little high. The more I looked at things, the more I like the Buckeyes in this spot. Oregon comes into this game with a lot of questions. Can Anthony Brown complete enough passes? How much will Kayvon Thibodeaux play? Can Oregon’s young secondary hold up against Ohio State’s impressive stable of receivers.

If you were on Twitter during the first half of the Minnesota game, you would have thought the sky was falling. Not like that’s anything new for Buckeye Nation when the littlest thing goes wrong. Some people forgot this was the first start for C.J. Stroud at quarterback in college. As if that wasn’t enough, it was on the road in a Big Ten game. Stroud’s performance got better as the game went on, so I’m not that concerned. He’ll develop more of a rhythm with more snaps.

What Ohio State is going to have to do is make a decision on what they want to do with their running game. The best option would be to pair Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson. The combination of Williams’ physicality and Henderson’s speed will be tough for opposing defenses to get a hold on.

The performance of the Ohio State defense left some to be desired. Expect some improvement since not only will the three new starters at linebackers get more comfortable in the new roles, cornerbacks Sevyn Banks and Cam Brown will be back in the fold soon. Denzel Burke really stepped up in his first game as a Buckeye, which will help the depth going forward.

This isn’t quite the Oregon offense we saw under Chip Kelly or Mark Helfrich. The Ducks have some nice pieces, but I don’t think they are anything the Buckeyes can’t handle. It also doesn’t help the Ducks that the game starts at 9 AM PST. Not only can Oregon not risk coming out slow, Ohio State will be amped up with fans inside Ohio Stadium for the first time since 2019. The Buckeyes show they are definitely the third-best team in the country, and probably should be a spot higher.

Ohio State 45, Oregon 24