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Big Ten Rundown: West Division Matchups Could Steal the Thunder from Big Ten Heavyweights

Wisconsin and Iowa Loser Likely Out of West Division Contention

Steal the Thunder from Big Ten Heavyweights

Wisconsin and Iowa Loser Likely Out of West Division Contention

Much of the focus in the Big Ten has been on East Division powers Ohio State and Michigan as the conference elite currently hold down two of the top four spots in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. However, with Ohio State and

Aidan O'Connell #16 of the Purdue Boilermakers throws a pass in the fourth quarter of the game against the Wisconsin Badgers
Aidan O'Connell / John Fisher - Getty Images - AFP

Michigan is both favored by more than 30 points, let’s turn the attention to what is going on in the tightly-bunched West Division.

The Purdue-Illinois and Wisconsin-Iowa games could clear things up in a division where five of the seven teams are separated by just one game in the standings.

According to the college football playoff odds, Ohio State is second and Michigan third in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings. Penn State and Illinois are 14th and 21st. In the Associated Press Top 25 poll, check in at No. 15 and 16. Those four teams hold down the same spots in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Ohio State -500 leads the way in the odds to win the Big Ten title followed by Michigan (+350) and Illinois (+1500).

Let’s check the latest NCAAF picks, stats, injury reports, and NCAAF predictions. We’ve plenty of NCAAF expert picks for you to consider.

Game of the Week

Purdue vs Illinois

  • Date, Time (TV): Saturday, Nov. 12th, 12 noon ET (ESPN2)
  • Line: Illinois -6½

This is a huge game in the Big Ten West Division race. Illinois (7-2, 4-2 in the Big Ten) is coming off a loss to Michigan State that tightened things up in the division while Purdue (5-4, 3-3) has lost back-to-back games.

Illinois is led by Chase Brown as he leads the nation with 1,344 rushing yards.

Purdue is one of two teams to attempt at least 400 passes this season. Receiver Isaiah Williams has 23 catches over the last three games.

The Fighting Illini lead the conference in total defense and passing defense so it will be worth watching how Purdue’s passing offense fares in this one.

Purdue has won five of the last six games against Illinois. However, the Fighting Illini have covered versus the college football betting lines in the last three meetings.

Rest of the Schedule

Indiana vs Ohio State

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Nov. 12th, 12 noon ET (FOX)
  • Line: Ohio State -40

Just two years ago Indiana made the trip to Columbus and nearly came away with an upset before falling in an entertaining 42-35 affair.

Few people are expecting a similar outcome on Saturday when Indiana (3-6, 1-5) returns to Ohio State (9-0, 6-0).

Indiana’s defense has been on the field for more plays than any other team in the conference and that would not be the way to proceed against a high-powered Ohio State offense.

Heisman Trophy front-runner C.J. Stroud didn’t do much in last week’s win over Northwestern as a result of the weather conditions. Don’t expect him to be held to 76 passing yards this week.

Ohio State has won 26 games in a row against Indiana, though the Hoosiers have covered in eight of the last 11 meetings. Each of the last five games in the series finished over the total set by the college football betting lines. The total in Saturday’s game is currently at 58½.

Rutgers vs Michigan State

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Nov. 12th, 12 noon ET (Big Ten Network)
  • Line: Michigan State -9½

This is not the most appetizing game of the week in the Big Ten.

Michigan State (4-5. 2-4) does have wins over Wisconsin and Illinois in the last three weeks but also have suffered five double-digit losses.

Rutgers (4-5, 1-5) has scored the fewest points in conference play. The Spartans and Scarlet Knights are 11th and 13th in the Big Ten in total offense.

Rutgers has gone from allowing nearly 400 yards per game in 2021 to giving up 310 this season.

Michigan State has won seven of the last eight games in the series. However, the Spartans haven’t covered against the Las Vegas odds in back-to-back meetings since outscoring the Scarlet Knights 89-7 in the 2016 and 2017 contests.

Nebraska vs Michigan

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Nov. 12th, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
  • Line: Michigan -31

This is the calm before the storm for Michigan with games coming up against West Division-leading Illinois followed by the huge showdown with Ohio State.

Nebraska (3-6, 2-4) has allowed more yards than any other Big Ten team. Michigan (9-0, 6-0) is averaging more yards per game than it did a season ago when the Wolverines won the conference title.

Michigan running back Blake Corum leads the Big Ten with 16 touchdown runs and is second with 1,187 yards as the Las Vegas odds list him with the best odds among non-quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy.

Nebraska’s Anthony Grant has quietly run for 858 yards as he is closing in on becoming the Huskers’ first 1,000-yard rusher since 2018.

Nebraska has split the last four games when playing at Michigan. The last time the teams played in Ann Arbor was in 2018 when the Wolverines cruised to a 56-10 win as an 18-point favorite.

Quarterback Chubba Purdy #6 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers passes against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the third quarter
Quarterback Chubba Purdy #6 / Steven Branscombe – Getty Images – AFP

Maryland vs Penn State

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Nov. 12th, 3:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
  • Line: Penn State -10½

This has the potential to be an offensive showcase with the teams ranking third and fourth in the Big Ten in points per game while sitting in the middle of the conference in scoring defense.

One concern for Penn State is that quarterback Sean Clifford has thrown five interceptions over the last three games. Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa threw for just 77 yards in last week’s loss to Wisconsin.

The game features some talented freshmen running backs. Maryland’s Roman Hemby has 747 rushing yards while Penn State’s Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen have combined for 1,232 yards.

Five of the last six games in the series have gone under the total set by the sportsbook. The total is at 58 ½ for Saturday’s matchup.

Wisconsin vs Iowa

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Nov. 12th, 3:30 p.m. ET (FS1)
  • Line: Wisconsin -1½

Consider this an elimination game in the Big Ten’s West Division race with both teams coming into the game with identical 5-4 overall records and 3-3 marks in conference play.

Iowa is ahead of only UMass and New Mexico among FBS teams in total offense as the Hawkeyes averaged just 263 yards per game.

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras has three TD passes and no interceptions over the last two games.

Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen needs 11 rushing yards to hit the 1,000 mark while Nick Herbig has a conference-best 12½ tackles for loss.

Wisconsin has won five of the last six matchups with Iowa and covered in four of those contests.

Something that could be of interest to those who bet online, the total of 34½ is the lowest among FBS games this week.

Northwestern vs Minnesota

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Nov. 12th, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
  • Line: Minnesota -17½

Northwestern (1-8, 1-5) is looking to not only snap an eight-game losing streak but also play spoiler as Minnesota (6-3, 3-3) is one of four teams tied for second in the Big Ten West Division.

Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim is third in the Big Ten with 1,083 rushing yards and second with 15 touchdown runs. Northwestern’s Evan Hull has rushed for more than 100 yards in two of the last three games.

Northwestern is last in the Big Ten in rushing defense.

Both teams will need to run the ball because their passing offense has some issues. Minnesota has one TD pass and four interceptions with just 510 yards over the last four games. The Wildcats are 11th in the conference in passing efficiency.

Minnesota has scored 79 points while taking the last two games against Northwestern. The Wildcats did win the most recent matchup at Minnesota 24-14 back in 2018 as a three-point underdog.

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