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 seven games to look at this week. Earlier in the week it appeared one of these was going to be a play, but the line moved dramatically so it may not be.
My current record: 4-6
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 struggled with the idea of adding another fourth quarter field goal to Wisconsin’s score. Illinois’ defense is allowing 42 points a game in conference play. But I figure the Badgers to be a bit flat, QB Alex Hornibrook ain’t the kind that’s going to throw the ball over the field, and Wisconsin likes to run the ball way more often than not, which will burn some time off the clock, especially early in the game. It usually isn’t until later in the game -when the Badgers line has worn down the defense -when RB Jonathon Taylor pops a long TD run or two. Wisconsin is coming off a disheartening loss, and on paper, Illinois doesn’t pose much of a threat. Which is why I figure the Badgers to be flat. So I’m calling for a few drive killing mistakes/penalties, and maybe a Hornibrook interception, which would keep Wisconsin’s scoring output below what most might expect. And, Wisconsin’s defense isn’t as stout as in past seasons, so I’m also calling for Illinois to kill some clock with their possessions. I’m assuming Illinois will use their best offensive weapons – RBs Mike Epstein and Reggie Corbin, who are both averaging over six yards a carry. But that could be classified as a bold assumption given the Illini’s head scratching strategy last Saturday against Purdue. Corbin and Epstein only carried the ball a combined six times. Surely the Illinois coaching staff will notice this when reviewing film, and will instruct QB A.J. Bush to let someone else have the ball once in a while when running option-type plays. I hope so, because if Illinois continues to feature Bush, and only Bush, the Illini won’t have the ball for very long, which will give Wisconsin more scoring opportunities against a gritty but poor defense. But if Illinois reverts back to utilizing their best offensive players, I look for the Illini to take advantage of a disinterested Wisconsin early in the game, and actually find themselves within a TD of the lead early in the third quarter. (Throw out last week’s blowout loss to Purdue, and the Illini were showing significant signs of improvement). But after that, I figure the Wisconsin O-Line to wear the Illini down and build and maintain a three TD lead.
As of now, Wisconsin is favored by 24.5. I would need 28 points to take Illinois, so this game probably won’t be a play.
Prior to the start of the season, I had this game circled as a potential loss for Penn St. Not because I think Indiana is the better team, but I figured Penn St. wouldn’t come ready to play after back to back games against Ohio St. and Michigan St. But I figured Penn St. would have won at least one of those games, which they didn’t, so I now think the Nittany Lions will be anxious to right the ship. Indiana, especially HC Tom Allen, appears anxious to knock off one of the upper level programs of the conference and, for the second week in a row, have an opportunity at home to do so. But while the Hoosiers played admirably two Saturday’s ago against Ohio St., they really weren’t close to winning their home game last week against Iowa. In fact, it may have been the worst game the Hoosiers have played all season. They were more competitive in a loss earlier the season against Michigan St., but even in that game I felt the Hoosiers were outclassed talent wise. “Not ready for prime time” is a phrase I’ve used often to describe the Hoosiers after their failed “breakthrough” opportunities. So while I do think Penn St. may not be as good as perceived, I don’t see the Hoosiers coming out ahead in this game either. But Indiana is improved from past seasons and seems to be on the verge, so it could happen. But that’s not what I’m predicting here. Indiana is getting good play out of QB Peyton Ramsey and his wide receivers, but the Hoosiers struggle in the running game. I don’t know that Indiana can be consistently effective against a good Penn St. defense relying mostly on the passing game. I expect Ramsey and Indiana to have some success, though, and for the Hoosiers to be in this game pretty much to the end. Penn St. showed last Saturday in a loss to Michigan St. that they’re not as close to “elite” as HC James Franklin and most everyone else thought they might be. They’re a good team – better than Indiana, but not so much better that they’re going to walk into Memorial Stadium and blow the Hoosiers out, I don’t think. Indiana can play good defense at times, but they’ll have trouble stopping Penn St. QB Trace McSorley. Penn St. is reeling after two disappointing losses so the question here is how will the Nittany Lions respond. I expect McSorley to respond well. The kid’s a winner. After Indiana kicks a FG on the opening drive, Penn St. grabs the lead and maintains it throughout the game, but never builds a comfortable lead until late in the fourth quarter.
As of now, Penn St. is favored by 14.5, which close to how I see it, so this game will not be a play.
This game appears to be my closest shot at a play this week, but the line is dropping like a stone, so I’ll have to see what Saturday’s number looks like. I got burned betting on Maryland once, and I’m poised to beat my head against the same wall. But I can’t help myself; Maryland has some talented, fast athletes. They just need a little discipline and self-control. This is a tough one to predict… so many things to consider: 1) Maryland has only been on the road once in their last four games and now they’re coming into Kinnick. B) I’m not sure how seriously Iowa will take Maryland. I think Maryland is “sneaky good”, but the Terps haven’t been much of a threat since joining the conference and Iowa has a big game against Penn St. next on the schedule. 3) I don’t trust either one of these programs; both are capable of laying an egg any given week. D) Both QBs are prone to throwing ridiculous interceptions. I’m calling for two interceptions from both in this game. 5) Some of the penalties Maryland’s defense commits are flat out stupid. F) Iowa is bigger and stronger, but Maryland is faster, I think.
Iowa has been on a roll offensively since their loss to Wisconsin a few weeks back. QB Nate Stanley threw six TD passes last Saturday in probably Iowa’s best offensive game of the season to date. At the same time, the Iowa defense has regressed a little, but it should be pointed out that the Hawkeyes are missing some players due to injuries on that side of the ball. Some of the starters are expected to return for this game. And Iowa has one of the best defenses in the conference, so a little “regression” doesn’t mean they ain’t good. Maryland has some speedy playmakers on offense, the kind that can take it to the house from long distances. But QB Kasim Hill isn’t very consistent in the passing game. Hill’s game depends on how things are going early on. If he enjoys some early success, he’ll probably play well and with confidence throughout the game. If he struggles early, he’ll hang his head and only get worse. I look for Hill to struggle some. When I mentioned “sneaky good”, I was mostly referring to the Maryland defense, which I think is the wild card in this game. Most don’t think defense when they think of Maryland, but the Terps have some players that will put a hat on ya. Look for LB Tre Watson and DB Antione Brooks to make plays all over the field if they don’t get kicked out of the game for tackling…er, I mean targeting. But the D-line is relatively small, so we’ll have to see how they hold up against the Hawkeyes O-line. This might not be all that big of a problem, though, because I’ve noticed Iowa isn’t as “run oriented” as they’ve been in past seasons. They tend to be featuring Stanley more as I’m seeing more empty backfield sets on first down. Stanley is good, but I don’t completely trust him as much as his OC apparently does. So after trying to process all of this, I’ve come up with Maryland surprising the Hawkeyes early on with a lead going into the half, only to have Iowa catch the Terps in the fourth quarter and win in a lower scoring game than most others would predict. But a Maryland upset would not surprise me at all.
As of now, Iowa is favored by 8.5 points. Geeminy, the line on this one dropped another 1.5 points today alone. I need 10 or more points to take Maryland, which looked like a slam dunk earlier in the week when Iowa was favored by 13.5 points. Now it looks like probably not unless the line moves back up to 10 or more by Saturday.
In state rivalry game here, I don’t think either team will be looking past this one. Michigan is usually the favorite going in, but Michigan St. and HC Mark Dantonio seem to always find a way to win. In fact, Dantonio has proven to be very good through the years as an underdog against high profile teams. So I think he’ll have his team ready for this game. But I still like Michigan to win. The Spartans defense played one of its best games last Saturday in its upset win over Penn St., and I look for the defense to play well in this game. But I don’t think they’ll stop the Michigan offense completely. QBs are so important in college football, and Michigan QB Shea Patterson has been improving with each game. Good QB play was the missing ingredient in a pretty good Michigan football team last season, including a close loss to the Spartans. Patterson isn’t “eye-popping” great, he doesn’t have to be. He just has to execute plays in the passing game and make solid decisions, which he did last Saturday in a big win against Wisconsin. The Wolverines have a pretty good O-Line, and they have some receivers on the perimeter that can make big plays. Oh, and let’s not forget about the two talented tight ends. But still, while Michigan’s offense is very good, it isn’t “eye-popping” great. It doesn’t have to be. The Wolverines have the best defense in the conference, led by LB Devin Bush. The Michigan St. offense has been struggling to run the ball, although they were much improved last Saturday. QB Brian Lewerke can make plays with both his feet and his arm, but he is prone to turning the ball over, which doesn’t bode well against this defense. Lewerke is missing some of his receiving corps, but he’ll still have WR Felton Davis to throw to. It could be argued that Davis will be the best skill position player on the field. And I don’t know that Lewerke will be all that successful against this defense, but somehow I don’t think he’ll throw too many interceptions. I’m calling for only one in this game, but figure it to be a costly one in the fourth quarter. I look for the teams to trade punts early on and for Michigan St. to get on the board first with a FG. I think Michigan will answer with a TD to gain the lead, which they won’t relinquish through the whole game. But I’m not calling for any kind of blowout, here. I think this will be an entertaining defense oriented game. Lotsa punts and a few turnovers.
As of now, Michigan is favored by 7 points. I’d need the line to drop to 3 or less for me to take Michigan, so this most likely will not be a play.
Ok, so after getting burned ATS last Saturday, Nebraska has finally convinced me they’ve improved significantly from the train-wreck of a team they were earlier this season. I’m actually calling for the Huskers to get the win here, although the competition can’t be considered upper-echelon. These two teams are in a similar situation. Both teams have yet to win a conference game, both are hungry to get a win, and both teams probably deserve to get a win. There are no easy outs in this conference (well, maybe one), and Minnesota certainly isn’t a pushover. The Gophers won all three non-conference games, but faced a conference schedule that’s front and back loaded. This game marks the first of a few games against mid to lower level opponents, which is where I’d classify the Gophers. Most, in fact maybe all, of Nebraska’s improvement has come on the offensive side of the ball. QB Adrian Martinez is the catalyst, as is the up tempo style. Minnesota’s defense isn’t bad, and can hold its own against like competition. But Martinez is a hand full in this offense. He can beat you with his arm and with his feet. I look for Nebraska to score on their first two drives as the Minnesota defense will probably need to adjust to a tempo they haven’t seen in a while. But I think the Gophers will eventually get a stop or two and get back in the game with some scoring of their own against a not very good Nebraska defense. But neither team will consistently stop one another, I don’t think. I’m calling for an offensive shootout. I figure Minnesota to trade scores with Nebraska, but don’t think they’ll ever catch the Huskers after the early deficit I’m calling for. Minnesota QB Zack Annexstad is good, but throws the ball up for grabs too often and I think that will be a difference maker in this one. I’m calling for three Annexstad interceptions. I’m not calling for any from Martinez.
As of now, Nebraska is favored by 3.5 points, which is pretty close to how I see it, so this game will not be a play.
Well, what can you say about Rutgers? I’m running out of ways to say they aren’t very good, although the SOB’s did burn me the one time I bet against them (a seven point loss at home against Indiana- still can’t believe the Hoosiers were shutout in the second half). The Scarlet Knights do tend to play better at home, although you can’t read too much into the word “better”. And Northwestern has shown they can’t run the ball against any team whatsoever, leaving their offensive success at the mercy of QB Clayton Thorson’s right arm. As bad as Rutgers has played this season, I’m calling for the game to tight in the first half. I don’t figure Northwestern to be too fired up for this one. It’s a long trip to Jersey, and the Wildcats have some big games coming up after this one. Thorson usually throws one or two interceptions a game, and I figure him to serve one up early in this one. And as I said, Rutgers plays better at home and they do have a few good offensive players. QB Artur Sitkowski can be one of ‘em when he’s throwing to his own team. Sitkowski has a good arm, but it’s become standard practice to correctly predict multiple interceptions from Sitkowski. I’m calling for three in this game, which will help Northwestern overcome the sluggish start I’m predicting. That and the Rutgers defense. I can’t think of many good players on that side of the ball. Northwestern often plays down to its competition and is prone to, out of nowhere, turning in a terrible performance. Could happen in this spot, but I don’t think a sub-par performance will keep the Wildcats from getting the win against this team. I look for Northwestern to pull away from Rutgers in the second half and win by over three TDs.
As of now, Northwestern is favored by 20 points. I’d need the line to drop to 17 points or less to take Northwestern, so this game probably will not be a play.
Interesting game, here. Lot of things point to an upset win for Purdue. I won’t get that carried away, but there are some things to consider. The Purdue offense and QB David Blough is on fire. Ohio St. has shown some weaknesses on defense, and also hasn’t been as dominant as expected against lower level competition. This will be only the second Ohio St. road game of the season. The Buckeyes had to come from behind against Penn St. to win by one point in their lone road game to date, and it appears as though Penn St. may not be quite as good as advertised. And I’m convinced Ohio St. isn’t quite as good as advertised, either. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Ohio St. is probably the best in the conference. I just no longer see them as heads and shoulders above all the other teams. It’s very possible the Buckeyes could lose a conference game or two this season. I might not have said that a week or two ago. Can’t bring myself to call for the upset here, though. I do think Purdue will have some offensive success. Look for WR Rondale Moore to make some big plays in this game. (Also look for HC Jeff Brohm to call a trick play. I’m predicting it will backfire). But I don’t think Purdue will have as much offensive success as Ohio St. will. The Buckeyes have too many playmakers on offense. And they really won’t need that many- the Purdue defense is horrible, which is why the Boilermakers won’t get the upset win. But I do think Purdue will be inspired and ready, and figure the Boilermakers offense to keep up with and put a scare into the Buckeyes in front of a fired up home crowd. I’m calling for Purdue to actually take the lead early in the fourth quarter. But, as they most always do under HC Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes find a way to get out with the win.
As of now, Ohio St. is favored by 13 points, which is pretty close to how I see it, so this one most likely will not 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.).