The money train continued last week, as we went 3-1 ATS and +2.8 Units. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not in love with the spreads this week – I’d feel more comfortable with the Badgers laying 6 or 7, and it’s apparent that Vegas has caught onto the struggling Buckeyes by only offering me 3.5 to work with. No locks, and I’m only playing 2 games, so all I can offer is two little 1* picks.
1* STAR PICKS
Michigan State +3.5 @ Ohio State
Poor Luke Fickell. It’s become apparent that he’s up to his eyeballs with this job, and without his full deck and any stability at quarterback his world his falling apart. While the Buckeyes were able to get their heads straight against the train-wrecked Colorado program, they now have to face one of the more stable programs in the Big Ten that just happens to be due for a statement win. The Spartans have been quiet this season, failing to show up against their only legitimate foe (Notre Dame) two weeks back, but could this be the week they break out. Things will get worse for Ohio State before they get better, and Fickell’s resume will probably take a decade to rebound from this. I like the Spartans on the money line here, but I’ll officially hedge it and take the field goal.
Wisconsin -9.5 vs Nebraska
One of the most highly anticipated Big Ten game in years is upon us – the conference’s perceived cream of the crop hosting the big new kid on the block. Up to this point, the Badgers have been fattening up on cream puffs, but they’ve looked good in the process. Wins over UNLV and South Dakota allowed the offense to flex its muscles and get Russell Wilson plenty of reps to assimilate himself. Nebraska has looked good – but to me, not Top-10 good.
The defense has been pedestrian, allowing Washington and Fresno State to roll up an endless amount of yards in Lincoln. Taylor Martinez has played his role well, but it’s becoming apparent to me that he and the Huskers are very one-dimensional on offense. They won’t be able to spread-option the Badgers to death as they can lesser foes, and if they fall behind late and need to catch up, look out. This one won’t be a blow out, but Wisconsin gets the win, and they’ll find a way to cover in the fourth quarter.
Northwestern +10 @ Illinois
Dan Persa’s return couldn’t come at a better time for the Wildcats, whose presence elevates Northwestern from “underdog” to “feisty underdog”. This has the feel of a very close, ball-control type game, with plenty of long drives, 3rd down conversions from veteran quarterbacks, and red-zone stops from the defense. The Illini’s edge in talent is cancelled out by Fitzgerald’s supremacy over Zook as a coach, and the home field might be the difference between a win and a loss but in this case not a cover.
Minnesota +20.5 @ Michigan
The Gophers’ stock has been more volatile than anyone’s this season, but I’ll put on my analyst hat and say it’s due for upswing. The is Jerry Kill’s first Big Ten game, and I’m guessing the man knows a bit more about his team than he did a month ago. I trust him to come up with a good game plan and make Michigan earn this one. As for Michigan, I’m still not sold on them as a top-25 team, and they’re playing the dreaded favorite in the 11am game. Brady Hoke will pull out the win, but the Gophers will keep this interesting and stay within the 3 TD limit.
Penn State -15 @ Indiana
Kevin Wilson isn’t the only Hoosier who has lost his mind thanks to the season’s lackluster beginning. RB Darius Willis, currently out with knee problems, has apparently switched his priorities to pro wrestling. During the Hoosiers’ putrid loss to North Texas last Saturday, Willis was executing “flying shoulder tackles in Bloomington. I’m not sure has anything to do with this matchup, but it needed to be pointed out that Wilson has taken Indiana football to a new low, a place we didn’t think existed. While I can’t put money on the Lions in good faith, betting the Hoosiers would be an even worse idea. It’s an easy one to leave alone.
Purdue +12.5 vs Notre Dame
This may be the only game I end up caring about this season for my Boilers, so I’m avoiding a conflict of interest and staying on the sidelines. At first glance, this one seems like an easy cover for the Domers – the talent level is lopsided and at some point they’re going to start taking care of business. But for Danny Hope’s endless amount of faults, he has been able to pull out covers in games like this before (Oregon, Ohio State, and Michigan) and he finally has a healthy QB (Robert Marve) who can throw the ball. Kick in the fact that this is a night game at the Boilers’ house and I think Purdue could make this a game.