2019 Big Ten Picks – Week Six
Week five was another winning week as Ohio State blasted the Nebraska Cornhuskers for an easy cover and Penn State-Maryland squeaked under thanks to an incompetent performance from the Terrapins. The 2-1 weekend lifted me to 9-8 on the season. The Big Ten schedule for week six is an intriguing one:
The penultimate weekend of September brought a 2-1 week that brings me to 7-7 on the season through four weeks. The Big Ten slate is a bit heavier this weekend as a few teams are back from byes. The offerings are as follows: Kent State at Wisconsin (-36.5), Purdue at Penn State (opened at 16.5 and quickly went to 24.5!), Iowa at Michigan (-7), Maryland (-14.5) at Rutgers, Illinois at Minnesota (-13.5), Northwestern at Nebraska (-7.5), Michigan State at Ohio State (-17)
Michigan State at Ohio State (-20) – 7:30 on ABC
The Ohio State Buckeyes are rolling. After demolishing Nebraska in Lincoln, they are covering the spread by a nation-best 20.9 points per game. To be covering that comfortably is absurd. The offense is efficient and explosive. Perhaps most impressive is the balance with which they can attack. Justin Fields is throwing the ball very well and spreading it around to several different weapons. He is also adding his legs to the ground game which is led by JK Dobbins and Master Teague. On the other side of the ball, Ohio State is strangling opponents with a fierce pass rush and much better than expected linebacker play. Chase Young is essentially unblockable now that he is healthy and the pass rush makes it very difficult for the opposition to be comfortable on offense. Michigan State’s defense, particularly the secondary, was possibly exposed by the Indiana Hoosiers. A good game plan and a terrific afternoon from redshirt freshman Michael Penix shredded the Spartans defense. Penix had 20 straight completions at one point and IU was about two inches on a deep ball to Whop Philyor from taking a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter. MSU’s offense, particularly Brian Lewerke, had a great day but they will find it much more difficult to move against the Buckeyes. Their patchwork offensive line will get pushed around and Ohio State is going to make this a lopsided affair. I like Ohio State by as much as 26.5 in this game.
Iowa (+4.5) at Michigan – Noon on FOX
I know Michigan just blasted Rutgers (again) and finally got the Scarlet Knights to pull the plug on the Chris Ash era but I do not trust the Wolverines. Beating up on Rutgers just does not convince me the Maize and Blue have fixed what ails them. They now get a much stiffer test as the red-hot Iowa Hawkeyes come to town. The Hawkeyes just polished off a 48-3 win over Middle Tennessee that featured the most offensive yardage amassed during the extensive Kirk Ferentz era. Nate Stanley is having a terrific season, completing 64.4% of his passes and nearing 1,000 yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. What is even more encouraging is the return of a dominant running game for the Hawkeyes. Mekhi Sargent, Toren Young and Tyler Goodson are all averaging more than five yards per carry. Bottom line on this game, until Michigan actually beats a really good team, I am going to bet against them and getting 4.5 is a bonus. Give me the Hawkeyes.
Northwestern (+7) at Nebraska – 4:00 on FOX
After five games of evidence, perhaps we have to conclude that at this time, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are just not very good. That could change and Scott Frost could get things turned around right away but for now, I don’t think they should be favored by a touchdown against an opponent in the Big Ten with a pulse. They were close against South Alabama, close against Illinois, lost to Colorado and were blown out by Ohio State. The only game that they played well was against Northern Illinois. Actually, they are just 1-4 ATS this season and I see that dropping to 1-5 after playing Northwestern. The Wildcats hung tough against Wisconsin and the defense appears to be well on the way to being fixed. Northwestern is going to shrink the game by stretching out possessions and I think they will corral Nebraska’s offense and likely force a few turnovers, something Nebraska has been prone to this season. While the Wildcats are a disaster on offense, the Huskers defense doesn’t look very good and I only anticipate Northwestern needing 14-20 points to cover. I’ll take Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats to cover.