We’ve reached Week 9 of the college football season, and for the first time, we have an all-conference Big Ten slate. Every team in the conference will take the field Saturday to face a conference opponent.
Just as we do every week at Maize n Brew, we’ll run down all seven Big Ten games and analyze the betting lines and points totals for each of them so you can make wise use of your hard-earned cash. Last week’s record was 4-1, so let’s hope for similar success this time around.
All times listed are Eastern. Odds brought to you by DraftKings Sportsbook.
No. 6 Michigan (-4) at Michigan State, O/U 50 — 12 p.m., FOX
ESPN SP+ Projection: Michigan 27-23, 58 percent win probability
These two teams should approach Saturday’s battle similarly, with a few differences. The Wolverines have relied on a strong defense and ground game and a total allergy to turnovers. The Spartans are weaker defensively but their offense is also predicated on running the ball, though they’ve shown more propensity for big plays in the passing game this season.
One difference is Michigan doesn’t yield many big plays — less than four plays of 20 yards or more per game. They’re even better on special teams. Michigan State receiver Jayden Reed is extremely dangerous, averaging 20 yards per reception and 26 yards on kickoff and punt returns with two touchdowns. The Wolverines have allowed just four punt returns all season, for 21 yards, and less than 10 yards per kickoff return.
Another thing: just 13 teams in the country have been penalized more than the Spartans. I don’t see them being able to sustain many long drives against Michigan.
If the Wolverines can get to Payton Thorne, cut MSU’s diet of big plays and force them to try to methodically move the ball down the field, they’ll be the ones walking out of Spartan Stadium still unbeaten.
Pick: Michigan -4
No. 9 Iowa at Wisconsin (-3.5), O/U 36.5 — 12 p.m., ESPN
ESPN SP+: Wisconsin 24-15, 70 percent win probability
The Badgers have looked more like themselves lately, but they’re still averaging 2.4 turnovers per game. They’ll need explosive plays to overcome those ball-security issues combined with Iowa’s ball-hawking defense, and I’m not confident they can get them. My gut feeling in games like this, with two teams that want to establish a similar style, is to pick the better team, no questions asked. The Hawkeyes are the better team.
Pick: Iowa +3.5
Rutgers (-1.5) at Illinois, O/U 42 — 12 p.m., BTN
ESPN SP+: Rutgers 25-23, 55 percent win probability
Last week, the Fighting Illini beat Penn State in a game that lasted nine overtimes and didn’t come within a score of hitting the over. Rutgers is worse than Penn State and Illinois’ starting quarterback, Artur Sitkowski, is out for the season. Not that the latter part matters as far as offense goes, as the Illini haven’t even thrown for 100 yards in any of their last four games. They’ll look to give the ball to Chase Brown and Josh McCray and churn clock. The Scarlet Knights will want to do the same, but with worse players. For that reason, I’d pick Illinois to win outright, but the under is the safest pick considering how bad these offenses have been all season.
Pick: Under 42
Indiana at Maryland (-5), O/U 49.5 — 12 p.m., BTN
ESPN SP+: Maryland 30-23, 67 percent win probability
What you need to know about this game is that the Hoosiers are likely to start a true freshman at quarterback, with a walk-on as his backup. The passing game was the element of Indiana’s offense that kind of worked. Now the Hoosiers might not score 10.
The Terrapins are on a three-game losing streak and have played as badly as anyone in the Big Ten, but given Indiana’s situation, the under and the point spread are both great picks. 50 points honestly seems ridiculous in this one.
Pick: Under 49.5
Minnesota (-7.5) at Northwestern, O/U 42.5 — 3:30 p.m., BTN
ESPN SP+: Minnesota 29-20, 71 percent win probability
Credit to P.J. Fleck’s bunch, which has weathered a loss to Bowling Green and season-ending injuries to its top two running backs and is still on a three-game winning streak. The Golden Gophers are playing solid smashmouth football right now and allowing just 312 yards per game. Take Minnesota to make it four straight and reach bowl eligibility.
Pick: Minnesota -7.5
Purdue at Nebraska (-7.5), O/U 52 — 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
ESPN SP+: Nebraska 30-22, 67 percent win probability
Lose this one, and the Huskers’ path to bowl eligibility pretty much disappears with Iowa and Ohio State still on the schedule. Saying the pressure is on is an understatement, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how Nebraska will handle it.
I’m not terribly confident in picking this game. But given the Huskers’ five one-possession losses this season and penchant for unloading full clips into their feet at the worst moments, Purdue should take it if it’s close at the end. If Nebraska wins, I’d expect it to be of the cathartic, prove-a-point variety.
Eh, what the heck. Scott Frost keeps his job for at least another game.
Pick: Nebraska -7.5
No. 20 Penn State at No. 5 Ohio State (-18.5), O/U 61 — 7:30 p.m., ABC
ESPN SP+: Ohio State 35-21, 79 percent win probability
I think this spread might be overreacting somewhat to the Nittany Lions losing to Illinois in a fluky overtime scenario with Sean Clifford clearly limited. But then again, Penn State lost at home to dang Illinois. Overtime should not excuse them from scoring 10 measly points in regulation, nor should it excuse a running game that’s been anemic all year long.
There’s Clifford’s health, there’s the James Franklin distractions ... everything points to this one being a bloodbath. I’ll follow those hints. Ohio State’s covered the spread in its last four games and is playing better than everyone in the country except Georgia.
Pick: Ohio State -18.5