As the final month of the regular season nears and Big Ten teams get more games under their belts, it’s beginning to become clearer which teams are contenders and which are pretenders. There are five games on the docket in the conference this weekend, and DraftKings Sportsbook has odds available for four of them.
Let’s take a look at this week’s slate.
No. 2 Ohio State (-15.5) vs. No. 13 Penn State
Through eight games, Ohio State looks like it very well may be the best team in the country. Heisman front runner CJ Stroud has been as good as advertised in his second season as the starting quarterback, surrounded by elite weapons like Marvin Harrison Jr., who could make a strong case as the best receiver in the nation.
In need of a statement win following a sizable loss at Michigan, Penn State took care of Minnesota in its annual whiteout game last Saturday. Head coach James Franklin’s team looks like a solid group, but is yet to prove it against the conference’s top teams. The Nittany Lions will need a win against the Buckeyes if they have any ambitions of realistically competing for the Big Ten East crown.
Beaver Stadium will be rocking, but Ohio State is rightfully favored in this divisional showdown.
No. 17 Illinois (-7) vs. Nebraska
Sitting in first place in the Big Ten West, Illinois has been one of the nation’s most surprisingly successful teams this season. Many expected the team to take a step forward in year two under head coach Bret Bielema, but few expected the Fighting Illini to be in position to compete for a spot in the Big Ten championship game this early into his tenure. The team sits at 6-1 entering this week’s matchup against Nebraska and currently has the inside track at the Big Ten West title, although the Cornhuskers, despite their rough start, remain competitive in the division as well.
Since starting 1-3, Nebraska has won two of its last three games and tested a solid Purdue team on the road last week, falling by six points. The Big Ten West is still up for grabs, and its ultra-competitive nature means that the Cornhuskers could move into first place with a win over the Fighting Illini this Saturday.
Illinois is a touchdown favorite on the road, but unpredictability has reigned in the division so far this season.
Northwestern vs. Iowa (-11)
Northwestern sits at 1-6 this season and is yet to win a game in North America — its only victory came in Ireland. The Wildcats played Maryland tough last weekend and nearly came away with a road victory, but weren’t able to finish the job, a theme all too common for the program this season.
Iowa, on the other hand, was not close in its game last Saturday. The Hawkeyes walked into Columbus and were stomped by Ohio State, which dropped 54 points on Iowa’s presumably top-tier defense. It was a concerning sight for Kirk Ferentz’s team, as it once again was entirely shut down on the offensive side of the ball and wasn’t even able to keep it close. Alex Padilla got his first meaningful game action of the season against the Buckeyes and is now firmly in a battle with Spencer Petras for the starting quarterback job, although he had two interceptions on just 14 attempts against OSU.
Still, Northwestern should struggle to score and Iowa is a double-digit point home favorite this weekend against the Big Ten’s worst team.
Michigan State vs. No. 4 Michigan (-21.5)
Year three under Mel Tucker has not gone to plan for Michigan State, as his team sits at 1-3 in the Big Ten and has an uphill battle ahead of it to become bowl eligible. Things won’t get much easier this week, as a trip to Ann Arbor to face rival Michigan is in the books. The Spartans have been very successful in recent years against the Wolverines, as Tucker is 2-0 against them in his brief tenure in East Lansing. Rivalry games can sometimes go sideways and create unexpected results, and a win for Michigan State would rejuvenate what has quickly become a worried fanbase.
Michigan should, on paper at least, handle Michigan State with ease, though. The Wolverines look like one of the best teams in the country after making a statement with a commanding win over Penn State before last week’s bye. Most expect the Big Ten East to once again come down to Michigan’s annual game against Ohio State, but Jim Harbaugh’s squad won’t look past the Spartans, especially given recent results.
Michigan State’s defense has given no reason to believe that it is capable of slowing down a Michigan offense that has caught a groove, and it would be a shocking upset to see the Wolverines go down at home.
Note: No odds are available for Rutgers at Minnesota on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Indiana, Maryland, Purdue and Wisconsin are on byes this week.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.