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Big Ten Football Week 6 Picks, Previews, and Predictions

Who wins Iowa-Penn State? Do we HAVE to think about Wisconsin-Illinois? Is Michigan for real? Is Nebraska? Is NEITHER?! Week 6 picks for Big Ten football:

NCAA Football: Iowa at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Good afternoon! We hope you’ve been enjoying another raft of OTE content this week. Here’s your reminder—check out the B1G Survivor Pool, make sure you’ve made your bets in the OTE Stock Market Game, and listen to our Off Talkle Empire podcast before you make your picks.

We want you all as informed as possible. Because...we definitely were!

About Last Week

RMB: Well then! Your friendly writers were brilliant last week going 99-61 against the spread and only a couple of us finished below .500 for the week. The star was Candystripes for Breakfast, going 7-1 ATS and 8-0 straight up.

All writers who made picks last week or have made picks in at least half of the games.

This Week

Saturday, Oct 9

(all times CDT)

Maryland Terrapins @ (7) Ohio State Buckeyes

11am | FOX | OSU -21 | O/U 70.5

Straight-Up: 100% Death Star
Against the Spread: 18-1 Death Star!!

You’d think this was “The Game” with this few M’s.

misdreavus79: Welp, it’s October, so the beatings begin anon.

pkloa: This is gonna get ugly.

Thumpasaurus: Ohio State could afford to be substantially worse than Iowa on defense because their offense is so good

Kind of...: I picked Maryland to go 3-9 this year, so it’s weird I’m expecting them to cover. But, 1) Iowa’s D is better than OSU’s, 2) Maryland just imploded last week, and 3) OSU has a bye week coming up; they may let off the gas early. I’ll say OSU by 17.

RMB: OSU will score as much as they want. Maryland lost arguably their best offensive player in Demus. Maryland gets some points but can’t keep it close. OSU 49-23.

MNW: No thanks. Taulia’s not going to throw a whole bunch of picks again, but, as Larry noted in his Maryland recap, we’ve seen this show before from Maryland:

Really, it’s the defensive concern. As Ohio State showed against hapless Rutgers, they can trot out whoever they want and still roll the dregs of the Big Ten East. If the OSU defense is disinterested in stopping Maryland’s playmakers, maybe we see 52-51, but without Dontay Demus I don’t like the Terps’ odds. Ohio State, 52-28.



This poll is closed

  • 74%
    Bucks roll
    (191 votes)
  • 19%
    Bucks win, don’t cover
    (50 votes)
  • 6%
    (17 votes)
258 votes total Vote Now

(11) Michigan State Spartans @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights

11am | BTN | MSU -5.5 | O/U 50.5

Straight-Up: MSU 14-5
Against the Spread: Rutgers 10-9

When’s the last time we had 5 people expect Rutgers to beat a 5-0 team?

misdreavus79: I don’t think Michigan State will lose, but I think Rutgers still has enough in them to keep this one close. Ohio State is Ohio State, so you throw that one out the window.

pkloa: I've bet Sparty every game this season (don't fact check that, thanks), so I'll continue to let it ride. We'll say Michigan State by 11.

Thumpasaurus: Michigan State runs too much of a balanced offense for The ‘Gers to cover a spread of less than 7. I think this game will plod along but hit the under with MSU winning by 6-10 points.

Kind of...: MSU probably isn’t one of the 12 best teams in the country, but they should win by a TD at least.

RMB: I’d like Rutgers to come back from the 2nd degree mollywhoppin’ they took last week to give Sparty a game. Sorry, Rutgers. I think you’re headed the right way, but MSU gets a special teams TD for the third week in a row and wins 24-9.

MNW: Rutgers has struggled in standard down line yards and in their ability to stop power in crucial situations—with Kenneth Walker III, Sparty can push past the Knights in the tight moments. To date the Spartans have been great about avoiding turnovers (6th in Football Outsiders’ turnover rate), but if the Knights’ pass rush can put pressure on Peyton Thorne and force Michigan State into 3rd and longs, this could be fun.

I have not watched a second of the Rutgers offense in 2021. Is Gary Nova still the QB? Spartans, 24-21.


I middled it, and so can you!

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    MSU covers
    (138 votes)
  • 29%
    MSU wins, does not cover
    (78 votes)
  • 18%
    (50 votes)
266 votes total Vote Now

Wisconsin Badgers @ Illinois Fighting Illini

2:30pm | BTN | Wiscy - 10.5 | O/U 42.5

Straight-Up: Wisconsin 17-2
Against the Spread: Wisconsin 10-9

misdreavus79: One would hope that Illinois is bad enough to make Wisconsin not fall apart in the fourth quarter of this one, but we’ll find out! At this point, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t blindly pick Wisconsin’s opponent to cover.

pkloa: Wisconsin is nowhere near as bad as we like to pretend they are, but Illinois is. Badgers take out some frustration on the hapless BERTs.

HWAHSQB: I remember the last time Illinois played wiscy in Champaign for Homecoming. I doubt I’ll look back fondly on the sequel. But on the bright side, we ditched the stupid Grey Ghost uniforms.

Thumpasaurus: Hammer the under. Over on The Champaign Room, I have Wisconsin winning 17-3. These are two terrible red zone offenses, and Illinois’ defense has been up to the task against offenses of Wisconsin’s caliber recently. I think Wisconsin’s offense gets frustrated here. The Illini defense has definitely shown some improvement, albeit inconsistent. Illinois has actually been fairly good at red zone defense, so I think the Badgers miss some field goals.

However, there is a gaping chasm between the Illini offense and the Badger defense. I just don’t think our offense can move the ball without any options as dependable as Josh Imatorbhebhe to take the heat off the run game. Let’s do this: if Illinois were to win, how would they do it?

  • Shorten the game by running repeatedly into the middle of the line of scrimmage even if it’s not working; this has the side effect of limiting Peters’ opportunities to turn the ball over
  • Win the turnover battle, probably by at least 2
  • Kicking must be perfect, especially punting. Turn it into a three hour struggle for field position
  • Defense needs to prevent any explosive plays, partially to limit the offensive playbook but also as a holistic strategy to shorten the game. It’s not about limiting Wisconsin’s possessions, it’s about limiting our own possessions because we won’t advance the ball.

This game will absolutely be ugly regardless of the outcome, but for Illinois to win, this game must descend into memorably hideous depths.

Sconsin covers in a Gentleman’s Blowout.

Kind of...: Oh, Thump, you innocent simple man. “Hammer the over” echoed through the plains for both UW/ND and UW/Michigan the last two weeks. And they both went over. The Graham Mertz/Chase Wolf 4th quarter INT-palooza has a force that few truly acknowledge.

That said, if it goes over this week, I think it will be the UW D and Illinois QB(s) doing the honors. Either way, I’ll take UW to cover because there’s not enough pain in my life right now.

RMB: As I write this I’d now kinda like to change my pick to Wiscy covering, but I’ve already made the graphic and laziness trumps ‘wanna be right.’ Wisconsin’s defense is for real, particularly the hellscape demons they call ‘linebackers.’ The Badger offense has most of the pieces to be functional, but is undermined by suboptimal QB play and the worst offensive tackle play I can remember ever seeing in Madison. I haven’t seen Illinois play since they beat Nebraska, so I’m just going to assume their defense is bad enough for Wiscy to score on, and their offense will be dominated by Wiscy’s D. I called a split so we’ll say Wisconsin 24-14 but I’m afraid it’ll be worse.

MNW: RMB and Thump both have the right idea here with a “Gentleman’s Blowout”, and it’s that 10-point line that does it for me.

Graham Mertz is expected to play—which...dear god, why—and unless he finds the magic of 2020 all over again, this has 20-10, badgers, written all over it.



This poll is closed

  • 49%
    badgers cover
    (111 votes)
  • 35%
    badgers win, do not cover
    (80 votes)
  • 14%
    (33 votes)
224 votes total Vote Now

(4) Penn State Nittany Lions @ (3) Iowa Hawkeyes

3pm | FOX | Iowa - 2.5 | O/U 41.5

Straight-Up: Iowa 10-9
Against the Spread: PSU 10-9

Did RU in VA split a 2.5 point spread? Why yes. Yes he did.

misdreavus79: By virtue of it being a 2.5 point spread, I have to pick Penn State to win outright, don’t I? I’ll console myself by hoping Iowa spent their “voodoo magic over a ranked team” against then-No. 17 Indiana and hope for the best! Besides, starting 5-0 after being 0-5 last year is still good enough.

Thumpasaurus: The only problem is that Penn State still can’t run the ball. That’s going to allow Iowa to really attack Sean Clifford, trusting that their DB’s can cover Washington and Dotson. This seems like another good time to take the under. Iowa wins by 3.

pkloa: I'm only picking the Lions because the football gods know exactly what my picking against them means. Before any of you try to claim that this is some kind of reverse jinx, you're wrong. Had I picked Penn State while inwardly admitting I think they'll win, but outwardly proclaiming they probably won't, then and only then would my pick be curseworthy.

HWAHSQB: Iowa wins 6-4. PSU covers.

Kind of...: Kinnick Magic is real, but it affects some teams (Michigan, ISU) more than others (PSU, UW). PSU can’t run consistently, but their defense is still underrated. And Iowa hasn’t been as good running the ball as Tyler Goodson’s draft profile would lead you to believe. Make me a believer Spencer Petras, but for now the pick is PSU.

RMB: The only prediction I feel I can confidently make about this game is that it’ll be stupid and painful to watch. Sean Clifford has been great in the new PSU offense this year and it’s not like the nits haven’t beaten teams with a defense. Iowa’s run of winning the turnover margin by 267 in every game finally comes to an end, and with it, their win streak.

Yes, I know this constitutes disrespect to the Foul Demons of Kinnick, and that I shall be smited by the football Gods for such temerity. I’ve accounted for this fact in the game below. PSU 17-13.

MNW: There are teams I’d worry about in the hostile atmosphere of Kinnick, but to date Penn State has not been one of them. Clifford is a much better QB than Petras, and I’d be shocked to see him toss more than a couple interceptions. This could be a fun one, but I like Penn State to hit a shot early and force the Hawkeyes into playing catch-up—something they’ve not had to do. Penn State, 20-16.


No, you may not middle this game.

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    (211 votes)
  • 46%
    Penn State
    (185 votes)
396 votes total Vote Now

(9) Michigan Wolverines @ Nebraska Cornhuskers

6:30pm | ABC | Michigan -3.5 | O/U 52.5

Straight-Up: Michigan 17-2
Against the Spread: Michigan 13-6

misdreavus79: If Nebraska can avoid kicking themselves in the nuts, this might be a good game! I think we should give Michigan credit for doing what they’ve done so far, but somewhere in all of our subconscious minds, we’re still waiting for the wheels to come off, aren’t we? P.S.: Middling a 3.5 point spread is fair game!

pkloa: Totally not hedging my emotions by picking the Wolverines to win.


Thumpasaurus: Michigan wins by three after Nebraska does something very stupid at the end. Will it be a kick off out of bounds after the game tying touchdown setting up Michigan with a short field and just enough time to get in position to kick? Will it be a missed chip shot after they’ve gone through the trouble of centering it? Will it be a three point lead that Michigan walks off on some freak turnover as time expires, not bothering to kick the extra point? Who knows?!?!?!

Kind of...: The spread tells me I’m selling Nebraska short. But I’m selling Nebraska short because they’ve consistently underachieved under Frost (and worse that Michigan has under Harbs). Michigan just has clearly better talent. Their D-line is going to feast. Michigan by double-digits.

RMB: Michigan’s defense looked terrific against Wisconsin, a team whose quarterbacks are only slightly more mobile than I am. Conversely, my wolverines were out-gained at home by goddam Rutgers by more than 25% because we couldn’t deal with that dual-threat, terror-of-the-gridiron Noah fucking Vedral. This game features Adrian Martinez. In Lincoln. At night. Frosty gets a “signature” win 38-16, and I throw up repeatedly.

MNW: I won’t, and you can’t make me. Michigan, 24-21.


Misdreavus says you can middle this game, so I have to let you.

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Michigan covers
    (142 votes)
  • 15%
    Michigan wins, does not cover
    (47 votes)
  • 37%
    (115 votes)
304 votes total Vote Now

Not permitted to play this week because they’re bad:

Minnesota Golden Gophers, Purdue Boilermakers, Indiana Hoosiers, Northwestern Wildcats