The Spread Options is a weekly feature from Land of 10 writers Sean Keeler and Corey Masisak. We’ll break down each game in the Big Ten, and provide some predictions.
There are four Big Ten teams in the top eight of the College Football Playoff rankings this week, and there is going to be plenty of chatter Saturday about style points.
The committee has said it does not take margin of victory into account, but these are human beings. Winning a game against an inferior opponent 42-7 instead of 21-7 is going to matter. Whether it is with improved stats that committee members pour over or just avoiding the dreaded, “Well, they didn’t look that great this week against …” those teams have some impressing to do and pretty favorable matchups to that make that happen.
One interesting subplot this week could be the weather. It’s expected to be cold and windy just about everywhere in Big Ten country, and we could see some wintry mix in the air as well. That could slow down some of the teams that look like they could be runaway winners.
Here’s our look at the Big Ten game for Week 12:
All times are Eastern
No. 2 Ohio State (-22) at Michigan State, 12 p.m.
Weather: 41 degrees, 50 percent chance of rain, 20-30 mph winds
KEELER: Sparty, you’ll always, always always, always, always have Rutgers.
Prediction: Ohio State 42, Michigan State 10
MASISAK: After back-to-back 62-3 wins, the Buckeyes appear to have fixed what ailed the offense. This would be a potential letdown spot with Michigan and everything at stake in that contest a week away. They might be reminded a few times this week about what happened last year against the Spartans. It looks like weather could be make things messy, but don’t expect a repeat from 2015. This could even be a letdown for Michigan State after a cathartic, slump-busting win last week against Rutgers.
Prediction: Ohio State 34, Michigan State 9
Iowa (-10) at Illinois, 12 p.m.
Weather: 45 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain, 25-35 mph winds
KEELER: Despite being two guys with all kinds of powerful NFL and collegiate friends and long resumes, this is reportedly the first meeting between a staff that includes Kirk Ferentz and a staff that includes Lovie Smith since the Iowa-Wisconsin game in Madison back in 1987. Nearly three decades ago, Ferentz’s Hawkeyes (he was Iowa’s offensive line coach) trounced Lovie’s Badgers (he was Wisconsin’s linebackers coach), 31-10. Yeah. That works.
Prediction: Iowa 31, Illinois 10
MASISAK: Wisconsin threw the ball 14 times for 92 yards and scored 48 points on Illinois last week. Iowa knows a little something about underwhelming passing performances this season. The Hawkeyes have scored 14 points in four Big Ten games. In one, they yielded 599 yards and looked like a mid-level FCS club. They’ve won the other three.
Prediction: Iowa 17, Illinois 3
Maryland (+13.5) at No. 18 Nebraska, 12 p.m.
Weather: 47 degrees, 0 percent chance of rain
KEELER: Do you believe in a Senior Day hangover? The Huskers, remarkably, haven’t won a home finale since 2012. If Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. can walk, he’s playing. Everyone’s just hoping No. 4 doesn’t have to play all four quarters.
Prediction: Nebraska 34, Maryland 20
MASISAK: Both teams have banged-up quarterbacks. Maryland is also arguably without its top running back, Lorenzo Harrison, who has been suspended and will be arrested for his involvement after a few students were shot with a BB gun. The Terps are also short their best defensive player, Will Likely, and have been torn asunder by Michigan and Ohio State the past two weeks. D.J. Durkin and Co. have shown some real signs of progress this season, but they need better players and more time for the kids to develop.
Prediction: Nebraska 35, Maryland 13
No. 7 Wisconsin (-28) at Purdue, 12 p.m.
Weather: 41 degrees, 20 percent chance of rain/wet snow, 20-25 mph winds
KEELER: If this were Urban Meyer and Ohio State chasing a little CFP selection committee love, he’d be tempted to drop 60 on a Boilers bunch that’s about ready to fold up the tent. Paul Chryst might well resist that same temptation, but nobody outside of West Lafeyette would blame him if he didn’t.
Prediction: Wisconsin 44, Purdue 6
MASISAK: The Badgers might be compelled to impress the College Football Playoff selection committee. They’re not exactly built to put up crazy offensive numbers, but maybe Alex Hornibrook can throw it around a little more against this porous Purdue defense.
Prediction: Wisconsin 45, Purdue 7
Indiana (+23.5) at No. 3 Michigan, 3:30 p.m.
Weather: 42 degrees, 40 percent chance of rain with possible snowy mix, 20-30 mph winds
KEELER: Only one squad all season has held Big Blue under 41 points at Michigan Stadium (Wisconsin, 14, back on Oct. 1). The little things — special-teams errors, linebackers’ tackling consistency — finally combined to bite the Wolverines on the backside in Iowa City. So was it a wake-up call, or a harbinger of worse things to come?
Prediction: Michigan 42, Indiana 13
MASISAK: Michigan will turn to John O’Korn at quarterback, but expect Jim Harbaugh to demand more from his running backs and offensive line after a suboptimal effort against Iowa. Indiana played pretty well against Penn State, but the Hoosiers aren’t likely to run the ball as well against the Wolverines as the Hawkeyes did.
Prediction: Michigan 31, Indiana 6
Northwestern (-1.5) at Minnesota, 3:30 p.m.
Weather: 35 degrees, 0 percent chance of rain, 15-25 mph winds
KEELER: Goldy’s West division hopes are dangling by a thread now after a rally at Nebraska hit the skids just a few yards shy of the end zone. But other than a hiccup at home against The Great Wall of Wisconsin, the Wildcats’ offense keeps humming along.
Prediction: Northwestern 28, Minnesota 24
MASISAK: This should be the best game of the day. It would have felt like it had more meaning a couple of weeks ago. Either of these teams could have been a little better than just a mid-pack outfit this season. Northwestern took a month to get the offense figured out. Minnesota hasn’t beaten anybody of significant but the three losses are all by seven points or less.
Prediction: Minnesota 28, Northwestern 24
No. 8 Penn State (-28) at Rutgers, 8 p.m.
Weather: 36 degrees, 40 percent chance of rain, 10-15 mph winds
KEELER: The Knights have averaged 43 points over each of their last two home finales. If Rutgers gets halfway there on Saturday, that’s a win. A moral win, granted, but still.
Prediction: Penn State 40, Rutgers 14
MASISAK: Penn State is down at least two and possibly three offensive tackles. Maybe that becomes an issue against Michigan State and it almost certainly would be a problem of some kind in the Big Ten championship game if the Nittany Lions get there. This is a chance for Rutgers to show some recruits that they could help make up the difference. It might be a very large difference.
Prediction: Penn State 48, Rutgers 3