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Big Ten Week 8 Preview: Picks & The Points

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Last week featured the two most wild endings in conference play all season.  Michigan State stunned Michigan on the last play of the game.  Rutgers ruined the Hoosiers Homecoming, winning on a last second field goal and coming back from down 25 points.  We can only hope this week's slate of games brings close the same excitement.  Four Big Ten teams are on bye including Michigan, Iowa, Purdue and Minnesota.  While there are no marquee matchups, we are entering the midway point of conference action and the pretenders are starting to fade away.  Let's take a look at this week's action and remember, use the lines for legal means only.

Northwestern at Nebraska 12:00PM ESPN2

Line: Nebraska -7

Nebraska broke out last week against Minnesota and I believe are much better team than their record indicates.  Tommy Armstrong Jr is one of the best quarterbacks in the conference.  Northwestern's vaunted defense has fallen apart the past two weeks, surrendering a combined 71 points to Michigan and  Iowa the past two weeks. Northwestern simply does not have the offensive firepower to keep up with the Cornhuskers.  Nebraska has shown a good balance on offense and should finally get coach Mike Riley an easy win at home.

Prediction: Nebraska wins easy 31-10

Wisconsin at Illinois 3:30PM BTN

Line: Wisconsin -6

Wisconsin won in unimpressive fashion last week against Purdue, winning 24-7.  Running back Corey Clement is getting close to returning and may see some action tomorrow.  Quarterback Joel Stave has been competent enough and the Wisconsin defense has continued to be solid.  Illinois is coming off a bye week, which was preceded by their dramatic last second win over Nebraska.  Star receiver Mikey Dudek is officially out of for the season, depriving quarterback Wes Lunt his favorite target.  I think the Illini will have trouble moving the ball on the Badgers, even with two weeks to prepare.

Prediction: Wisconsin wins soundly, 28-13

Penn State at Maryland 3:30 ESPN

Line: Penn State -6

It is the debut for Maryland interim head coach Mike Locksley, who replaced Randy Edsall, who was fired going into the bye week.  Penn State is coming in after a tough loss to Ohio State and are looking to get back on track.  I think the difference in this game will be star freshman Saquon Barkley, who rushed for 194 yards on 7.5 yards per carry against the Buckeyes.  If Urban's Army can't stop him on the ground, why should we think that Maryland could? Even with two weeks for Locksley to reorganize his Terrapins, it won't be enough to take down James Franklin's team.  Although it pains me to say that, after a spirited effort by Maryland, Barkley runs away with the game for Penn State.

Prediction: Penn State pulls away 31-17

Indiana at Michigan State 3:30 PM ESPN2

Line: Michigan State -15

Michigan State is riding the high of their wild win against Michigan in the Big House.  Indiana is still recovering from last week's collapse against Rutgers, blowing a 25 point lead late in the 3rd quarter, on Homecoming no less.  It's asking a lot for the Hoosiers to pick up the pieces and be competitive in East Lansing.  The Spartans were on the brink of having their championship hopes dashed, only to recover the fumbled snap on the punt.  Connor Cook played well against the tough Michigan defense and should have a field day against the Indiana secondary.  Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld always gives Indiana a chance, but there will be too much for him to overcome against a rejuvenated Michigan State squad.

Prediction: Spartans roll 45-24

Ohio State at Rutgers 8:00PM ABC

Line: Ohio State -21.5

Rutgers plays well at home in night games in recent memory. That doesn't mean they will be close to perfect, but after everything this team has been through, their confidence is at an all-time high. The crowd will be pumped up at the start, thus Rutgers needing to play well in the opening quarter to build momentum. Honestly, all I am asking for is Rutgers to keep it close and be within striking distance of Ohio State entering the 4th quarter. Injuries could be a major problem for Rutgers, as five starters are listed as questionable this week. I do think most will play and the team will represent well. J.T. Barrett scares me and we could be catching the Buckeyes at the wrong time, as they could be peaking now that he is the primary quarterback. All that being said, Vegas and advances stats favor Ohio State by three touchdowns.  I think home field advantage is worth something for Rutgers and they beat the odds.  We know Ohio State will score on our defense, it's a matter of how close our offense can keep it. I think they do keep it close, only to see the Buckeyes put it away late.

Prediction: Ohio State 42 Rutgers 31

Head to Head Results: Last week 6-0; Season 64-11

Season Against The Spread: Last week 5-1; Season 35-32-1