It's another week featuring several games with the Big Ten have-nots lining up to take their beatings from Big Ten haves; three of this week's spreads are three scores or more. Coincidentally (or not), all three of those games occupy the early 11am slot tomorrow. In other words, if you want to sleep in and not check out the world of B1G football until mid-afternoon... well, you probably won't be missing much. As usual, line information comes from hereand is purely for friendly wagers and entertainment purposes.
PURDUE (1-8, 0-5) AT PENN STATE (5-4, 2-3) (11:00 AM CST, BTN)
THE SPREAD: Penn State -21.5
THE OVER-UNDER: 45.5
No. Just say no to bad football. We watched three hours of Purdue football last week, which is way more than the FDA-recommended monthly allowance. Don't even think about turning to BTN tomorrow morning. Don't do it. Your eyeballs will thank you later. Especially since they're playing a Penn State team that lost to Indiana, tried really hard to lose to Illinois (only to find that the Fightin' Tim Beckmans just insisted on letting PSU win instead), and got humbled by Minnesota (yes, Minnesota) last week. The effects of the NCAA sanctionhammer are being felt powerfully in Happy Valley this year. But they're still 21.5-point favorites because LOL HAVE YOU SEEN PURDUE? The Boilermakers have covered the spread in precisely one B1G this year (that eye-gouging 14-0 loss to Michigan State), so taking Penn State and the points isn't a terrible idea at all.
INDIANA (4-5, 2-3) AT WISCONSIN (7-2, 4-1) (11:00 AM CST, ESPN2)
THE SPREAD: Wisconsin -26.5
THE OVER-UNDER: 69
Indiana is still clinging to hopes of a bowl game this year, but if they want to hold onto those hopes for another week, they really need to find a way to upset the Badgers in Madison this week. If they lose this game, their bowl hopes rely on beating Ohio State in Columbus next week, which... NOPE. The problem for the Hoosiers (outside of their non-existent garbage fire of a defense) is that the Badgers haven't regressed nearly as much as outside observers thought/hoped they would with Bret Bielema's departure. Wisconsin's defense ranks a gaudy 6th in the nation in scoring defense (15.2 ppg), but they've also benefited from playing a collection of fairly crap offenses. The two good offenses they've played (Arizona State and Ohio State) both scored 30+ on them. So Indiana might be able to score points. Unfortunately, there's no indication that Indiana can stop anyone from scoring, which means James White, Melvin Gordon, and friends should put up eye-popping numbers Saturday. I feel a little better about the over-under than the spread here; this feels like a game where Indiana could get a late score to cut the margin to, say, 20 points.
OHIO STATE (9-0, 5-0) AT ILLINOIS (3-6, 0-5) (11:00 AM CST, ESPN)
THE SPREAD: Ohio State -33.5
THE OVER-UNDER: 65.5
The pomp, the pageantry, the IlliBuck Trophy. Alas, after this year the world's most famous wooden turtle trophy will be up for grabs much less often; Illinois joins the Big Ten West next year and games with Ohio State will happen much less frequently. In other words: get a good look at the IllBuck Trophy on the OSU sidelines this year, Illini fans, because you ain't seeing it again for a while. Like Indiana, Illinois retains hopes of making a bowl game this year, at least in a theoretical sense. They'd need to win their final three B1G games to accomplish that hope and there are two big problems with that plan. One, Illinois has failed to win a single Big Ten game -- literally, not even one -- since Tim Beckman took over. Two, they would have to beat Ohio State tomorrow. So yeah: feel free to mark Illinois down for a 20th straight Big Ten loss. The only real question is whether or not Ohio State can cover an almost-five touchdown spread. I doubted their ability to cover a similarly enormous spread against Purdue a few weeks ago; they had it covered by the midway point of the second quarter. Lesson learned.
MICHIGAN (6-3, 2-3) AT just NORTHWESTERN (4-5, 0-5) (2:30 PM CST, BTN)
THE SPREAD: jNW -2.5
THE OVER-UNDER: 50.5
Before the season began, this game was the trendy pick to decide the Big Ten Legends division. It even looked like a decent bet to be important when both teams went 4-0 in non-conference play. Oops. That was before they combined to go 2-8 in Big Ten play, with Michigan dropping their last two games (and recording negative rushing yardage in both) and Northwestern losing all five B1G games so far. And yet Northwestern is still a 2.5 point favorite in this game. Home field is generally worth around a field goal, so that spread suggests that this would be a pick 'em on a neutral field... but even that is a pretty big indictment of Michigan. Remember, Northwestern has not won a game since September 21. It was still technically summer then! The safest bet here might be the under, since the offenses for both teams have been pretty putrid lately.
MICHIGAN STATE (8-1, 5-0) AT NEBRASKA (7-2, 4-1) (2:30 PM CST, ABC/ESPN2)
THE SPREAD: Michigan State -5.5
THE OVER-UNDER: 41.5
Speaking of the under... hello there, Michigan State football and your insanely low over-under totals. Once again, an MSU game has the lowest over-under of B1G play. (Although it is not the lowest over-under nationally: Memphis-South Florida is projected to be even more rock fight-y, with an over-under of 40.5.) Nebraska has rebounded from getting pasted by Minnesota to eke out wins over reeling Northwestern (via a Hail Mary) and dissolving Michigan (with another late scoring drive), but they're still not exactly the most convincing 7-2 team in the land. Meanwhile, Michigan State is probably the most underrated 8-1 team around, thanks to their lackluster conference affiliation and the mediocrity (to be charitable) of their offense. Unlike the Michigan-Northwestern game, this game probably is a Legends division title-decider (although MSU-Minnesota still lurks out there as a potentially vital game, too), so it's the B1G game of the day. Michigan State's had two weeks to prepare for this game; the last time their offense had two weeks to prepare for a game, they had one of their finer efforts of the season in their 26-14 win over Iowa (not counting their performances against defense-free outfits like Indiana and Illinois). It's rare for Nebraska to be an almost-touchdown underdog at home, but Sparty does feel for real.
What say you all?