Folks, I went an absurd 11-1 against the spread with my Big Ten picks last week. Only Western Michigan's inability to keep it close with Illinois stood between my ATS picks and perfection. This is probably as good as it is going to get, and I would advise you to bet against my picks for the rest of the season as a regression to the mean is inevitable. When it came to outright winners, I misfired on Boise State and Penn State, as both teams were unable to hold onto their halftime leads.
What can we expect from week two of the college football season? From a national perspective, this week offers little in terms of matchups that move the needle. When it comes to the Big Ten, however, I would say it is an important and illuminating week for the conference. With many teams facing off against schools from other AQ-conferences, there is an opportunity to boost the Big Ten's relative strength and computer numbers that are so important in BCS calculations down the stretch. We will also get a sense of how deep this conference will be this season, as Big Ten middle class members Illinois, Iowa, Northwestern, and Purdue all have tough opponents on the schedule. Hit the jump for my picks this week.
Week 2 Games (all games on Saturday):
11 AM CT:
Penn State Nittany Lions (0-1) at Virginia Cavaliers (1-0) [ABC]: The Bill O'Brien era started with a whimper last Saturday, as the Nittany Lions were held scoreless in the second half en route to a 24-14 defeat at the hands of the Ohio Bobcats. Things don't get much easier for the Lions this week with a visit to a capable Virginia squad. O'Brien is a good offensive coach and I believe he can get things on that side of the ball turned around eventually, but this Penn State offense is way too inconsistent to trust right now. The Nittany Lion defense can't win many games by itself, especially a game in enemy territory. Virginia is looking to build off of a 8-5 season last year and I see them protecting their home field with a hard-earned victory.
Line: Virginia -10. Prediction: Virginia 27, Penn State 20.
UCF Knights (1-0) at #14 Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0) [ESPN2]: Interesting scheduling by the Knights this year, as this will be UCF's second straight road game in Ohio. Last week they demolished Akron 56-14 at InfoCision Stadium, but Ohio State is figuratively located in a different state than Akron. The Buckeyes looked impressive last week in a easy victory over Miami of Ohio, but UCF will serve as a stiffer challenge to Urban Meyer and company. It often comes down to which team has the better athletes and depth, so Ohio State should take care of business at home. I think UCF could keep it closer than some might expect, though.
Line: Ohio State -18.5. Prediction: Ohio State 30, UCF 17.
New Hampshire Wildcats (1-0) at Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-0) [BTN]: Nine days later, I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out how the Gophs got out of Las Vegas with that triple overtime victory. In true Minnesota fashion, however, they are the only Big Ten team to play a FCS opponent this week, ruining what could have been a good talking point for the conference. I'm going to take this opportunity to remind everyone that THE GOPHERS HAVE LOST TWO STRAIGHT GAMES VERSUS FCS OPPONENTS. Here's Exhibit A courtesy of North Dakota St. and Exhibit B brought to us by South Dakota. This fact brings a chuckle to my heart and makes me feel better about Wisconsin struggling against UNI last Saturday. New Hampshire, who made the FCS playoffs last season, has a fighter's chance of completing the trifecta. But I don't think that even Minnesota is capable of the level of derpitude that is needed to lose three straight games to FCS opponents, so I'll take the Goofs to end that horrid streak.
Line: Minnesota -16. Prediction: Minnesota 37, New Hampshire 20.
2:30 PM CT:
Purdue Boilermakers (1-0) at #22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-0) [NBC]: Notre Dame has dominated this rivalry in recent years, winning six of the last seven matchups between the two teams. Purdue had a convincing 48-6 win last week, but it was only against a FCS opponent. Notre Dame also rolled last week with a 50-10 win over Navy in Ireland. While I've heard a few people say that Purdue could pull this upset, I don't think Notre Dame Stadium will be as hospitable as it has been in the past because the school is encouraging their fans to be more vocal and intimidating. I'm picking the Irish and think they'll win fairly comfortably.
Line: Notre Dame -14. Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Purdue 20.
Iowa State Cyclones (1-0) at Iowa Hawkeyes (1-0) [BTN]: The battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy should be an intriguing one this year. Iowa has the home advantage this year but looks beatable after barely squeaking by Northern Illinois last week. Iowa State defeated Iowa last year so the Hawkeyes will certainly be motivated. This might be one of the rare years where the Cyclones have the better team, so I'll pick them to win in enemy territory.
Line: Iowa -3.5. Prediction: Iowa State 27, Iowa 23.
Indiana Hoosiers (1-0) vs. Massachusetts Minutemen (0-1) [At Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA; ESPN3]:
Line: Indiana -13.5. Prediction: Indiana 37, Massachusetts 21.
#11 Michigan State Spartans (1-0) at Central Michigan Chippewas (1-0) [ESPNU]:
Line: Michigan State -18.5. Prediction: Michigan State 24, Central Michigan 21.
Air Force Falcons (1-0) at #19 Michigan Wolverines (0-1) [ABC/ESPN2]:
Line: Michigan -21.5 Prediction: Michigan 44, Air Force 20.
3 PM CT:
#13 Wisconsin Badgers (1-0) at Oregon State Beavers (0-0) [FX]: I've watched enough WIsconsin road games to know that this game probably won't be a cakewalk for the Badgers. Expect the boys from Madison to pick up a tight and workmanlike victory, but it probably won't be enjoyable to watch for Wisconsin fans.
Line: Wisconsin -7. Prediction: Wisconsin 28, Oregon State 27.
6:50 PM CT:
#16 Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-0) at UCLA Bruins (1-0) [FOX]: It was a great game against Southern Miss last week for Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez. If he keeps that level of play for the entire season, and that's a pretty big if, Nebraska will be a force this season and potentially return to the Rose Bowl for a second time this season. But first things first, they have to focus on defeating the Bruins in Pasadena today. Big Ten teams have struggled on the road against Pac-12 teams in recent years, but I think Nebraska has too much of a talent edge to stumble in this one.
Line: Nebraska -4. Prediction: Nebraska 34, UCLA 21.
7:00 PM CT:
Vanderbilt Commodores (0-1) at Northwestern Wildcats (1-0) [BTN]: The Big Ten's academic flag-bearer versus the SEC's academic flag-bearer is an incredibly appropriate non-conference game. Kudos to the athletic directors of both schools for getting this one scheduled. These two teams last played in 2010, when Northwestern won 23-21 on Vandy's home field. The Commodores gave South Carolina all they can handle last week, and I think they get revenge for that loss two years ago. The Wildcats won't lose without a fight, however.
Line: Vanderbilt -3. Prediction: Vanderbilt 35, Northwestern 34.
9:30 PM CT:
Illinois Fighting Illini (1-0) at Arizona State Sun Devils (1-0) [ESPN]: Having to head out west to play a Pac-12 team is difficult enough, but it's even more difficult when it's a night game like this one. Illinois defeated Arizona State 17-14 in Champaign last season. It's unclear if Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase will play tonight as he is dealing with an ankle injury that has rendered him a game-time decision. Arizona State lost QB Brock Osweiler and LB Vontaze Burfict to the NFL, but I still expect the Devils to protect their home field and come up with the win.
Line: Arizona State -6. Prediction: Arizona State 34, Illinois 24
Season to Date:
Overall Record: 10-2 (83.3%)
Record against the spread: 11-1 (91.7%).