Bets ahoy. You know it's a strange day in the Big Ten when Iowa is the biggest favorite of the day. Perhaps the Big Ten's two best teams, Ohio State and Michigan State, are both on bye this week, but while the giants are away, the mice will play. Or something. As per usual, line information comes from here and is strictly for friendly wagers and entertainment purposes.
PENN STATE (5-3, 2-2) AT MINNESOTA (7-2, 3-2) (11:00 AM CST, ESPN2)
THE SPREAD: Minnesota -2.5
THE OVER-UNDER: 47.5
Minnesota's quest to claim a rivalry trophy continues; they failed in their efforts to claim the pig and the jug, but they have shots at the bell and the axe coming up in their next two games. But there's more on the line here than just a rivalry trophy; at 7 wins through 9 games, Minnesota is in some pretty heady territory. The last time they won 8 games? 2003. The last time they won four straight Big Ten games? 1973. This is not familiar territory. Also not familiar territory? Being a favorite in a league game; Minnesota ran up their current three-game B1G winning streak while being an underdog in each game (a significant underdog, too -- they were more than a touchdown 'dogs in all of those games). Penn State farted around for most of the game against Illinois a week ago, before winning their second game in four weeks in OT. This is a difficult game to figure out, frankly.
IOWA (5-4, 2-3) AT PURDUE (1-7, 0-4) (11:00 AM CST, BTN)
THE SPREAD: Iowa -15
THE OVER-UNDER: 45
15 points? Jeez, that's a lot of field goals. Mike Meyer is gonna have to be real busy on Saturday, you guys. That's a pretty big spread for an Iowa team that's struggled to score points... but Purdue's badness is hard to quantify. We can try, though: they haven't scored since October 12th (and that came on a last-minute touchdown heave), they've scored 17 points combined in four B1G games (a cool 4.3 ppg average), and they haven't taken an offensive snap in an opponent's red zone since September. Honestly, given all that information -- and given the offensive woes Iowa's dealt with lately (just two touchdown drives in the last 10 full quarters) -- the under is the bet that looks awful tempting here.
ILLINOIS (3-5, 0-4) AT INDIANA (3-5, 1-3) (2:30 PM CST, BTN)
THE SPREAD: Indiana -9
THE OVER-UNDER: 78
Indiana was a pretty big favorite a week ago (-8) and came up short against a surprisingly good Gopher team. The bad news is that loss killed any hope of making a bowl game this year, unless they're able to sweep their remaining home games (this one and Purdue at the end of the season) and steal one of their road games (Wisconsin and Ohio State). The second part of that equation looks a whole lot harder than the first part. The good news is that they get to play Illinois this week, who is... not very good. Especially in Big Ten games: Tim Beckman is 0-12 in league play and Illinois overall is riding an 18-game losing streak in conference action. They last won a B1G game on October 8, 2011 -- against Indiana, in fact. That's the longest string of intra-conference futility for a Big Ten team since Illinois put together a 15-game losing streak in league play between 2002 and 2004. (Iowa had a 14-game Big Ten losing streak between 1998 and 2000.) Anyway, at some point that streak is going to end. Could it be this week? Indiana's defense can't stop a soul (they allowed 42 points against Minnesota last week, which is the third time in four B1G games that they've allowed 40+ points), so there's a chance.
NEBRASKA (6-2, 3-1) AT MICHIGAN (6-2, 2-2) (2:30 PM CST, ABC)
THE SPREAD: Michigan -6.5
THE OVER-UNDER: 57.5
Let the battle for 2nd place in the Legends Division commence! Remarkably, Nebraska does at least control their own destiny to win the division -- win out and they can book a return trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game. (Mind you, that "win out" idea includes beating Michigan State and their terrormonster-laden defense so it's much easier said than done.) Michigan isn't in that position -- after getting beaten like a drum by Sparty last week, they need some help to finagle their way to Indianapolis. Either way, both teams need to win this game to retain even the slightest bit of hope at grabbing a piece of the Big Ten title. Nebraska played like crap for much of last week's game against Northwestern, but managed to pull a win out of their asses with some timely Wildcat mistakes and a stunning Hail Mary as time expired. Michigan has looked shaky this year, especially the last few weeks, but Nebraska has probably been even shakier. This is a difficult game to get a read on, though.
BYU (6-2) AT WISCONSIN (6-2, 4-1) (2:30 PM CST, ESPN)
THE SPREAD: Wisconsin -8
THE OVER-UNDER: 55.5
At last, the Big Ten wraps up non-conference play for the 2013 season, with Wisconsin entertaining BYU. BYU is already 6-2 on the season and is riding a 5-game winning streak into Madison. That streak includes dominant home wins over Georgia Tech and Boise State, as well as a road takedown of previously undefeated Houston. They also tore Texas to shreds earlier this season. Their last loss was a close one to bitter rivals Utah (whose win over Stanford just looks better and better). Suffice to say, they're one of the better non-conference foes on any Big Ten team's schedule this year. The Badgers, of course, are coming off their not-quite-as-easy-as-the-score-suggests win over Iowa last week and still have an outside shot at nabbing a BCS at-large bid. The bets for this game might come down to whose 6-2 record seems more legit. Wisconsin has some lopsided victory margins on their schedule this year, but they also only have one win over a team with a winning record this year (Iowa). Honestly, the safest bet for this game might just be a prop bet on it lasting under 3 hours; given how much these teams like to run, this game shouldn't take too long to play.
What's your favorite bet of the week?