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.
The top three teams in the Big Ten East are all on the road this week. While it seems like Ohio State and Michigan are marching toward an end-of-season showdown in Columbus, this will be the Wolverines’ toughest test away from Ann Arbor to date.
If Penn State can win at Indiana, the march to 10 wins and a New Year’s Six bowl will look like a near certainty. At the bottom of the East, Michigan State will try to stop a seven-game losing streak against Rutgers in a matchup of the only two teams left without a win in Big Ten play.
Nebraska needs to rebound from back-to-back losses against Minnesota, which might be one of the least talked about 7-2 teams in the nation. The loser is probably out of the division race, but both of them need Wisconsin to lose at some point. Minnesota can make that happen in the season finale, but Nebraska needs help.
Here’s a look at the entire Week 11 slate:
RUTGERS (+14) at MICHIGAN STATE
Forecast: 50 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain
KEELER: Anybody at Spartan Stadium who can actually sit through all four quarters of this one gets a free pony. Saddle optional.
Prediction: Michigan State 27, Rutgers 22
MASISAK: It has been a dramatic and stunning fall for the Spartans. From “wow, they might not finish third in the East,” to “it’s a good thing the Rutgers game is in East Lansing.”
Prediction: Michigan State 34, Rutgers 27
NORTHWESTERN (-13.5) at PURDUE
Forecast: 51 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain
KEELER: The Boilermakers (248.3 rush yards allowed per game) can’t stop the run. The Wildcats (260.1 pass yards allowed per game) can’t stop a solid passing game. If you like defense and quick games, you might want to flip to something else. If not, crack open a cold one, because this could get wild.
Prediction: Northwestern 37, Purdue 35
MASISAK: Northwestern’s offense has three very productive players but the Wildcats have only scored more than 24 points twice this season. Everyone in the Big Ten gets more than 24 against Purdue, though.
Prediction: Northwestern 38, Purdue 20
PENN STATE (-7) at INDIANA
Forecast: 53 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain
KEELER: Take the under, take the under, take the under, take the under, take the under, take the under, take the under, take the under, take the under, take the under, take the under, take the under & take the under.
Prediction: Penn State 33, Indiana 20
MASISAK: There was a point where it seemed like Indiana was going to be pretty good this season. The best games on the Hoosiers’ resume are losses, and close wins against Michigan State, Rutgers and Maryland don’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence against the rapidly improving Nittany Lions.
Prediction: Penn State 37, Indiana 16
ILLINOIS (+26.5) at WISCONSIN
Forecast: 51 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain
KEELER: If Illinois manages at least one rushing touchdown in this game, everybody in East Lansing who sat through the entirety of the Rutgers-Michigan State game gets two ponies. And saddles.
Prediction: Wisconsin 34, Illinois 3
MASISAK: Wisconsin has scored at least 27 points twice this season. The Badgers just need to avoid disaster, and the Illini might be getting a little better in Lovie Smith’s first year. Maybe not “compete with an elite Big Ten team” better, but a step forward.
Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Illinois 7
OHIO STATE (-29) at MARYLAND
Forecast: 51 degrees, 0 percent chance of rain
KEELER: November’s a blast, unless you’re in the path of a team trying to make a College Football Playoff push. Once Urban Meyer gets his “let’s-impress-the-selection-committee” face on, look out below.
Prediction: Ohio State 44, Maryland 10
MASISAK: Maryland was far from terrible against Michigan and still lost by 53 points. D.J. Durkin didn’t try to play it safe to keep the score closer, and the Wolverines took advantage. The Terps are probably going to wish Ohio State was No. 4 in the Playoff ranking and not No. 5.
Prediction: Ohio State 55, Maryland 14
MINNESOTA (+7) at NEBRASKA
Forecast: 57 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain
KEELER: Regardless of who’s under center for the Cornhuskers — and it figures to be Tommy Armstrong — one of the critical matchups to watch is in the trenches when the Big Red have the ball. Nebraska’s offensive line is still pretty beat up, and that doesn’t necessarily portend well against a salty Minnesota front seven led by defensive tackle Steven Richardson (five sacks). Stat to note: Nebraska is rushing for 4.39 yards per carry on first down, 10th in the Big Ten; the Gophers are allowing just 3.19 per run on first down — second in the league and trailing only Michigan’s 2.77.
Prediction: Nebraska 23, Minnesota 21
MASISAK: It’s fantastic news that Tommy Armstrong avoided serious injury. He’s also completed less than 40 percent of his passes three times in the past four weeks. The Golden Gophers are 13th in the league against the pass, but they’ve played some games with key defensive backs not available. Minnesota has one win against a top-70 team in Bill Connelly’s S&P+ rankings, but the Golden Gophers nearly won at Penn State.
Prediction: Minnesota 27, Nebraska 24 (OT)
MICHIGAN (-21.5) at IOWA
Forecast: 34 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain
KEELER: The Hawkeyes’ path to victory runs straight through a brick wall. Team Ferentz is 5-0 when running for 100 yards or more. The Wolverines have given up 100 yards rushing or more just twice — to Central Florida and at Michigan State. And won those two tilts by an average score of 42-19 anyway.
Prediction: Michigan 40, Iowa 14
MASISAK: Penn State put up 599 yards on Iowa, with both of its starting offensive tackles injured. The Nittany Lions had 191 against Michigan with two healthy tackles. Iowa also rushed for 30 yards against Penn State. While the Nittany Lions defense is much improved, there probably isn’t a single player in their front seven that would start on this incredible Michigan defense. College football is fluky and fluid and weird stuff happens and all of that, but this could get ugly.
Prediction: Michigan 48, Iowa 7