Week 3 of the college football season saw Big Ten teams go a combined 9-2 straight up and 4-6-1 against the spread. There were three very impressive wins courtesy of Ohio State's demolition of Oklahoma, Nebraska's home win against Oregon and Michigan State's wire-to-wire win versus Notre Dame. That was the good. The bad featured two embarrassing losses and one close call. Illinois lost to Western Michigan by 24 points and No. 13 Iowa lost outright to FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, knocking the Hawkeyes out of the AP Top 25. Wisconsin managed to squeak by Georgia State 23-17 thanks to solid backup quarterback play from Alex Hornibrook.
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Week 4 in the Big Ten has 11 teams in action and the start of conference play. The biggest game of the week will see Wisconsin travel to East Lansing, Michigan, to take on the 2-0 Michigan State Spartans. This is a battle of the No. 11 and No.8 ranked teams in the AP Poll, and the winner should have the inside track into the Big Ten Championship Game. The line for this game is currently hovering around MSU -5.5, but I don't think the spread will ever be in question. Wisconsin doesn't have the offensive capabilities to overcome a very good Spartan defense which was able to keep Notre Dame's playmakers in check for three quarters.
Moving forward on a weekly basis I will be breaking down the weekly Big Ten slate. I will share with you my Game of the Week, teams trending up and down, key player matchups, best value line and the top underdog to watch, just to name a few. Let's get to it.
*All lines courtesy of Bovada*
Chalk of the Week
Penn State Nittany Lions @ Michigan Wolverines -19
The Michigan Wolverines found themselves down 21-7 after the first quarter last week before scoring 38 of the next 45 points, paving their way to a 3-0 start. This week they host the Penn State Nittany Lions, who will be without one of their better defensive players in Nyeem Wartman-White. The senior linebacker sustained a season-ending knee injury, and his absence will now leave an even bigger hole in an already-porous defense.
The numbers do not lie. Michigan is averaging 53 points per game, while the Nittany Lions are giving up almost 35 points per game. They allowed Pittsburgh to score 42 and Temple to score 27 - both of those teams are well below Michigan's talent level.
Michigan QB Wilton Speight has put together three straight strong outings (686 yards and eight touchdowns) and should be able to pick apart a defense that has had trouble putting pressure on the quarterback.
Michigan will also have the best player on the field at all times in Jabrill Peppers. Peppers became the first Big Ten player in history to win the Defensive and Special Teams Player of the Week awards after a monster game against Colorado. He not only had nine tackles on defense, but he totalled 204 all-purpose yards - including a 54-yard punt-return touchdown.
The jump up in class from Temple to Michigan is too steep for this version of the Nittany Lions to overcome. After a blowout loss here, I believe head coach James Franklin's seat will be even hotter than it has ever been. Lay the points with Big Blue.
ATS Top and Bottom 3
As a bettor, the only thing that matters when it comes to football is whether or not the team you picked covers the spread. The outcome of the game (who won and who lost) only matters to fans of that specific team. With that said, these are the three best and worst teams so far this season in terms of covering the spread.
Ohio State Buckeyes- 3-0 ATS. 2-0 Home, 1-0 Road
OSU has now won 19 road games in a row under Urban Meyer after crushing Oklahoma. The two home covers came in blowout wins against Bowling Green and Tulsa.
Next Game: Bye
Nebraska Cornhuskers - 2-0-1 ATS. 2-0-1 Home.
Nebraska fended off Oregon at home last week but was only able to get a push for bettors at -3. The other two home covers came against Fresno State and Wyoming.
Next Game: -7.5 @ Northwestern.
Michigan Wolverines - 2-1 ATS. 2-1 Home.
Michigan missed a perfect 3-0 mark by half a point in a 17-point win against Colorado while laying -17.5.
They were also able to dominate Hawaii and UCF by a combined score of 114-17.
Next Game: -18.5 vs Penn State.
Purdue Boilermakers - 0-2 ATS. 0-2 Home
Purdue is off to a shaky start this season, with one win and one loss. They weren't able to cover the spread as a dog against Cincinnati or as a big favorite against Eastern Kentucky.
Next Game: -6 vs Nevada.
Penn State Nittany Lions - 0-2-1 ATS. 0-2 Home, 0-0-1 Road.
There have been a lot of points scored in Penn State games lately, but so far they have not managed to cover a spread. They failed in wins against Kent State and Temple and were able to get a push in a three-point loss at Pittsburgh.
Next Game: +18.5 @ Michigan.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights - 1-2 ATS. 1-1 Home, 0-1 Road.
Rutgers' season started off in the worst possible way. A cross-country road trip to Washington to get their asses kicked. Since then, they have won back-to-back games but have only covered one game -- as -6.5 point favorites against New Mexico.
Next Game: +13 @ Iowa
Best Value of the Week
Nebraska Cornhuskers @ Northwestern Wildcards +7
This has prime letdown spot written all over it. The Cornhuskers come into this game after a massive nonconference win against a very good Oregon squad. It was their first nonconference home win over a ranked opponent since 2001.
Now they travel to face a Northwestern squad that has given them fits in recent years. Four of the past five meetings have been decided by three points or less, including last season's 30-28 Wildcats win in Lincoln.
Northwestern is just 1-2 on the season, but they seemed to right the ship last week with an impressive 24-13 win over Duke. Wildcats QB Clayton Thorson threw for 320 yards and three touchdowns. Not only did the offense produce, but the defense chipped in with several key stops with their backs to the end zone. Two turnovers and a missed FG inside the 30 allowed Northwestern to gain some momentum heading into this crucial game.
Based on history and recent performance, I think this number is a little too high. Northwestern has the kind of defense you want when you are backing underdogs and the letdown potential is just too big to ignore.
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