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Big Ten Week 9 Previews, Picks, Predictions

Can Nebraska upset Wisconsin? Northwestern take down Ohio State? Purdue beat Penn State? At least one writer thinks so for each!

Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Man…what a week of hashtag content here at Off Tackle Empire, huh? I’m not sure what my favorite was. Thump’s Infographics were :fire: as usual but brought a little of that spiiiiice this week, bowl projections returned to OTE, and Ted Glover even stopped by. We truly can have it all here. And we even are starting basketball previews, for those of you in Champaign and West Lafayette who have given up on football!

But that’s not why you’re here. Townie, break it down for ‘em:

87townie: How can we be nine weeks into the season already? It goes too fast. I’m really enjoying myse…what’s that? Shut up and get it over with? What the hell, Coach Ferentz…I still like college football!

On that note, let’s examine the games this week. Minnesota is favored by 6.5 at Illinois. Lovie vs Tracy. Sounds like a bad romance novel. I think this is when we see Lovie Smith show how good a coach he can be. I’m taking the Illini for the upset.

Harbaugh at Sparty. Coach Tantrum is gonna whoop your ass for last year. He’s going to run up the score. He’ll fake taking a knee and throw a bomb up by 42. Ooh Sparty, you are in for it now. Michigan wins big.

Purdue is an 11.5 point dog to Penn State at home. Don’t take the points. The Lions are rolling. Coach Hype has gotten these kids to buy in. The key word again this week boys and girls, is Chunk Plays. As in the points come in bunches. PSU wins and covers.

Maryland travels to Indiana as a 5 point under-dog. This one will be a good game. It’s going to help shed some light on the talent in the middle of the conference. I liked Indiana at the beginning of the season, but Maryland is coming on. With the Grappling Gasher behind center, I think the Terps get it done. I’ll take Maryland in the upset.

Here’s a question…could Ohio State lose two in a row? It’s unthinkable…why it’s impossible. It’s as unlikely as OSU losing to Penn State! Nerds win. You heard it here first.

Tommy Armstrong is coming along. He’s looking like the senior quarterback should and has the Huskers undefeated so far. I think that ends this week. Wisconsin is a great football team. Tommy hasn’t faced this kind of defense yet. That said, I don’t see Wisconsin’s offense covering a nine point spread either.

There you have it. Lovie with something to prove, Harbaugh gonna burn Sparty, the Buckeyes drop another game, and hallelujah Rutgers has a bye!


Minnesota (-6.5) at Illinois

(this one didn’t have a line on Tuesday, so I set one. There's a reason I don't work in Vegas.)

11am || BTN

SU: Minnesota, 9-5 || ATS: Minnesota, 8-6

Thumpasaurus: Illinois has played reasonably well against Minnesota in recent years, notably defeating their 2014 team at home. Between their maddening offensive inconsistency and their woeful defensive performance against Rutgers, Minnesota can be had, and maybe even without Wes Lunt or Chayce Crouch. Jeff George, Jr. showed little in the way of inspiration, but didn't back down in the pocket and at least showed some balls in standing in there the whole game. We have yet to see what he'll do when he gets a second or two to throw. I'll take Illinois to spring the upset.

Candystripes for Breakfast: Mediocre Bowl 2016 goes to the Gophers.

BigRedTwice: Minnesota barely eluded shame last weekend by rallying to beat a slumbering giant, so I have little faith in them as far as winning goes. I do have faith in them finally embracing the shame they've so frequently flirted with this season though, so I'm giving this one to Lovie & Co.

GoForThree: Minnesota isn’t a good team, but Illinois is barely even a paycheck source for Lovie. MN covers.

Jesse Collins: Minnesota-Illinois: Look guys, I understand that it’s a lot of fun to knock Illinois for (a) not being a very good football team, and (b) being an arguably worse athletic department. But in picking Minnesota, you’re picking the team that allowed the equivalent of threeve points against Rutgers because Rutgers was terrible before this week. I’m going with Illinois at home by a TD.

MNWildcat: But Jesse…like…you’ve seen Illinois, right? I get that knocking Minnesota is in vogue, because the Gophers are a decidedly mediocre football team (the more things change, huh?), but Illinois has yet to keep a good quarterback healthy long enough to actually inspire any confidence. If Minnesota gets out of its own way and actually gets its running game going—seriously, Tracy Claeys and Jay Johnson, get the fuck out of your own way and let the 8 different runners you have just do whatever they want—I don’t see an Illinois team allowing almost 200 ypg and 4.37 ypc stopping the Gophers. Minnesota, 31-23.

#2 Michigan (-23.5) at Michigan State

11am || ESPN

SU: Michigan, 14-0 || ATS: Michigan, 11-3

Thump: I don't know if any team has ever been out for blood to the extent that Michigan will be against Michigan State. I don't think a day goes by that Jim Harbaugh doesn't think about the ill-fated punt that led to their defeat in this game last year. If he was willing to fake a PAT for a 2-point conversion against Rutgers and willing to fake a punt up 34-0 against Illinois as well as challenge a spot up 41-8 with under two minutes left and then complain about it afterwards...just imagine the horrible things he'll do to the hapless Spartans. If he can hang 100 on them, he will. Michigan covers.

CfB: Michigan wins with enthusiasm unknown to this year's Spartans.

BRT: UM at MSU could be very horrifying. Like, TV-M horrifying. Game of Thrones will look like Sesame Street in comparison to the carnage which could be wrought in this one. It should be broadcast on HBO instead of ESPN. All that said, if MSU miraculously wins this, it will hands-down be the highlight of the season as far as vicarious mirth.

GF3: Harbaugh gonna bash Sparty’s head in. All those little jabs Dantonio delighted in over the years are going to come home to roost.

JC: Michigan-Michigan State: Harbaugh might literally be a crazy person. He’s going to do everything he can to obliterate the Spartans. Lucky for him, the Spartans intend to oblige. In other news, can we talk about the wonder that is this Wolverines team going into eff you mode? I cannot wait for them to slip up against somebody stupid.

MNW: Yes, Harbaugh’s insane, and yes, Michigan State is decidedly not good this year, but if there’s one thing I have confidence in Mark D’Antoni’s ability to do, it’s get his club up for a game against Michigan. They’re not winning, mind you—they actually are pretty bad—but they’re going to make Wilton Throckmorton Speight IV beat them through the air. Malik McDowell makes some hay and Sparty keeps this concerningly close into the second half. Michigan, 30-20.

#24 Penn State (-11.5) at Purdue

11am || ABC/ESPN2

SU: Penn State, 13-1 || ATS: Penn State, 8-6

Thump: Wow. Penn State at -11.5? Sure, I believe the Nittany Lions can be had, but not by this Purdue team. Am I saying Nebraska is nowhere near as good as their ranking? Stay tuned to find out. PSU covers.

CfB: Welcome to Purdue Harbor, Nittany Lions. It's your turn now.

BRT: PSU wins and covers, but if I can't have an improbable Sparty victory, then a Purdue Harbor would be almost as funny, and frankly, I'm here for the lulz, so give 'em hell, Purdue.

GF3: PSU makes Purdue look bad even by Purdue standards, covering easily.

JC: PSU-Purdue: #Back I’d love to say that the Boilermakers make a stand here, but I don’t see it. They threw the kitchen sink at Nebraska and made it a game for a half. They regressed as the game went on, though. Penn State is probably a fairly okay team, and Purdue is still a fairly bad team. Nits win a game and the PSU contingent declares themselves the conference front-runner.

MNW: Purdue is starting to convince me that if they could just stay out of their own way for 4 quarters, they’d surprise someone. There are only three more chances for a Harboring: Penn State, Northwestern, and wisconsin. It ain’t gonna be wisconsin, and my liver can hardly stand the thought of it being Northwestern. But maybe we just don’t deserve a Harbor this year. Nittany Lions, 34-24.

Maryland at Indiana (-5)

2:30pm || ESPNU

SU: Indiana, 9-5 || ATS: Maryland, 8-6

Thump: In the battle of Basketball Schools With Dubiously Decent Football Teams That Beat Michigan State, Maryland has looked just a little bit better. They'll win a close enough game that Indiana covers.

CfB: Indiana's defense will somehow win this game. Don't ask me how, they just will.

GF3: Maryland and Indiana? Sure, I’ll choose the Hoosiers again. Woof.

JC: Maryland-Indiana: Logically, I should really assume that the Terrapins win this game, but I’m willing to give the Hoosiers the benefit of the doubt. Maryland is proving that their hot start wasn’t exactly indicative of how the entirety of the season would go. Indiana runs all over Maryland and covers.

MNW: Most tellingly for the Hoosiers, at least to me, is their relative inefficiency (60th nationally) throwing the ball—13 TDs and 11 INTs. Maryland’s only allowed 9 passing TDs, but they’ve also only picked off opponents 4 times. Oops. Devine Redding has himself a day and the Hoosiers cling to that dream of bowl eligibility. Indiana, 31-24.

Northwestern at #6 Ohio State (-25.5)

2:30pm || ESPN

SU: Ohio State, 13-1 || ATS: SPLIT, 7-7

Thump: Ohio State is, in all likelihood, pissed. I don't think the Northwestern offense will have the field days they've enjoyed the past few games, and the Buckeyes have a rushing attack that can pound the Wildcats all day. Ohio State covers this big spread, and hopefully has the same effect on Northwestern that they did in 2013.

CfB: LOLCATS it's Buckeye time.

BRT: OSU takes out last week's feline-inspired frustration on this week's feline opponent. Sorry Purple Cats. Just remember, if this gets ugly, it's not really about you.

GF3: OSU wins but Austin Carr has a big day and the Buckeye offense is flat for at least one quarter. Bucks win, Kitties cover.

JC: Northwestern-OSU: Sorry Cats… Ohio State is angry. OSU with the win and cover.


But no, yeah, it’s gonna be Ohio State. I’m with GF3, though, that Austin Carr makes his case for All-American (no, you are not reading that incorrectly—a Northwestern receiver could conceivably be an All-American) and collects a couple scores as Northwestern just ultimately lacks the firepower to hang with Ohio State for four quarters. JT Barrett in particular should have a great game running the ball, as the Northwestern linebacking corps has had a pretty fraught relationship with QBs who can tuck it and run. Northwestern has been all about taking their opponents’ first-quarter punches this year, and if they can weather the punch in this one…who knows? Buckeyes turn on the jets after half and take this one, 37-20.

#7 Nebraska at #11 Wisconsin (-9)

6pm || ESPN

SU: Wisconsin, 10-4 || ATS: Nebraska, 12-2

Thump: Someone's gonna get exposed in this one, and it's going to be Nebraska. Wisconsin's defense is legit, and due to their crossover scheduling they might get left out of the Big Ten championship despite being (in my mind) the best team in the West. This is where all of the fears of nervous Nebraska fans manifest themselves on the field. Wisconsin covers.

CfB: The amazing, improbable undefeated streak continues for Nebraska.

BRT: Wisconsin will almost certainly win, but I'm silly enough to hope that for the first time since joining the conference, Nebraska will be competitive in Madison. I think this will require at least one big play by the D that results in a score. But since Riley's been coach, Nebraska has yet to ever be out of a game, so until that happens, I'll continue to give them the benefit of the doubt and say Wisconsin doesn't cover the spread.

GF3: Wisconsin exposes Nebraska as a good-not-great team, but it’s a close one.

JC: Nebraska-Wisconsin: Fine, you all are going to make me pick this game. I think it comes down to the fact that Nebraska’s offensive line is pretty beat up and Wisconsin’s defense is - unfortunately - elite. I do think Nebraska can stop the Wisconsin offense, but if they don’t score points, it will be all for naught. My pick? Nebraska with the win in a crazy fourth quarter. Madtown loses its hold over Nebraska.

MNW: You’re goddamn right we’re gonna make you pick it, Jesse. I have nothing to say about this one, save for the possibility that 2016 Nebraska is 2015 Iowa. Except they won’t have to contend with Christian McCaffery in the Rose Bowl. A (correct, but perceived as bad) call goes against madison late, for good measure. (Jazz didn’t catch it.) Cornhuskers, 20-14.


Tips of the cap as always to Nate Peterson for his hard work on compiling the graphs. Just...take the Polish dude in the track suit (I assume that’s all Andrew wears) to Vegas. Don’t ask questions.


Against the Spread

Thanks as always for reading! Minus Penn State fans’ presence, it’s been a fun week at OTE ;) vote in the poll and let us know your picks in the comments!

-MNW and the OTE Staff, presumably minus Aaron and Townie (who may opt to write concurring opinions which denounce the establishment of precedent denouncing PSU fans but too bad you’re not in the majority and this’d be something like 8-1 or 7-2 anyways so suck on my SCOTUS).