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MC&J: Week 5’s schedule in the Big Ten is downright terrible

There honestly isn’t one game on Saturday’s slate involving a Big Ten team that is remotely interesting.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Last week ATS: 8-9 (5-3 National, 3-6 B1G)

Season ATS: 40-41 (17-21 National, 23-20 B1G)

This week’s national action is a lot more easier on the eyes than what the Big Ten has to offer. You can find my picks for this week’s important games outside the conference here.

B1G games

No. 6 Penn State (-27.5) v. Northwestern - 12:00 p.m. ET - Big Ten Network

We actually saw some signs of life out of Northwestern last week! After trailing Minnesota 31-10 early in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats scored 21 unanswered points, tying the game with two seconds left in regulation when A.J. Henning caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ben Bryant. Bryce Kirtz was a monster in the game, as the wide receiver hauled in 10 passes for 215 yards and two scores.

Penn State absolutely dominated Iowa last week. The Nittany Lions only gave up four first downs and 76 yards to the anemic offense of the Hawkeyes. There are times when a trip to Evanston can be worrisome, but this doesn’t feel like one of those occasions since the weather sounds like it is going to be good for Saturday afternoon’s contest. Penn State is no Minnesota, so when the Nittany Lions jump out on Northwestern, they won’t fold up late in the game like the Golden Gophers did. Drew Allar and the offense cruise, while the Penn State defense puts up another strong performance.

Penn State 41, Northwestern 10

Louisiana v. Minnesota (-11.5) - 12:00 p.m. ET - Big Ten Network

You have to wonder after last week’s collapse against Northwestern if P.J. Fleck is calling the Michigan State athletic department hourly to let the Spartans know he is interested in their head coaching job. Aside from Darius Taylor, who has rushed for 190 yards in two of the last three games, there isn’t much about Minnesota to write home about. The Golden Gophers aren’t the worst team in the Big Ten West, but they also aren’t the best. They are just there.

In this game, it feels like if the Ragin’ Cajuns score a couple touchdowns, Minnesota could be in trouble since they have a tough time putting points on the board. Even though Louisiana hasn’t played anyone up to the caliber of Minnesota, the Ragin’ Cajuns are cooking on offense, averaging nearly 480 yards per game. This feels like a few too many points for a Minnesota team to be laying when they are struggling to find their identity.

Minnesota 28, Louisiana 24

No. 2 Michigan (-17.5) v. Nebraska - 3:30 p.m. ET - FOX

Has Michigan looked like the best team in the country so far this year? No. The Wolverines has handled their business easily, though. Through four games this season Michigan is outscoring their opponents 127-23. It feels like the offense of the Wolverines hasn’t quite reached their full potential yet. Blake Corum has rushed for at least 70 yards in each game this season, picking up some of the slack for Donovan Edwards, who is only averaging 3.3 yards per carry.

Heinrich Haarberg looks to have taken over at quarterback after Georgia Tech transfer Jeff Sims failed to impress in the first couple games of the season. While Haarberg has given Nebraska more of a running threat that worked against Northern Illinois and Louisiana Tech, it is hard to see it going as well against a tough Michigan defense. Even though this will be the first road game of the year for the Wolverines, I think we see the most complete performance of the year from Jim Harbaugh’s team.

Michigan 34, Nebraska 13

Indiana v. Maryland (-14.5) - 3:30 p.m. ET - Big Ten Network

It’s fitting that after I said some nice things about the Hoosiers and thought they would be able to easily handle Akron, Indiana ends up needing four overtimes to beat the Zips. Tayven Jackson had some growing pains in the win, completing just 11-of-26 passes. Jaylin Lucas was pretty much invisible in the contest, rushing 13 times for just 43 yards. If the Hoosiers have any hope of sniffing .500 this year, they’ll need more from both players.

On the other side, I had some doubts about Maryland against Michigan State. The Terrapins made me eat my words, easily defeating the Spartans in East Lansing. Maryland didn’t even play all that well offensively against Michigan State, and they still had no problem winning. It feels like the Terrapins have just too much firepower on offense for Indiana to keep pace with. Unlike Louisville, who let the Hoosiers hang around a few weeks ago, Maryland will put nails in the coffin when it comes time.

Maryland 37, Indiana 17

Illinois v. Purdue (-1.5) - 3:30 p.m. ET - Peacock

Both these teams had to figure they’d be better this season than what they have showed. Illinois somehow fell behind Florida Atlantic 10-0 in the first quarter before rallying to win 23-17. Despite only scoring 23 points, the Fighting Illini offense showed some signs of life, rolling up 510 yards of offense. A couple fumbles kept Illinois from winning by more than six points.

Purdue looked pretty lethargic in a 38-17 loss to Wisconsin last week. The Boilermakers fell behind 21-3 in the second quarter and were able to cut the deficit to 27-17 before the Badgers put the game away for good. Oddly enough, Purdue out-gained Wisconsin but were done in by three turnovers.

These two teams are pretty similar statistically, I just feel like Illinois is closer to finding themselves than Purdue is right now. Last week we saw the running game of the Fighting Illini get going a bit, which takes some pressure off quarterback Luke Altmyer. Give me the team showing some signs of life over a Purdue squad that is lost right now.

Illinois 27, Purdue 20

Michigan State v. Iowa (-12.5) - 7:30 p.m. ET - NBC

This game is going to be the most brutal thing NBC has aired since The Paul Reiser Show. We don’t even have an idea of who will be playing for Michigan State since players have 30 days to enter the transfer portal after the firing of Mel Tucker. Then again, there might not be many players other teams are interested in, especially after seeing the Spartans get smashed the last two weeks by Washington and Maryland in East Lansing.

Saturday night’s offensive performance in State College was bad even for Iowa’s standards. If Kirk Ferentz had any guts, he would have told Brian Ferentz to walk back to Iowa City. Some teams can get four first downs on a drive. Iowa had four first downs THE WHOLE GAME. Now Cade McNamara is blaming everyone but himself for how bad the Iowa offense has been.

As bad as Michigan State has been this year, it is so tough to trust Iowa laying almost two touchdowns. Maybe the Spartans will play a little better away from home now that the Tucker situation has been finalized. I just have to take the points in a game that has the potential to set football back a few decades.

Iowa 23, Michigan State 14