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MC&J: Ohio State looks to rebound, Auburn-Penn State, Cincinnati-Indiana, plus more Big Ten action

Plenty of notable games involving Big Ten teams are on the schedule this week. MC&J has you covered with picks for all 10 games.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Last week ATS: 6-10 (3-3 National 3-7 B1G)

Season ATS: 15-16-1 (7-6 National, 8-10-1 B1G)

Last week there wasn’t a lot that went right for MC&J. At least we were able to go .500 in the national picks to cushion the terrible week around the Big Ten. Hopefully like the Buckeyes this week, MC&J is able to get back on the winning track.

B1G games:

Maryland (-7.5) v. Illinois - Friday 9:00 PM EST - FS1

After opening the season with a win over Nebraska, Illinois has fallen on their face in the last two games. Last week, the Fighting Illini were torched by Virginia, as the Cavaliers threw for over 400 yards and five touchdowns in the blowout. Now Illinois will have to try and slow down Taulia Tagovailoa, who has already passed for 606 yards and six touchdowns in the first two games of the season.

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of laying a touchdown and the hook with the Terrapins on the road. Luckily it’s against Illinois, so it makes this a little easier to stomach. It’s obvious that Bret Bielema has a lot of work to do in Champaign. Things will get even trickier for Illinois, since Brandon Peters will return as starting quarterback after missing the last two games because of injury. Maryland is definitely more settled at quarterback, which will lead to more crisp offense from the Terrapins.

Maryland 38, Illinois 24

Nebraska v. No. 3 Oklahoma (-22.5) - 12:00 PM EST - FOX

One of the most storied rivalries in college football will be renewed for the next two seasons. Unfortunately, one of the schools isn’t anywhere close to where they used to stand. Nebraska is desperately looking to be something else besides the laughingstock of the Big Ten. After losing their season opener to Illinois, the Cornhuskers have rebounded with wins over Fordham and Buffalo to give them a tiny bit of confidence heading into their showdown with the Sooners.

Oklahoma is the third-ranked team in the country, but everyone aside from Oklahoma fans knows that is a little bit high. While Spencer Rattler is a tremendous quarterback, Oklahoma’s problem is a lot like what is plaguing Ohio State right now — the defense sucks. That’s why I at least like Nebraska to stay within the number in Norman. I don’t think Oklahoma is at risk of an upset, I just don’t think they will be able to keep Adrian Martinez from scoring enough points to keep this game within three touchdowns.

Oklahoma 45, Nebraska 28

No. 8 Cincinnati (-4) v. Indiana - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN

This really might be the most important two-game stretch in the history of the Cincinnati football program. The Bearcats travel to Bloomington on Saturday to take on the Hoosiers, then in two weeks return to Indiana to battle Notre Dame in South Bend. If Luke Fickell’s team is able to win both games, it will be hard to deny the Bearcats a spot in the College Football Playoff if they go undefeated the rest of the way.

Even though Indiana looked dreadful against Iowa, the loss might not be as bad as originally thought after seeing the Hawkeyes take it to Iowa State in Ames last week. Last week’s easy victory against Idaho at least allowed the Hoosiers to gain a little bit of confidence back after their loss in the season opener.

We all want to see Luke Fickell succeed after all that he has given to Ohio State over the years. The problem here is Indiana is so weird, so I’ve just learned to expect shenanigans when it comes to Hoosier football. The Indiana defense is good, and the Cincinnati offense hasn’t really played anybody yet. I think the Hoosiers can force Desmond Ridder into a few mistakes, which will give Michael Penix Jr., Stephen Carr, and the rest of the Indiana offense a little momentum. As much as I hate to say it, Indiana upsets Cincinnati.

Indiana 30, Cincinnati 27

Michigan State v. No. 24 Miami (FL) (-6.5) - 12:00 PM EST - ABC

The wrong team is favored here. Alright, maybe Miami should be favored, but it shouldn’t be by nearly a touchdown. More like a field goal sounds right. Michigan State has found a running game with Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker, as well as solid quarterback play thanks to sophomore Peyton Thorne, who has five touchdown passes already this year.

Miami wanted you to think they were “back” before the season. The Hurricanes are not back. D’Eriq King is a nice quarterback, the problem is things haven’t clicked so far in 2021. A lot of that can be attributed to playing Alabama in the season opener. Miami barely squeaked by Appalachian State last week, needing a field goal with just about two minutes to go to secure the victory.

Much like the season opener when they were an underdog to Northwestern, I think the Spartans head home with a victory. While the Hurricanes have better athletes, I think Michigan State has a more complete team. The Spartans pressure King all game long, which is key to the “upset”.

Michigan State 28, Miami (FL) 24

Northern Illinois v. No. 25 Michigan (-27.5) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network

Can Rocky Lombardi beat the Wolverines in consecutive years at two different schools? No. Last year the former Michigan State quarterback threw for 323 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Michigan, so he has some experience at beating the Wolverines. The problem is, Michigan is better than what Lombardi saw last season.

The Wolverines are coming off a win over Washington last week, and next week take on Rutgers in their Big Ten opener. It could be easy for them to overlook the Huskies a little bit this week. Not enough to where the game is in doubt in the fourth quarter, but I don’t think this will be a four touchdown Michigan win. Both teams will look to run the football, which will help to shorten the game and keep the Wolverines from completely blowing out Northern Illinois.

Michigan 41, Northern Illinois 17

Minnesota v. Colorado (-3) - 1:00 PM EST - Pac-12 Network

Both Minnesota and Colorado have taken on top-10 teams at home this year and fallen short. Last week the Buffaloes nearly upset Texas A&M 10-7 in Boulder, while Minnesota fell to Ohio State 45-31 two weeks ago. The Golden Gophers suffered a big loss in the season opener when running back Mohamed Ibrahim was lost for the rest of the year due to injury. Treyson Potts lessened the blow the injury last week when he ran for 178 yards in the win over Miami (OH).

I feel like Texas A&M would have had an easier time against Colorado last week if Haynes King hadn’t gotten injured early in the game. Minnesota has a veteran starting quarterback in Tanner Morgan, an experienced offensive line, and a solid defense. Even though Minnesota’s performance against the RedHawks left a lot to be desired, I think they are the better team here.

Minnesota 24, Colorado 17

Purdue v. No. 12 Notre Dame (-7.5) - 2:30 PM EST - NBC

Notre Dame hasn’t been able to put away opponents in their first two games of the season. First the Fighting Irish blew a big lead against Florida State, who just lost to Jacksonville State. Then last week, Notre Dame was on the ropes against Toledo. If the Fighting Irish let Purdue hang around this week, Brian Kelly might be trying to make another unfunny joke after the game.

After beating Oregon State in their season opener, the Boilermakers enjoyed a bit of a break last week when they went and played at UConn last week. Jack Plummer has already thrown six touchdowns this year, with three of them going to David Bell. The biggest X-factor for Purdue is going to be how much pressure George Karlaftis is able to put on Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan.

It’s probably a bit of wishful thinking to think that Purdue is going to beat Notre Dame. I don’t care, I’m going to get a little crazy here. Even if the Boilermakers don’t win, I think the Fighting Irish have to deal with another game that comes down to the wire.

Purdue 34, Notre Dame 30

Kent State v. No. 5 Iowa (-23) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network

Kent State actually played Texas A&M pretty tough in their season opener, heading into halftime trailing 10-3 before the Aggies outscored them 31-7 in the second half. The Golden Flashes love to run the football and are averaging 360 yards per game on the ground this year. The problem is the Hawkeyes are great at defending the run, giving up just 82 yards rushing per game.

This feels like a game that Iowa is going to sleepwalk through. The Hawkeyes are coming off wins against Indiana and Iowa State, so it would be understandable if they are a little sluggish this week after two tough games. If the Golden Flashes are able to get a couple touchdowns, it feels like it would be hard for the Hawkeyes to outscore them by 24 points. Iowa wins by somewhere in the 14-21 point range.

Iowa 37, Kent State 17

No. 22 Auburn v. No. 10 Penn State (-5) - 7:30 PM EST - ABC

Things are about to get real for Bryan Harsin at Auburn. The new head coach of the Tigers was able to feast on Akron and Alabama State in his first two games at Auburn. Bo Nix has thrown for five touchdowns so far this season, while Jarquez Hunter and Tank Bigsby each have over 200 yards rushing through two games.

I still don’t care all that much for Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford. Then again you can get away with being pretty mediocre if you can just find Jahan Dotson deep a couple times again, since it seems like nobody around college football can figure out how to cover the Penn State wide receiver on deep passes.

There are a couple reasons I like Penn State here. The defense of the Nittany Lions is nasty, and will give Bo Nix and the Auburn offense fits. Add in how wild the whiteout crowd will be inside Beaver Stadium on Saturday night to what Nix and company will be tasked with trying to overcome. Ohio State fans know just how hard it is to win under the lights in State College. Saturday night Auburn finds out just how much of a challenge it is.

Penn State 28, Auburn 20

Tulsa v. No. 9 Ohio State (-24.5) - 3:30 PM EST - FS1

Since the lost to Oregon last week felt a lot like Ohio State’s loss to Virginia Tech in 2014, maybe we should revisit what the Buckeyes did the week after losing to the Hokies. Ohio State beat Kent State 66-0 in Columbus. Nobody is really expecting Ohio State to go all rout 66 on Tulsa, but we should see a more complete performance out of the Buckeyes this week.

Obviously the defense has been a concern dating back to last year. While we aren’t sure what type of changes Ryan Day is making when it comes to what Kerry Coombs is doing, we should see a better performance out of the group. One reason for optimism against Tulsa is at least the Buckeyes won’t have to face quite as good of an offensive line as they saw in the first two weeks of the season against Minnesota and Oregon. Because the Golden Gophers and Ducks were so good at keeping pressure out of the backfield, it put more pressure on the linebackers and secondary to make plays, which didn’t happen.

The one thing that has been good so far this season for Ohio State has been C.J. Stroud. There have been some blips at times, but you’re going to have that with a quarterback that will be making just his third start in college. Last week Stroud found his rhythm after a slow start and finished with 484 yards passing and three touchdowns. The Buckeyes saw three receivers go over the 100-yard mark in a game for the first time in school history.

Ohio State is going to come out angry in this game. The Buckeyes don’t lose very much, and when they do they usually find a way to respond in a big way. The defense has been hearing how bad they have been, so expect to see a stronger effort from the group. There’s no reason a game against a team that lost to UC Davis should be close. If it is, Ohio State has even more problems than they want to admit.

Ohio State 52, Tulsa 21