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MC&J: Week 1’s Big Ten slate sees Ohio State as a heavy favorite over Indiana

Plus picks for all the other games involving Big Ten teams that has a point spread set.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Michigan at Ohio State Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Week 0: 4-3

Picks for this week’s key national games can be found here.

B1G games:

Central Michigan v. Michigan State (-14.5) - Friday 9/1 7:00 p.m. - FS1

This game has the potential to be all kinds of gross. Both Central Michigan and Michigan State had their starting quarterbacks from last year hit the transfer portal, so both teams will be breaking in new quarterbacks. The Spartans also lost wide receiver Keon Coleman, who is now playing at Florida State.

At least Michigan State can lean on running backs Jalen Berger and UConn transfer Nathan Carter until they find an answer at quarterback between Noah Kim and Katin Houser. The Chippewas don’t have that luxury since running back Lew Nichols III is in the NFL now. Even though the Spartans are inexperienced, their superior talent will allow them to pull away from their in-state foe.

Michigan State 37, Central Michigan 17

East Carolina v. No. 2 Michigan (-35.5) - Saturday 9/2 12:00 p.m. - Peacock

Michigan will be without head coach Jim Harbaugh for this game because of a three-game suspension because of cheeseburgers or something like that. Not having that psychopath roaming the sidelines isn’t going to make a difference, since they’ll be taking on an East Carolina team that lost star quarterback Holton Ahlers and running back Keaton Mitchell from last year’s 8-5 team.

The Wolverines have destroyed the cupcake non-conference teams they have played early in the season over the last few years. I don’t see that changing in this matchup, especially since this Michigan team has the potential to be better than their 2021 and 2022 playoff squads. Laying more than five touchdowns seems like a lot but it feels like the right side for the Wolverines, who will be playing even harder for their suspended head coach.

Michigan 55, East Carolina 14

Utah State v. No. 25 Iowa (-23.5) - Saturday 9/2 12:00 p.m. - FS1

It’s going to be hilarious to see Brian Ferentz’s offense trying to hit the targets that have been set for him so he can keep his offensive coordinator job. Even if he doesn’t, it’s not like his dad is going to fire him; He’ll just reassign him to some other position. The season doesn’t sound like it’s going to get off to a great start for the Iowa offense, since Michigan transfer quarterback Cade McNamara is banged up and his availability is in question for the opener.

Utah State is going to have a tough time moving the football against a stout Iowa defense, but I feel like they’ll be able to put enough points on the board to stay within the spread. Blake Anderson is a solid coach and he’ll have his players ready to go, and it’s not like their defense is going to have to slow down an offensive juggernaut. Iowa by three touchdowns at most feels right.

Iowa 31, Utah State 10

Fresno State v. Purdue (-4.5) - Saturday 9/2 12:00 p.m. - Big Ten Network

Purdue opens up the Ryan Walters era by hosting Fresno State. Even though there has been a coaching change in West Lafayette, the offense of the Boilermakers should be fine since they used the transfer portal to bring in former Texas quarterback Hudson Card. Plus, Purdue found a little bit of a running game with Devin Mockobee last year, so it should keep opposing defenses on their toes.

Much like Purdue, Fresno State has to replace a quarterback, as Jake Haener is now in the NFL. Enter UCF transfer Mikey Keene, who brings more of a running element to the Bulldogs. Even though Keene has some experience and head coach Jeff Tedford has years of head coaching experience, I just don’t think Fresno State can stay within a touchdown in this game.

Purdue 35, Fresno State 23

Buffalo v. No. 19 Wisconsin (-27.5) - Saturday 9/2 3:30 p.m. - FS1

Luke Fickell’s first game in Madison will see his Badgers take on the Buffalo Bulls, who have held their own in the MAC over the last decade. Remember when the Bulls came to Columbus to open the season and Khalil Mack and company put a little scare into the Buckeyes? Buffalo doesn’t have a Mack on the roster but they have some solid defenders. Shaun Dolac is a tackling machine, defensive tackle Daymond Williams can clog the middle, and Marcus Fuqua will patrol the secondary.

It’s going to be impossible for Buffalo to keep pace with Wisconsin, though. Fickell will run more of a spread offense, and has the right man for the job as he brought in SMU transfer quarterback Tanner Mordecai. Oh yeah, the Badgers still have running back Braelon Allen, who is one of the best in the country. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly Wisconsin adjusts to the spread. I could see some growing pains against a tough Buffalo defense, but the Badgers won’t really be threatened in this one.

Wisconsin 38, Buffalo 14

West Virginia v. No. 7 Penn State (-20.5) - Saturday 9/2 7:30 p.m. - NBC

Opening the season at Penn State under the lights isn’t something you want if you are a head coach on the hot seat. Honestly, I’m surprised Neal Brown has lasted this long with the Mountaineers, but I guess if you aren’t anywhere near as troublesome as Bob Huggins then the athletic department will give you a little extra time to prove yourself.

After nearly five decades at quarterback, Sean Clifford is no longer at Penn State. The keys to the kingdom now go to Drew Allar, who was one of the top ranked quarterbacks coming out of high school. If Allar is anywhere near as good as advertised, Penn State could make a serious run at the Big Ten crown since the Nittany Lions have a lot returning on both sides of the football.

This is one of those games where I feel like the new clock rules aimed at shortening games could come into play. West Virginia is going to want to run the football and control the clock with running back CJ Donaldson. Because of that I could see West Virginia staying inside the number. It’s not like the Mountaineers don’t have talent, so that will help keep them from getting blown out.

Penn State 37, West Virginia 21

Toledo v. Illinois (-9.5) - 7:30 p.m. - Saturday 9/2 7:30 p.m. - Big Ten Network

Remember when Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn made a few plays against Ohio State and everyone thought he would be in high demand in the transfer portal. Well, Finn is still at Toledo, which has to make them favorites to repeat in the MAC.

Bret Bielema certainly has Illinois on the right track in the Big Ten West. There could be a bit of regression this year though because of the talent the Fighting Illini lost. Gone are stud running back Chase Brown and his brother Sydney, who was great at safety last season. Also, Illinois have a new quarterback in Ole Miss transfer Luke Altmyer.

This feels like a few too many points for an Illinois team that has to break in a lot of new pieces at key positions. Toledo is pretty solid on offense with Finn, so they should be able to find some holes in the defense of the Fighting Illini. Illinois survives a scare in Champaign.

Illinois 28, Toledo 24

Northwestern v. Rutgers (-6.5) - Sunday 9/3 12:00 p.m. - CBS

I know Rutgers is Rutgers but do you really want to support the dumpster fire that is Northwestern, who hasn’t won a game in the USA since 2021? If you do then you’re an even bigger sicko than me. Greg Schiano is going to coach circles around whatever scrub the Wildcats have leading the team.

I’m sure Northwestern is probably more interested in getting their Baylor on and letting people know how much they love their disgraced head coach than actually trying to do anything successful on the football field.

Rutgers 27, Northwestern 10

No. 4 Ohio State (-29.5) v. Indiana - Saturday 9/2 3:30 p.m. - CBS

Ohio State has national title aspirations this year, while it feels like the goal for Indiana is to stay out of the Big Ten East basement. The Buckeyes do have questions to answer at quarterback and offensive line, but the rest of the skill positions on offense are the best in the country. Want to load up to stop Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, and Cade Stover? Then TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams will gash you.

Indiana doesn’t return much on either side of the football this year, which isn’t what you want when going against a team like Ohio State. The Hoosiers did bring in Tennessee transfer quarterback Tayven Jackson, who is the brother of former Hoosier basketball player Trayce Jackson-Davis. While that’s a nice story, it’s going to be very tough for Jackson — or whoever starts at quarterback — to find success against Tommy Eichenberg, J.T. Tuimoloau, and the rest of the Ohio State defense.

The Buckeyes have won 27 straight games against Indiana. Last year Ohio State trounced the Hoosiers 56-14 in Columbus. Saturday’s game should look a lot like last year’s contest, except in better weather. There’s no reason the Buckeyes shouldn’t win this game by more than four touchdowns since they have a serious edge everywhere on the field.

Ohio State 51, Indiana 17