It’s another week in the Big Ten, and there has been another postponed game: Michigan State and Maryland will not play due to a COVID-19 outbreak with Maryland. Here are the other Big Ten games this week, with the Purdue-Minnesota game being a Friday night special in Minneapolis. Let’s take a closer look at the action and the online betting lines.
Purdue Boilermakers vs Minnesota Golden Gophers
College Football Odds: Purdue -2.5
This is a difficult game to pick beyond the usual assortment of reasons. Purdue still doesn’t have top receiver (and best offensive player) Rondale Moore. Moore has missed the entire season despite the team not disclosing a specific injury. It’s an open secret that Moore isn’t fully healthy, but the team doesn’t want to provide full details as a way of shielding Moore before next year’s NFL Draft. Nevertheless, without Moore, Purdue’s offense becomes a lot more ordinary and limited. The real question becomes whether Minnesota’s struggling offense — which was bottled up by the Iowa Hawkeyes a week ago — can bust loose against an inconsistent Purdue defense that looks effective at times but ultimately fluctuates between mediocre and good. Purdue has to minimize its negative stretches on defense and find a better way to get off the field on third down. If the Boilermakers can do that against struggling Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan, they have a good chance of winning. If Morgan converts third downs on a regular basis, Purdue will be in big trouble. The underdog might be the better play in the sportsbook.
Indiana Hoosiers vs Ohio State Buckeyes
College Football Odds: Ohio State -19.5
This is a game in which Indiana is playing with house money. The Hoosiers are unbeaten and in the Top 10, and have a chance to make a big bowl game. However, no one expects them to beat the juggernaut from Ohio State, which is expected to dominate in every game it plays before the College Football Playoff (with the possible exception of Wisconsin in a potential Big Ten Championship Game showdown). Justin Fields is a Heisman Trophy contender. The Ohio State quarterback is the best player on either team, and Indiana has no one who is likely to stop him. The Buckeyes know that Indiana, not Michigan or Penn State, is their foremost obstacle on the path to a Big Ten East Division championship. Many people are calling this game a “Big Ten Semifinal,” since the other big game this week has the best teams in the West Division, Wisconsin and Northwestern. That is the other “semifinal” on tap in Week 12. Ultimately, Indiana needs the defensive performance of the season to have a chance at creating an upset here. The Hoosiers simply cannot make any mistakes. Their margin for error is zero.
Illinois Fighting Illini vs Nebraska Cornhuskers
College Football Odds: Nebraska -15.5
When the Nebraska Cornhuskers beat Penn State, they beat a winless team, but Penn State – despite being 0-4 – still has a lot of talent. That would explain why Nebraska is still such a hefty favorite over an Illinois team that defeated Rutgers to get its first Big Ten win of the season. Illinois showed a lot of pride against Rutgers, winning on a field goal in the final seconds. The Illini might not be a strong team, but they aren’t a pushover, either. Nebraska played a brilliant first half against Penn State, building a 27-6 lead. The concern for Nebraska is putting together a complete 60-minute game. Nebraska lost most of that 21-point lead and held on for dear life as Penn State twice drove inside the Nebraska 15 but could not get in the end zone for a tying touchdown. Nebraska is the better team but many will rightly wonder if it is 15 points better.
Michigan Wolverines vs Rutgers Scarlet Knights
College Football Odds: Michigan -10
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights seemed to be making an upward move in the Big Ten but then they lost at home to the team widely believed to be the absolute worst team in the conference, the Illinois Fighting Illini. Rutgers lost 23-20 on a field goal with three seconds left, giving the Scarlet Knights a crushing blow in the middle of their season. Rutgers defeated Michigan State in its season opener. With Michigan State getting hammered left and right in the Big Ten, the value of that Michigan State win has noticeably declined. However, the one team Michigan State did beat is the team Rutgers faces this Saturday, the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan is 1-3 and in disarray after being pounded at home by 38 points by the Wisconsin Badgers. Michigan is a complete mess, and if the Wolverines can’t beat Rutgers, you’re going to see a lot more pressure on the school to do something about embattled coach Jim Harbaugh.
Wisconsin Badgers vs Northwestern Wildcats
College Football Odds: Wisconsin -7.5
The key point about this game is that Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz wasn’t at his best against the Michigan Wolverines one week ago, and yet the Badgers still crushed Michigan, 49-11. If Mertz can play better, Wisconsin has a team good enough to give Ohio State a fight in a possible Big Ten Championship Game. Northwestern has a good and resourceful team with a high-quality defense. The Wildcats simply do not give up big plays. They are disciplined. They are going to win more games after this weekend. However, Wisconsin is the one team in the Big Ten West that clearly outpaces Northwestern up and down the line, at nearly every position. The Badgers should be able to firm up their place as the best team in the Big Ten West.
Iowa Hawkeyes vs Penn State Nittany Lions
College Football Odds: Iowa -2.5
The Penn State Nittany Lions are 0-4. Are they somehow going to fall to 0-5? They might, especially since Iowa is on a two-game winning streak and has looked good each of the last two weeks. However, Penn State will be switching quarterbacks. Sean Clifford started the Nebraska loss but he won’t start this game. Will Levis shall replace him. Levis kick-started the Penn State offense in a failed comeback bid at Nebraska. If he plays as well against Iowa as he did against Nebraska, Penn State has a good chance of winning here.