It feels like a very quiet week in the Big Ten, and not just because Iowa is on bye -- Ohio State, Illinois, and Minnesota are also on bye, leaving only four B1G games to be played this weekend. But let's see what we've got. Like last week, all line information comes from ESPN's Odds page.
No offense in the Big Ten gains more yards per game than Indiana: 535 ypg, 9th in the NCAA. No defense in the Big Ten concedes fewer yards than Michigan State: 203.8 ypg, 1st in the NCAA. Indiana is also the second-highest scoring team in the league (44.4 ppg, 11th nationally), while Michigan State has the best scoring defense in the conference (13.4 ppg, 7th nationally). Something's gotta give in the Battle for The Old Brass Spittoon. Sparty has won eight of the last nine meetings between the teams, usually handily; only two of those eight wins were by less than 10 points. The games are usually high-scoring, too; with the exception of a 31-3 Sparty win in 2003, every game between these teams since 2002 has featured at least 50 points. Then again, most of those teams had better offenses than the 2013 MSU team, too. The Sparty offense had a veritable offensive explosion against Iowa... and still ended up with just 26 points. If you think that performance wasn't just a fluke and you think Sparty can turn some of those drives that ended in field goals against Iowa into touchdowns against Iowa, well, then maybe that over bet looks a bit more tempting. Indiana hasn't scored less than 35 points in a game this season (a 41-35 loss to Navy), but Michigan State's defense is orders of magnitude better than anyone they've played so far this year. I lean MSU covering -- barely -- and staying under, something like 27-17 MSU.
It's gotta suck to be a two-touchdown underdog at home. Taylor Martinez was a late scratch against Illinois last week, but I'm not sure it matters this week. T-Magic's understudy, Tommy Armstrong, looked fine against Illinois (8/13, 135 yards, 2 TD) and OMHR is so, so bad. About that two-touchdown spread... Purdue's already lost by 35 (to Cincinnati), 31 (to Wisconsin), and 31 (to Northern Illinois). They also had a a 7-point loss to Notre Dame because, woo, moral victories. Two of those three wipeouts came on the road, but NIU didn't seem to have any problem putting Purdue to the sword in the unfriendly confines of West Lafayette. It's not always easy to back a two-touchdown favorite on the road, but against this Purdue team, I like Nebraska's odds of covering. The over-under is more interesting; Nebraska's defense finally put together a solid performance last week, holding a pretty solid Illinois offense to just 17 points (Illinois also picked up 2 points on a safety). So hitting the over here may come down to how many points you think Nebraska can score here. Do you think they can score 45+ on Purdue? If so, the over looks pretty tempting.
It's also not too often that you see a top-20 team go on the road and be a double-digit underdog to an unranked team. But such is the case in this week's jNW-Wisconsin clash; Vegas doesn't seem all that persuaded by the Wildcats this week. Wisconsin doesn't look like the most favorable matchup for Northwestern, frankly; a week after Carlos Hyde's power running mauled them in the second half of OSU's wild win they get to take on Wisconsin, a team that knows a thing or three about good running attacks. It sounds like Wisconsin's top back, Melvin Gordon, is healthy for this game, too. The over might be a safer bet here, though; both teams enter this game with pretty potent offenses and, historically, this game has often been a high-scoring affair (the lowest combined point total in the past four meetings was 50 points). I could definitely see these two teams having a good ol' fashioned SEC-style shootout here.
The final Big Ten game of the day features one of the league's better modern rivalries (Michigan-Penn State), but also two teams going in opposite directions. Michigan used a late scoring flurry to pull away against Minnesota last week, while Penn State stumbled to their first-ever loss to Indiana a week ago. Without the benefit of a strong, uber-committed senior class like last year's team had, this Penn State squad seems to be feeling the effects of the NCAA sanctions a bit more this year. On the other hand, Michigan struggled with Minnesota for a while last week and hasn't looked fully convincing in most of their games this season. They also looked really dreadful in their last road game (at UConn). This game feels like it could be a little squirrelly.
But what about you? What do you like this week?