Your normal wagerin' sage -- Pete, of course -- is otherwise occupied this morning, so your picks this week come from a guy whose experience with sports betting consists of mooching a few free drinks in the Wynn sportsbook a couple years ago. So, caveat bettor. Pete went 4-1 straight up last week, and 2-2-1 ATS. Northwestern vs. Indiana, Pete's lock of the week, was a push. (Let's hope that Pete wasn't in a "ties lose" parlor.) The miss of the week -- Michigan at Penn State -- was a loss. Anyway, let's see if I can do any better. (Doubtful.)
ILLINOIS AT MICHIGAN (-3) -- LOCK OF THE WEEK.
How in the world is Michigan favored in this game? In one corner, you've got Illinois, whose three losses are to teams with a combined 23-3 record. In the other, you've got Michigan, owners of the nation's most schadenfreude-inducing defense -- and one which just got worse, as another secondary starter (J.T. Floyd) went down to injury. I can think of three reasons for the spread. First, the game is in Ann Arbor. But Michigan has dropped its last two games there. Two, Michigan's defensive weakness is against the pass, and Illinois' freshman quarterback may be ill-equipped to take advantage of that. But Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 204 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions against Purdue, and he's getting better last week. Besides, the Michigan run defense isn't good either, and Mikel Leshoure is certainly good enough to gash them. Third, Ron Zook. But it's becoming quite apparent that Zook has turned most of the game coaching over to two new, competent coordinators, so the Zook factor has been minimized. Don't overthink this one. Take Illinois and the points.
Straight up and spread picks: Illinois.
More, after the jump.
IOWA AT INDIANA (+17)
You may remember what a wild game this was last season: when Ricky Stanzi threw roughly 11 pick-sixes, Indiana led by 14 in the third quarter, and Iowa still won by 18. Indiana showed a brief bit of competency against Michigan but has been terrible otherwise. Iowa, as we saw last week, is still good, and Stanzi is going to slash and burn through the Indiana secondary. Similarly, Iowa's defense is good enough to hold the sometimes-explosive Indiana passing offense in check. From time to time, Iowa ends up in an inexplicably close game, but I doubt it happens here.
Straight up and spread picks: Iowa.
WISCONSIN AT PURDUE (+19.5)
Wisconsin is playing better than any other team in the conference, and Purdue may be playing even worse than Minnesota at the moment. Illinois easily covered a big spread against Purdue last week, and I have little doubt that Wisconsin will do the same this week. Given the complete disaster that is the Purdue quarterback situation, it's tough seeing the Boilers scoring more than 10 points. Will Wisconsin get to 30? Absolutely.
Straight up and spread picks: Wisconsin.
NORTHWESTERN AT PENN STATE (-6) -- MISS OF THE WEEK.
Tough to get a handle on this one. Dan Persa will be playing for Northwestern, and he'll probably be effective. Penn State's linebackers are going to have a tough time containing the Wildcats' short passing game. But Penn State may have dug itself out of its rut last week. It's not certain who's going to start at quarterback for PSU (Bolden or McGloin), but Northwestern's defense probably won't be able to shut down either. We've been waiting all season for Northwestern's usual upset; I'm becoming more skeptical that it'll happen. They'll keep it close, but Penn State wins.
Straight up pick: Penn State. Spread pick: Northwestern.
MINNESOTA AT MICHIGAN STATE (-24) . . . full preview tomorrow!