Big 10 Primer: Week 3

We’re just about 24 hours out from another round of Big 10 action, and as always I’ve got you covered. With Wisconsin still unable to play due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in their program, it’s another six-game schedule this week; Purdue will have the week off, as well.

Let’s not waste any time! I’ll be a bit more brief this week than in the preceding two weeks, because the world’s collective attention may be…elsewhere…at the moment. Spreads are provided once again by our friends over at Bovada.

Onward we go!

Nebraska (0-1) vs. Northwestern (2-0)

Spread: Northwestern -3.5

After having their game struck from the schedule last week, the Cornhuskers are back on the road Saturday, heading to Evanston to take on the resurgent Northwestern Huskies.

The Huskies’ defense was great yet again last week, grinding out a win at Iowa as underdogs. Northwestern intercepted Iowa’s Spencer Petras three times, and held the Hawkeyes scoreless in the second half. In fact, Northwestern hasn’t allowed a single second-half point yet this season.

Nebraska’s a bit tough to judge yet, with only one game under their belt against an Ohio State team that’s clearly a cut above the rest. The Huskers hung tough early before just getting overwhelmed by the Buckeyes.

Northwestern is no Ohio State, but on the flip side: Nebraska’s probably a step down from Iowa. I’m definitely a believer in Pat Fitzgerald’s team this season, and here in Week 3 is no exception.

The Pick: Northwestern -3.5

#23 Michigan (1-1) vs. #13 Indiana (2-0)

Spread: Michigan -3

Interesting situation here: Indiana, the higher-ranked and undefeated team, find themselves as home underdogs against a Michigan team that lost at home to in-state rival Michigan State last week.

So, what’s the situation? Is Indiana not for real, even with a win over Penn State? Is Michigan better than they looked last weekend? Is it name-brand, the Wolverines being college football royalty?

Michael Penix led the Hoosiers last weekend past Rutgers with four total touchdowns, and the defense picked off Noah Vedral on three occasions.

On the other side, Michigan didn’t turn the ball over at all against the Spartans, Joe Milton played respectably…but the Wolverines were never ahead, and they don’t seem to be ripping off chunk plays at all: against Michigan State, the Wolverines’ longest gain went for just 26 yards.

Their rushing production was also drastically reduced against Sparty: 152 yards on 34 attempts, vs. 256 yards on the ground against Minnesota. Indiana’s run defense has trended in the opposite fashion, giving up a ton of yards on the ground to Penn State’s stable of backs, but limiting Rutgers to just 123 rushing yards. Not sure how good the Scarlet Knights’ ground game is, though, so its’ tough to concede an edge either way.

It’s only a field goal-sized spread, but there’s something about home underdogs, man. It’s usually a smart pick — although not having a stadium full of screaming fans might neutralize that edge.

I’m still rolling with Indiana.

The Pick: Indiana +3.5

Michigan State (1-1) vs. Iowa (0-2)

Spread: Iowa -6.5

The rumors of Sparty’s demise may have been exaggerated, mainly by me: after a home loss to Rutgers, Mel Tucker’s boys bounced back with a trip to Ann Arbor, knocking off the Wolverines.

It was a bit of a rock fight (that’s B1G football for you!), but Michigan State did enough on both sides of the ball (Rocky Lombardi threw another 3 TD’s, but without a pair of interceptions sandwiched in this time around) to pick up a win last weekend.

Iowa’s intriguing to me. Do I believe they’re better than an 0-2 record? Yes. Do I have any statistical info to back that up? I do not.

They’ve lost games to Purdue and Northwestern by a combined 5 points, but they were favored both times. Clearly, Vegas is a believer in the Hawkeyes again this week, but I don’t know if I am.

These teams are pretty similar, bottom-tier in the conference on offense and pretty good on defense. Iowa’s defense has been good for sure, keeping the Hawkeyes in both of their games so far. But while Michigan State looked to have made strides offensively against Michigan last week, Iowa seemed to be regressing.

Roll with Sparty here.

Spread: Michigan State +6.5

Minnesota (0-2) vs. Illinois (0-2)

Spread: Minnesota -7

Tough two weeks to be a Golden Gophers fan, as Minnesota opened the year giving up 49 points to Michigan and followed it up by giving up 45 points…TO MARYLAND. The same Maryland team that scored THREE POINTS in their opener against Northwestern.

Minnesota was ranked! They were supposed to make the leap this year! They’ve leapt headfirst into a bonfire!

And on the other side, I thought Illinois would give Wisconsin a run for their money two weeks ago — I was wrong. And then I backed Purdue to cover -7 easily against the Illini last week — it was a push, and Illinois was without multiple players due to COVID-19, including QB Brandon Peters.

So basically, these are two teams that are well beyond my comprehension. My only nugget of wisdom here: Minnesota’s only been terrible on one side of the ball, while Illinois’s been bad all over.

I’m not confident in this one at all, but I’ll back the Gophers.

The Pick: Minnesota -7

Maryland (1-1) vs. Penn State (0-2)

Spread: Penn State -25

The Terps lit up Minnesota last week, and Taulia Tagavailoa was a big reason why. The Alabama transfer went from a dismal three-interception performance against Northwestern to five total scores against the Gophers, including what would be the game-winner in OT. It would be crazy to discount RB Jake Funk’s 216 yards on the ground for the Terps, but the overnight improvement from the QB position is crucial for Maryland.

Penn State ran into the same Buckeye buzzsaw last week that this whole league will run into soon enough. They’re another team that’s likely better than their record, and Sean Clifford’s dual threat ability should plague this Maryland defense, which has been pretty bad so far.

25 is a lot of points, though. A lot of points. Especially against a team that broke out in a way that the Terps did last week. That’s just too many points to lay.

The Pick: Maryland +25

Rutgers (1-1) vs. #3 Ohio State (2-0)

Spread: Ohio State -38

Saturday night’s Big 10 main event should be a snoozer, as the Scarlet Knights head to Columbus for a date with Justin Fields and the Buckeyes.

The scariest thing about Ohio State so far is that I don’t think they’re even close to reaching peak form yet. Fields has been surgical, completing 87% of his passes for 6 TD’s and no turnovers. He hasn’t had that monster game yet, although that’s only because hasn’t needed to. The Buckeyes have yet to be really in a tight spot; Penn State hung around last week but it never really felt like the game was in reach for the Nittany Lions.

Rutgers has that opening-weekend win over Michigan State and a competitive loss to Indiana last week. They haven’t looked bad — but even with Indiana’s current ranking in the AP poll, going from the Hoosiers to Ohio State is stepping onto a whole new level.

Ohio State will win, they will win easily and they’ll likely limit Rutgers’ scoring chances. But could they cover a massive 38-point spread?

Nah! We’re riding with the Scarlet Knights.

The Pick: Rutgers +38

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