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Big Ten Week 3 Preview: Picks & The Points

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Here is a preview of this week's Big Ten schedule and game predictions.

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Last week was another relatively vanilla slate for the Big Ten schedule, so I'm not going to pat myself on the back much for only missing one winner last week.  It was Rutgers that I missed on so it was a double whammy of a loss.  I hit my upset special for the second consecutive week, with Bowling Green shredding Maryland 48-27.  Week 3 brings five Big Ten match-ups with other power 5 conferences.  I will make my pick on Rutgers v Penn State in tomorrow's OTB predictions post. Let's dig in and I give the lines for each game for if you have the legal means to use them.

Illinois at North Carolina 12:00 ESPN2

Line: North Carolina -10

Former Rutgers offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has started the season strong with two blow out wins, although they haven't played anyone of significance.  This week is another story, as the Illini travel to Chapel Hill to play North Carolina.  Since we last saw the Tarheels when we trampled them in last December's bowl game, they opened the season with a close loss to South Carolina and a blow out win of North Carolina A&T.  This is a huge game for Illinois as they hope to get to six wins and bowl eligibility this season.  I think this game is a bit of a toss up and I think Illinois will be in it until the end.

Prediction: North Carolina fails to cover but wins 31-24

South Florida at Maryland 12:00 ESPNU

Line: Maryland -7

Maryland was exposed last week by a traditionally strong team from the MAC.  Bowling Green has a good offense and showed how much Maryland is rebuilding on defense this season.  Saturday's performance does not bode well for Maryland once Big Ten play begins.  This week they play South Florida, who went to Florida State last week and were tied at halftime 7-7.  They ultimately lost by 20, but they did not get embarrassed.  Maryland has made the switch at quarterback, benching Perry Hills and moving Caleb Rowe to start on Saturday.  He was still recovering from his ACL injury during training camp.  Head coach Randy Edsall said he is playing better now and is healthy. I think this will be a close game and not a particularly pretty one to watch.

Prediction: Maryland fails to covers but pulls out the win 24-20

UNLV at Michigan 12:00 BTN

Line: Michigan -34

Michigan had a solid win at home against Oregon State, the first victory for Jim Harbaugh as the head coach.  UNLV doesn't present much of a threat, having lost to Northern Illinois in the opener and losing to UCLA by 34 last week. Hence the line for this one, which should provide the only drama for this game.  The Wolverines will play well this week but the focus will be on getting ready for next week's big home game with BYU.

Prediction: Michigan rests it's starters in the 4th, failing to cover but winning 38-7

Air Force at Michigan State 12:00 ABC

Line: Michigan State -26

Michigan State pulled out an impressive win at home last week under the lights against Oregon.  It got a little dicey at the end but the Spartans were the better team most of the night.  Air Force is 2-0 and is averaging 50 points a game, although they played Morgan State and San Jose State.  I think Sparty plays well enough but it is a closer game than expected.

Prediction: Michigan State fails to cover but wins comfortably, 45-27

Kent State at Minnesota 12:00 BTN

Line: Minnesota -24

Minnesota gutted a win out last weekend, defeating Colorado State on the road in overtime.  They come home and play a team that lost to Illinois in week 1, 52-3.  This line makes no sense to me.  After two tough, close games to start the season, the Golden Gophers blow it open early in front of the home crowd.

Prediction: Minnesota in a rout, 49-7

Northwestern at Duke 12:30 ESPN3

Line: Duke -3.5

The battle of two private schools with high academic standards should make for an interesting game on the field.  Northwestern surprised in week 1, beating Stanford at home.  This is a big test for them and I think this game is a bit of a toss up.  Duke has more firepower on offense and after a tight game most of the way, pull it out in the end.

Prediction:  Duke pulls away for the cover and the win 31-20

Nebraska at Miami 3:30 ESPN2

Line: Miami -3

Nebraska started the Mike Riley era in heartbreaking fashion, losing on a last minute hail mary to BYU.  Miami has feasted on two cupcakes to start the season.  Nebraska won this match-up last season at home 41-31.  I think Nebraska will be hungry to make up for the loss to BYU and play well on the road.  Miami has been so up and down the past few years, they are unreliable.  With not playing any real competition up to this point, I don't think they are as prepared for this game as the Cornhuskers are.

Prediction:  Nebraska upsets Miami and wins outright 38-28

Virginia Tech at Purdue 3:30 ESPNU

Line: Virginia Tech -6.5

This is another line I think is very low.  Purdue is not a good football team.  Virginia Tech played Ohio State well for a half,  before their starting quarterback Michael Brewer broke his collarbone in the 2nd half.  They played both Brenden Motley and super freshman Dwayne Lawson last week against Furman.  Who will take over the reigns is a bit of a question mark, but expect both to play.  Remember they are playing Purdue, so there is some margin for error.

Prediction:  Virginia Tech covers and wins comfortably 31-10

Northern Illinois at Ohio State 3:30 ESPN2

Line: Ohio State -34.5

Ohio State played on a short week of rest last Saturday and only led Hawaii 14-0 at the half and 17-0 after three quarters. They blew it open in the end to win 38-0.  Cardale Jones and JT Barrett both played last week, but neither was overly impressive.  Northern Illinois actually is 4-3 against Big Ten teams in the past five seasons.  However, they haven't played a team of the Buckeye's caliber and with a full week of rest, Ohio State should overwhelm the Huskies.

Prediction: Ohio State is unstoppable on offense and wins big, 52-14

Troy at Wisconsin 3:30 BTN

Line: Wisconsin -34.5

Wisconsin rebounded from the Alabama loss to whip up on Miami (OH) last week.  Troy is 1-1 and lost their season opener at NC State 49-21.  Wisconsin has a better defense than the Wolfpack and should be motivated to play well at home this week.  Troy will hang around early but doesn't have the horses to make this a game.

Prediction: Wisconsin covers and wins in a blow out, 55-14

Western Kentucky at Indiana 4:00 ESPNNEWS

*UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK*

Line: Indiana -1

Western Kentucky is no joke and comes in 2-0 with a road win at Vanderbilt and a thrilling win at home against Louisiana Tech.  They won both those games by a combined 5 points.  Would you think I am crazy to say Western Kentucky could win by much more than that against Indiana?  I don't think the Hoosier defense is very good and quarterback Nate Sudfeld is still working his way back from last season's injury.  While his yards per pass attempt and passing yards have improved, his completion percentage has declined under 60% and he has thrown just 2 TD passes thus far.  I think he will end up being fine but this will be a tough game at home for Indiana.

Prediction: Western Kentucky beats another power 5 conference team, stunning Indiana 41-35

Pittsburgh at Iowa 8:00 BTN

Line: Iowa -5.5

Iowa was able to beat their in-state rival Iowa State last week 31-17, after losing three of the past four meetings.  They host Pittsburgh under the lights this weekend.  The Panthers are playing without star running back James Conner, who tore his MCL in their opening game.  Pitt hasn't played anyone of significance yet, so this will be a litmus test game for both teams.  CJ Beathard has grown into the starting quarterback role and was named Big Ten co-offensive player of the week for his performance last weekend.  He has thrown 4 TD's to 0 INT and has been solid so far.  I think his strong play will continue this week as the Hawkeyes look to start 3-0.

Prediction: Iowa covers and wins at home, 34-21

Season Head-to-Head Results: 26-2

Season Against The Spread: 13-8