Last week's conference action was highlighted by Northwestern's 30-28 win at Nebraska and the return of J.T.Barrett as the starting quarterback of Ohio State. We don't need to go into more detail than the fact that the Buckeyes offense looked virtually unstoppable. Penn State snuck out of Baltimore with a 1 point win while Wisconsin and Michigan State took care of business. There are again only five games this week as Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan State and Northwestern have their byes. Let's preview the action and as always, use the lines for legal means only.
Illinois at Penn State 12:00PM ESPN2
Line: Penn State -4
Penn State lost at Illinois last year and will be looking for payback. They escaped a rejuvenated Maryland team coming off their bye week with interim head coach Mike Locksley now leading the Terps. Illinois lost at home to Wisconsin and have had trouble scoring most of the season. The Penn State defense is a level below Wisconsin but should be able to contain the Illini offense. The difference maker in this game is Saquon Barkley. He did struggle against Maryland at times and only averaged 3.3 yards per carry, by far his worst production of the season. However, I expect him to bounce back this week and lead Penn State to a comfortable victory, allowing Happy Valley to celebrate revenge a second week in a row.
Prediction: Penn State controls the game and wins 27-14
Nebraska at Purdue 12:00PM ESPNU
Line: Nebraska -7.5
Nebraska lost another heartbreaker last week and now have 5 losses by a combined 13 points. There offense takes a hit this week, as quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr will sit out due to a turf toe injury. Backup Ryker Fyfe gets the start and has played in parts of 8 games the past two seasons. Purdue has the worst rushing defense in the Big Ten so Nebraska will attack them on the ground, thus taking pressure off Fyfe. Purdue is coming off their bye week and desperately need a win to get their season back on track. It's Halloween and I expect some weird things to happen around the college football landscape tomorrow. I'm going all in on the upset of the day in the conference as Purdue forces Nebraska's nightmare season into a straight up slasher movie.
Prediction: Purdue pulls a Halloween shocker, winning 24-20
Maryland at Iowa 3:30PM ABC/ESPN2
Line: Iowa -17
Iowa is coming off their bye week healthy and rested, looking to build off their undefeated 7-0 start to the season. Maryland is coming to Iowa City after suffering a heartbreaking 31-30 loss to Penn State. In interim coach Mike Locksley's first game, the Terrapins offense was able to consistently move the ball on the PSU defense throughout the game. They also showed more creativity, even using defensive back and kick returner Will Likely on offense, generating a spark. This week will be a big challenge for Maryland to bounce back and play well against the undefeated Hawkeyes. I think they keep it close early, only to get worn down by a more physical and fresher Iowa squad.
Prediction: Iowa wins 34-20
Michigan at Minnesota 7:00PM ESPN
Line: Michigan -13.5
Both teams are coming off their bye weeks and needing to put emotional circumstances behind them. Michigan lost in bizarre fashion to Michigan State on the last play of the game, having two full weeks to stew over it. Minnesota is dealing with the sudden retirement of their beloved coach Jerry Kill, who left this week due to health concerns. It's a tough blow for the Golden Gophers in the long term, but also extremely difficult in only having a few days to prepare for Michigan after receiving the news. It's likely they come out fired up for their interim head coach Tracy Claeys, but the emotions of the week will probably catch up with them in the second half. Michigan's defense is still elite and Minnesota has had trouble scoring all season.
Prediction: Michigan 28-14
Rutgers at Wisconsin 12:00PM BTN
Line: Wisconsin -20.5
I've been hopeful for big games before this season, but I don't have a lot of faith heading into this one. Wisconsin's defense is great and with Carroo's health a major question mark, I am not confident the offense will be able to move the ball consistently, let alone score much. Chris Laviano has led the Rutgers offense to a grand total of 3 points against Penn State and Ohio State, the top two defenses he has faced so far. Wisconsin is a top 10 defense nationally in multiple categories. Until Laviano and the offense can prove they can score on a great defense, I won't give them the benefit of the doubt. I do think with Wisconsin's offense is so beat up that it gives our defense a chance to be competitive and keep the score close. Our special teams has the ability to win games but haven't performed great recently. I think Rutgers will play tough, ultimately wearing down against the Badgers, who will put it away with a late touchdown.
Prediction: Wisconsin wins 21-10
Head to Head Results: Last week 4-1; Season 68-12
Season Against The Spread: Last week 2-3; Season 37-35-1