Last week the Big Ten had it's first full slate of action and the games did not disappoint. Indiana gave Ohio State a major scare, Iowa and Northwestern announced themselves as favorites in the West and Illinois stunned Nebraska. This week has some intriguing match-ups with Indiana visiting Happy Valley, Northwestern taking on the sons of Harbaugh in the Big House, and the Wisconsin-Nebraska knockout game. I had a great week picking actual winners, only losing on the Illinois shocker. I didn't do so well with the spreads as I continue to overestimate the top teams ability to cover the spread. Let's get into this week's slate and use the spreads at your own risk in a legal way!
Illinois at Iowa 12:00PM ESPN2
Line: Iowa -10.5
The Kirk Ferentz comeback tour continues after an ugly but impressive win over Wisconsin in Madison last weekend. Their offense struggled against a strong Badger defense, but the Hawkeye defense came up huge in their own right, forcing four turnovers. Illinois had their own big win as well, shocking Nebraska with a touchdown on the last drive of the game. The quarterback match-up between Wes Lunt and C.J. Beathard should be fun to watch. I expect Iowa's offense to get back on track and Illinois got shelled in their lone road game at North Carolina.
Prediction: Iowa rolls at home 34-14
Maryland at Ohio State 12:00PM BTN
Line: Ohio State -33
Ohio State barely survived their trip to Hoosierland, needing to stop Indiana on the last drive of the game to secure victory. And Indiana got back into the game with their backup quarterback and backup running back. Ezekiel Elliot showed why he is the best running back in the country with touchdowns runs of 55, 65 and 75 yards each. I still think the Buckeyes will put it all together at some point, and this week will get them on the right track. Maryland is awful on both offense and defense. Reports this week stated head coach Randy Edsall will be fired after this game. Earlier in the week, the player's held their own team meeting, which Edsall embarrassingly admitted he was unaware of. This game will not be a case of a team playing hard for their embattled coach. Ohio State gets to take some frustrations out on a team that probably hopes a blowout solidifies the firing of their own coach.
Prediction: Ohio State finally blows a team out, 56-7
Indiana at Penn State 12:00PM ESPN
Line: Penn State -6.5
Believe it or not, the line for this game started at -8 this week, favoring Penn State. A team that beat Army at home last weekend by 6 points, favored by a touchdown against a team that took the #1 team in the nation and defending national champions to the limit with backups at running back and quarterback. Granted Penn State was missing their top two running backs last Saturday as Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch both sat out with injuries. At the time of this writing, Lynch appears to be out and Barkley will be a game time decision. For Indiana, starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld and starting running back Jordan Howard appear to be game time decisions as well. I have a lot more faith in Indiana's backups then Penn State's freshman trio of backup running backs. Plus, Penn State hasn't blown out any team all season...oh, sorry, forgot about the Rutgers game. I think Indiana is a lock to cover the spread as a worst case scenario. Their offensive system seems to be clicking regardless of personnel and their confidence should be at an all-time high.
Prediction: Indiana wins going away 31-17
Northwestern at Michigan 3:30PM BTN
Line: Michigan -7.5
This game has become the marquee match-up of the day in the Big Ten, with both teams out to better than expected starts. Both defenses are playing lights out with both offenses starting to improve each week. This will be a classic conference throw down. I'm disappointed the weather for this one will only be in the 60's, feels like a cold weather battle is more appropriate for these two teams. This will be a low scoring affair with both teams leading throughout the game. I think Northwestern plays tough but loses on the last drive of the game, leading the national media to declare the return of Michigan, a week ahead of their battle against in-state rival Michigan State.
Prediction: Michigan 20-17
Wisconsin at Nebraska 3:30PM ABC/ESPN2
Line: Nebraska -1.5
Wisconsin comes in after a disappointing loss at home to Iowa. Quarterback Joel Stave played terrible last week, throwing two interceptions and losing two fumbles. The Badgers are really feeling the loss of running back Corey Clement, who is out 4-6 weeks after hernia surgery. Nebraska has struggled to close out teams, losing three games by a total of 9 points, all on the last drives of each game. With that said, they are the best 2-3 team in the country and return home in a big divisional game. I don't think the sky is falling in Lincoln, as new head coach Mike Riley is still adjusting to his personnel and new conference style of play. I think Wisconsin does not have the offensive firepower to win on the road against a decent team.
Prediction: Nebraska silences some critics with a 21-10 win
Minnesota at Purdue 3:30PM ESPNU
Line: Minnesota -3.5
Minnesota had a disappointing showing on the road last week, losing to Northwestern 27-0. The offense is not producing and their defense had their worst game of the season. Purdue fell behind to Michigan State on the road 21-0 at the half, but refused to quit. They had a chance to win on the last drive of the game. This will be another close, defensive minded conference game this weekend. I'm a little torn on this one, as I think Minnesota is the better team but also that Purdue is due at some point soon. Still, I think quarterback Mitch Leidner has a bounce back game and the Gophers do enough to pull out the victory.
Prediction: Minnesota 17-13
Michigan State at Rutgers 8:00PM BTN
Line: Michigan State -13
I understand the thought that Michigan State could have an awakening after close calls against inferior opponents. However, this team has lost three starters on defense and has an offensive line with every starter playing out of their natural position. This is not the same Michigan State team that beat Oregon. With that being said, Rutgers needs to play close to a perfect game to win. They have had 38 penalties in four games, the offense haven't thrown down the field effectively, nor has the defense generated much of a pass rush, on top of having the most inexperienced secondary in the conference. I think Rutgers has a big edge in special teams and can potentially run the ball effectively against the Spartans. The return of Carroo, the team being fully rested off the bye, and the players feeding off the "blackout" atmosphere, give them a chance. For Rutgers to win, they need to jump out to a lead early and minimize penalties and turnovers. I do think they are capable, but they have failed to come close to putting it all together so far this season. I think Rutgers plays their best game of the season, ultimately falling short in heartbreaking fashion, losing on a late Connor Cook touchdown pass.
Prediction: Heartbreak City with a stomach punch loss, MSU 31 Rutgers 28
Head to Head Results: Last week 6-1; Season 53-9
Season Against The Spread: Last week 3-4; Season 27-27-1