The season is winding down. Rather than embracing the final weeks of the football season, I am trying to talk myself into college basketball because once I do that I know I will remain interested and engaged in the sporting world for the next several months even as college football fades to black. By the time that rush ends, it will be April. The hockey playoffs and newness of the baseball season will take me into summer. And, hey, by that point, isn't the college football offseason really over. The new Phil Steele magazine will be out by then. Blue Ribbon wont be far behind. So will the latest Hail To The Victors. See, if you think about, next season is really almost here. Phew, I am glad I got that solved. Western Michigan, you are officially On Notice, bitches! Anyway, onto this week's Big 10 Picks, where we hope to keep the good times rolling (26-18-1 season long record for Big 10 Picks! Woot!) with the following suggestions.
Indiana at Penn St. Lines, Penn St +36.5, O/U 57.
Its been almost two years since a Big 10 was favored by 30 or more points against another Big 10 team. Feel free to take a venture at what that game was. I'll spill the beans a couple of paragraphs later. As far as this game, you have to question the mindset of Penn St on the heels of such a heartbreaking loss of rare magnitude. Penn St cant wait to come out in a showdown and show people they aren't as clunky as they looked in Iowa. I'm sure they will come out on all cylinders when the Big 10 title is on the line against Michigan State. Next week. As for tomorrow, I highly doubt the lowly Hoosiers have Penn St's undivided attention, at least not enough to cover such a gaudy numbers. IU has looked good in recent weeks. Over the last three games, they've exceeded 20 points each time, only have three turnovers, received imporved QB play from Ben Chappell and found a nice stable of RBs to run with. They scored 31 against Penn St last year and think they can get at least a couple TDs in this one. I feel they have a good chance to crack the 20-point mark. In the early going, expect IU's pressure to thwart Clark enough to keep PSU from going off early. Eventually, the Lions will will rev up and go up and down the field on an IU defense that has a ton of injury issues on its back seven. Its being reported they're playing a WR at Safety in this game and that this week in practice certain guys on D wore black shirts to signal no contact allowed. Still, I think the Hoosiers squeak out enough on offense to cover the five-TD spread.
The Pick: IU +36.5, Over 57........yeah, lots of points will be scored. In fact, I am a little afraid that PSU will cover to Over all by themselves. I'm thinking there's a 10 percent chance this could happen. So, consider the Over bet a hedge on the fact that Penn St comes out smoking and scores more than 60 points.
Purdue at Iowa. Lines, Iowa -18, O/U 44.
The nation has finally caught on to the mini Iowa Renaissance we've seen this autumn. Not to mention the excellence that has been Shon Green's season. Thats what coming through with one of the season's signature upsets will do for you. It will also crowd the betting window. Consider the line movement in this game has grown from 14.5 when LVSC released lines on Sunday to now 18 as kickoff nears. The whole world appears to be on Iowa. Usually, I like fading the public, especially with the Hawks coming off such a huge win and being on serious letdown alert. But, I just cant do it. There's too many numbers I like about Iowa. The Hawks are 37-16 ATS at home and 13-3 ATS in their final home game. November is typically their times as Iowa is 22-15-1 ATS in the final four regular season games of the season in the Ferentz era, 12-6 in home games during those stretches. I never fear laying big chalk with Iowa, especially at home, where they're 17-8 ATS laying double digits. One thing worth pointing out about all those numbers is the 2006 season where the Hawks, shockingly, only covered at home once. All these numbers took a hit because of that outlier. All those numbers have bounced back in the nearly two seasons since. Of course, then there is woeful Purdue. I've been pointing this out all year: Purdue is 4-24 SU, 9-19 ATS against bowl teams. They're 2-6 ATS in that spot this season. This is the last chance to play this angle this year and I see no reason to stop. Purdue has only scrapped up 16 ppg in league play this year, but take out that explosion against UM (a non bowl team, by the way) and the Boilers aren't even scoring more than 10 points in league games. Iowa just does not give up a whole lot of points, allowing 13.2 ppg on the season. I have a hard time seeing Purdue breaking double digits. I expect a Senior Day rout of the 31-7 variety. Iowa makes a big defensive stand in the final minute to preserve the spread.
The Pick: Iowa -18......i just had the following conversation with my friend Cherie about this game. She said she liked Iowa. I reminded her about the possible letdown and the huge spread and asked why she was so quick with the Hawks. "They're at home," she snapped. The last time we had this conversation was their game last season with Syracuse. The Hawks won that 35-0 as 24-point favorites. I'm just sayin!
Northwestern at Michigan, Lines Michigan -3, O/U 46.
The last time another Big 10 was favored by at least 30 points in a conference game was when the Wildcats last visited Ann Arbor late in the 2006 season. A lot has changed since then, although it looks like the weather for this one might be as lousy as it was for the 2006 affair. Tomorrow, the Wildcats arrive in Ann Arbor in an underdog role that has people scratching their heads. Its not often you see a 3-7 team favored to beat a 7-3 team. Michigan has the better running and kicking games heading into tomorrow's game, at least as those units have performed in recent games. That gets them through this slog fest. Northwestern is one of the few teams that will gladly match UM turnover for turnover. I think that comes into play tomorrow and I just have this gut feel that Shaffer is going to come out and unleash the D tomorrow. He must feel like his back is to the wall. If last week was indicative of how he responds in the face of loud public criticsm, then I say we register and administer fireshaffer.com for the next several years just to keep him sweating.
The Pick, UM -3......obviously, backing Michigan is done with reluctance. In the end, I will pay a little extra juice on the money line and just need Michigan to win. But, we're playing with spreads here, so -3 will do. I like having cash on games I go to, and every now and then you have to say 'what the fuck' and just bet with your heart and see what happens.
Ohio State at Illinois, Lines OSU -9.5, O/U 45.5
No team has played Ohio State better in recent seasons than Ron Zook's Illini. The maligned Zooker has a great reputation as a recruiter, but he should also be touted as a great underdog coach. His teams--including his tenure at Florida--are 20-15 ATS when catching points. But, dont you almost have to overlook the 3-7 mark logged that first year in Champagne? He inherited such a dogmeat program that had even less experience than this year's Michigan outfit. Those are some great numbers if you consider 2006 an exception to the rule. Regardless, Zook is 9-5 as an underdog when Mr. Juice Williams is his starting QB. I still think OSU has trouble with the looks a Juice-led offense shows. There's been something off about the Bucks all season long. Britt Miller and Vontae Davis are going to torment young Pryor tomorrow. Last year, OSU could not contain the Illini's big plays or the legs of Juice Williams. The Illini will repeat enough of that effort to make this a back and forth game thats undecided the whole way. Illinois plays so much better at home, scoring over 30 points a game. They are one of the few teams this year that didn't stall against the stingy Iowa D, so I feel like they can have similar success on this field against the Bucks. Illinois lost to OSU by 7 two years ago and upset them in Columbus last season. Illinois is about the same, while OSU is not as good as their predecessors. I dont understand how they can be expected to in this one by double digits. I've boasted all season that OSU would lose twice in the Big 10 this season and have been anticipating Illinois as an attractive home dog in his game for weeks now. We'll see if its too good to be true.
The Pick, Illinois +9.5.......is it worth mentioning that OSU is 3-9 ATS the week before the Michigan game, and 0-6 when that foe is Illinois? I thought you might like to know that.
Minnesota at Wisconsin, Lines Wisco -14, O/U 46
Like the Iowa line, this sucker has has grown with money coming in all week on the favorite. What opened as a 10-point line has settled in at 13.5 for the last couple days. Unlike the Iowa game, I will go against the public grain in this one. In a very underrated rivalry game, the underdog actually has some pretty good numbers, logging a 14-8-1 ATS mark since 1985. That gives me enough of an opening to jump on the Minnesota bandwagon when the rest of the world is fleeing like buffett cooks when the Notre Dame coaching staff walks into their restuarant. Minnesota's downtown conveniently coincided with my Diary back in October praising their turnaround as legit. Thanks Golden Gophers! I love ya! Oh, but I do. In the battle of that weird, big, sorta dangerous looking axe these clubs play for, anything goes and as detailed above you should never count the underdog out. Last year, Wisconsin survived and won by a touchdown late in the game. Minnesota is much better than they were a year ago. Wisconsin this November is not as sharp as last November. Despite the change of venue, this game figures to be as close as last year's match. The Gophers looked terrible last week against Michigan, but wasn't it revealing to hear Wolverine players this week talk about how apparent it was the Gohpers looked past them. In an arguably bigger rivalry game for his local fan base, that wont happen again with master motivator Tim Brewster running the show. The Gophers have covered all four road games this season, winning three outright on the scoreboard. I think they're going to rise up to the moment tomorrow, even without Decker playing at WR.
The Pick, Minny +14 Over 46......I am feeling a shootout in this one. Since 1985, an average of 50.5 ppg have been scored when these teams play. Thats not a big deal, but consider the trend upwards the last eight years, with 67.6 ppg scored a contest. The loser in this game has exceeded 30 points in 5 of the last seven games. Expect Brandon Green to have his first big play TD of his career, Adam Weber to rip off a long TD scamper and one defensive score from its hawking D. Wisco wont be outdone as Clay will shred and slice his way to at least one 40-yard TD, Gilreith and Graham will each snare TDs and the Badgers might just match the Gophers pick-6. While the outcome may only decide who plays in Orlando or Phoenix, the action will exceed those stakes.
Seven picks this week, all five sides and a pair of overs. I dont feel all that awesome about this week's games. First time in a month where I've been shaky on the lines all week. I love underdogs, so its always hard for me to separate that bias when juicy lines get thrown up there. The two most exciting and watchable games will be OSU-Illinois and Minny-Wisco and in both I like the significant dog to keep it close. We'll see if I have fallen into some traps, but my day will be decided on those games.
Have fun watching football tomorrow (although by now, its today), and if you're heading to Ann Arbor, have fun and drive safely, looks like we'll be dealing with bad weather.