Speaking purely from a gambling perspective, I like Michigan to cover. I agree with Brian that this will likely look like last year - OSU gets a lead, takes the air out.
Big 10 Picks, 11/22
I attended my first Michigan game during the 1979 season. Bo was exactly half way through his tenure as coach in Ann Arbor. Anthony Carter was a freshmen. Michigan had beaten OSU three straight times, but were facing the reality of replacing the all-world Rick Leach at quarterback. Bob Ufer painted Maize and Blue scenes for all of us.
My first game was against Northwestern. While my memories of the game and who did what are fuzzy, I do know the Wolverines flat out destroyed the Cats, 49-0. It could have been 56-0, but a late score by Michigan was nullified by a penalty. The scoreboard operator had already put the TD on the board, but I still remember by grandfather telling me they would erase the score from the board. At that point, I got this image of a giant eraser coming from the sky to do the work. Even now, when points are taken off the board, I flashback to this scene. Maybe its because I am sitting in the seats, all these years later.
The other notable occurence from that game were the amazing 100-year anniversary special yearbooks they sold. It proved to be my Michigan History Book for years to come as I embraced and voraciously ate up whatever knowledge I could on the program. Everything was in there to fire up the imagination of a kid who was drunk on Maize and Blue Kool Aid.
I was so excited that in school the following week, I made it my show and tell for class. Decked out in a UM sweatshirt, I talked about my first game, the tradition and attempted to pass on the UM gospel. I'll never forget the pair of kids in the middle of the room, though, quietly heckling me. They were Ohio State fans. Throughout my time in front of the room, they were miming thumbs down and mouthing Go Bucks, Michigan Sucks.
My love for Michigan and disdain for Ohio Stae got cemented in that week long cycle when I as 7 years old. I feel like I've been battling these scarlet and gray fools my entire life. And now, another chapter in the series that defines way too many of us on both sides of the aisle, has arrived.
Michigan comes in at its weakest point in most of our lifetimes. Everyone knows the deal. I wont rehash it. OSU is favored by over 20 points. Everyone keeps harping on the fact its the biggest line in series history. That may be true, but seeing a heavy favorite in this game is not new territory. Both teams have been double digit favorites at least a couple of times within the last 20 years.
In 1996, Ohio State was a 17.5 point home favorite, which is not a whole lot more of a mismatch than a 20.5 point line we're seeing today. On that day 12 years ago, the gap between the teams seemed as far as ever. Yet, Michigan won that day.
The next year they won the National Championship.
The sports world changes fast. Stay patient guys. Our time will come.
Alright, on to, sadly, the final installment of Big 10 Picks. We've had a nice run since we debuted on 9/27, logging a 29-22-1 record. Today we have big rivalries and a ton of bowl positioning on the line. And, most importantly, I look forward to one last day of CIL/Open Thread discussion with my mgofriends.
Michigan at Ohio State. Lines, OSU -20.5, O/U 44
As Brian pointed out in his own preview, its hard to construct a scenario in which Michigan pulls out a win today. I think they have to land the game's first few punches and stake out to a lead in order to have a chance. But, then again, it does not matter as far as this column goes if they win or not. Its about covering the spread. In retrospect, the worst part about this season has not be the Wolverine's ineptitude on the field, but the fact I haven't made any money of their woes, despite seeing it all unfold up close. I actually picked UM seven times in this weekly piece and gone 2-5. I should have learned from that. I have not. I'm going down swinging with my boys today. I think they make us proud with their fight today.
The Pick: Michigan +20.5......do you know the last time someone was even winning during the course of a game by more than 20 points in this rivalry? That would be 1991, UM 31-3. Michigan was up 24-3 at half. Desmond puncuated the game with his historic punt return in the second half. For a modern day Michigan fan, doesn't that have to be one of the top-5 moments in the history of this series? I was somehow sitting in the OSU section of Michigan Stadium that afternoon and thats the end zone he struck his lasting Heisman pose in. Folks, now that moment was priceless.
Indiana at Purdue. Lines, Purdue -11.5, O/U 52
The Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket has been one sided the entire Joe Tiller era. Its hard to imagine he's going to let this baby slip away in his final appearence at Ross Ade Stadium. I expect the Boilers to be about as effective offensively in his game as they were against Michigan (gulp). I also faith in the Hoosier offense. I am always a sucker for taking the underdog in both rivalry games and in games between sub par teams this late in the season. Dont forget, Indiana comes into this game with pretty good QB play and they should be able to score points along with the Boilers. Weather might be snowy, or I would take a lilte bite of the Over.
The Pick: IU +11.5......Picking against Purdue has worked for this column, going 4-2. Meanwhile, its been an inconsistent season calling IU games, but still a winning 6-5 record has emerged when calling bets on the side of total involving Hoosier game.
Michigan St and Penn St. Lines, PSU -14.5, O/U 47.5
Everyone seems to be calling for a Penn State blowout in this one. Indeed, its easy to see that happening, given the egg Sparty laid when OSU was across the field from them. And, that was at home. Today will be a tougher challenge than that. I actually think MSU is going to hang around in this one. They've had a week off and I think that will give them a strategic advantage early on. I expect the Spartans to show us some different looks today to get an early edge. Of course, Penn St will be just as aggressive in their last home game. I think we're also going to see a whole mess of points. I think Ringer will star in his last game and find the end zone a couple of times. Derrick Williams for PSU? Ditto. This has been traditionally one of the highest scoring series in the Big 10. In the 15 times these clubs have played since the Lions joined the league, only twice has the combined total score not reached 50. I'll be riding that history today.
The Pick: MSU +14.5, Over 47.5.......lets be honest. That hook on the 14 looms big. I can see a 35-21 type final score. I might think a bit differently about the final outcome had the line been 13.5 as PSU could pull away with a great closing kick in front of its home fans.
Illinois at Northwestern. Lines, Illini -2.5 (-118), O/U 53
Did you know teams that played Michigan this year are only 2-7-1 ATS the following week? Uh oh, Northwestern. I guess that means other teams are absolutely leaving it all on the field in their quest to notch a rare win for their program against the Maize and Blue. Yeah, thats the ticket. Nevertheless, in this matchup between two teams that have crossed me up all season, i'll lean on that phenomena to make a call. I was so smart about the Illini back in August when I said they would enter November with a .500 record. I was less smart about the Illini back on the final Saturday of October when I said they would win out the rest of their slate. Oops. They've gone 1-3 since that proclamation. I probably should get off them, but I wont. Illini, I just cant quit you. You should have too much offensive talent in this game. All the firepower that teams like Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan lacked the day they played Northwestern wont come into play today. I think Illinois has the potential to win this one going away.
The Pick: Illini -2.5.....hey, if they win they'll get the Motor City Bowl Bid. Who wouldn't play their asses off with a trip to Windsor, er, I mean, Detroit on the line. Illinois wins this 27-21.
Iowa at Minnesota. Lines, Iowa -6, O/U 42.
No game on the board is pulling me in different directions as this one. On one hand, back in my Bowl Projection Diary back in August, I predicted the Gophers rise this year, saying they would notch a bowl win and beat Iowa in the finale to get that bid. On the other hand, I've been a huge Iowa and Shon Green backer for over a month now to some profitable results. Minnesota is a home dog in name only as half the fans tonight will have trucked up from Iowa to support the Hawks. Iowa fans have always joked that the Hump Dome is Kinnick Stadium North. Another reason this game has me twisting is the fact that these are the two teams I have been most successful with gambling this season. In Gopher games, I am 7-3 taking the side or total, including 3-1 when biting on Minny themselves. Iowa? Try 7-2-1. Basically, this column has been successful because for whatever reason I am locked into the pulse of these two teams.
So where does that leave us tonight? I think Minnesota matches up well with Iowa. I like Weber to have a good game. Mobile QBs can hurt Iowa. They have a great front on D, but struggle actually getting to the QB. Weber will be one step ahead of them a lot today, and really hurt Iowa with his legs. WR Decker is back and Iowa has no DBs who can cover him. Expect at least 10 catches and a TD. I also think Iowa still is turnover prone and the Gophers remain one of the more opportunistic teams in the country. I've seen enough of these teams play this season and if I could play a longshot prop bet it would be the Minny D putting up a score of their own. Of course, Shon Green wont be stopped. He'll pop for close to 200 yards and find the end zone twice. Stanzi will make a big play or two and the Iowa D will also create turnovers. This is going to be a great game. It'll go back and forth. In the end, some sort of Pig statue will be won. The Hawks have owned this series of late, but lost the time they played in Minny in 2006 and won by just 2 on the road in 2004. This game goes down to the wire and will be every bit as exciting--and high scoring--as last week's Gopher/Badger game.
The Pick: Minnesota +6, Over 42.....Some of my favorite players from this year's Big 10 season will be on the field. Ought to be fun. Shon Green seals his Big 10 MVP candidacy with a huge final drive and score as the Hawks pull it out, 30-27, in the closing minute.
There you go. The final Big 10 Picks of the season. We're seven games clear of .500, so hopefully we can cap off the season with a winning week and add to it. Have fun watching the games today.
Go Blue.....and Boo on the Bucks.
The Pick: Michigan +20.5......do you know the last time someone was even winning during the course of a game by more than 20 points in this rivalry? That would be 1991, UM 31-3.
Not true. In the 2003 game, we led 21-0 and 28-7 at various points. We also won 28-0 in 1993.
I hope you didn't bet on any ACC games, either. That conference is just flat out weird.