The first batch of this season's College Football Playoff rankings won't be released until Nov. 1, but the CFP fates of Penn State and Michigan could be decided by mid-afternoon Saturday. The No. 5 Wolverines host the No. 10 Nittany Lions in a Big Ten East battle that is paramount for the postseason ambitions of both programs.

After this week, both are likely to be favored by a touchdown or more in the rest of their games with the exception of contests against No. 2 Ohio State in which they will almost certainly be underdogs. So while the winner will remain in contention for the Big Ten East title, the true prize here is margin for error. The winner buys itself the opportunity to lose against Ohio State and remain in consideration for the College Football Playoff as a one-loss team. 

The Buckeyes reached the CFP in the 2016-17 season as an 11-1 team that didn't play in the Big Ten title game. The following season, Alabama reached the CFP as an 11-1 team that didn't play in the SEC Championship Game, and the Crimson Tide proceeded to win the whole thing.

So, even though it's just mid-October, the winner of Saturday's showdown establishes themselves on the short-list of CFP contenders. Of course, Michigan vs. Penn State is just one of the games on the Week 7 Big Ten slate. So let's dive in for some picks from this week's action in the conference.

2022 record: 21-12-1

No. 10 Penn State at No. 5 Michigan

Though playing at Michigan marks an obvious uptick in level of competition, Penn State is 2-0 in hostile environments with a 35-31 win at Purdue in Week 1 and a 41-12 win at Auburn in Week 3. The Wolverines are in a similar boat after three straight pedestrian victories over mediocre Big Ten opponents. Penn State is easily the most complete team the Wolverines have faced, and this will be the brightest spotlight of quarterback J.J. McCarthy's short tenure as the starter. With the Nittany Lions coming off a bye, they are well-equipped to compete here in a pivotal Big Ten East battle. Pick: Penn State (+7)

Minnesota at No. 24 Illinois

Only one of the past seven meetings between these teams has been decided by seven points or less. If Illinois is without starting quarterback Tommy DeVito, look for that trend to continue in this game. DeVito was among a handful of key Illini players injured in last week's 9-6 win over Iowa. Though coach Bret Bielema hasn't been forthcoming with injury updates this week, Minnesota has an obvious health advantage coming off a bye week. The Gophers should play with some fire after a poor performance against Purdue ruined their unbeaten start two weeks ago.  Pick: Minnesota (-6.5)

Wisconsin at Michigan State

Wisconsin got its mojo back last week with a 42-7 win at Northwestern as the Badgers exploded for five touchdowns through the air and a season-best 299 yards passing from Graham Mertz. If that was any indication of the offensive dynamism Wisconsin will employ under interim coach Jim Leonhard, then look for the Badgers to terrorize a Michigan State passing defense that is among the nation's worst. Each of the four Power Five quarterbacks the Spartans have played this season have thrown for 250 yards or more, and Michigan State has lost each of those games by double-digit margins. Pick: Wisconsin (-7)

Nebraska at Purdue

It seemed supremely unlikely after Week 1 of the season that this game would have any ramifications in the Big Ten West title race, especially for Nebraska. But here we are with both teams at 2-1 in league play and the division absolutely up for grabs. A common thread for both teams the past few weeks has been solid defense. After giving up 642 yards to Georgia Southern on Sept. 10 in Scot Frost's last game as coach and 580 to Oklahoma the following week in Mickey Joseph's first game as the interim coach, Nebraska has been surprisingly competent on defense in two games since. The Cornhuskers held Indiana to just 290 yards in a 35-21 win and limited Rutgers to 348 in a gross 14-13 win last Friday. Purdue ranks No. 28 nationally in total defense, making it the best defensive unit of coach Jeff Brohm's six years. Pick: Under (56.5)

Maryland at Indiana

Maryland has only covered a spread of this magnitude once since this became an annual game in 2014. While the Terrapins are the better team, they managed to lose at home to Purdue last week even after forcing turnovers on three straight possessions at one point in the second half. Indiana played Michigan tougher last week than a 31-10 final score indicates, and Hoosiers coach Tom Allen will have his squad believing this is game they can win. Pick: Indiana (+11.5)

Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 7, and which top-10 favorite will go down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned more than $3,100 in profit over the past six-plus seasons -- and find out.