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Betting the Big Ten: Week 2

Will Michigan cover the 35.5-point spread vs. UCF? We give our answer as well as our ATS picks for the other Big Ten games in Week 2.

Hawaii v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images


About last week.

Last Week’s Results

Pick: Over 61 | Score: Indiana 34, FIU 13 | Result: L
Pick: Minnesota -13 | Score: Minnesota 30, Oregon State 23 | Result: L
Pick: Northwestern -5 | Score: WMU 22, Northwestern 21 | Result: L
Pick: BGSU +27.5 | Score: Ohio State 77, BGSU 10 | Result: L
Pick: Washington -26.5 | Score: Washington 48, Rutgers 13 | Result: W
Pick: Under 44.5 | Score: Wisconsin 16, LSU 14 | Result: W
Pick: Under 45 | Score: Penn State 33, Kent State 13 | Result: L
Pick: Under 51.5 | Score: Iowa 45, Miami (OH) 21 | Result: L
Pick: Fresno State +28.5 | Score: Nebraska 43, Fresno State 10 | Result: L
Pick: Hawaii +40.5 | Score: Michigan 63, Hawaii 3 | Result: L

Last Week’s Record: 2-8
Season Record: 2-8 (20.0%)

Wait. Before you saying anything, let me just explai...oh craaa...

[peeks head around the corner]

Is it safe to come out? Yes? You sure?

[returns to dais]

So my Week 1 was about as awful as Rutgers’, but, hey, at least I picked that one correctly. The others? Not so much as only two of my 10 picks were winners. Some were not even close, with Michigan and Ohio State easily covering their enormous spreads and Indiana misplacing its offense for the first three quarters. On the other hand, Lady Luck gave me the cold shoulder, too. With a double-digit lead and less than two minutes remaining, Penn State threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to push the total (46) one point above the over/under (45). Nebraska decided to score 29 unanswered points in the second half, including 22 in the fourth quarter, to beat Fresno State by 33 points and cover the 28.5-point spread. And Northwestern fumbled away its go-ahead touchdown on the goal line and out of the end zone for a touchback with 2:54 left, which would have put the Wildcats in no worse position than a push if they held on. Heck, even a Western Michigan defender tried to help, but the officials went NOPE. Give me two of those, and I’m two games below .500. That’s a sub-par Week 1 record, but it can easily be recovered in a short amount of time. Lose all three? We have this:

Let’s see if we can mop up the blood in Week 2.

This Week’s Picks

Byes/FCS Opponents: #12 Michigan State; Minnesota; Northwestern; Rutgers

Maryland at Florida International

Line: Maryland -10 | O/U: 57.5

Last week, Florida International hosted another Big Ten team, Indiana, and I believed that neither defense would stop the other’s offense given the Hoosiers’ penchant for points and chaos. Instead, a defensive duel broke out. The offenses combined for only 31 points, and Indiana won comfortably only because its defense returned two picks for touchdowns and forced a safety (16 points). If that’s what happened to Indiana in a road game at FIU, imagine what will happen to Maryland, a team expected to have a worse offense and better defense than the Hoosiers, in a road game at FIU. Plus, the under has been the winner in eight of the Terps’ 11 road games the past two seasons. Maryland may have just scored 52 on Howard, but I don’t trust them on the road here.

Pick: Under 57.5

Wyoming at Nebraska

Line: Nebraska -24.5 | O/U: 58

Nebraska squeaked out a cover last week against Fresno State by keeping the ball on the ground. The Huskers had 51 carries (for 292 yards and 5.73 YPC) to just 13 pass attempts. They won’t need to get too fancy this week either. Coming into Lincoln is Wyoming, whose defense was 117th in YPC (5.28) in 2015. Though the Cowboys fared better than expected in a 40-34 upset win over Northern Illinois in Week 1, their defense will not slow down the legs of Nebraska’s Devine Ozigbo and Terrell Newby.

Pick: Nebraska -24.5

Penn State at Pitt

Line: Pitt -6 | O/U: 48.5

It is a principle of mine to pick against James Franklin on the road. In his two seasons at Penn State, the Nittany Lions are 0-9 against the spread in road games. However, Pitt has not been very good as a favorite at home either. Under Pat Narduzzi, the Panthers are just 1-6 against the spread at Heinz Field. That puts me in a pickle because I’m tempted to take the under even though it burned me in Penn State-Kent State. Both the Lions and the Panthers should have strong defenses, and their offenses sputtered against inferior defenses in their first game last week under new offensive coordinators. It leads me to believe that these coordinators will need time to break in their respective offenses and that time will not be before this Saturday. I would not be surprised if this is a defensive slugfest. But you can’t break away from your principles.

Pick: Pitt -6

Cincinnati at Purdue

Line: Cincinnati -6.5 | O/U: 59.5

Neither Purdue nor Cincinnati were impressive in their openers against FCS programs. The Boilermakers had only a 10-point halftime advantage over Eastern Kentucky before pulling away in the fourth quarter, and the Bearcats actually trailed Tennessee-Martin at halftime and didn’t take a double-digit lead until there was 5:31 remaining in the fourth quarter. However, recent history suggests that Tommy Tuberville’s team does well as a road favorite (6-2 ATS in its last eight such games), while Darrell Hazell’s does not as a home dog (1-6 ATS in its last seven). Plus, you know, Purdue is Purdue.

Pick: Cincinnati -6.5

Tulsa at #4 Ohio State

Line: Ohio State -29 | O/U: 72.5

If you love fireworks, this will be a game to watch on Saturday. Ohio State just hung 77 points on Bowling Green, while Tulsa put up 45 on San Jose State after averaging 37.2 points per game (21st) in 2015. Unlike Bowling Green, Tulsa isn’t undergoing a massive transformation. They return the key components of their prolific offense, including senior quarterback Dane Evans, who threw for 4,332 yards, 25 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. They should be able to add points to the scoreboard, maybe similar to the 38 they scored at Oklahoma in a 14-point loss last season. I’m just not sure if Tulsa will be able to keep pace with the Buckeyes, who should shred the Golden Hurricane defense, which ranked 121st in PPG and 117th in S&P+. Therefore, rather than take my chance on the 29-point spread, I will go with these offenses hitting the excessive over.

Pick: Over 72.5

Akron at #10 Wisconsin

Line: Wisconsin -24 | O/U: 45

Wisconsin made a defensive statement in Week 1, stifling Heisman contender Leonard Fournette and limiting LSU to just one offensive touchdown. This week, the Badgers host Akron, whose offense was 99th in PPG and 108th S&P+ in 2015. The Zips’ offense has not flourished in these situations as the under has hit in 13 of the their prior 14 road games in which they were an dog. Wisconsin should shut down Akron’s attack, and I wouldn’t be surprise if the Badgers’ offense started slowly after celebrating all week.

Pick: Under 45

Ball State at Indiana

Line: Indiana -18 | O/U: 61

Indiana’s offense had a shaky performance at Florida International, scoring just 18 points of its own and not punching in an offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter. Is it possible that the Hoosiers may not have a fear-inducing offense this season after the departures of Nate Sudfeld, Jordan Howard, and Jason Spriggs? Of course. It’s also possible that the combination of the game being Richard Lagow’s first start, being outside of Bloomington, and missing six Hoosiers who sat out due to suspension knocked Indiana off of its rhythm. However, Ball State had a solid opening weekend, beating Georgia State as a road underdog, 31-21. So I have more faith in the Cardinals.

Pick: Ball State +18

North Carolina at Illinois

Line: North Carolina -9 | O/U: 58.5

North Carolina lost to Georgia in Week 1, but there is one thing it did well in particular in that match-up: reel off explosive run plays. The Tar Heels carried the ball only 19 times, but they averaged 8.37 YPC for a total of 159 rushing yards against what is expected to be a nationally elite defense. North Carolina should attempt to feed its running backs more against Illinois, whose defense excelled against the pass (16th in S&P+) but was just average against the run (58th in S&P+) last season. If the Tar Heels do that, they should control the game in a loud Illinois atmosphere at night and cover.

Picks: North Carolina -9

Iowa State at #16 Iowa

Line: Iowa -15 | O/U: 51

Anything can happen in a rivalry game, but Iowa is hosting Iowa State at night in Kinnick Stadium just one week after the Cyclones lost at home to Northern Iowa.

Pick: Iowa -15

UCF at #5 Michigan

Line: Michigan -35.5 | O/U: 55.5

UCF snapped its 13-game losing streak last week, shutting out South Carolina State, 38-0. However, despite the decisive win, the Knights did not run the ball well at all in their new uptempo, spread offense under Scott Frost. They averaged just 3.58 YPC, which should be concerning against an FCS program. Now UCF faces Michigan, which has one of the best defenses in the country and just crushed Hawaii. Though the Wolverines will be without Bryan Mone and Taco Charlton and UCF’s tempo could give Michigan some fits, the Wolverines should be able to shut it down and cruise to another cover.

Pick: Michigan -35.5