Big Ten Picks, 10/4
I think last week's debut of the column did fairly well. Its not that often you sweep the board, but last week these picks went 7-0. Someone asked if it was luck or routine for me. The answer: Both. I feel I am savvy enough where I can make several awesome plays a weekend based on my capping skills, but to sweep a card of seven picks involves some luck. Like having a team overcome a 19-point deficit. Or, a team punching in two worthless TDs late in the game to nab an Over. My goal in continuing this column is not to find another undefeated card, as much as it to exceed the number of games right now that I am over .500. A 7-0 start puts a lot of cash in the pocket. My goal is to not lose that cash and maybe add a little more to it before the season is done. Lets just string some winning weeks toghether and ride it out until the end.
Today's Big 10 card does not excite me. Nothing really screams out as an obvious play, but after looking at the contests, I have found sides in all five games and two totals. I hope you like playng underdogs.
Indiana at Minnesota. Line: Minnesota -7, O/U 59.5 A key game in the drive for the Motor City Bowl takes place this afternoon when the Hoosiers and Gophers play in downtown Minneapolis. Here's a stat: In these teams last eight matchups, the winner has avaerged 41.36 points per game. In six of those games, the combined total points scored exceeded 60. Indiana has given up 40 points in consecutive games heading into this contest and has allowed over 225 yards rushing and passing in both of those games. The Gophers, meanwhile, have allowed an average of 32.65 ppg in their last 25 Big 10 games. Those numbers are trending upward with Minnesota's D giving up over 36 ppg in the last nine league tilts. It's safe to say that I expect a lot of points to be scored in this one. QBs Kellen Lewis and Adam Weber will be stat sheet stuffers today. Indiana catching points intrigues me as well. I dont think a whole lot spearates these teams. Last season, the Hoosiers were laying 14 points and won by 20. I doubt the fortunes of these teams have changed all that much where we will see a 28-point swing in the outcome. I can see either team winning, but I cant see either team stopping the other.
The Pick: Indiana +7, Over 59.5
Penn State at Purdue. Lines, Penn State -13.5, O/U 59. I hate this game. There is nothing I like about it. On one hand, you have Purdue who has a worse resume than Matt Millen. They have a senior QB who can play, but they haven't shown up for a big game it seems since Drew Brees was in town. On the other hand, you have a Penn State team that is flat out rolling and getting a lot of national love. However, The Nits are in a classic sandwich game today. They're on the road between primetime national TV showdowns. That sounds like a hard motivational chore to overcome. Its also their frst true road game in front of a hostile crowd (I dont count their trip to the Carrier Dome vs the Orange considering how bad they are and that there were more PSU fans in the building that day). I think that adds up to some trouble for Joe Pa's crew and Purdue QB Painter will make them pay for showing up flat footed. Here's a theory: Once you get to around mid season, it becomes real profitable to bet on double digit home underdogs. The problem is you find yourself betting on bad teams, so its a lot like driving on ice and never makes for comfortable gambling. I'll leave it to you if you want to play that theory blindly this season. But, I am game in this spot. Is Purdue appreciably worse than Illinois, a team that covered 14.5 last week on the road vs PSU? I say no and this large number will be hard for Penn State to hurdle. Eventually Penn State will notch the win, but they'll get a little bit of a scare from the Boilers, who are 34-26-2 ATS at home in the Tiller era.
The Pick: Purdue +13.5......and holding my nose the whole way.
Iowa at Michigan State. Line, MSU -7, O/U 46.5. Do you want another gambling theory of mine? Whenever you say, hear or read the following phrase, "Hey, if the Spartans win this one, it sets up a pretty big showdown next week," contact your local bookie and bet against Michigan State. Do whatever you have to do, but get that bet down. Stop reading this if you must. We'll wait. Sparty has this habit of not so much losing the big game, but losing the game the week before and thus tarnishing the luster of the future showdown. The question is, does a win over Iowa today, set up a huge game next week at Northwestern? In this year's Big 10, that answer is yes. I think D'Antonio will have his team focused enough to notch the win, but I dont like their chances laying points in any possible look-ahead situation. Besides, this is a tough matchup. Iowa's defensive front is active, aggressive and will hem in the powerful Ringer enough times to make Hoyer beat them. And, he wont do it enough to let the Spartans run away and hide in this one. Iowa's D is pretty good at getting sacks and MSU's receiving corps has problems with drops, so if they contain Ringer like I expect, I dont see MSU loosening things up with their aerial attack. Say what you will about Iowa's team inconsistency, but on defense they have the 20th ranked overall defense, 28th against the run and 4th in scoring. Stanzi, their QB, has actually put up better numbers than Hoyer this year and in Shonn Greene, the Hawks have a power back of their own. This will be a fun contest to watch for the battle between Ringer and the Iowa front. Iowa has a strong shot of pulling off the mild upset. And, if Sparty proves me wrong here, dont think for a second I wont chase my theory hard next week. After all, with a victory over Northwestern, a huge showdown looms the following week against Ohio State.
The Pick: Iowa +7, Under 46.5.....hey, I have won three weeks in a row taking the Under in Iowa's games. I wont get off this bandwagon until it crashes.
Illinois at Michigan. Lines, UM -2.5 O/U 49.5. Michigan beat Illinois last season in front of hostile crowd under the lights. The big key will be how will Michigan overcome the graduation of Carlos Brown who churned out over 100 critical yards last year against the Illini. Wait, whats that you say? Carlos is still on Michigan's team!?!? Hmmm. Interesting. I did not know that. So, with Carlos in tow, the suddenly smooth sailing UM offense will just march up and down the field, right? Alright, enough with the lame jokes, lets make a pick here. I have to go with Michigan. I dont get the feeling the team is resting at all on their laurels in the wake of last week's comeback. Besides, this defense wont rest until it murders someone. I love the matchup of UM's D-Line vs Illinois O-Line. Juice Williams will be under a lot more seige than he saw when he raced up and down the field against Missou and PSU earlier in the season. Michigan struggles againt the spread, but they bottled up Illinois quite well last season and defensively, they are stronger and faster now. Expect Shaffer's Okie Defense to come out firing immediately in this one to set the tone. On the other side of the ball, well, lets hope the Wolverins can extend the current 2 quarter, turnover free streak they're on. If so, I think they'll be ok in the end.
The Pick: Michigan, to win on the Moneyline, -124.......my preseason bowl projections have Michigan in the Outback. A win here was originally projected, so I wont back down on that. Its a cheap moneyline, so I'll do that rather than deal with the number. Typically, you have to wager $110 to win $100 and this is just $124 to win $100, not a big difference and worth the extra juice. Now Michigan just needs to win. I have a good feeling about this club. Maybe its the Bailey's I poured liberally in my morning coffee. Rodriguez ought to outcoach the Zooker, right!?!?
Ohio State at Wisconsin. Line, OSU -1, O/U 44. When the Big 2, Little 8 began cracking in the 1980s and parity slowly found the Big 10, each of the traditional Big 10 powers, Michigan and Ohio State, found foils in certain leagues foes that continue to this day. For the Blue, it was Hayden Fry's Iowa teams. The Bucks' foil was the Wisconsin Badgers. Since 1980, OSU is only 13-10-1 straight up against Wisco. In that time, the Bucks actually have a losing record in Madison. Dave McClain owned Earle Bruce springing famous upsets in 1981, 82 and 85, all of which kept OSU out of the Rose Bowl and the latter coming a week after the Bukcs had toppled top ranked Iowa. Cooper's teams struggled as well, losing in 1992, tying in 1993 and giving up 42 straight points at home in a 1999 drubbing. The Badgers played those powerful 1995 and 96 Buckeye teams better than anyone else (well, almost better than anyone else) en route to covers. Surely Tressel has turned the series around, right? Um, no. The Vest is 2-3 versus Bucky. The last time these teams played on this field was in 2003. It was a primetime game and OSU was the defending national champs. The Badgers won a slugfest 17-10 and OSU LB Robert Reynolds commited felonious assault. My gut tells me Wisconsin cant wait to get n the field to make amends for last week. OSU looks better with Pryor, but I think the confident/cocky kid is in for a rude Big 10 welcome tonight. I am still not sold on this year's OSU defense. Something is not right back there and thay have yet to meld into the dominant force that was expected. We're getting far enough into the season where maybe thats just the reality. Very intriguing to see how they play tonight.
The Pick: Wisco +1.......for months, I have said OSU will not run the table in Big 10 play and have circled this game as a likely loss. Tonight, I'll be sticking my money where my mouth is. Also, various books on the web are still offering lines, with steeper juice of course, showing Wisco +3. I'll probably be on one of those, but for this exercise will use the line local books are likley to use. There's no negotiating with those folks like there is on line.
So, that's my Big 10 card for the day. Three underdogs kick off at noon, so lets hope for some afternoon dramatics. No game stands out as a better bet, unlike last week where three of seven jumped out at me. If I have time before I leave for Ann Arbor, I will update this with some of my picks in other games across the country. Overall, I am on a 17-6 run in college picks since last Friday night, so hopefully I will stay hot. Good luck with whatever you play today. And, as always, Go Blue!!