I'm in Chicago preparing to make the trip to Madison. Get your picks in by 11:00 a.m. EST tomorrow.
1. ILLINOIS at No. 13 MICHIGAN STATE, 12:00 p.m. Big Ten Network (10/16)
GRAHAM predicts MICHIGAN STATE
MSU’s strength (stopping the run) slams headfirst into Mikel LeShoure and the run first Illini. Illinois’ vastly improved defense slams into Kirk Cousins and the versatile MSU offense. This game looked like a ride down the bunny trail until U of I started getting physical like Olivia Newton-John and knocked Penn State around bad. Do I think U of I puts up a fight, especially because MSU had played two huge games in a row and has to be towards the end of their emotional high? Yup. Do I think that MSU’s incredible run stopping defense ultimately wins out? I do. One thing to note about the loss of MSU CB Chris L. Rucker – There are games where he will be missed tremendously, but this isn’t one of them.
JON predicts MICHIGAN STATE
The Spartans can run. The Spartans can pass. Best of all, the Spartans can defend the run and the pass. This is a complete team and although Illinois has played good football the past two weeks, they won't pull a second consecutive upset on the road.
Michigan State - 9.5
Big Ten Portal* says "Both teams are 2-0 ATS in Big Ten play this season, while overall Illinois is 4-1 and MSU is 3-2 ATS. There has been only one previous meeting between these coaches, won by MSU 24-14 in 2009."
2. TEXAS at No. 5 NEBRASKA, 3:30 p.m. ABC (10/16)
GRAHAM predicts NEBRASKA
The Cornhuskers haven’t played a game this big since the last time they
beat played Texas in 2009. Nebraska will come in with all their juices flowing, the upstart overdog angling for better BCS positioning. Although the Cornies win this game, one must point out that with a frosh quarterback and a veer team, someone’s going to knock Nebraska off this year. It just won’t be Texas and their impotent offense.
JON predicts NEBRASKA
Texas can't run. Taylor Martinez can. Pick the team that's ranked and playing at home. If I weren't going to be at Camp Randall I'd be in Lincoln wearing a "Buckeyes for Huskers" shirt.
Big Ten Portal says "Since 2008, Nebraska is just 7-11 ATS as a home team, while Texas is 7-4 ATS on the road. The Longhorns did give up 264 rushing yards to UCLA's pistol attack ... will they be able to stop Taylor Martinez and Co?"
3. No. 12 ARKANSAS at No. 7 AUBURN, 3:30 p.m. CBS (10/16)
GRAHAM predicts ARKANSAS
I can’t believe the Tigers are ranked so high, but undefeated teams get respect. Until they don’t. Auburn will be insane at home, but this game has some interesting parallels to the Michigan-MSU game. Versatile offense with big quarterback and vastly improved defense playing on the road against hated opponent who has made their bones through close calls and relying on their superstar QB. The Razorbacks follow MSU’s prescription for the victory.
JON predicts ARKANSAS
As far as I'm concerned this is the toughest pick of the week. Auburn has an athletic versatile quarterback in Cam Newton, but Arkansas boasts the best pocket passer in the game. Although the Tigers are at home, I just don't see them walking into the Iron Bowl undefeated -- and if they're going to drop a game, what better time than now?
Big Ten Portal says "Since 2008, Auburn is only 1-6 ATS as a favorite of 3.5-10 points, including 0-2 this year. Meanwhile, the Razorbacks are 6-2 ATS is an underdog of 3.5-10 points. Ryan Mallett comes in with a completion percentage of 69.3%, while opposing QBs (none of whom are nearly as good as Mallett) have completed 65.1% of their passes on the year versus the Tigers."
4. No. 12 IOWA at MICHIGAN, 3:30 p.m. ABC (10/16)
GRAHAM predicts IOWA
Iowa read the blueprint, provided so nicely by Michigan State, of how to beat Michigan. And Iowa’s defense is even more solid than Sparty. Could Denard blow up and ruin the whole thing for Kirk Ferentz? Of course. But Iowa’s the road favorite for a reason: They’re a complete team, not just half a team. Just like I picked Michigan until I felt they would run into better competition, I pick against them until they play worse teams.
JON predicts IOWA
Hey, Denard I've got bad news. If you thought Michigan State's defense was good at taking away routes, Iowa's might be even better. I think this is the week Iowa completes its "comeback." Everyone can score on Michigan, but (as we learned last week) Michigan can't score on everyone.
Iowa - 3.5
Big Ten Portal says "Iowa is 11-2 since 2008 in games played away from Home. Michigan is 2-15 ATS in October/November games under Rich Rodriguez. However, one of Michigan's covers came at Iowa in 2009."
5. No. 1 OHIO STATE at No. 16 WISCONSIN, 7:00 p.m. ESPN (10/16)
GRAHAM predicts OHIO STATE
If you thought the haters would come out after the Michigan loss, just watch ‘em come out if the Buck’s fall on the road. OSU has made just about every offense look ridiculous and I want to point this out: Watch an OSU game and watch how the defense hits. A ballcarrier will get wrapped up, then smashed from the side, and then mangled into the ground. That kind of aggressive nature will put you in the Top 10 of most relevant defensive statistics nationally. And that kind of defense will make you a touchdown favorite going into Camp Randall against a hard running Wisky team. OSU wins, but Terrelle Pryor can always screw things up for the Bucks if he forces the ball into coverage. Just wanted to remind you of that.
JON predicts OHIO STATE
Make no mistake: I think Camp Randall is the toughest place to play on the road at night in the Big Ten. I was blown away with the energy when I last visited in 2008. Fortunately there's a good way to eliminate the crowd factor: take them out of the game. Wisconsin has the best rushing corps in the conference, but year after year they struggle to establish the run against Ohio State. Lance Kendrick's hands give the Badger passing attack a nice wrinkle, but at the end of the day, I just don't see them scoring a ton of points on the scarlet -- especially with their red zone efficiency woes. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes are passing on all cylinders. This game comes down to Terrelle Pryor's quads. As long as he's really healthy enough to run when pass plays break down, I think the Buckeyes win close in Madison.
Ohio State - 6.5
Big Ten Portal says "Ohio State is 7-3 in conference play and 15-4 overall ATS since 2009. Wisconsin is 0-5 ATS this season, and 6-11 since 2009. These coaches have matched up each of the past 3 seasons, with OSU going 3-0 ATS and Straight Up in these games."
* Big Ten Portal is a website devoted to the culture and trends associated with following and betting Big Ten football. Each week their team provides recent and historic analysis so you have all the data you need to make your picks.