FTW! Week Four

FTW! is the BHGP weekly guide to Big Ten watching and wagering.

Michigan State at Wisconsin (11:00, ESPN)

Why Watch?  Two of the great enigmas of the Big Ten face off and answer a few questions.  Michigan State, full of preseason hype and coming off back-to-back losses, tries to right the ship.  The Mark Dantonio honeymoon is wearing off after a look-ahead home defeat against Central Michigan and close loss at Notre Dame; two more weeks and he might be Bret Bielema.  Speaking of which, Wisconsin scraped by their September non-conference slate in less-than-stellar fashion, and is apparently attempting to win 12 games by a combined 29 points.  Michigan State is probably better than its record.  Wisconsin is almost certainly not as good as theirs.  In other words, we have things to confirm or disconfirm, dude.

Why Pass?  No real reasons.  The other early Big Ten games aren't significant upgrades (hence the ESPN broadcast), and the best early non-conference game is likely Fresno State-Cincinnati.  Good luck finding that one.

Who Ya Got?  Wisconsin -3, O/U 53.5.  That line reflects the obvious: These teams are interchangeable.  At Camp Randall, Wisky gets 3.  If this was at whatever Michigan State's stadium is called, the Spartans would get a field goal.  I can't distinguish them, and I'm staying away.  With that said, two run-first teams with inexperienced quarterbacks and a total around 50 is quite inviting.  Take the under.

Indiana at Michigan (11:00, ESPN2)

Why Watch?  Michigan is involved.  I've beat it into the ground over the last couple of weeks, but they're a riot to watch.  Offensively, they have destroyed the opposition all season.  Defensively, they're GERGalicious.  It's the northern equivalent of last year's Big XII South.

Why Pass?  Indiana is involved.  Think about it for a second: Aside from the game with Iowa, can you think of any time when you will sit down to watch Indiana football this season?  The defense is competent but boring.  The offense is evolving into the pistol formation, which is entertaining when a talented team is using it but borderline comical when Ben Chappell is (kinda) under center.  For Chrissakes, they have a newly-renovated stadium and their fans still couldn't care less.  When it involves Pam Ward and Ray Bentley, why should you feel any differently?

Who Ya Got?  Michigan -20, O/U 53.  Every once in a while, it's beneficial to figure out where Vegas thinks the game will end.  In this case, it's 36.5-16.5.  Indiana might have a chance of holding Michigan to its season average; the Wolverines haven't faced anything approaching a decent defense so far, and Indiana has shown some defensive competence.  There is no way that Michigan holds Indiana to less than two touchdowns.  IU is intriguing -- despite losing their last 10 games to Michigan, the Hoosiers are a respectable 4-6 ATS over that period -- but it's not the best bet.  Take the over, and keep taking it until UM proves it can stop someone.

Minnesota at Northwestern (11:00, BTN)

Why Watch?  Pure, unadulterated schadenfreude.  Northwestern has beaten Minnesota in excruciating fashion two years running, and for that we are grateful; if you can't beat Minnesota by 55, the next best thing is beating them in the last 10 seconds.  But it's just Northwestern coming off a loss to Syracuse, so the potential of a Minnesota win also holds some bitter pleasure.  Either way, someone has to lose.

Why Pass?  Both these teams stink, and their fans couldn't care less.  If just Northwestern can't talk 12 people into taking the time to attend this mess, why should you spend your hard-earned football Saturday on it?

Who Ya Got?  Minny -1, O/U 49.  This line opened at jNWU -2.5; a swing like that means value is added.  Fade the public, folks.  Take the Wildcats.  I like the over too, for what it's worth.

Illinois at Ohio State (2:30, ABC)

Why Watch?  It's the only late-afternoon Big Ten game.  Aside from that, and the opportunity to watch Ron Franklin call the matchup between the current Juice Williams and the new Juice Williams, there's no real reason.

Why Pass?  Miami/Virginia Tech is on somewhere, provides some money-making potential (Ask yourself: under any circumstance, can you bet against Virginia Tech as a home dog?) and should be a far superior game.

Who Ya Got?  OSU -14, O/U 49.  What, are you kidding?  Illinois is broken and, as far as I know, still coached by Ron Zook.  Even without the revenge factor (which you should ignore, given that we're two full years out from the Illini's upset win in Columbus), Ohio State likely covers with room to spare.

Notre Dame at Purdue (7:00, ESPN)

Why Watch?  Nope.  No reason whatsoever.

Why Pass?  There's another game on television at the time, where all the people in the stadium are albinos.

Who Ya Got?  Notre Dame -7, O/U 60.5.  After last week, I have to take the Irish.  They played well against an absurd line against Michigan State, and Purdue lost to Northern Illinois by the same margin as this spread.  Notre Dame is better than Northern Illinois.  ND covers.

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