First off, thanks to LVS for covering for me the last couple weeks. I had a lot of stuff going on, but all that's clear and I'm ready to give your money away again. LVS had a pretty good record last week; he went 3-2 in both his straight up and spread picks. This week's Big Ten slate is better than average, with a marquee game in Ohio State-Iowa, a very good game in Wisconsin-Michigan, a couple of games in pro stadiums with Northwestern-Illinois at Wrigley Field and PSU-Indiana at FedEx Field (the Redskins' home turf), and a game that is occurring in MSU-Purdue. As always, heed this advice only if you can't figure out what to give the bookie that has everything.
PENN STATE vs. INDIANA (+10) at FedEx Field - LOCK OF THE WEEK
Can someone tell me what Indiana's record is in games after they lose by more than 60 points? I'm sure the data is scant, but I'm also sure it's not a null set. At any rate, Indiana gives up a home game to travel to Maryland for a virtual Penn State home game. If you'd have given me this spread five weeks into the season, I would've jumped on Indiana in a heartbeat. With the recent rise of Matt McGloin and the Penn State offense however, I think Penn State walks.
Spread and Straight Up Picks: Penn State
WISCONSIN at MICHIGAN (+4)
To demonstrate how dominant Wisconsin has been in the Big Ten this season, I'll use an analogy - The Badgers are Paul Kersey, and the Michigan State game was when his wife was murdered and daughter left in a coma. Since then, save a close game against the Hawkeyes, Wisconsin has absolutely looked like the class of the Big Ten. Michigan has looked much improved as well, even with the Wolverines' new tradition, the third quarter Denard Robinson exit. This game will be competitive, but Wisconsin looks much too good right now to pick against them, especially when they only have to cover four points.
Spread and Straight Up Picks: Wisconsin
NORTHWESTERN vs. ILLINOIS (-7.5) at Wrigley Field
The choice of end zones will mean more in this game than any other this year, as one team will be faced with an end zone that ends right against a wall. This means that depending on the quarter, go routs to the end zone for one team will literally be a no-go. Nevertheless, if one had to pick two teams from the Big Ten who would be least affected by this lack of real estate the Wildcats and Illini would be two darn good choices, with steadily improving Nathan Scheelhaase still a bit reticent to throw deep, and I'd bet anything Pat Fitzgerald reverts back to the Mike Kafka memorial "five-yard curl or throw it away" offense to ease Evan Watkins into the starting role.
Two of my betting rules are conflicting here -- don't bet on Northwestern and don't bet on the Zooker. I'll split the difference here - Illinois wins, but Northwestern keeps it close.
Spread Pick: Northwestern Straight Up Pick: Illinois
OHIO STATE at IOWA (+3) - MISS OF THE WEEK
This game has lost some of its luster since the traditional upset of Iowa by Northwestern, but this match still has huge Big Ten title and BCS implications. Last year Iowa bounced back from the Wildcat upset to nearly beat the Buckeyes in Columbus, and that was without Ricky Stanzi. This year they'll have the Americanzi, and if he can be Matt McGloin last week minus the interceptions, this is a very winnable game for Iowa. In fact, I'm going to out on a very slight limb and predict an Iowa victory. Wishful thinking? Absolutely. Ohio State's secondary has been in shambles this year though, and Terrelle Pryor has yet to have a truly awful this game this season. Why not this one?
Spread and Straight Up Picks: Iowa
PURDUE at MICHIGAN STATE (-20)
The only way Purdue beats the spread is if Ryan Kerrigan has a huge game, of which he is completely capable. Think Brandon Graham last year - he's that good. However, Purdue's offense could not score a touchdown against Michigan of all teams last week, and the Boilermakers will be facing a rested Spartan squad who needs to win the next two games to clinch a share of the Big Ten title for the first time since November of way, way, way too long ago. There's some possibility of MSU looking past this game to the finale in Beaver Stadium, but I think Michigan State keeps the turnovers to a minimum and reaches double digits in wins for the first time in a decade.
Spread and Straight Up Picks: Michigan State
YEAR TO DATE (Pete and LVS):
STRAIGHT UP PICKS: 62-13: 24-10 Big Ten
SPREAD PICKS: 29-33-2; 16-17-1 Big Ten
LOCK OF THE WEEK: 10-1 straight up, 5-5-1 spread
MISS OF THE WEEK: 4-7 straight up, 3-8 spread