Welcome back to another week of Betting the Big Ten. If you went along with my picks from last week, you went 4-4 while likely learning a few things, chief among them being Maryland will make you look like an idiot for believing in them.
Here’s hoping for a rebound performance this week. These picks are for entertainment purposes only, of course.
All times for games listed are Eastern.
Maryland at No. 7 Ohio State (-21.5), O/U 69.5 — 12 p.m., FOX
ESPN SP+ Projection: Ohio State 39-24, 80 percent win probability
This game features two teams going in totally opposite directions. Truth be told, Maryland is probably the best team the Buckeyes will have faced since Oregon, but we’re still talking about an Ohio State offense that’s racked up at least 500 yards of offense in every game and is coming off a 39-point road beatdown of Rutgers. They’re just gaining steam right now. Maryland, meanwhile, had a chance to prove itself against Iowa and fell completely flat. I’d expect the Terrapins to have a tough time shaking the emotions of that one off, coupled with the huge blow dealt by Dontay Demus’s season-ending injury.
Pick: Ohio State -21.5
No. 11 Michigan State (-5) at Rutgers, O/U 50 — 12 p.m., BTN
ESPN SP+ Projection: Michigan State 28-22, 63 percent win probability
Rutgers is a weird team that can make anything happen, but I think Michigan State is more than a touchdown better under normal circumstances, especially with a rapidly improving offense. Kenneth Walker III has shown no signs of slowing down, while Payton Thorne, aside from Week 4 against Nebraska, has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country. This line feels generous towards the Scarlet Knights to me, especially after their loss to Ohio State, although the dreaded “trap game” label could come into play for MSU. The over could be a sneaky good pick in this game, as the Spartans haven’t exactly looked rock-solid on defense, but I think they cover.
Pick: Michigan State -5
Wisconsin (-10.5) at Illinois, O/U 42.5 — 3:30 p.m., BTN
ESPN SP+ Projection: Wisconsin 34-14, 88 percent win probability
The one thing that makes me hesitate for even a second in hammering the under is Graham Mertz’s best-ever game came against Illinois in last year’s season opener. He was legitimately lights-out on that night in 2020. Even so, the Illini scored just 24 points against Charlotte this past Saturday, last year’s matchup remains Mertz’s only above-average college performance and Wisconsin ran for only 43 yards on 32 carries against Michigan. The points total is the best bet here, but if you’re picking the spread, SP+ is still pretty confident in the Badgers despite their poor form lately.
Pick: Under 42.5
No. 4 Penn State at No. 3 Iowa (-2.5), O/U 41.5 — 4 p.m., FOX
ESPN SP+ Projection: Penn State 24-20, 58 percent win probability
The Hawkeyes’ offense came into College Park last Friday night averaging under 300 yards per game, and even after their 453-yard performance against Maryland, they’re still last in the Big Ten in total offense. Their defense is a legitimate shutdown unit that forced seven Terrapin turnovers, but they need a lot of those to post high scoring totals. That being said, if you screw up, Iowa will take advantage.
Despite Sean Clifford’s improvement and Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington on the outside, Penn State’s offense is somewhat boom-or-bust to me, and the running game has struggled to get going. But the Nittany Lions have held all five of their opponents to under five yards per play. And one thing PSU’s offense has not done is cough up the football — this year, just three picks by Clifford and no fumbles.
Pick: Under 41.5
No. 9 Michigan (-3.5) at Nebraska, O/U 51.5 — 7:30 p.m., ABC
ESPN SP+ Projection: Michigan 27-24, 58 percent win probability
After Nebraska’s 56-7 beatdown of Northwestern this past Saturday, we’ve got at least an idea of what it might look like if the Huskers tidy it up. But Saturday night’s showdown in Lincoln remains a huge wild card.
My gut feeling is Michigan is a better team than Nebraska and should cover. That being said, the Wolverines haven’t seen a quarterback like Adrian Martinez this year. Martinez’s dual-threat ability could pose trouble for a defense that had its hands full with Noah Vedral and Rutgers, which played a similar read-option style in the second half that Michigan couldn’t stop from moving the chains.
I personally would stay away from this game, but if you must, go with the Wolverines. For me, the Huskers have to prove themselves against a non-Northwestern team first.
Pick: Michigan -3.5