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MC&J: Picks for Ohio State-Notre Dame, Iowa-Penn State, and the rest of Week 4’s Big Ten action

Saturday night is going to be a treat with two ranked games involving Big Ten teams.

Syndication: Notre Dame Insider Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Last week ATS: 10-10 (3-4 National, 7-6 B1G)

Season ATS: 32-32 (12-18 National, 20-14 B1G)

Picks for the loaded Saturday outside the Big Ten can be found here.

B1G games:

Wisconsin (-6.5) v. Purdue - Friday 7:00 p.m. ET - FS1

Right now it feels like Wisconsin is trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. I get Luke Fickell wants to bring more of a spread offense to Madison, but maybe gradually try to work elements of it in instead of doing what they are doing now. The Badgers have two great running backs in Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi, yet Tanner Mordecai has attempted at least 30 passes in each of the first two games. It’s very puzzling.

The smart move for Fickell and Wisconsin this week would be to give the Boilers a heavy dose of Allen and Mellusi. Last week Syracuse ran for 270 yards in a 35-20 win over Purdue in West Lafayette. There’s no reason Wisconsin shouldn’t be able to do the same against a Purdue team that is struggling to find their identity on both sides of the football. Control the clock and wear the Boilermaker defense down and you should win by more than a touchdown.

Wisconsin 28, Purdue 17

Rutgers v. No. 2 Michigan (-23.5) - 12:00 p.m. ET - Big Ten Network

Before we start going too wild about Rutgers being 3-0, we need to remember who the Scarlet Knights beat. Two of those wins came against a couple terrible Power 5 teams, Northwestern and Virginia Tech. The other victory came against Temple, which is nothing to write home about. It’s hard to imagine Rutgers coming anywhere close to the 210 rushing yards they are averaging, as they’ll be going up against a stout Michigan rush defense.

Michigan’s first three games saw pretty vanilla performances from the Wolverines. I feel like we are going to get a more complete performance on Saturday now that they have their dear leader back on the sidelines. J.J. McCarthy doesn’t throw three picks in this game as Michigan turns things up a little now that they are in Big Ten play.

Michigan 41, Rutgers 14

Florida Atlantic v. Illinois (-13.5) - 3:30 p.m. ET - Big Ten Network

Illinois hasn’t looked good to start the season, which is to be somewhat expected after losing so much talent from last year’s team. This will be a game where the Fighting Illini get to kick around their opponent after getting kicked around the last two games. Florida Atlantic just lost former Texas and Nebraska quarterback Casey Thompson for the rest of the year to a torn ACL. Even with Thompson behind center the Owls weren’t all that good. Illinois gets an easy win on Saturday.

Illinois 37, Florida Atlantic 17

Maryland (-6.5) v. Michigan State - 3:30 p.m. ET - NBC

Even though Maryland is 3-0, there are some reasons for the Terrapins to be concerned. In their last two games Maryland has fallen behind early. Luckily for Mike Locksley’s team they were playing lesser competition, so they were able to regroup and earn easy wins. If Maryland keeps playing with fire they are going to eventually get burned.

Michigan State can’t play any worse than they did last week against Washington. Then again, the bar for that is on the floor. The Spartans have gone through a lot since the news about Mel Tucker broke. After getting kicked in the teeth by the Huskies last week, I think we see a lot better effort from Michigan State this week. Also, it’s tough to trust Maryland laying nearly a touchdown on the road against a team they aren’t a lot better than.

Maryland 28, Michigan State 24

Louisiana Tech v. Nebraska (-19.5) - 3:30 p.m. ET - Big Ten Network

Do you want to know how far Nebraska has fallen? If the Cornhuskers win on Saturday, it’ll be just the second time since 2018 they have won back-to-back games. Last week Nebraska had little trouble with Northern Illinois, and they should be able to handle a struggling Louisiana Tech team. Even though there are still concerns about the offense of the Cornhuskers, they should be able to dominate on both sides of the trenches, allowing them to make Saturday’s game look a lot like last week’s win over Northern Illinois.

Nebraska 38, Louisiana Tech 13

Akron v. Indiana (-17.5) - 7:30 p.m. ET - Big Ten Network

Indiana might not be quite as bad as we thought after seeing them against Ohio State. The Hoosiers didn’t fold last week against Louisville when the Cardinals jumped out to a lead. Tayven Jackson showed Indiana can throw the football a little bit, coming just a yard shy of 300 yards passing for the day. Jaylen Lucas is a threat both running and catching the football.

Meanwhile, Akron is only averaging 262 yards per game, and only beat Morgan State by a field goal a couple week ago. Laying so many points with the Hoosiers does worry me a little, luckily the Zips are one of the worst teams in the FBS. It’s going to be tough for Akron to even hit double digits on the scoreboard.

Indiana 33, Akron 7

Minnesota (-11.5) v. Northwestern - 7:30 p.m ET - Big Ten Network

Thankfully we have Ohio State-Notre Dame and Iowa-Penn State on at this time. This game is going to be brutal. These two teams have each only scored more than 14 points in a game once this year. Minnesota did it when they scored 25 points against Eastern Michigan, while Northwestern put 38 points on UTEP earlier in the day a couple week ago.

I know Minnesota is the better team, I just don’t think they deserve to be laying this many points on the road. Even though Northwestern is bad, they’ll play with some pride in Evanston and keep things close.

Minnesota 21, Northwestern 17

No. 24 Iowa v. No. 7 Penn State (-14.5) - 7:30 p.m. ET - CBS

Good thing Brian Ferentz got that late touchdown last week to pad Iowa’s offensive stats, since the Hawkeyes will have their backs against the wall under the lights in State College. Iowa struggled to get going last week against Western Michigan, which is something they can’t afford to do against a competent Nittany Lion offense. The good news for the Hawkeyes is Cade McNamara does have some experience playing in some hostile Big Ten environments.

Penn State has a scary balanced offense with Drew Allar at quarterback and running backs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen. One thing that does worry me a little here is Allar has only started a handful of games in his young career, and certainly hasn’t had to try and solve a defense like Iowa will throw at him. Luckily Allar and the rest of his team can feed of a raucous home crowd.

I think Iowa can weather a bit of an early fury from the Nittany Lions and settle into the game. The Hawkeyes don’t have quite enough to win this game, but they do make a few plays to keep things closer than the spread. Tory Taylor hits a few big punts putting Penn State deep in their own end and I could see Iowa forcing a couple turnovers to keep this game in the 7-10 point range.

Penn State 31, Iowa 20

No. 6 Ohio State (-3.5) v. No. 9 Notre Dame - 7:30 p.m. ET - NBC

Death, taxes, and Ohio State beating Notre Dame. The Buckeyes have won the last five meetings with the Fighting Irish, with all of those meetings seeing both teams ranked inside the AP Top 10 at kickoff. Ryan Day and his team have been building to this game. Even though they weren’t looking past their first three opponents, it was obvious they were ramping up to this game. Last week saw Ohio State put together their best performance of the year, destroying Western Kentucky 63-10.

The same can be said about Notre Dame, who has an extra game under their belt after their trip to Ireland to take on Navy to start the year. Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman is powering the offense of the Fighting Irish, which has scored at least 41 points in each of their first four contests. Hartman has loads of experience, which will help Notre Dame move the football better than they did last year in Columbus.

What is going to be the difference in this game is the skill position players. Ohio State has a few that are just a class above Audric Estime, Chris Tyree, and the rest of Notre Dame’s receivers. Kyle McCord has been better at quarterback with each game, and he has a natural connection with Marvin Harrison Jr. after the duo played on the same high school team. The Buckeyes have a little too much depth at running back and receiver for Notre Dame to match.

It’s not like Hartman is invincible, either. Denzel Burke has been playing at another level this year, while Sonny Styles has shown his tremendous athleticism. The defensive line of the Buckeyes has been pretty quiet this year, but this feels like a game where J.T. Tuimoloau turns up the heat a bit. Ohio State wins by at least a touchdown in a game where the result hangs in the balance in the second half.

Ohio State 34, Notre Dame 27