According to Vegas, this is not going to be the most competitive week of the year in the league. Of the five games on the docket, only one features a spread that's not in the double digits -- and that one has Michigan as a 9.5 point favorite. Suffice to say, on paper there are mismatches aplenty on tap tomorrow.
MINNESOTA (4-2, 0-2) AT NORTHWESTERN (4-2, 0-2) (11:00 AM CST, ESPN2)
THE SPREAD: Northwestern -12
THE OVER-UNDER: 53.5
Someone's 0 in B1G play must go! Yes, either Minnesota or Northwestern will pick up their first B1G win of the season on Saturday. Minnesota enters the game off a bye week and is still without their coach (Jerry Kill is receiving treatment for his epilepsy); Northwestern enters the game off consecutive losses, including a demoralizing beatdown at the hands of Wisconsin. They might also be without two of their biggest offensive weapons, Kain Colter and Venric Mark, who have been a bit gimpy of late. And despite all that... they're still 12-point favorites. Although the score got lopsided late, Minnesota was more competitive against Michigan than they were against Iowa and they seemed to have found an offensive identity: pound the ball on the ground. Coincidentally, the last two teams that played (and beat) Northwestern were able to hammer away at their not-so-stout run defense. Can Minnesota do that well enough to at least cover the spread in this game? It's a tasty proposition...
PURDUE (1-5, 0-2) AT MICHIGAN STATE (5-1, 2-0) (11:00 AM CST, BTN)
THE SPREAD: Michigan State -28
THE OVER-UNDER: 42.5
Had you told me after Week 1 that Michigan State would be a 4-TD favorite over anyone -- anyone! -- in college football, I would have been flabbergasted. And yet... here we are, staring at a 28-point spread in favor of Sparty. We got to this point for two reasons. One, MSU's offense has looked frisky the last few weeks (suggesting that they might actually be able to score 28 points) and two, Purdue's offense, defense, well, everything has looked wretched for pretty much the entire season. Are they so incompetent that they can't even cover a 28-point spread? Um... very possibly. Also, if you take MSU to cover AND bet the under, you're just about betting on Sparty pitching a shutout in this game. Which, you know, they could do.
INDIANA (3-3, 1-1) AT MICHIGAN (5-1, 1-1) (2:30 PM CST, BTN)
THE SPREAD: Michigan -9.5
THE OVER-UNDER: 68.5
The "closest" game of the day -- which still isn't that close -- and also the one tabbed to be the highest-scoring affair of the day. Indiana's offense hasn't had too much trouble putting points on the board -- they even managed to score 28 on MSU last week -- while Michigan's defense has definitely looked shaky at times this season. This game could also be a fascinating contrast in styles: Kevin Wilson and his go-go Indiana offense versus Brady Hoke and Al Borges' glacial MANBALL. Michigan's rushing attack figures to have a bit more success against the Indiana front-seven than they did against Penn State last week. A bet for the over here means you think someone is cracking 40 points, which might not be unreasonable: both teams have scored 40+ points in 4 games already this year.
IOWA (4-2, 1-1) AT OHIO STATE (6-0, 2-0) (2:30 PM CST, ABC/ESPN2)
THE SPREAD: Ohio State -18
THE OVER-UNDER: 55
And then there's our game, where Iowa heads to their historical house of horrors. Can Iowa cover an 18-point spread? If they play as poorly as they did two weeks ago against Michigan State, probably not. The Ohio State offense is potent enough that Iowa's defense probably won't be able to hold them to just 26 points as they did with MSU. The better question might be how many points you think the Iowa offense can score on Ohio State. The offense has struggled to turn yards into points all season (and against Michigan State they struggled to get yards and points, a double whammy). Ohio State's defense hasn't exactly been airtight -- in their three games against BCS opponents, they've allowed opponents to score 29.3 ppg.
WISCONSIN (4-2, 2-1) AT ILLINOIS (3-2, 0-1) (7:00 PM CST, BTN)
THE SPREAD: Wisconsin -14.5
THE OVER-UNDER: 56.5
The final B1G game of the day features yet another spread of at least two touchdowns for the favorite (Wisconsin). Wisconsin is coming off a blowout win over Northwestern at home and a close loss to Ohio State on the road; Illinois enters off a blowout loss to Nebraska's backup QB on the road. Illinois has played notably better at home (3-0, including blowouts of Cincinnati and Miami (OH)), but Wisconsin is clearly far better than the teams Illinois has played in Champaign to this point. Illinois' defense has been a sieve for much of the season, so it's hard to see them doing much to slow down Melvin Gordon and the rest of the Badgers' fearsome rushing attack. Can Nathan Scheelhaase and the rest of the Illini offense score enough to cover the spread? I'm dubious, personally.
IOWA STATE (1-4, 0-2) AT BAYLOR (5-0, 2-0) (6:00 PM CST, ESPNU)
THE SPREAD: Baylor -33.5
THE OVER-UNDER: 76.5
I just wanted to point out, for the record, thatIowa State is an almost five touchdown underdog on Saturday. Amazingly, that's NOT the biggest spread of the day (Oregon is a 39.5 point favorite over Washington State), but still: holy hell. Also, that 76.5 total for the over/under is the biggest of the day. If you like points, points, and more points, this looks like the game for you.