A little sadness hangs over the fourth installment of Big 10 picks. After a great start, back to back sub .500 weeks has put the overall record back to even. So much for playing with house money. But, undaunted, we charge forward with this week's slate, and, unlike the past two weeks, it's a card we have a lot of confidence in.
Wisconsin at Iowa. Lines, Iowa -3, O/U 41.5. I am jumping back aboard the Iowa bandwagon. Obviously, Michigan is my favorite team, but I have a list of teams close to my heart after that. Included in that group are Indiana (alma mater), Virginia Tech (family ties to the school......sorry OC), Toledo (my hometown, woot!), Navy and Iowa. The latter two are for gambling purposes as both programs have been moneymakers since the start of the decade. In Iowa's case, the love comes with a big caveat: They must be at home. At Kinnick Stadium, the Hawks are on a 35-16 ATS run, a stretch that would have netted you close to two grand had you been wagering $100 on them the whole time. Lately, they have cooled off in this role, going 1-5 in 2006 and only breaking even in their homes games since then. I used to bet Iowa at home every single game, but have long since jumped off that train as the program derailed in recent years. But, I'm climbing back aboard in this match-up with little reservation. Wisconsin is in a tailspin right now and they're not showing any signs of steering out of it. Iowa is better across both lines. They've bottled up star backs this year like Ringer, Sutton and McCoy, so they're more than capable of containing Wisco's strength, the power run. Meanwhile, on offense, Iowa will hammer away with underrated Shon Greeen. Make sure you catch this kid's act tomorrow as he's eclipsed the century mark in every game this year. He'll control the game for Iowa. The Hawks finally have their QB situation worked out with the Stanzi kid. He's been better than Allan Everidge for Wisconsin this year and will outperform him here. Wisco started to struggle scoring once their schedule passed the creampuff stage. Now they're supposed to penetrate a Hawkeye D allowing only 10 points per game? I dont think so. Iowa has the better lines, the better QB, the better D and a bigtime home field edge. You could say I like Iowa a lot.
The Pick: Iowa -3........if this game is close in the fourth quarter, does anyone think the Badgers will have the moxie to pull it out? I dont.
Purdue at Northwestern. Line NW -3, O/U 50. The analysis on this game begins and ends with one simple question? Is Northwestern a bowl team? I say they are. And that,s important because of Purdue's brutal record against bowl teams in recent years. In the time that the current four-year seniors have been on Purdue's roster, the Boilers have next to nothing on their resume. Against teams that eventually played in the bowl game that season, the Boilers are just 4-21 SU, 7-18 ATS since the beginning of 2005. The numbers get worse in league play as Purdue has logged a 1-13 SU, 2-12 ATS mark against Big 10 Bowlers those seasons. No reason to think those numbers wont fall in line in this game. Northwestern will harass the Purdue offense, and the Wildcats should take control on this side of the ball with their pass rush. On offense, expect Tyrell Sutton to have his best game of the year against the poor Boiler D.
The Pick: Northwestern -3.......Wildcats will pull away in the second half and win by double digits.
Ohio State at Michigan St. Lines, OSU -3, O/U, 42.5. I am going to keep betting against the Buckeyes, who are just 1-5 ATS this season. There's something intangible thats missing from this year's club. They're not the world beaters on D we expected and the offense has been stagnant, despite the insertion of phenom freshman QB Tyrelle Pryor. Michigan has scored twice as many offensive touchdowns than Ohio State has the last two weeks. Folks, that is not a good sign. I've said all along this club would get dinged multiple times in league play this season, and I refuse to back off that statement. A resurgent, confident Sparty program will help begin to make that prediction come true tomorrow. I love this physical, playmaking back 7 on MSU's D. They will bait the kid at QB into mistakes and Dantonio's blitzes will take advantage of a suddenly vulnerable and decidedly not vintage OSU offensive line. Pryor will take some bad sacks tomorrow. I'd love to bet the Over as far as rushing yards for both OSU's Beanie Well and MSU's Javon Ringer. These guys will play 'top me if you can' all afternoon. I cant wait to watch these guys run. In the end, I think Hoyer can win this game for MSU. He's a good QB if given time and I love the MSU O-Line to stone the OSU D-Line all day. Hoyer's uniform wont get dirty.
The Pick: MSU +3.........Sparty wins tomorrow, but clearly their annual collapse is seven days away.
Michigan at Penn State. Lines, PSU -24, O/U, 46.5. Over the years, I have developed a few systems. I have the flip-a-coin system, the reliable dartboard system and, every now and then, in order to get out of a rut, I have the let the girlfriend make the pick system. She liked that the BYU coach is named Bronco. Needless to say, this system did not work out the other night. Perhaps it would help if I Boo her, I dont know? Want a couple more systems? Of course you do. How about picking the team with the cooler helmet or betting on an underdog who lost their last game outright as a double digit favorite? Hey, what do you know, Michigan fits both those systems in this game. Road dogs coming off a big time upset loss rebound to cover the spread close to two out of every three times. In the last decade, those teams are 77-44-2 ATS, good for a 62.5% winning percentage. Those numbers are lethal to a bookie.
The Pick: Michigan +24.........I am still in shock over this line. Not because it isn't warranted, but because I am a little scared about a world where the Wolverines are so routinely more than a 3-TD dog. Michigan could lose 41-17 and still push against the Vegas Line. I'm speechless. Thankfully, the liquor cabinet is stocked for the game. I will need the medication.
Indiana at Illinois. Line, Illinois -15, O/U 55. Illinois should have won last week against Minnesota, but the Illini self destructed and gifted the Gophers 14 points, They wont be as giving tonight. The Hoosiers are on their way back to the basement of the league. I dont see them picking up a league win this season and they're overmatched in this one. Nothing is going right for the IU offense and they wont suddenly find their groove on the road against an Illini stop unit that, while vulnerable at times, remains a big play D. Indiana has no chance at stop the Juice, Benn and DuFrense show. This will be a blowout.
The Pick: Illinois -15.......I see the Illini rolling in this one by more than 20 points. But I hate playing heavy favorites, so this is my least confident pick. Take the disclaimer for whatever its worth.
Right now, just taking those five picks. We'll see how I feel in the morning and I might add a total or two or even a few games away from the Big 10. I should make a quick noe about the Iowa and Northwestern lines. Both spreads have since climbed to -4. I am buying a little extra juice to get -3 in both contests. A little insurance, we'll see if it comes into play. Neither moneyline is too expensive, so if you'd rather pay more juice than deal with the spread, I would not say you're being unwise.