We've made it to the second week of Big Ten Conference play, and there's a solid slate of five conference matchups on this chilly October Saturday in the Midwest. Wisconsin fans should be following the Michigan/Purdue game on the out-of-town scoreboard at Camp Randall today, as that game will reveal much about how good the Boilermakers will be this season. 24th-ranked and still undefeated Northwestern visiting Penn State will be the early game to watch, and we'll finish the day with a primetime battle at the Shoe between the two highest-ranked Big Ten squads right now, Ohio State and Nebraska. A lot of intrigue today thanks to games where anyone could win- sounds good to me.
Week 6 (all games on Saturday):
11 AM CT:
#24 Northwestern Wildcats (5-0 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) at Penn State Nittany Lions (3-2, 1-0) [ESPN]: We've got two teams that are trending upward in this one. Obviously, the Wildcats are still undefeated, and are ranked in the AP Poll for the first time since 2008. But they haven't really faced a daunting opponent yet and this is their first road game in over a month. After a slow start for Bill O'Brien's Lions, they have rolled off three straight victories, including an impressive 35-7 road win over Illinois last week. PSU QB Matt McGloin has been a much improved quarterback over last season, completing 59% of his passes and throwing 10 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions so far this season. Northwestern has been winning games on the strength of their running game, but Penn State has only allowed 2 rushing touchdowns this season. Sorry Wildcats, but I hope you enjoyed your one week in the rankings.
Line: Penn State -3. Prediction: Penn State 28, Northwestern 20.
Michigan State Spartans (3-2, 0-1) at Indiana Hoosiers (2-2, 0-1) [BTN]: Playing Indiana is great for a team like Michigan State. The Spartans have had extreme difficulty on offense this season, but almost anyone can move the ball down the field on the Hoosiers. Expect many more than the 44 rushing yards Michigan State had last week against the Buckeyes. Indiana could hang around in this one as their offense is capable of getting it going at home, but the Spartans need their first conference win and won't be overlooking the Hoosiers. But, I do like Indiana to cover the spread at home today.
Line: Michigan State -15.5. Prediction: Michigan State 35, Indiana 20.
2:30 PM CT:
Illinois Fighting Illini (2-3, 0-1) at Wisconsin Badgers (3-2, 0-1) [ABC/ESPN2]: Not a terribly tough opponent for Wisconsin to get back on the horse, but the Badgers have won the three games they've played at Camp Randall this season by an average of only 6 points, and the opponents weren't exactly world-beaters. Thankfully, Illinois has its own set of offensive issues, and it should be a game for the Wisconsin defense to shine. The Illini haven't won in Camp Randall since 2002 and this isn't the Illinois team to break that drought.
Line: Wisconsin -14.5. Prediction: Wisconsin 30, Illinois 20.
3:00 PM CT:
Michigan Wolverines (2-2) at Purdue Boilermakers (3-1) [BTN]: If you want to apply the Notre Dame eye test to these two teams, Purdue looked a little better than the Wolverines against the Fighting Irish. But both teams ultimately lost in South Bend. The Boilermakers allowed a high-octane Marshall offense rack up 534 yards last week, but they did have 3 interceptions, two returned for touchdowns. Forcing turnovers will also be the key for Purdue today; Michigan QB Denard Robinson has already thrown 8 interceptions this season. I think Michigan's defense is good this year, but Purdue will be able to move the ball at home. I'd expect a lot of points in this one and I like Purdue to pull the mild upset in West Lafayette.
Line: Michigan -3. Prediction: Purdue 36, Michigan 33.
7:00 PM CT:
#21 Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-1, 1-0) at #12 Ohio State Buckeyes (5-0, 1-0) [ABC]: Crazy game between these two last year in Lincoln: Ohio State was up 27-6 on the Huskers in the 3rd quarter, but then Nebraska reeled off 28 straight points and won 34-27. It was extremely similar to the comeback Nebraska had last week against the Badgers, actually. Both teams have a wealth of talent on the offensive side of the ball. Taylor Martinez and Braxton Miller could both put on a show as these defenses aren't elite. I have to give the edge to the Buckeyes because they have a slightly better defense and they are playing this game at home, but Nebraska will give them a run for their money.
Line: Ohio State -3. Prediction: Ohio State 30, Nebraska 28.
Season to Date:
Overall Record: 40-12 (76.9%); Last Week: 5-1.
Record Against the Spread: 30-21-1 (58.7%); Last Week: 3-3.