Just like the previous week, I went 3-2 in both the straight up and spread picks. In hindsight, that Minnesota pick last week was a bad one, but I don't know if I want to live in a world where the only comic relief in the Big Ten is Danny Hope's mustache. This week's games feature a very good game in Wisconsin-Iowa, a MSU-Northwestern game that is somewhat under the radar, and Indiana-Illinois, Penn State-Minnesota and Ohio State-Purdue games that exist. As always, use these picks only if you're trying to launder money through your bookie.
INDIANA at ILLINOIS (-13.5)
Both teams will have a tough time scoring on Saturday, but for completely contrary reasons. Illinois is still a one-trick pony offense, albeit a very good one-trick pony in Mikel Leshoure. Indiana's offense showed how explosive its air attack can be against teams without defenses (Michigan, the entirety of the nonconference schedule), and how much of a dud it can be against teams with a defense (Ohio State). Illinois is going to win this game, rest assured of that. The Illini offense, however, won't score enough to outpace the Indiana offense. The over/under for this game is 54.5, and the under looks very attractive right now.
Straight Up Pick: Illinois Spread Pick: Indiana
MICHIGAN STATE at NORTHWESTERN (+5)
There'll be plenty of actual analysis on this game today and tomorrow, so I'll view this game in strict gambling terms -- the line on this game opened at MSU -8 or -7, depending on what sports book you "allegedly" frequent. As you can see three lines above, that line has now moved to MSU -5. For those unfamiliar with gambling, the book's goal is to get equal action on both sides, since they take a cut of the bet. In short - the line has dropped by more than two points because a lot of action is coming in on the Wildcats. That leads me to one of the best rules in sports gambling: look at the team that's getting the vast majority of bets - then go the other way. Michigan State wins, but I refuse to make this my lock of the week for anti-jinxing purposes.
Straight up and Spread Picks: Michigan State
PENN STATE at MINNESOTA (+9.5) - LOCK OF THE WEEK
Sadly, the Tim Brewster Farewell Tour! was cut short five dates early. Brewster will be replaced on these dates by new head coach Jeff Horton, who will do his best to lead the Golden Gophers into the offseason with a quiet dignity not seen from his predecessor. On the other end of the coaching longevity spectrum, Joe Paterno has been coaching long before most of you reading this have been born, and the road to 400 victories for him this season becomes a lot tougher if the Nittany Lions lose this game. If Robert Bolden can be a decent quarterback he'll need to show it in this game - Minnesota has the third worst pass efficiency defense in the FBS. Penn State struggles again, but Minnesota struggles more.
Straight Up and Spread Picks: Penn State
PURDUE at OHIO STATE (-23.5)
In the BlogPoll this week, two voters voted for Purdue - yes, the same Purdue that lost to Toledo at home. One of these voters was a Northwestern blg; the other was SB Nation Purdue blog Hammer & Rails. If you've been following the BlogPoll in this or past years, there's an honor bestowed called the C/K award, given to the blogger who overrates his or her team the greatest. The C/K award is quite ignominous because the team that wins this award usually tanks the next week. While Purdue may not have won the C/K award, I feel like Purdue may be a bit high on itself right now and will go to Columbus to face a PO'd Ohio State team. Purdue's not going to be in first place for much longer.
Straight Up and Spread Picks: Ohio State
WISCONSIN at IOWA (-5.5) - MISS OF THE WEEK
The last Big Ten game of the week will probably be the best one as well as the one most relevant to the title chase. Wisconsin is coming off a tremendous win against Ohio State, while Iowa is coming off a tremendous three quarters of football in Ann Arbor in a victory over Michigan. The obvious match-up to watch is Wisconsin's almost-always crushing offensive line against Iowa's behemoths on the defensive line. Sportswriter boilerplate dictates that I now tell you about the underrated unit match-up in this game that makes me appear oh so insightful and intelligent, but let's skip that and if anyone asks, just say I said something about kicking or field possession or other nonsense . If John Clay and James White can get consistent runs of 4 to 5 yards Wisconsin wins, if Iowa knocks the Wisconsin "hog mollies" (by using that colloquialism and quotation marks, I show I have personality and smarts!) back to Illinois, the Hawkeyes win. I think the Badger offense crosses the border.
Straight Up and Spread Picks: Iowa
YEAR TO DATE:
STRAIGHT UP PICKS: 48-8; 10-5 Big Ten
SPREAD PICKS: 20-24-1; 7-8 Big Ten
LOCK OF THE WEEK: 7-0 straight up, 3-4 spread
MISS OF THE WEEK: 3-4 straight up, 2-5 spread