Free Big Ten Football Picks: Weekly Conference Analysis with Odds and Predictions
Week 2 of the College Football season was relatively tame and straightforward, with only three ranked teams suffering defeat at the hands of three other ranked opponents. The No. 5 Oklahoma Sooners were able to extract some revenge by dismantling the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes on their home turf - much like OSU did last year in Norman. The 15th -ranked Georgia Bulldogs went into Notre Dame Stadium and escaped with a 20-19 victory courtesy a Rodrigo Blankenship 30-yard field goal with 3:34 left in the fourth quarter. And finally, No. 3 Clemson proved to many they are for real once again this year by stifling a 13th-ranked Auburn team many experts are high on. The Tigers emerged with a 14-6 win in a game that saw the two teams combine for just 400 yards of offense.
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But enough about the entire college football landscape. I am writing this weekly piece to help bettors specialize in the Big Ten Conference. The Big Ten was arguably the most competitive conference from top to bottom last year and is in a good position to be one of the top conferences again this year. I will be breaking down every aspect of the upcoming Big Ten schedule and keep you in the loop with the specific team situations.
Weekly Big Ten Round Up
The Big Ten went 10-4 straight up and 7-7 against the spread. There were some impressive wins: Minnesota went travelled to Corvallis and destroyed the Oregon State Beavers - something I told you would happen , Illinois got the better of Western Kentucky by winning outright as six-point dogs, and Iowa used a 17-point fourth quarter to force overtime and eventually beat their biggest rival, Iowa State, 44-41. However, with the good comes the bad. Northwester got torched by Duke to start the day by a score of 41-17 and No. 8 Michigan - despite winning -- looked sloppy against an unranked Cincinnati team. Rutgers lost to Eastern Michigan - which I believe is a new low, even for them, and the most damming loss of the week goes to former No. 2 Ohio State, who got out played in every facet of the game versus the Sooners.
Big Ten Rundown: Week 2
Twelve Big Ten teams are in action this week as Maryland and Michigan State have a bye week. All Big Ten teams are favored over their respective opponent, with the exception being Illinois (+17) vs. No. 22 South Florida and Purdue (+7.5) vs. Missouri. The rest of the schedule looks like this: Air Force at No. 7 Michigan (-25.5), Northern Illinois at Nebraska (-14), Morgan State at Rutgers (off), North Texas at Iowa (-22), Middle Tennessee at Minnesota (-8.5), No. 10 Wisconsin (-13) at BYU, FIU at Indiana (cancelled), Army at No. 8 Ohio State (-30.5), Georgia State at No. 5 Penn State (-38.5) and Bowling Green at Northwestern (-22).
Biggest Mismatch of Week 2
I'm not sure which game to single out as there are a handful of games that could fall into this category. The honorable mentions include the Army/Ohio State game, the Wisconsin/BYU game and the Illinois/South Florida game. The game I will be focusing on is the No. 5 Penn State Nittany Lions against the unranked Georgia State Panthers.
So far this season, the Nittany Lions have proven last season's Big Ten Title and trip to the Rose Bowl was no fluke. They took care of two inferior teams but did so in emphatic fashion. They shut out the Akron Zips in Week 1, holding them to just 159 yards, and then in Week 2 they held the Pitt Panthers to just 14 points. This week they get a home date with a team that is predicted to finish amongst the worst three teams in the Sun Belt Conference. Another straightforward win should be on the horizon, and if any the line is any indication then this game shouldn't even be close.
Penn State is nearly 40-point favorites and rightfully so. The combination of Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkley and Mike Gesicki will be more firepower than the Panthers will see all season, let alone know how to handle. McSorley has completed 33-of-53 passes this year for 444 yards and five touchdowns, while Barkley is among the Heisman favorites with a line of 260 yards rushing and three touchdowns. The emergence of Gesicki - 10 catches for 97 yards and four touchdowns - brings an added element to the offense that the defense must account for. Barkley could be in for a big day as the Panthers allowed their Week 1 opponent - Tennessee State - to run for 238 yards. My fearless prediction is that Barkley rushes for 200 yards and scores three touchdowns.
Then Vs. Now - Preseason Expectations vs Current Status
College Football has been back for only three weeks, but now is a good time to see if teams have been living up to their preseason expectations.
Indiana - The Hoosiers were projected to get seven wins, and they are on the right track. A season-opening loss to Ohio State won't hurt their chances after beating Virginia last week. Their Week 3 game against FIU has been cancelled, so with an extra week to prepare for Georgia Southern they should take care of business in that game.
Iowa - The Hawkeyes were projected to finish with seven wins and are currently 2-0 after defeating their rivals from Iowa State last week. The Hawkeyes have an easy matchup against North Texas this week before running into the buzzsaw that is Penn State in Week 4.
Maryland- The Terps are 2-0 after demolishing a ranked Texas team and beating an overmatched FCS team. For breaking in a freshman QB, this team has been the surprise of the Big Ten so far. They are very likely to win more games than their preseason projections (6-6).
Michigan- Winning games can mask problems, but the way Michigan has played on offense over the first two games is cause for concern. They don't have a difficult game until they travel to Penn State on Oct. 21, so a 6-0 start is very likely. Their projection of 10-2 is looking likely, but with the way Ohio State played last week I think Michigan could go 11-1.
Michigan State- The Spartans are 2-0 but face a tough schedule after this week's bye. They take on Notre Dame, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota in four consecutive weeks. State was projected to finish 6-6, but they could find themselves looking at 5-7 or 4-8 if they don't win at least win of those games.
Minnesota- The PJ Fleck era has gotten off to the best possible start. The Gophers are 2-0 after beating Buffalo and then travelling to Corvallis to easily handle the Beavers. A Week 3 matchup with Middle Tennessee will be trickier than most think, but if the defense continues to play at a high level then they should exceed the 6-6 projection.
Nebraska- The Cornhuskers got outplayed last week by a good Oregon team. That's nothing to be ashamed of. They take on Northern Illinois this week in a tricky game as the Huskies have been known to cause teams problems with their balanced attack. This is a team that was projected to finish 7-5 and based on their remaining schedule, and that looks likely to happen.
Northwestern- The Wildcats are expected to compete in the Big Ten West (projected second). However, after last weeks showing and loss to Duke, I highly doubt Northwestern has what it takes to get to their 8-4 projection and contend in the Big Ten. They take on Bowling Green this week then face a gauntlet of Wisconsin, Penn State and Maryland. Yikes.
Ohio State- The Buckeyes has high hopes entering this season, but after a humbling loss to OU the calls for J.T. Barrett to be benched are growing louder. They can still win out and reach their projections of 12-1 (8-1 Big Ten), but this team just doesn't look the part. It will be interesting to see how they bounce back this week against Army.
Penn State- Two games. Two convincing wins. Penn State has lived up to the hype so far this season but will need to keep their foot on the gas in order to get themselves into the College Football Playoff discussion. I like what they are doing and I believe they can defend their Big Ten crown.
Purdue- The Boilermakers were projected to win three games this year, but after seeing how they handled their own against Lousiville and dominated Ohio, they are likely to win one maybe two more games. They have games left against Rutgers, Northwestern and Indiana and Illinois - all very winnable games.
Rutgers- Rutgers is bad and will always be bad. They were projected to go 3-9 this season, and one of those wins was supposed to be last week versus Eastern Michigan. They lost that game, which means winning three games is highly unlikely this year. If they lose to Morgan State this weekend then I would fold the program.
Wisconsin- The Badgers are currently right where we expected them to be. They are 2-0 and have dominated both opponents. The goal for this team is the Big Ten title, and it's doable considering a very favorable schedule. A trip to BYU could prove a tad tricky, but it shouldn't put a blemish on their unbeaten record.
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