Big 10 Football Week 2 Primer

One week of Big 10 football is in the books, and what a week it was. Last weekend’s action saw one major upset, the continued decline of a conference stalwart, some blowouts and some tight games.

Now, we’re on to Week 2, as the bigger (B1Gger?) picture starts to present itself. Of course, not all of the Big 10’s teams will be in action this weekend…

Nebraska took a shot at booking FCS Chattanooga as a replacement, but league commissioner Kevin Warren nixed that plan, so the Huskers will have the weekend off, as well.

So this week’s slate features six conference games, with some big-time matchups on the docket.

My picks went well last week, if your definition of “well” is “absolutely horrible.” But in my own defense, it’s always tough to evaluate a team in Week 1, especially a year where the offseason and spring practices were disrupted as heavily as they were this year.

Here’s to a better week! I’ll be providing picks against the spread, lines coming from the fine folks at Bovada. My record betting CFB is suspect at best, so tread lightly!

Minnesota (0-1) vs. Maryland (0-1)

Spread: Minnesota -19.5

The Friday night appetizer for a Saturday full of Big 10 action, this one features two teams that many have the same record, but seem to be in two different stratospheres as it pertains to the shape they’re in.

The Gophers clearly have some work to do on defense. Michigan hung 49 points on them last week, with over 250 rushing yards. But on offense, Tanner Morgan looked decent, and Mohamed Ibrahim had himself a good day running the football.

On the other hand, Maryland just looked flat-out AWFUL. 43 unanswered points surrendered to Northwestern, three INT’s from Taulia Tagavailoa — just a lousy performance.

If they’re going to lay that big an egg against a Northwestern team that’s not exactly on anyone’s radar as a threat, what will they look like against a Minnesota squad that’s going to be hungry?

I’d take the Gophers laying the points.

The Pick: Minnesota -19.5

Michigan State (0-1) vs. #13 Michigan (1-0)

Spread: Michigan -24.5

I said in my column last week that “you don’t have to be great to beat Rutgers.” Clearly, I overestimated Michigan State’s abilities.

The Spartans opened up their 2020 season with a loss (at home!) to the Scarlet Knights, certainly an inauspicious start to Mel Tucker’s tenure in East Lansing.

Michigan State’s kryptonite last week? 5 lost fumbles. That’s…an astonishing amount of fumbles for a college football program.

Add in two interceptions from Rocky Lombardi (against three touchdowns and 300+ yards passing, to be fair) and that’s seven turnovers. I don’t care if you’re playing Rutgers, Michigan or the Little Giants: if you’re going to give your opponent the ball whenever they want it? You won’t win.

I talked about Michigan a bit above, and they did look pretty good in the Minnesota win. Joe Milton didn’t light up the box score, but he did enough with his arm and complemented a dynamic performance from RBs Zach Charbonnet (70 yards on just four carries and a TD) and Hassan Haskins (82 yards and two scores).

The only kicker here: a spread as big as the one here, in a rivalry game? Sketchy. I don’t think Michigan State’s defense was bad on Saturday, they just had to be out there a whole lot. I don’t think they let this one out of hand, even though they won’t win.

The Pick: Michigan State +24.5

Purdue (1-0) vs. Illinois (0-1)

Spread: Purdue -7

I thought Illinois would be able to hang with Wisconsin last week, but the Badgers’ new QB Graham Mertz really shut my mouth.

Purdue ain’t Wisconsin, but the Boilermakers did erase a six-point deficit in the fourth quarter to knock off Iowa in Week 1. 

Aidan O’Connell got the start under center for Purdue, and threw for almost 300 yards on 50 attempts, including the game-winner to David Bell. RB Zander Horvath ran for 129 yards and one jaw-dropping hurdle:

Most importantly, perhaps: Purdue’s defense only allowed 20 points. Yes, Iowa doesn’t typically score in bunches, but the Boilermaker defense kept them in the game and gave O’Connell a chance.

Illinois just got dominated in every facet of the game against Wisconsin. Brandon Peters completed less than 50% of his passes, and was the team’s leading rusher with 75 yards. Not a lot to love for Lovie Smith.

The Pick: Purdue -7

#17 Indiana (1-0) vs. Rutgers (1-0)

Spread: Indiana -10.5

If you had both these teams winning last week, maybe a nice little two-leg parlay, my hat is off to you. 

Rutgers went on the road to knock off Michigan State, impressive for sure, but it was overshadowed by the Hoosiers knocking off 8th-ranked Penn State, albeit in highly controversial fashion:

In classic Indiana form, the Hoosiers really didn’t look all that great: they were clobbered offensively, with Penn State enjoying a 488-211 total yards advantage.

The defense was a big part of getting Indiana out to an early lead, picking off Sean Clifford twice in the first half with both turnovers leading to points for the Hoosiers.

Rutgers is less daunting of a task for the Hoosiers, on both sides of the ball: They should be able to move the ball a bit better, while still forcing a few turnovers and capitalizing on mistakes.

Plus, you just beat a team a lot of folks had pegged as a playoff contender. That’s a big wave of momentum; surely Indiana doesn’t let Rutgers quash that wave?

The Pick: Indiana -10.5

Northwestern (1-0) vs. Iowa (0-1)

Spread: Iowa -2.5

The tightest game of the week, in terms of the spread. Iowa coming off a tough loss last week, Northwestern having blown the doors off of Maryland.

The Wildcats’ offense was reborn last Saturday: Peyton Ramsey was very good, but the Northwestern running game was fabulous: 325 total yards, four rushing touchdowns from four different players (including Ramsey) and statistical dominance across the board.

The Hawkeye defense will present a step up in terms of talent, but I think the Wildcats will still score the football.

Iowa didn’t get a fantastic amount of production from the offense against Purdue, they’ll need to find a spark. The Hawkeyes also gave up nearly 100 yards in penalties, yards they can’t afford to lose if they want to pick up a win.

This is an intriguing pick, but I think I have to ride with the Wildcats here.

The Pick: Northwestern +2.5

#3 Ohio State (1-0) vs. #18 Penn State (0-1)

Spread: Ohio State -12

Look, every Penn Stater has a right to be upset with that call last week, but the Nittany Lions can’t afford to be hung up on it with the Buckeyes storming into town.

Penn State still isn’t dead in the CFP race, but the margin for error is nonexistent now. They’ve got to beat Ohio State.

The Buckeyes did Buckeye things to Nebraska last week. Justin Fields had three total touchdowns, the defense settled in after a first-drive touchdown for the Huskers and turned a 14-14 game into a 52-17 rout.

I think Ohio State’s just got too many weapons and too many players destined for the NFL for the Lions to bottle up. The running game wasn’t great against the Huskers but guys like Trey Sermon and Master Teague will bust out; two 100-yard receivers and a rock-solid defense.

Penn State may have a legitimate gripe about last weekend’s loss, but I don’t think they’ll have too much to say in this one.

The Pick: Ohio State -12

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