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MC&J: Penn State and Michigan clash in Week 7’s Big Ten action

The ranked battle between the Nittany Lions and Wolverines headline this week’s five-game schedule in the conference.

Northwestern v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Last week ATS: 6-8 (3-3 B1G, 3-5 National)

Season ATS: 46-54-3 (24-28-1 B1G, 22-25-2 National)

Yesterday’s picks for the best games of this week’s loaded national schedule can be found here.

B1G games:

(All lines courtesy of Draftkings Sportsbook.)

No. 10 Penn State v. No. 4 Michigan (-7) - 12:00 p.m. - FOX

Michigan finally gets to play a real team! The Wolverines have been able to get fat on cupcakes in their first six games this season. When your best win after half the season is Maryland, that should tell you that Michigan hasn’t play anyone of note. What will be interesting in this game is to see how the Wolverine defense will hold up against Penn State. Michigan lost a lot of starters from last year’s team, but they have been able to hide some of the youth because of their easy schedule.

Unlike Michigan, Penn State has faced a couple tests this season, and passed them all so far. The Nittany Lions have already gone on the road and earned a tough win to start the season, and a couple weeks later went down to a hostile environment at Auburn and routed the Tigers. Quarterback Sean Clifford is plenty experienced, which has helped him deal with some young wide receivers.

If I was truly picking a side in this game, I’d be rooting for the meteor to win. If these teams want to pick each other apart, that would be great since the Buckeyes have to travel to State College in a couple weeks before hosting Michigan next month. As great as it would be to see Michigan come to Columbus 11-0, this week we are going to get weird and pick a Penn State win.

Penn State 27, Michigan 24

Minnesota (-6.5) v. No. 24 Illinois - 12:00 p.m. - BTN

The Golden Gophers looked like they were cruising towards a Big Ten West crown with how well there were playing. Then Mohamed Ibrahim didn’t play two weeks ago against Purdue. That wasn’t fun to find out as somebody who has Ibrahim in college fantasy football. Minnesota looked lost without Ibrahim, losing to the Boilermakers 20-10. Luckily for the Gophers, it sounds like Ibrahim will be available to play this week after Minnesota was off this past week.

There might not be a team more improved this year than Illinois. After getting Paul Chryst fired two weeks ago, the Fighting Illini gutted out a 9-6 over Iowa last week. If only Illinois hadn’t blew their second game of the season against Indiana, Bret Bielema’s team would have some distance from the rest of the Big Ten West.

This isn’t going to be a pretty game to watch. It feels like this game needs some nasty weather to make it even more Big Ten than it already is. At least this game won’t be quite as ugly to watch as Iowa-Illinois last week. Both defenses have given up very little this year, which will make it fun to watch Ibrahim and Illinois running back Chase Brown try and find room to operate. Minnesota wins in a game that is decided by a field goal.

Minnesota 20, Illinois 17

Maryland (-11.5) v. Indiana - 3:30 p.m. - ESPN2

Maryland has a lot of nice pieces on offense with quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, Roman Hemby at running back and Rakim Jarrett at wide receiver. Even with all those weapons, the Terrapins seem like they can never play normal games in the Big Ten. Just look at last week against Purdue, where they had a lead on the Boilermakers in the fourth quarter and blew it.

After starting the season 3-0, Indiana has lost their last three games. At least last week against Michigan, the Hoosiers looked somewhat competent for a half of football. Connor Bazelak has already thrown the football almost 300 times this year, but has formed a nice relationship with Cam Camper, who has 35 catches this season.

Even though Maryland is the better team, I just can’t trust the Terrapins to go on the road laying 11.5 points. The Hoosiers might have gained a little confidence by taking Michigan to half tied last week, and I expect at least some of that to carry over to this game. Indiana losing by 7-10 points here feels right.

Maryland 34, Indiana 24

Wisconsin (-7.5) v. Michigan State - 4:00 p.m. - FOX

After firing Paul Chryst, we saw a lot better Wisconsin team last week. While it doesn’t hurt that the Badgers were playing Northwestern, the win could be a springboard to a strong finish to the season. Wisconsin still has a stud in running back Braelon Allen, and they might have found an emerging star at wide receiver. Chimere Dike caught 10 passes for 185, hauling in three of Graham Mertz’s five touchdown passes in the game against the Wildcats.

Michigan State was a train wreck before last week’s game against Ohio State, but the 49-20 loss to the Buckeyes only highlighted just how far things have fallen in a year in East Lansing. The Spartans are struggling to find a running game, putting more pressure on quarterback Payton Thorne, which he hasn’t been able to handle.

It’s really hard to see Michigan State turning things around and being competitive in this game. Mertz and Dike could be in line for another big game against a bad Spartan pass defense. If the duo are hitting again, it will open up more holes for Allen on the ground. Michigan State won’t be able to keep pace since they’ll have a tough time finding any success against a tough Badger defense.

Wisconsin 31, Michigan State 14

Nebraska v. Purdue (-14) - 7:30 p.m. - BTN

How far the mighty have fallen. Nebraska has resorted to celebrating wins over Rutgers. The Cornhuskers barely survived the trip to New Jersey, beating the Scarlet Knights 14-13 last Friday. Even though Nebraska has now won their last two games under interim head coach Mickey Joseph, there’s not much to like about this team. Casey Thompson looks very average at quarterback, while the defense is still a mess.

Purdue is just a weird team, man. At least last week was the first time this year I have been on the right side of a Boilermakers game. Not like Purdue didn’t make me sweat for the win, though. Aidan O’Connell threw for 360 yards and a couple touchdowns in the 31-29 win, with Payne Durham being his preferred target. The tight end caught seven passes for 109 yards.

When I first saw this line I was heavily considering taking the Cornhuskers to cover. The more I looked at this game, the more I like the Boilermakers. We saw how bad the Nebraska defense is earlier in the year. O’Connell and the Purdue offense should have a big game against a pass defense that is allowing 263 yards per game. The Boilermakers win their third game in a row before traveling to Madison next week.

Purdue 45, Nebraska 27

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.