The Backdoor Cover - Big Ten Edition
By: Josh Gamble
*All lines accurate as of Friday morning*
Big Ten action has only been underway for a week and we have already seen some crazy action, most notably the ending of the Penn State/Indiana game. Indiana’s quarterback was very clearly down; however, if the Penn State back just goes down instead of scoring, we have a much different outcome, but I digress. The leading story of the week is the Nebraska/Wisconsin game being cancelled due to a virus outbreak in the Wisconsin locker room. Now let’s get into the games that are going to be played.
Minnesota (-20) @ Maryland – Over/Under 60.5
Minnesota kicked off their season against a ranked Michigan team at home under the lights. This had all the makings of a marquee Big Ten matchup. The end result was far from that. Minnesota came into this season with division championship hopes and did not look good against the Wolverines. Is this a product of Michigan being better than expected or Minnesota worse than expected? It is a little too early to make that call but I think that it is a little mixture of both. Luckily for The Golden Gophers, they are playing a team this week that is just downright bad. Maryland lost by 5 scores to an average Northwestern team and will certainly have more work cut out for them this week. The line in this game opened at 18 and has risen to 20 while the over has dropped by 2 points ahead of Friday night’s matchup. What this tells me is that people expect Minnesota to win big and that Maryland will have a hard time scoring to push this game over. I agree with both of those things. I am taking Maryland and laying the points as long as it stays below the 21 point mark.
Ohio State (-12) @ Penn State – Over/Under 64
This game was expected to be a matchup between two Goliaths. Ohio State looked like how we expected them to. Justin Fields started off his Heisman hopeful campaign by completing all but one pass. The surprising part of this game was the Buckeyes’ defense giving up 17 points to a below average Nebraska team. (Is it just me or does it seem like Adrian Martinez has been Nebraska’s quarterback for nearly a decade?) Penn State, on the other hand, looked nothing like we expected them to. From the beginning of this game, they struggled against an always average Indiana team. Credit to Indiana every year though as they always seem to play the good teams tough. If the Nittany Lions struggle even a little bit this Saturday, they are going to be in for a world of hurt. The line is this game opened at 8 and has jumped up to 12 as of Friday morning as the cash rolls in on the Buckeyes. I would expect this line to go up a little more throughout today and early tomorrow morning. The total in this game opened at 68.5 and has dropped 4 points to a manageable 64. I am seeing value in the lower number. The key to hitting the over in this game will be Penn State’s ability to score. If Nebraska can score 17 points on this defense, I would expect Penn State to get more than that. I like the Buckeyes to cover the 12 points and the over 64 in this game.
Photo courtesy of sports.yahoo.com
Michigan State @ Michigan (-24.5) – Over/Under 52
It has been a long time since Michigan has been a 3 plus score favorite over their in-state rival. Is Michigan football back? That’s hard to say. Joe Milton impressed in his debut for the Wolverines, albeit against a lackluster Minnesota defense. On the flip side, Michigan State handed Rutgers their first conference win since 2017. Michigan State has 3 quarterbacks they will play early this season, with Lombardi seemingly the one that will ultimately lead this team. You know what they say, if you have 3 quarterbacks, you don’t have one. Michigan State is outclassed in the matchup in every aspect except at kicker. (At this point I am not sure either of Michigan’s kickers can make a field goal) 24.5 points against an in-state rivals seem like too many; however, in this case it may not be enough. Take the Wolverines and lay the points. The over seems unplayable in this game. Michigan will score points no doubt, but I just do not see the Spartans having an easy time getting on the board against Don Brown’s defense when they struggled to score against a lousy Rutgers team.
Indiana (-11) @ Rutgers – Over/Under 54
Both of these teams are coming off huge wins. Indiana beat a top 10 team for the first time in 33 years. Rutgers got their first conference win since 2017. That being said, I do not think that either of these teams are very good. Indiana is a middle of the road Big Ten team at best and Rutgers is worse than that. I do think the Rutgers program will improve now that Greg Schiano has taken back over, but it will not be this year. The line seems unplayable where it is at but I do see a little value in the under 54.
Purdue (-7) @ Illinois – Over/Under 59
Barf. That’s all I have to say. This line started the week at 4 and has been pushed out to 7 and rightfully so. Illinois is bad, possibly the worst team in the Big Ten bad. Purdue is not a good football team either. With the line being extended out to 7, I am just not seeing a ton of value. The only intriguing play here is the total. Illinois had a hard time scoring last week, but I think that has more to do with just being outclassed by a good Wisconsin team. I foresee Illinois having an easier time scoring against the Boilermaker offense. It is not one of my plays this week, but if I have to choose, I am taking the over in this game.
Northwestern @ Iowa (-2.5) – Over/Under 46.5
Hopes are likely pretty high in Evanston after last week’s beat down of Maryland. What the line tells us is that is more a product of Maryland just being that bad. The line has stayed relatively constant in the matchup, hovering around the 2.5/3 mark all week. These are two evenly matched teams that will end up around the middle of the Big Ten. I just do not see any value with this line for either side. If you are really looking to bet this game, I would tell you to take Northwestern moneyline +115. Iowa always plays better at home but I just do not think they are a good football team. Everything about this game screams stay away.
As always, if you want up-to-date plays for the week or have any questions, you can reach me on Twitter @Jtothe_ROC. Below you will find my official card for Big Ten and other games around the country I like.
Official NCAAF plays for the week
Ohio State -12
OSU/PSU over 64
BYU 1H -17.5
Georgia 1H -9
Bama/Miss St over 63.5
Boise St -13.5
ND/Ga Tech over 58