As an autumnal chill falls upon Big Ten country, college football fans are looking forward to a larger abundance of meaningful football games. We're still two weeks away from the start of Big Ten conference play, but there is actually a good amount of evenly matched non-conference games on the schedule this weekend. Florida State versus Oklahoma will take the national spotlight tonight, but I think you'll find some fun Big Ten games on the schedule as well. Maybe it's because many of the Big Ten teams seem especially flaky this season, but flaky leads to exciting football (I'm looking at you, Iowa and Michigan).
Week 3 Games (all games on Saturday):
11 AM CT:
Pittsburgh Panthers (2-0) at Iowa Hawkeyes (1-1) [ESPN2]: It's never fun to lose a triple overtime time game to a rival, but that's what Iowa did last week. It also doesn't help matters when you are considered to be a perennially more successful program then said rival. Cyclones quarterback Steele Jantz and running back James White (sound familiar?) gave the Hawkeyes' defense fits. Yes, the Iowa defense can be had, but I think the Hawkeyes rebound this week. Pittsburgh isn't exactly an offensive juggernaut, Iowa generally protects its home turf, and the Hawks will be motivated after an embarrassing defeat.
LIne: Iowa -3. Prediction: Iowa 31, Pittsburgh 24.
Penn State Nittany Lions (1-1) at Temple Owls (2-0) [ESPN]: Turns out the Badgers aren't the only team facing a MAC opponent in a NFL stadium this weekend. In this case, however, Lincoln Financial Field is Temple's actual home field. Still, expect a large contingent of Nittany Lions fans making the trip to Philadelphia and little to no home field advantage for the Owls. Even if the Penn State fan base makes the journey to Philly en masse, will the PSU offense bother to show up too? Zing.
Line: Penn State -7. Prediction: Penn State 20, Temple 17.
SE Missouri State Redhawks (0-1) at Purdue Boilermakers (1-1) [BTN]: /sobs, has game-winning field goal blocked. Yes, a blocked field goal as time expired was the only thing keeping Purdue from escaping Houston with a victory over Rice. Mercifully, a home tilt against the Redhawks will be an easier opponent this week. The Vegas spread may indicate an easy victory for the Boilermakers, but it could just as easily be another close and ugly game in West Lafayette.
Line: Purdue -22.5. Prediction: Purdue 30, SE Missouri St. 13.
LIne: Michigan -29. Prediction: Michigan 42, Eastern Michigan 10.
2:30 PM CT:
#7 Wisconsin Badgers (2-0) at Northern Illinois Huskies (1-1) [at Chicago's Soldier Field, ESPN3]: Bielema vs. Doeren. Russell vs. Chandler. Wisconsin fan indifference vs. potential home field advantage for UW at Soldier Field. The hope is that the Badgers keep the NIU offense at bay and operate at 100% efficiency on offense. But this could be one of those games that as a Badger fan won't be fun to watch until Wisconsin finally secures control late.
Line: Wisconsin -16.5. Prediction: Wisconsin 45, Northern Illinois 28.
Washington Huskies (2-0) at #11 Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-0) [ABC]: The Huskers and Huskies have developed quite a rivalry over the past year or so. Let's recap both of last year's matchups between these two teams. In September, the Huskers went to Seattle and Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez ran all over UW in a 56-21 victory. The two teams then met in the Holiday Bowl in December. Martinez was a shell of his former self and the Huskers fell 19-7 in the bowl game. Winning by 45 and losing by 12 is a ridiculous point swing. What can we expect from the third and presumably final chapter today? Washington no longer has Jake Locker, Nebraska no longer has Prince Amukamara. Also, Husker cornerback Alfonzo Dennard is questionable for today's game. Could be another interesting game as Nebraska's defense isn't terrifying anyone, and Martinez can be flaky at times. I think Vegas is overrating the Huskers so far this season.
Line: Nebraska -17. Prediction: Nebraska 31, Washington 23.
#15 Michigan State Spartans (2-0) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-2) [NBC]: This is Michigan State's first real test of the season. Notre Dame suffered a heartbreaking loss in Ann Arbor last week as Denard Robinson hooked up with Roy Roundtree for a touchdown with two seconds left to give Michigan an absurd 35-31 victory. Notre Dame also lost in absurd fashion to Michigan State in East Lansing last season, as a fake field goal pass in overtime gave the Spartans a 34-31 win. A delay of game penalty probably should have been called, but that was still inexcusable defense on Notre Dame's part (sensing a trend here). The Irish can win this game, but they need to stop turning the ball over and stop giving up so many big pass plays. Kirk Cousins and Edwin Baker could have a field day here, but I'm picking ND to win (against my better judgment).
Line: Notre Dame -5. Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Michigan State 24.
South Carolina State Bulldogs (1-1) at Indiana Hoosiers (0-2) [BTN]: Blech. Indiana should win this game, as the Bulldogs only mustered 6 points against Central Michigan. I guess it's up to you to decide who has a better defense out of Central Michigan and Indiana, though.
Line: Indiana -15.5. Indiana 34, South Carolina State 10.
Miami OH Redhawks (0-1) at Minnesota Golden Gophers (0-2) [BTN]: Great to hear that Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill will likely be back coaching on the sideline today. Minnesota's loss to NMSU last week was incredibly disappointing, and Miami of Ohio will be a tougher opponent. The Redhawks had two weeks to prepare for the Gophers after holding Missouri to 17 points in a week one loss. That extra week of prep could be the difference.
Line: Minnesota -4.5. Miami OH 24, Minnesota 20.
Northwestern Wildcats (2-0) at Army Black Knights (0-2) [CBS]: A rare Big Ten team appearance on CBS here. Still looks like no Dan Persa for the third straight week, but that didn't stop the Wildcats from getting wins in the first two games. Army is 2nd in the country in rushing yards and has only completed nine passes in two games, so you pretty much know what to expect from their offense- lots of runs. Northwestern hasn't always been the best at containing the run, but you have to figure Pat Fitzgerald and company will get a good defensive gameplan installed to take on Army's triple option.
Line: Northwestern -5. Northwestern 31, Army 24.
6:00 PM CT:
#22 Arizona State Sun Devils (2-0) at Illinois Fighting Illini (2-0) [BTN]: Arizona State is a little more battle tested than Illinois at this point of the season, already taking on Missouri and emerging with an overtime victory. Normally Illinois also plays Missouri in non-conference, but not this year. The Sun Devils' last game was a Thursday game, so they had a couple of extra days to prepare for this one. Who do I like here? Arizona State's offense could run rampant, but I just see Illinois hunkering down to earn a victory much like the one the Badgers earned last season over Arizona State.
Line: Illinois -2. Illinois 26, Arizona State 23.
6:30 PM CT
#17 Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0) at Miami Hurricanes (0-1) [ESPN]: Some Ohio State fans likely pressed the panic button after the game against Toledo. I personally panicked when I first saw Maryland's uniforms in their game against Miami, but I digress. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, Miami is not a terribly tough road environment and the Hurricanes are not an incredibly scary team. Ohio State's defense should do most of the heavy lifting in this one, and the Buckeye offense will do enough to seal the victory.
Line: Miami -2. Ohio State 28, Miami 17.
My record so far (Last week was absolutely horrid):
Overall record: 18-6, 75%
Record against the spread: 9-15, .375