The Spread Options is a new 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.
This is quite the intriguing week in the Big Ten, with at least five — and quite possibly six — of the top seven teams in the conference in action against each other.
Nebraska or Wisconsin could take control in the Big Ten West, or it could get really wacky. Ohio State and Penn State both welcome West teams and will try to stay one game behind Michigan, assuming the Wolverines can beat their former defensive coordinator, D.J. Durkin, and Maryland.
Here’s a look at each game in the conference this week:
INDIANA (-14) at RUTGERS
Forecast 57 degrees, 0 percent chance of rain
KEELER: Fun fact: The Knights are 2-0 against the Hoosiers as Big Ten brethren, averaging 50 points per meeting. The Fighting Ashes scored more points in Minneapolis (32) than they had in the previous four weeks combined (14). Which means either Magoo U found something that can stick, or regression to the mean is gonna really, really, really hurt.
PREDICTION: Indiana 36, Rutgers 17
MASISAK: The improvement Rutgers has shown since inserting Giovanni Rescigno at quarterback has been significant. He seems like a perfect option in Piscataway, complete with a name fit for someone who could’ve worked the counter at Satriale’s in The Sopranos. He’s actually from Michigan, but that’s a minor detail.
PREDICTION: Indiana 35, Rutgers 26
MICHIGAN STATE (-9½*) at ILLINOIS
Forecast: 68 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain
KEELER: If Lovie Smith is secretly miserable, how does he think Mark Dantonio feels? The Illini haven’t beaten Sparty at home since 1992, and if there was ever a year to get some Gang Green payback, this is the year. Unfortunately for Lovie, this Illinois bunch is not the team.
PREDICTION: Michigan State 27, Illinois 21
MASISAK: The free fall has to stop here for the Spartans. They were OK-ish against Michigan last week. Maybe it’s just a dead cat bounce, but LJ.Scott and R.J. Shelton will do enough in a game that could get weird with all of the quarterback uncertainty.
PREDICTION: Michigan State 23, Illinois 13
* This was an opening line from earlier in the week. There is no current line because of the uncertain status for Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt.
WISCONSIN (-6½) at NORTHWESTERN
Forecast: 65 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain
KEELER: Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook was prepping for preschool the last time Wisconsin won at Ryan Field (1999). Funny things happen to good Badgers teams on Central Street. Weird things. Inexplicable things. The Wildcats might well be the only thing standing between Bucky and a berth in the Big Ten championship game. And they know it.
PREDICTION: Northwestern 23, Wisconsin 20
MASISAK: At the start of the season it looked like Wisconsin’s hellacious schedule run ended with Nebraska, but Northwestern has won four of six and is pretty good right now. Clayton Thorson and Austin Carr are the best quarterback-wide receiver combo the Badgers have faced.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 27, Northwestern 21
MARYLAND (+31) at MICHIGAN
Forecast: 63 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain
KEELER: Because he likes D.J. Durkin, Jim Harbaugh might wait until the fourth quarter before going for two. Although no promises there.
PREDICTION: Michigan 50, Maryland 13
MASISAK: It’s worth pointing out that Central Florida ran the ball with some success against Michigan, and Michigan State did last week as well. Maryland’s attack is more like UCF’s, so points are possible. But the Terps can’t stop the run and that’s real bad news at The Big House.
PREDICTION: Michigan 49, Maryland 17
PURDUE (+17) at MINNESOTA
Forecast: 65 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain
KEELER: P.J. Fleck is just so much damn fun. The Boilers are so much not.
PREDICTION: Minnesota 40, Purdue 21
MASISAK: Penn State went from slightly under the radar at 6-2 to splashed all over it when the College Football Playoff rankings came out. Minnesota might be the least-talked about 6-2 team in any conference. The Gophers have lacked explosive plays, especially through the air, but the Boilermakers might be the elixir for that issue.
PREDICTION: Minnesota 41, Purdue 14
IOWA (+7½) at PENN STATE
Forecast: 42 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain
KEELER: The law of averages says James Franklin is due a James Franklin moment. But good is good, and since Week 3, the Hawkeyes have been just good enough to hang — and not good enough to finish. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
PREDICTION: Penn State 12, Iowa 8
MASISAK: Penn State avoided a letdown after beating Ohio State, and now it has to avoid another one after the surprising CFP rankings were released. Maybe Iowa’s milquetoast passing game gets a boost from putting Akrum Wadley in the slot, but the Nittany Lions’ defense has gotten quite stingy in the past month or so.
PREDICTION: Penn State 28, Iowa 17
NEBRASKA (+17) at OHIO STATE
Forecast: 42 degrees, 10 percent chain of rain
KEELER: A lot of red, a lot of noise, and a lot to like. Two teams with stellar secondaries and athletic quarterbacks, two programs that have made a habit of exploding in the fourth quarter. And yet you keep coming back to this stat … Tommy Armstrong in his last three road games against ranked opponents: One touchdown, five picks. Zero victories.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 27, Nebraska 17
MASISAK: Ohio State has been favored by 17 and 27 points in the past two games, which became a three-point loss and a four-point win. Nebraska is better than those two teams, but the Cornhuskers’ passing game is also a mess and facing the Buckeyes’ secondary is not going to go well for them. The late-season Ohio State surge that’s become a staple of late in Columbus begins this weekend.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 31, Nebraska 10