I’ll be making predictions on all conference games and using them for the purpose of trying to select winners vs. the Vegas point spread. There are six games to look at this week; four of them have a good chance to be plays.
My current record: 2-3
Until gambling becomes legal in my state, I’m sticking with my regular source so I won’t know the point spread that’s available to me until game day, which will essentially be the closing line. So I’ll have to wait until then to see if I get the number I need to make a play (wager). At the bottom of my write-ups, I submit the number I’ll need to make a play, and how that number compares to the current line.
I like Illinois as the better team at this point in the season. My concern is that this is Illinois’ first road game of the season and Piscataway is a long trip. And the Illini are young. And Rutgers did take a step forward last Saturday, I think, in a losing effort against Indiana. Granted, the Scarlet Knights had nowhere to go but up as they have been pretty bad this season. And Illinois isn’t exactly a powerhouse, but even though they lost by 39 points in their last game, I still maintain it’s the best the Illini have played in a while. I like that Illinois is coming off a bye, so they’ve had a little extra time to heal any injuries, and to prepare for this winnable conference game, one of the few on their schedule. Illinois has a couple of good RBs in Mike Epstein and Reggie Corbin and I look for both to have some success, although the real soft spot in the Rutgers defense is its pass defense. Illinois QB M.J. Rivers is a capable passer, but the Illini’s strength is on the ground. Injured starter A.J. Bush may be ready to play in place of Rivers, but really, Rivers has played well enough to keep the job, I think. The Illini defense played admirably for three quarters against an explosive Penn St. offense, and while still not great, seems to be improving. In fact, this whole Illinois team seems to be moving in the right direction recently. Rutgers, on the other hand, took a baby step forward last Saturday against Indiana. Improvement for this team means QB Artur Sitkowski only threw one interception and the defense didn’t give up more than 40 points. Sitkowski has a good arm, and threw some really nice balls. And the defense actually pitched a shutout in the second half. But again, the pass defense was poor. Not much of a pass rush at all and opposing receivers were wide open. Mostly I think because Rutgers brought up its linebackers to stop the run, which they did effectively, and dropped their secondary back to prevent the big plays they’ve been prone to giving up this season. They did that effectively too, but there was a huge soft spot in between. So the new strategy seems to be to stop the run, not give up the big play, and make teams drive down the field with easy short to intermediate passes, hoping the offense will make a mistake. And this could be somewhat effective against Illinois, as I said, they are young. But I do think Illinois is farther along right now, and if this game was at Illinois, I’d like the Illini by even more points than what I’m predicting for this matchup.
As of now, Illinois is favored by six points, which is pretty close to how I see it, so this game will not be a play.
After last Saturday’s huge win, I gotta think Ohio St. will be flat. Figuring out how that will translate is the challenge. Last season, after beating Penn St. in the same fashion as last Saturday, the Buckeyes got thumped at Iowa. The situation sets up a bit different this season. The Buckeyes are at home, and Indiana isn’t as good as last season’s Iowa team. I look for Ohio St. to be a bit sluggish and make some mental errors. And Indiana isn’t horrible, so this game could be relatively close going into the fourth quarter. We all know Ohio St. has the more talented players, and that’s going to win out in the end. Indiana is playing well by Indiana standards- they’re winning the games they’re supposed to- but they’re still looking for that breakthrough win as an underdog. They’re getting close, but not happening here, I don’t think. Indiana lost some WRs to injury, and the running game is weak. QB Peyton Ramsey is a smart kid who has been playing great, but he has some tendencies that could hurt him in this game. Ramsey throws an accurate pass, but his arm strength is subpar. Ramsey is smart enough to compensate for this by making sure his receivers are open (because he ain’t gonna rifle the ball into a small window), but consequently, he tends to hold onto the ball longer than most QBs. I don’t think he’s going to have as much time to do this against a good Ohio St. pass rush. And the Ohio St. secondary probably has the speed to close in on soft passes quicker than Ramsey is used to. Ohio St. QB Dwayne Haskins showed vulnerability last Saturday against a heavy pass rush. Move Haskins off his spot and he ain’t near as accurate. Let him stand there and set his feet and he’s deadly. I think Haskins will be able to set his feet in this one, Indiana hasn’t shown much of a pass rush. And, of course, Ohio St. has all of those playmakers who can take it to the house at any given moment. I think Indiana will play hard against a flat Ohio St. team and make this game kinda interesting for a while. But I think the superior talent pulls away in the end.
As of now, Ohio St. is favored by 25 points, which is pretty close to how I see it, so this game will not be a play.
Both teams are coming off of a bye week and both teams suffered their first loss of the season the week prior. Iowa lost at home to a good Wisconsin team, but made a good showing. Minnesota lost on the road to Maryland, and did not make such a good showing. I will say, though, Maryland has more talent than most might assume. Minnesota is an improved team from last season, but I think the Maryland loss exposed the Gophers as a team that doesn’t yet have the roster to keep up with the big boys. I wouldn’t call Maryland one of the big boys, and even Iowa is borderline in that regard. But I do think the Gophers will be out manned in this game. QB Zack Annexstad is still a work in progress, and DB Antione Winfield, who is probably the Gophers’ most talented player, is out for the season. Winfield will be missed on defense for sure, but he was also a special teams threat in the return game. Minnesota is back at home, though, and this is Iowa’s first road game. And HC P.J. Fleck is doing a much better job with the program than I anticipated. For the most part the Gophers are organized and disciplined, play with purpose, and the game plan/play calling is solid. And Iowa is a team that is prone to laying an egg at least once a season. I thought this would have happened by now, but so far it hasn’t. Could this be the game? I don’t know. That’s really not something that can be predicted, so I’m going with what I’ve seen so far. Iowa’s second level defense was a question mark coming into the season, but so far, the whole defense has been outstanding. The O-Line has been playing well, they have a fine RB in Toren Young, HC Kirk Ferentz’s kid has been calling a good game, and QB Nate Stanley has improved his accuracy on the long passes. Last season, I found Stanley to be a bit mechanical, i.e., doing what he was trained to do regardless of the situation. Does no good to check down to a RB on third and fifteen, gotta get the first down in that spot. But I think the lights have turned on this season for Stanley, and expect him to play well in this game. The oddsmakers are calling for this one to be tighter than what I’m predicting. And I get it. I’m guessing they’re calling for more points from the Gophers than I am. But I really like Iowa’s defense against a young Gophers QB.
As of now, Iowa is favored by seven points. I like Iowa minus 10 points or less, so this game will probably be a play.
This is a tough one, a lot of things to consider. Maryland has the players, but not necessarily the heart or discipline. Which Maryland team will show? The team that beat Texas, or the team that got ambushed at home against middle of the pack Temple? And Michigan ain’t quite as great as most would assume, and the Wolverines probably don’t see Maryland as a major threat as they look to a big game the following week against Wisconsin. So maybe a bit of a “trap” game, here. To be fair, when I called Maryland undisciplined and lacking heart, that really hasn’t applied to the Maryland defense this season. The Terps’ D actually played well in their lone loss, and for the most part, have been pretty good. It’s the offense that concerns me. QB Kasim Hill can be good at times, but can also be shaky. It depends on how things are going. And he has some good athletes around him who can play well. It depends on how things are going. What I’m getting at, is this team will quit and let things snowball when faced with too much adversity. But, there’s a good chance there won’t be too much adversity in this one. I gotta think this is Maryland’s Super Bowl, the biggest game on their schedule this month, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Maryland could pull off the upset here if the breaks go their way a few times. I think Michigan has the better coaching staff, and the better talent. But as I said, Michigan may not be taking Maryland as seriously as they should, because I don’t think the discrepancy in talent is as great as the Wolverines players may think it is. Still, I like Michigan to win this one at home. The defense is outstanding and QB Shae Patterson is coming into his own. But I think this will be close and interesting throughout most of the game. Barring a couple of disastrous plays for Maryland, that is. If Hill throws an early pick six for example, which he could very well do, the floodgates will open for a Michigan route.
As of now, Michigan is favored by 17 points. I would need at least 17 points to take Maryland, but no less. If on Saturday morning this point spread stays the same or gets larger, I’ll take Maryland. If not, I’ll pass.
I think what we have here is a couple of teams that aren’t what their record represents. Northwestern, at 1-3, ain’t that bad, and I’ve been saying since before the season began that Michigan St., at 3-1 and ranked in the top twenty, ain’t all that. The oddsmakers have Michigan St. favored by double digits, but I see this game as pretty close to an even matchup. Both teams lost some key players to injury, and both have some players that will be playing a bit banged up. I wouldn’t call Northwestern’s defense great or elite, but I would say it’s solid. Solid enough to hang with the Michigan St. offense, I think. Michigan St. will be missing its top WR to injury, and star RB L.J. Scott will probably play, but he’ll be coming off of an injury. And even when Scott was healthy, I never really regarded him as all that special when compared to the better Big Ten RBs. QB Brian Lewerke can be very good, but also can be erratic. I expect him to throw an interception in this game. And I’ll say the same thing about Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson. I’m calling for two interceptions from Thorson. Both are good threats to run the football, more so with Lewerke, though, especially at this point in the season. Thorson is coming off of a major injury suffered last season and doesn’t appear to be fully recovered. And even if he is, I’d still give the edge to Lewerke as a runner. But I’d give a slight edge to Thorson as a passer. The Wildcats rely heavily on the QB position, and there really isn’t anyone outstanding around Thorson at the skill positions. Starting RB Jeremy Larkin was good, but he was forced to quit the game for health reasons. But, Northwestern has a solid O-line, and the skill players are at least decent, so I expect the Wildcats offense to have at least some success against a solid Michigan St. defense. There I go again with the word, “solid”. But I think it applies to both teams. When I say Michigan St. ain’t all that, I mean relative to the lofty expectations most have of this team. i.e., I just don’t think they’re top twenty. The Spartans do have a good defense, just not as great as most think. I see this game being tight to the very end, but I give a slight edge to Michigan St. and also have to consider the Spartans home field advantage. I’m calling for Michigan St. to put together a drive in the last couple minutes, probably aided by a tackling…er, I mean targeting penalty, culminating in a game winning field goal.
As of now, Michigan St. is favored by 10 points. I would need at least 10 points to take Northwestern, but no less. If on Saturday morning this point spread stays the same or gets larger, I’ll take Northwestern. If not, I’ll pass.
I’ve been having some luck betting against Nebraska and it looks like I’ll be testing that luck again. Wisconsin hasn’t been as good as I thought they might be, but Nebraska has been downright awful. The Huskers do seem to be gradually improving on offense, though. And Wisconsin could be looking ahead to the following Saturday against Michigan, so the Huskers may have at least some success moving the ball. Most likely via QB Adrian Martinez’s running ability. But it’s the Nebraska defense that has me calling for the blowout here. Wisconsin likes to run the ball, and Nebraska doesn’t like to tackle ball carriers. I’m looking for Wisconsin to punt maybe only a couple/few times the whole game. The rest of the possessions will be long scoring drives. Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook had a big game in the Badgers most recent win at Iowa, and should be coming in with some confidence. So overloading the box probably won’t do Nebraska much good. As you can see, I expect Wisconsin to put a big number on the scoreboard. My concern is whether or not I’ve got a big enough number for Nebraska. I’m sticking with the number I’ve got, but I’m torn with the thought the Huskers may score one more TD than I’m predicting.
As of now, Wisconsin is favored by 18 points. I would take Wisconsin minus 21 or less, so there is a good chance this game will be a play.
My method is to begin making my predictions for the upcoming week on Sunday while Saturday’s games are still fresh in my mind. I don’t look at the Vegas point spreads until I’m done handicapping all of the games. If the point spread that I predict for a particular game differs from the closing line by seven or more points, I consider it a “play”,—i.e. a game that I would wager on. If the difference is less than seven points, I back off. I’ll also back off if a report comes out during the week (after I’ve already handicapped the game) that there is an issue involving the starting quarterback (an injury I did not know about) or the head coach (health issues, scandal, etc.).