After a strong 4-1 start, we crashed back down to Earth last week at 1-5. We’ll try to bounce back Saturday, with a slate of Big Ten games headlined by Michigan’s visit to Camp Randall to take on Wisconsin (all games Saturday).
If it weren’t for the three dominant performances put forth by Justin Fields and company at Ohio State, Wisconsin would be the talk of the Big Ten to start the season. After the Badgers struggled through a 8-5 campaign last season, Paul Chryst’s boys have played with their hair on fire, especially on defense.
The Badgers lead the nation by with just 107.5 total yards allowed per game and have outscored their first two opponents, South Florida and Central Michigan, by a combined 110-0. Wisconsin will also have the best player on the field in Heisman Trophy hopeful Jonathan Taylor and revenge on its mind after the Wolverines handled the Badgers 38-13 last year in Ann Arbor.
The Big Ten preseason favorites have been disappointing in their first two games of the season. After an uninspiring 40-21 win over Middle Tennessee State to open the season, Michigan was pushed to the brink by Army in the Big House, but eventually pulled out a 24-21 win in overtime. Quarterback Shea Patterson has fumbled twice in both games, and he has struggled to find a rhythm in new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis’ system. The return of All-Big Ten offensive lineman Jon Runyan should help, but talented wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones remains questionable, and his absence continues to be a significant missing piece for a Michigan offense that has lacked explosiveness for several years.
We would have liked to get the opening number of -3, but we’ll take our chances that the motivated Badgers exact some revenge and pull out the win at home by more than a field goal.
Pick: Wisconsin -3.5
I was excited to see what Fields could do this season, but for some reason I’ve picked against him the last two weeks, and he and his talented teammates have made me pay. This week I’m rolling with the Buckeyes, despite my reservations about their motivation level. Miami-Ohio is coming off a 35-13 loss to Cincinnati, which was dominated from start to finish by Ohio State two weeks ago. I’m betting the Buckeyes have the depth to cover the huge number.
Pick: Ohio State -38.5
I still can’t believe Michigan State lost at home to Arizona State last week, but that should work in our favor, as a fired-up Spartans squad goes on the road to play Northwestern. Northwestern quarterback Hunter Johnson may have showed improvement last week against a pathetic UNLV defense, but I’m betting the Clemson transfer regresses to the guy who looked totally out of sorts and threw two picks against Stanford.
I expect a pissed-off Spartans defense to dominate and for the offense to do just enough to cover.
Pick: Michigan State -9
Call me crazy (it wouldn’t be the first time), but why can’t I shake this feeling that this is the game Lovie Smith uses to secure another year in Champaign? I realize we’re betting on an Illini team that just lost at home to Eastern Michigan, but led by Michigan transfer Brandon Peters, Illinois is improved and has a shot to pull off the upset at +360 on the moneyline against a young Nebraska squad still learning how to win, especially on the road.
Pick: Illinois +13
How pathetic does your program have to be to earn a four-touchdown spread against an Indiana team that just lost 51-10 at home to Ohio State? It’s unclear whether talented Hoosiers quarterback Michael Penix Jr. will return for this game, but I think an Indiana team in a bad mood puts away this bad UConn squad.
UConn jumped out to a 13-0 lead on Illinois two weeks ago, but the Illini scored 24 unanswered points and went on to win 31-23. Yes, that same Illinois team that I just said has a chance to upset Nebraska. Just put me in a straight jacket now, throw me in a padded room and put me out of my misery.
Pick: Indiana -27.5