It's dress rehearsal week for No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan as the Big Ten East rivals make their final preparations for their all-important showdown next week. The Buckeyes travel to Maryland as 27.5-point favorites while the Wolverines host Illinois as 18-point favorites in a game that, unfortunately, has lost some of its luster over the last couple of weeks.
When Illinois was 7-1 and ranked No. 14 after winning at Nebraska on Oct. 29, the Illini looked like they might be able to play the role of being a rare quality opponent on Michigan's schedule. After losing two straight and falling from the College Football Playoff Rankings, however, the Illini are looking more like the other mediocre Big Ten teams the Wolverines have been beating up on this season.
Illinois' fall from national prominence only heightens the importance of next week's game at Ohio State for Michigan, which will likely be unable to sustain a loss against the Buckeyes and still reach the College Football Playoff. Were Illinois entering this week's game 9-1, perhaps a win over the Illini would give Michigan some insulation against a loss next week. But that was not in the cards.
Ohio State is in slightly better shape because of its Week 1 victory over a Notre Dame team that is No. 18 in the CFP Rankings. That win may keep the Buckeyes in the CFP conversation should they lose against Michigan next week. But enough about next week and beyond. There are seven games to play in the Big Ten this week, and we've got picks for each of them.
2022 record: 33-28-2
No. 2 Ohio State at Maryland
Maryland is just about tapped out. That was the takeaway from the Terrapins' 30-0 loss at Penn State last week in which they mustered just 134 total yards. Penn State didn't score a touchdown in the second half and still won by 30. Ohio State has scored more than 40 points in eight of 10 games this season and should be able to do so again against the Terrapins' average defense. The Buckeyes have outscored Maryland by an obscene 139-31 margin over the past two meetings. Pick: Ohio State -27.5
Illinois at No. 3 Michigan
Illinois enters ranked sixth nationally in time of possession while Michigan ranks third. Both teams play a ball-control style, and that's reflected in their defensive numbers. The Wolverines are first in total defense while Illinois is second. With two of the nation's best running backs in Chase Brown from Illinois and Blake Corum from Michigan methodically moving the sticks, this is destined to be a low-scoring game. Michigan might want to rack up style points for its CFP résumé, but doing so against Illinois will be tough. And if the Wolverines do have a big lead late, they will also need to think about conserving energy and health for next week's game at Ohio State. Pick: Under 42
No. 11 Penn State at Rutgers
Rutgers should be amped for this game. It's Senior Day for the Scarlet Knights and bowl eligibility remains a somewhat plausible goal. At 4-6, Rutgers must win this game and win at Maryland next week to reach the postseason. Rutgers actually played well offensively with promising redshirt freshman Gavin Wimsatt at quarterback in a 27-21 loss at Michigan State last week and remains competent enough defensively to keep this one respectable at home. Pick: Rutgers +19
Iowa at Minnesota
Both teams are on three-game winning streaks that have seen their offenses show signs of life -- relatively speaking -- with 20 or more points in each contest. But with temperatures expected to top out at 16 degrees in Minneapolis on Saturday, defense should rule the day again. The Hawkeyes are No. 5 nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 13.9 points per game, while Minnesota is No. 4 at 13.1 points. Some simple arithmetic brings us to the conclusion that the under is the proper play. Pick: Under 32.5
Wisconsin at Nebraska
Signs are pointing to a return for Nebraska quarterback Casey Thompson, which is encouraging for the Cornhuskers. The last time he played a full game, Nebraska scored 37 points, albeit in a loss at Purdue. Since he was injured against Illinois on Oct. 29, it's been a different story. On Senior Day in Lincoln, and with Thompson potentially back on the field, look for Nebraska to put up a fight. Pick: Nebraska +13
Northwestern at Purdue
There is still a path to win the Big Ten West for Purdue, which should motivate the Boilermakers as they enter off the high of last week's win at Illinois. Northwestern just lost by 28 at Minnesota and doesn't have much to play for. It's been a nightmare season for the Wildcats, which are No. 128 nationally in scoring offense with just 15.3 points per game. Look for Purdue to play well on Senior Day. Pick: Purdue -19.5
Indiana at Michigan State
The thing keeping this point total below 50 must be a weather forecast that calls for temperatures in the 20s and a chance for snow, because there is little about either defense that inspires confidence. Indiana ranks No. 120 in total defense while Michigan State ranks No. 107. Even in nasty weather, these teams should both be able to score in the 20s. Pick: Over 47.5
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