2019 Big Ten Picks – Week Two

College football is underway and we now have a week under our belt. The season got off to a solid start as I went 2-1 to kick things off. Illinois and Michigan State easily came in as wins but I was very, very wrong about the Wisconsin Badgers. They went to South Florida and gored the Bulls in a game that was never a contest. On to week two with the following lines: Army at Michigan (-23), Vanderbilt at Purdue (-9.5), Rutgers at Iowa (-20), Syracuse at Maryland (+2), Cincinnati at Ohio State (-16.5), Nebraska (-4.5) at Colorado, Central Michigan at Wisconsin (-34), Illinois (-17.5) at UConn, Western Michigan at Michigan State (-17), Buffalo at Penn State (-22), Minnesota (-3) at Fresno State, Eastern Illinois at IU has no line.

Western Michigan at Michigan State – UNDER 49 – 7:30 on BTN

Make it nine straight unders for the Michigan State Spartans. In week one against Tulsa, the Spartans offense continued to look pedestrian and their defense was dominant. They squeezed the life out of Tulsa and actually held the Golden Hurricane to minus 71 yards rushing. That is incredible stuff from Mark Dantonio’s defense. Western Michigan is a tougher challenge than Tulsa was. The Broncos are a contender in the MAC and Jon Wassink threw for five touchdowns in the season opening win over Monmouth but I see absolutely no reason to stop betting the under yet. I will recycle a line from last week’s article: I am going to keep betting the under with the Spartans until they prove me wrong.

Nebraska (-4.5) at Colorado – 3:30 on FOX

The Cornhuskers were not great in their week one victory over South Alabama. They prevailed 35-21 but it was because of three non-offensive touchdowns (one punt return from Spielman and two defensive scores) and the offense really sputtered all game. Adrian Martinez was only 13-22 for 178 yards and the Huskers were outgained 314 to 276 by the Jaguars. The positive spin on this is that Nebraska’s defense probably played better than they did at any point during the 2018 season. I am not going to throw out all of my preseason pumping of Nebraska’s offense and my belief in Scott Frost and Adrian Martinez based on some week one rust. Colorado beat in-state rival Colorado State 52-31 but look closer and you will see that the Rams outgained Colorado 505-475 and threw for 374 yards on the Buffaloes. Four turnovers were the undoing for CSU. I think the value is there for Nebraska as they bounce back with a much better performance in week two and I like Nebraska to win this game by double-digits.

Illinois (-17.5) at UConn – 3:30 on CBSSN

I have put myself in the odd position of being an Illinois backer this season. I took Illinois to go over their season win total of 3.5. I then took them to cover last week (which they did in convincing fashion). I am taking them again and I think the Fighting Illini will hammer the Huskies in Storrs. Illinois gained 401 yards and were playing incredibly conservative with personnel and play-calling from the second quarter on. For example, Reggie Corbin only had six carries as the Illini spread the work around. More impressively, they held Akron to just 192 yards and forced a pair of turnovers. UConn hung on for a three point win over Wagner but the Seahawks were just 4-7 in 2018 and a narrow victory over that program tells me absolutely nothing. I don’t think the Huskies are improved enough (if at all) to challenge Illinois and I think this will be another convincing Illinois victory.

Army (+23) at Michigan – Noon on FOX

I am nervous about this one but this game has been in my head all offseason and I feel compelled to go with my gut. Army plays at a slow tempo and that should help keep the Black Knights in the contest. The biggest reason for my optimism though is Army’s defense. They were stout against Rice in week one (only 62 yards passing) and they were good all of last season. Kelvin Hopkins Jr. is a strong option quarterback and he should provide at least some problems to the Michigan defense, a unit that was not terrific against Middle Tennessee. The Wolverines are still trying to figure things out on offense as they transition to a new system and it would not shock me if they were not able to get into a rhythm because of Army’s tempo. I do think Michigan wins this game without too much angst but 23 points is steep against a winning team that will condense the game. 

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