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MC&J: Michigan-Wisconsin, Indiana-Penn State, Ohio State-Rutgers, and the rest of Week 5’s Big Ten action

The action is starting to heat up around the conference as the calendar is turning to October. Picks for the eight games involving Big Ten teams this week.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Last week ATS: 11-4 (5-1 National, 6-3 B1G)

Season ATS: 33-28-2 (15-10 National, 18-18-2 B1G)

Last week was definitely more of the type of picks that MC&J wants to provide you with. We rebounded in a big way, and the week almost was capped off with a perfect score prediction. Had the Akron wide receiver held onto the football late in the game, we would have seen Ohio State win 59-14 instead of 59-7. Not only would the score have been spot-on, that would have shifted the week’s record to 7-2 in the Big Ten. Even with the loss, we still were able to get back to even in conference.

B1G games (All games Saturday unless otherwise noted):

No. 5 Iowa (-3.5) v. Maryland - Friday 10/1 8:00 PM EST - FS1

Beating West Virginia, Illinois, and Kent State is one thing. Beating Iowa is a whole different story. The Terrapins have to be hoping to catch Iowa off-guard with a Friday game. While the crowd in College Park will probably be rocking, it’s not going to make much of a difference. Just think back to a few weeks ago when Illinois was almost able to beat Maryland on a Friday night.

Iowa’s offense leaves plenty to be desired. The Hawkeyes aren’t even averaging 300 yards per game of offense this year. It doesn’t really matter that much though when you have a defense as good as what Iowa trots out. The Hawkeyes haven’t allowed more than 17 points this year, and haven’t allowed more than 24 points in a pretty ridiculous span.

If this spread saw Maryland as a touchdown or more underdog, I’d probably go with the Terrapins here. Even though Taulia Tagovailoa has found chemistry with wide receivers Dontay Demus Jr. and Rakim Jarrett, they’ll have a tough time finding much success against one of the toughest defenses in the nation. The Hawkeyes put together a strong performance to keep them undefeated ahead of next week’s clash with Penn State.

Iowa 23, Maryland 14

No. 14 Michigan v. Wisconsin (-1.5) - 12:00 PM EST - FOX

This normally would be the perfect situation for a bounce-back game for Wisconsin. There is a big reason I just can’t bank on it happening. Graham Mertz. For being one of the most highly-touted quarterbacks in the country coming out of high school, Mertz hasn’t coming anywhere close to meeting those expectations. In watching last week’s game against Notre Dame, while it looked like a struggle for Mertz to even complete a pass to one of his teammates, he didn’t have any issue completing passes to the Fighting Irish defenders.

Michigan looked like they were about to run away from Rutgers last week, jumping out to a 20-3 lead. Then the Wolverines realized they were getting closer to October, when they traditionally turn back into a pumpkin. Even though the Wolverines have documented struggles when the calendar turns to October, you can’t deny that they do have a nasty defense.

This isn’t the same Wisconsin team that we have become used to. Penn State has already come into Madison and beat the Badgers, so it’s not like Wisconsin is invincible at Camp Randall. I know it’s probably a trap to take Michigan here, I just can’t trust Graham Mertz against the Michigan defense. The Badgers can’t run the football like they used to, which will put even more pressure on Mertz, which will play right into the hands of Michigan. The Wolverines win a game that won’t be pretty to watch.

Michigan 21, Wisconsin 13

Charlotte v. Illinois (-11) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network

Charlotte started off their season by beating Duke, which is their biggest win to date as an FBS team. The 49ers have a solid offense that is averaging nearly 450 yards per game. There is no reason why they can’t move the football on an Illinois defense that is giving up over 300 yards per game through the air, and 448 yards per game of total offense.

Illinois wins this game, but you’re crazy if you have any faith in the Fighting Illini to win this game by double-digits. Bret Bielema really could use a win here. If Illinois can’t beat Charlotte, there’s a very real possibility that Bielema is only able to earn one victory in his first season as head coach of the Fighting Illini. This will be the fourth Illinois game that is decided by seven points or less this year, and the first one they win.

Illinois 35, Charlotte 31

Minnesota v. Purdue (-2.5) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network

Plenty of people are burying Minnesota after their loss to Bowling Green last week. It’s hard to blame them, since it’s not like Bowling Green is anywhere close to one of the top teams in the MAC. Tanner Morgan is getting a lot of criticism for his performance last week after completing just five passes and throwing two interceptions in the loss.

Imagine where Purdue would stand if they win this weekend. 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten with a bye week before they head to Iowa. Of course since the Boilermakers are knocking on the door of success, that’s why I think they are going to end up losing to the Golden Gophers.

Minnesota isn’t as bad as they showed last weekend. I’m sure P.J. Fleck lit into his team all week, which will result in a better performance this week. Treyson Potts runs for at least 100 yards for a fourth straight game, while Morgan throws a couple touchdown passes. Purdue struggles passing the football, as they can’t break big plays against the Golden Gophers like Ohio State did in the season opener.

Minnesota 27, Purdue 20

Western Kentucky v. No. 17 Michigan State (-10.5) - 7:30 PM EST - FS1

How much did the close loss to Indiana take out of the Hilltoppers? Western Kentucky gave Indiana all they could handle last week and still came up a couple points short. Now the Hilltoppers have to hit the road to take on a Michigan State team that survived in overtime against Nebraska last Saturday.

Bailey Zappe threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns last week, and in three games this season has 13 touchdown passes. Zappe is going to be in for a bit of a rude awakening against a stout Michigan State defense. The Spartans aren’t going to give Zappe as much time to throw as Indiana did last week, which will result in some turnovers that will allow Michigan State to get off the field.

While Indiana preferred to do most of their damage through the air last week, expect Michigan State to keep things on the ground. Kenneth Walker III will keep his strong start to the season rolling, rushing for over 150 yards and scoring a couple rushing touchdowns. I see the Spartans pulling away after halftime as they use their running game and a strong defense to wear out the Hilltoppers, who just don’t have the horses to keep up with Michigan State.

Michigan State 41, Western Kentucky 24

Northwestern v. Nebraska (-11.5) - 7:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network

This game is usually one of the dumbest games during the college football season. Since the schools started meeting annually in 2011, only two of the 10 games have been decided by more than 10 points. Nebraska has looked somewhat competent the last couple weeks, which will only make this week’s dumpster fire even more hilarious.

Even though I’m not a big fan of Northwestern, this feels like one of those games that a Pat Fitzgerald team grits out a win in, or at the very least gives the Cornhuskers all kinds of headaches. Ask yourself, do you have any sort of confidence that Nebraska can win this game by 12 or more? If you do you are a lot bolder than I am.

Nebraska 24, Northwestern 17

Indiana v. No. 4 Penn State (-13) - 7:30 PM EST - ABC

You have to imagine that James Franklin is going to be out for blood in this game, especially after how last year’s season opener against the Hoosiers went in Bloomington. The Nittany Lions have surprised a lot of people (myself included) with how they’ve started the season. I knew Jahan Dotson was talented, I just wasn’t expecting Sean Clifford to be as good as he has been through four games. Then again, I guess when you’ve played college football for 46 years like Clifford has, you better be good.

I know it was unrealistic to expect Indiana to be as good as they were last year, I just wasn’t expecting them to struggle so much. Getting destroyed by Iowa wasn’t much of a surprise. What has happened since then has been. The Hoosiers fell apart against Cincinnati and then barely beat Western Kentucky. Michael Penix Jr. has already thrown six interceptions this year, which isn’t a good sign when going into a game against a very strong Penn State defense.

Not that the Nittany Lions needed any help in this game, but a game under the lights in State College just hits different for Penn State. We saw it a few weeks ago when they beat Auburn, and we’ll see it again on Saturday night. With a trip to Iowa on the schedule next week, expect a complete performance from the Nittany Lions to add even more hype to the showdown with the Hawkeyes.

Penn State 38, Indiana 21

No. 11 Ohio State (-15) v. Rutgers - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network

It’s pretty tough to get a true read on this game since we still don’t know who will be the starting quarterback for Ohio State on Saturday afternoon. At least whoever ends up starting for the Buckeyes will have plenty of weapons at their disposal. After rushing for 277 yards against Tulsa, TreVeyon Henderson got in some light work last week before letting some of those further on the depth chart see some action.

There was plenty of rotation at wide receiver last week as well, with 10 Buckeyes recording a catch. Garrett Wilson led Ohio State with 124 yards, while Jaxon Smith-Nijgba recorded a team-high five catches. The rotation will likely tighten up this week. One Buckeye who should be itching for a big performance is Chris Olave, who only caught two passes last week after getting shutout against Tulsa.

Props to Rutgers for not packing it in last week against Michigan after falling behind 20-3. We saw the same type of resiliency last year in Columbus in the second half when the Scarlet Knights actually outscored Ohio State by 10 points. Ryan Day knows that if his team gets Rutgers on the ropes, they have to finish the job since the Scarlet Knights are going to keep coming back at the Buckeyes. That type of mental toughness is what makes this game so hard to predict.

It sounds like C.J. Stroud is trending towards starting this week, which has me confident in Ohio State. The Buckeyes have already hit the road in conference with Stroud as the starter and beat Minnesota in the first game of the season. Even though Rutgers tries harder, I don’t think they are better than Minnesota. Michigan had Rutgers on the ropes last week, the Wolverines just couldn’t pull away. I don’t think we see the same issues from Ohio State if they are in a similar position. Even though there are still concerns with the defense, I just don’t think Rutgers has the talent to exploit some of those problems.

Ohio State 37, Rutgers 17