There are some big spreads in the Big Ten this week, but also some interesting storylines—most notably Luke Fickell’s return to Ohio State with Cincinnati. We should also get a better idea of whether Scott Frost’s boys are for real this year, as Nebraska travels to Boulder to take on an underrated and capable Colorado team. Let’s check out the games (all Saturday).
It would be easy to pick Ohio State, based on Justin Fields’ electric debut and the significant talent advantage the Buckeyes enjoy at nearly every position. But take away that 28-point explosion in the first quarter last week, and Florida Atlantic outscored the Buckeyes 21-17 in the last three quarters of the game.
Can the Bearcats do the same and keep it close from beginning to end? I think so.
There is no doubt Fickell—who made 50 consecutive starts at nose guard for Ohio State during the 1990s and coached at OSU for 14 years before he accepted the Cincinnati job in 2016—wants nothing more than to pull an all-time stunner and beat his alma mater on his old stomping grounds. The Bearcats have all the motivation in the world to play their hearts out, and with running back Michael Warren II and a solid defense, they’re going to have a shot to keep it close.
— Joe Danneman (@FOX19Joe) September 3, 2019
Pick: Cincinnati +15.5
The Black Knights are coming off an 11-2 year and led by senior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. and terrific head coach Jeff Monken.
Hopkins, now in his second year as starter, has played well in big spots before, like Army’s near upset of Oklahoma last year as a 28-point underdog. Shea Patterson is no Kyler Murray, although the Wolverines will certainly present more of a challenge on defense than the Sooners did.
I picked Michigan to win the Big Ten, but after I watched its unimpressive 40-21 win over Middle Tennessee State in Week 1, you have to wonder if Jim Harbaugh will ever break through in Ann Arbor. The possible return of wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones could be a big boost for the Wolverines, but I’m betting Hopkins can do just enough to keep the chains moving and clock running as the Black Knights operate their option offense.
October 20th, 2018: Shea Patterson throws a 79-yard TD to Donovan Peoples-Jones to put the Wolverines ahead of Sparty. DPJ does the Paul Bunyan pose in the endzone. 😂 pic.twitter.com/rwwALIFGEj
— Michigan Moments (@UofMMoments) October 21, 2018
Pick: Army +23
I’m really high on Michigan State this year, as its defense is one of the better groups in the country, and I’m a believer in senior quarterback Brian Lewerke, despite his up-and-down career. But the Spartans didn’t blow out Tulsa after an impressive first half, and Western Michigan is led by senior quarterback Jon Wassink.
I’m tempted to take the Broncos and the points, but I’ll side with the Spartans’ dominant defense.
Pick: Michigan State -15.5
James Franklin’s boys showed no mercy in their 79-7 beatdown of Idaho last week, and there’s no reason to think Saturday will be any different. The Nittany Lions welcome a Buffalo team that is trying to replace 2018 MAC Offensive Player of the Year Tyree Jackson and star receiver Anthony Johnson. It might not be by 72 points this week, but Penn State will win big again.
Pick: Penn State -30.5
Nebraska’s first road game against an underrated Colorado team will be a great barometer to determine if this Cornhuskers squad is ready to compete for a championship. Adrian Martinez and company looked solid enough in their season-opening win against South Alabama, but the Buffs present a much harder challenge and are led by senior quarterback Steven Montez and electric wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. I like the Buffaloes to cover and possibly win outright, so I’ll take them on the moneyline (+15) as well.