Week 2 of the Tournament of Bad continues. In this case we’re talking about the Big Ten season, as its becoming quickly apparent that no one really feels like challenging Wisconsin for a BCS bid. I’m not sure what to make of the games this week – two teams I trust (Michigan State and Wisconsin) are off, another team I trust (Michigan) has a dicey road game and an unfavorable spread, Ron Zook is facing off against Kevin Wilson, and the loser of Purdue-Minnesota might need to be considered the worst team in BCS-conference football. Can BTN hire Dick Stockton to cover all of these games simultaneously? It’s only appropriate to have America’s worst announcer involved.
2* STAR PICKS
Iowa +4 @ Penn State
The old 4 point line with the home team favored…if you think it’s a trap, you’re right
, as Michigan State proved at the Horseshoe last week. I’m re-applying the same formula on this week’s contest and taking the Hawk’s money line, which currently pays out at 3:2. Penn State being favored in this game has nothing to do with how good the two teams are (Iowa is better) or how they’ve played each other in the past (Kirk Ferentz is 8-2 ATS against Penn State in his career). It’s all about the public’s perception, and in spite of Penn State looking pedestrian for most of the past two seasons, the public sees Penn State Home, Iowa Away, and figures it’s Penn State’s to lose. I’m all for this. Without this misguided public knowledge, I might not be 5-0 betting against the Nittany Lions the last two seasons. So set yourself apart from the average Joe (Pa -I just had to). Understand the Iowa holds the coaching edge (Kirk Ferentz over Joe Pa, check) quarterback edge (Vanderberg over McGloin/Bolden, check), and has recent history on its side.
1* STAR PICKS
Nebraska -11 vs Ohio State
Shouldn’t there be a little more hype for this one? A year ago this time
this would have been the game of the year in the Big Ten. Instead we’re stuck with the decimated Buckeyes and the maligned Huskers, two teams that have combined to go 3-7 ATS. I’m weary of the one-dimensional Nebraska offense versus a still-strong Buckeye defense, but the games in Lincoln, at night, and Bo Pelini will be very, very angry if his boys don’t win this one by at least two touchdowns. The Blackshirts should be able to hold down the Bauserman/Miller combo and the offense will do enough to win this one by 2 TDs.
Northwestern +7.5 vs Michigan
As a Brady Hoke disciple and lover of spread-coverers, I’ve been trying to talk myself into betting Michigan the last two days. But a cooler head has prevailed and I’m going with the ultimate underdog, Pat Fitz’s Wildcats. The Cats are 10-5 ATS as an underdog since 2009, including a sparkling 2-0 mark this season. If you’re going to bet Northwestern in this game, you’re getting more value than you would have two weeks ago. The Wolverines are coming off three dominant performances (albeit at home) and the stock is high. Luckily, Northwestern is still trying to find its groove (in the eyes of Vegas) so we’re being given a TD and a hook. Dan Persa is back (though his aches concern me) and Northwestern hosts this one under their lights. I think Michigan comes up with the win, but it’ll be close and the Cats will stay within the requisite number.
Illinois -14.5 @ Indiana
If I wasn’t a bit hesitant about laying road chalk with Ron Zook I wouldn’t be American, but let’s look past that and examine what we know. The Illini’s defense is a rock, ranking 17th in the country in total yards (295 per game) and should be able to control an inept Hoosier attack averaging only 24 ppg. On offense, Illinois has one of the most reliable field generals in the conference and hums along at 433 ypg. The Hoosier defense is a sobering 84th in the country allowing 400+ ypg. I’ll never give Zook’s team the intangibles edge on the road, but Kevin Wilson is quickly losing his team and has had 6 players quit in the last two weeks. The Illini are riding high, 5-0 and coming off a come-from-behind win, while the Hoosiers are winless against the FBS ranks. Knowing what we know, it’s hard to not give Illinois a major edge here, and a 2 TD + field goal win shouldn’t be too much to ask.
Purdue -10.5 vs Minnesota
I don’t know what’s more surprising – that Purdue is laying double digits to another FBS school or that I’m picking them to cover said double digits. While I’ve been seriously unimpressed with my Boilers this season, they’re at home, they have more than 1 (questionable) options at quarterback, and they’ve got two wins under their belt – all things I can’t say about Minnesota. It’s been confirmed that Max Shortell will be getting the start at QB and if Marqueis Gray finds a way to play this could change things. Minnesota officially hits rock bottom Saturday and Purdue remains undefeated in Big Ten play.