Big Ten: Weekly Conference Analysis with Odds and Predictions
After the Big Ten landscape was turned on it's head two weeks ago, things kind of returned to normal with this past weekend's results. Every team that was supposed to win pulled through, and there were no real upsets to speak of -- unless of course you take the AP rankings seriously. With No. 13 Ohio State's blowout win over No. 12 Michigan State, the Buckeyes recaptured the inside track for the Big Ten Title game. They own a one-game lead over the Spartans and Penn State and also hold the head-to-head tie-breaker. They also hold a one-game lead over Michigan, which makes this year's edition of "The Game" all the more meaningful.
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Over in the West Division, Wisconsin kept their unbeaten record intact by beating No. 20 Iowa by a score of 38-14. Phenom sensation Jonathan Taylor rushed for another 157 yards, which makes that his seventh 100-yard rushing game in his last nine games - including two 200-yard performances. If it wasn't for Baker Mayfield, Taylor's Heisman campaign would be legitimate. The question still remains, though - and I touched on it last week - would the committee actually keep an undefeated Big Ten Champion out of the College Football Playoff? Your guess is as good as mine, but the Notre Dame and Georgia losses only pushed the Badgers one step closer to the top four.
Weekly Big Ten Round Up
It was a pretty straightforward week in the Big Ten with favorites going 5-2 ATS. The only two teams that failed to cover were Indiana by half a point and Penn State by two points. "Over" bettors had tough go of it this past weekend as only two of seven games exceeded the total while five stayed under the number. The complete rundown looks like this; No 13 Ohio State beat No. 12 Michigan State 48-3, No. 14 Penn State beat Rutgers 35-6, Indiana got the better of Illinois 24-14, Minnesota destroyed Nebraska 54-21, Michigan outclassed Maryland 35-10, No. 8 Wisconsin handled No. 20 Iowa 38-14 and No. 25 Northwestern held on for a 23-13 win over Purdue.
Big Ten Rundown: Week 12
I wrote last week that the only game of interest in the Big Ten was the Spartans/Buckeyes game - which is true -- but it was probably the least entertaining game of the bunch. Unfortunately, this week figures to be much of the same with only one real game standing out above the rest. Michigan travels to No. 8 Wisconsin for a showdown with the Badgers at Noon Eastern. The Badgers are currently 7.5-point favorites. We all know about Michigan's struggles on offense, but they do posses a defense that could cause the Badgers fits. The rest of the card shapes up like this; Rutgers travels to Indiana (-11), Minnesota travels to No. 25 Northwestern (-7.5), Illinois takes on No. 13 Ohio State (-39), Purdue takes on No. 20 Iowa (-8.5), Maryland does battle with No. 12 Michigan State and No. 14 Penn State (-24) hosts Nebraska.
Big Ten Power Rankings
As we enter the Big Ten's penultimate regular season week, I think now would be a better time than any to give you my final Big Ten power rankings. Sure, there may be one more week left to play, but if the top teams handle their business like they should, the power rankings would look exactly the same whether I did them this week or before the final regular-season game.
No. 1 Wisconsin - The Badgers are the only undefeated team left in the Big Ten, and that has to mean something even if they've played a very soft schedule this season. The Badgers are also one of the most complete teams in the country, possessing an absurd rushing attack, consistent quarterback play and one of the best defensive units in the nation. The Badgers are all but guaranteed a spot in the Big Ten title game but will need to run the table and get a bit of help elsewhere in order to make their first ever College Football Playoff appearance.
No. 2 Ohio State - It was a toss up for the second spot between the Buckeyes and Penn State, but I have to give the nod to J.T. Barrett and Co. The Buckeyes have won seven of their last eight games, with the lone hiccup being a letdown spot in a tough place to play -- away to Iowa. The Buckeyes are also in control of their own destiny and should find themselves squaring off against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.
No. 3 Penn State - Before we jump the gun and call last week's win a solution to what's been ailing the Nittany Lions, let's all remember it came against Rutgers. Sure, Trace McSorley had a solid game, throwing for 214 yards and two touchdowns, but their best player, Saquon Barkley was held to just 35 yards on 14 carries. Is he injured? We will never know. The fact of the matter remains that if Penn State can win out and if Michigan can upset Ohio State in the final regular season game then they'll be in the Big Ten title game.
No. 4 Michigan - The Wolverines' offensive struggles have been fully documented, but those struggles seem to be a thing of the past. Big Blue has won three straight games and have scored 35 points in each of them. They do, however, face their two toughest opponents in the coming weeks, so we will get a chance to see if their modest three-game winning streak is legit or if they just took advantage of subpar teams.
No. 5 Michigan State - I simply couldn't put Sparty ahead of Big Blue, especially after the ass-kicking the Spartans received last week. They got dominated in every facet of the game, and they not only fell out of Big Ten contention but they plummeted down the rankings to No. 23. Sparty has played well above expectations this year and should be rewarded with a spot to a half-decent bowl game.
No. 6 Northwestern - Don't look now but the Wildcats have reeled off five straight wins, which includes wins over Michigan State, Iowa and Maryland. They are getting solid play on both sides of the football and have a legitimate shot at winning nine games this season and heading to a popular bowl game.
No.7 Minnesota - The Gophers used the read-option to perfection last week and ran roughshod on a bad Nebraska team. Quarterback Demry Croft ran for 183 yards and three touchdowns, while teammate Rodney Smith added 134 yards on the ground. The Gophers are currently 5-5 and need one win from their remaining two games (Northwestern and Wisconsin) in order to secure bowl eligibility.
No. 8 Iowa - The Hawkeyes are the biggest enigma in the Big Ten. One week they look like world beaters and destroy Ohio State and then the following week they lay an egg on the road. Iowa is already bowl eligible, but they will be looking to improve on their 6-4 record with games left against Purdue and Nebraska. An eight-win team is much more likely to get placed in a decent bowl compared to a six- or seven-win team.
No. 9 Indiana -The Hoosiers are two wins away from a Bowl game, and they have every chance in the world to secure those wins against two subpar teams in Rutgers and Purdue. The defense stepped up in a big way last week, racking up eight sacks and 10 tackles for a loss against Illinois. If the Hoosiers fail to reach a bowl game then this season will be viewed as a complete and utter failure.
No. 10 Purdue -The Boilermakers threw the ball 60 times in last week's loss to Northwestern, and you can expect a repeat performance this week against Iowa once they begin trailing. Purdue needs to win it's last two games (unlikely) in order to reach six wins and bowl eligibility. They take on Iowa this week and Indiana in the season finale.
No.11 Rutgers - The Scarlet Knights actually led the Nittany Lions 6-0 last week with a few minutes left to go in the first half. And then in fine Rutgers fashion, they gave up the next 35 points and were blown out. I guess you could say this was a moral victory considering they got shut out in last season's games. Rutgers has been somewhat competitive this year, but they are still the butt end of all Big Ten jokes.
No. 12 Nebraska - The Cornhuskers were embarrassed last week on the road by Minnesota to the tune of 54-21. They now have to travel to Happy Valley to take on a Nittany Lions team with it all to play for. The Huskers are currently 26-point underdogs , and with the way they've mailed in the last few weeks this should be another blowout.
No. 13 Illinois - Eight straight losses have the Fighting Illini wishing and hoping the season was over today. However, they are in Columbus this week for the yearly blowout and then take on Northwestern. Not sure Lovie Smith can survive a winless Big Ten season.
No.14 Maryland - The season started in fine fashion for the Terrapins, but then the injury train rolled through College Park and absolutely derailed the entire season. The Terps now find themselves playing a fourth-string quarterback and finish the season with a trip to Michigan State and home to Penn State. That two-game stretch would be tough for any starter, let a lone a QB ma king his second and possibly third career start.
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