It’s time to put some more money on some more Big Ten football. For a third straight week, there are five conference games on deck, with all of them intra-conference showdowns. I’m here to break them down.
If you followed along with my picks from a week ago, you went 3-2 for a second straight week. (Nebraska and Rutgers let us down). We’ll see what happens in Week 8, a week that features three games with spreads of at least 20 points but doesn’t lack any intrigue.
All times listed are Eastern. Odds brought to you by DraftKings Sportsbook.
Northwestern at No. 6 Michigan (-23.5), O/U 50 — 12 p.m., FOX
ESPN SP+ Projection: Michigan 34-13, 89 percent win probability
If the Wolverines show up refreshed out of their bye week and don’t overlook the Wildcats in anticipation of their Oct. 30 battle at unbeaten Michigan State, this one won’t be close. Under those circumstances, I have a hard time believing Northwestern is within four touchdowns of Michigan. But there are plenty of scenarios in which the Wolverines come out flat and win by a mere 10-20 points instead.
None of those scenarios mean the Wildcats should challenge on offense, however. They don’t have a dual-threat QB like Noah Vedral or Adrian Martinez that can hurt Michigan with read-options, which the Wolverines have been vulnerable with.
Northwestern is allowing 208 yards per game on the ground and 5.5 yards per carry. Against Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins, that might turn into 300 yards. But whether the Wolverines score 20 or 40 points, I don’t see the Wildcats scoring even 10. I think Michigan covers, but the under is a safer choice for me.
Pick: Under 50
Illinois at No. 7 Penn State (-24), O/U 46.5 — 12 p.m., ABC
ESPN SP+ Projection: Penn State 39-11, 95 percent win probability
The difference between the SP+ projection and the point spread can be pretty much entirely explained by Sean Clifford’s probable absence for this game. Penn State hasn’t had much of a running game this year, so Clifford has been their entire offense, with his arm and legs. We all saw just how badly the Nittany Lions crumbled with Ta’Quan Roberson in at quarterback against Iowa.
Meanwhile, the Fighting Illini are probably the worst team in the Big Ten. They’re averaging just 18 points per game — 64 over their last five — and may not score in double digits against the Nittany Lions’ defense.
Pick: Under 46.5
Wisconsin (-3) at No. 25 Purdue, O/U 40 — 3:00 p.m., BTN
ESPN SP+ Projection: Wisconsin 27-18, 69 percent win probability
Both defenses are allowing less than 20 points per game, 300 yards per game and five yards per play. I’ve taken the under in three straight Badgers games and I’m not going to stop now.
For what it’s worth, Purdue’s gotten most of its offense through the air this season, averaging well over 300 yards passing, while the Badgers’ run defense has been their strong suit. It’s also true that SP+ hasn’t really had a clue what to make of Wisconsin this season. This is to say that if I had to pick against the spread, I’m taking the Boilermakers to win their first game as a ranked team since 2007.
Pick: Under 40
Maryland at Minnesota (-5), O/U 54.5 — 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
ESPN SP+ Projection: Minnesota 30-27, 56 percent win probability
The Terrapins have been blown out in two straight games, are missing top wideout Dontay Demus and are a far cry from the team they were heading into their showdown against Iowa. After wins over Purdue and Nebraska, the Golden Gophers right now might be the wrong team to try to bust out of a slump against. Despite losing running backs Mo Ibrahim and Trey Potts for the season, Bryce Williams stepped up for a 127-yard day against the Huskers, while Tanner Morgan had his best game of the season. Minnesota just keeps finding ways to win.
Pick: Minnesota -5
No. 5 Ohio State (-21) at Indiana, O/U 60.5 — 7:30 p.m., ABC
ESPN SP+ Projection: Ohio State 38-19, 86 percent win probability
As long as the Buckeyes don’t get caught overlooking the Hoosiers for next Saturday’s game at Penn State, they should roll here. Ohio State’s scored over 50 points in three straight games.
Pick: Ohio State -21