Week 2 Big Ten Football Preview

(Photo Courtesy of Marc Lebryk, USA TODAY Sports.)

Big Ten football finally returned last week and it did not disappoint. From Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz throwing five touchdown passes against Illinois to Indiana’s thrilling overtime victory versus then No. 12 Penn State, there was plenty of excitement this past weekend in the Big Ten. The Week 2 slate offers further opportunity for close games and compelling stories. 

Let’s take a look at the matchups:

Minnesota (0-1) @ Maryland (0-1)

When/Where: Friday October 30th, 7:30 PM @ Maryland Stadium, College Park, MD

Lines*: Minnesota -20, O/U 65 

(Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

It’s homecoming weekend at the University of Maryland and each of these teams are coming off of tough losses. Minnesota was defeated at home by No. 13 Michigan, 49-24 while Maryland was trounced on the road at Northwestern, 43-3.

Minnesota returned quarterback Tanner Morgan and wide receiver Rashod Bateman for the 2020 season, two of the team’s most important offensive pieces in 2019. While Bateman went for 101 yards against Michigan, Morgan only threw for 197 yards and threw an interception. He will have an opportunity to improve on that performance against a Maryland defense that surrendered 212 passing yards to Northwestern and 537 total yards. Look for Minnesota to move the ball well and score a lot of points.

After a very solid opening drive resulting in three points, Maryland’s offense struggled the rest of the way, scoring no points and turning the ball over four times. Starting quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa looked off for most of the game, throwing for only 94 yards and 3 interceptions. Despite the struggles, head coach Mike Locksley said he is still committed to Tagovailoa as the starter. Minnesota’s defense allowed 481 yards of offense and 49 points to Michigan, and looked helpless against the run. Maryland will need to get the run game going to take some pressure off of Tagovailoa and slow the game down.

Prediction: Maryland is young and much more talented than they showed in Evanston, but Minnesota’s roster is too deep and too experienced to suffer back to back losses. 38-24 Minnesota.

Purdue (1-0) @ Illinois (0-1) 

When/Where: Saturday, October 31st, 12:00 PM @ Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL

Lines: Purdue -7, O/U 59

(Photo courtesy of Purdue Athletics.)

Purdue is coming off of a huge week one victory against Iowa, winning 24-20 while Illinois ran into a buzzsaw in Wisconsin, falling 45-7.

Purdue was outgained by Iowa last week, but took less penalties and put together a stellar fourth quarter drive to take the lead with two minutes to play. In the absence of preseason Big Ten honoree, wide receiver Rondale Moore, wide receiver Darrian Bell stepped up with 3 touchdown catches against a stingy Iowa defense. Quarterback Aidan O’Connell could get a huge boost with the possible return of Moore. If he isn’t able to suit up, Purdue still faces an Illinois defense that was shredded by Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz for 248 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Illinois struggled to get anything going on offense versus Wisconsin, but faces a less intimidating defensive unit in Purdue. Purdue gave up the third most points in the Big Ten last year and while they came out victorious against Iowa, they gave up 460 yards of total offense. The Boilermakers were also gashed for 195 rushing yards. If Illinois can score early, they can put some pressure on the Purdue offense and take some pressure off of their own.

Prediction: Purdue will be riding high after winning their first season-opener since 2016 and may overlook Illinois. I also think their victory against Iowa will look less impressive by the end of the season. I like the upset here. 31-28 Illinois.

Michigan State (0-1) @ #13 Michigan (1-0) 

When/Where: Saturday, October 31st, 12:00 PM @ Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI

Lines: Michigan -24.5, O/U 52

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

Michigan State and new head coach, Mel Tucker, are coming off of a 38-27 home loss against Rutgers, who had not won a Big Ten game since 2017. Michigan is coming off of a big road win at Minnesota, 49-24.

It would not have been surprising to see Michigan State have a down year in 2020 after the sudden retirement of longtime head coach, Mark Dantonio. However losing to Rutgers at home in the season opener is a harbinger of a worse season than many MSU fans probably expected. Starting quarterback, Rocky Lombardi, threw two interceptions and the team could only muster 50 rushing yards. The team also lost 5 fumbles and will be facing a Michigan defense that is a regular top-10 finisher in yardage. If the Spartans cannot close the turnover gap or jump on Michigan early, they will be in for a long day.

Quarterback Joe Milton got the nod for Michigan in Week 1 after previous starter Shea Patterson graduated last season. Milton was impressive, but was not asked to do too much as Michigan ran all over Minnesota for 256 yards and 5 touchdowns. No player got more than 10 carries, which speaks to the Wolverines’ backfield depth. If Rutgers had no problem scoring on the Spartans, neither should Michigan.

Prediction: This game will not surprise many as Michigan wins big. 41-10 Michigan

Northwestern (1-0) @ Iowa (0-1) 

When/Where: Saturday, October 31st, 3:30 PM @ Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA

Lines: Iowa -2.5, O/U 46.5 

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

Northwestern is coming off of a 43-3 home win over Maryland while Iowa enters week two following a heartbreaking loss at Purdue.

Transfer quarterback Peyton Ramsey was a huge boost in Week 1 to Northwestern’s offense that finished last in the Big Ten in passing a year ago. While Maryland’s defense is suspect, it was a great sign for the Wildcats and something to build off of as the season continues. They also had no problem getting the running game going, as the team combined for 325 yards and four touchdowns. However, Iowa’s defense is more experienced and is coming off a season in which they allowed the fifth-fewest points in the nation. The Hawkeyes have lost multiple key starters, but still pose an intimidating threat to the Northwestern offense.

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras replaced the now-graduated Nate Stanley and hopes to be a spark to an Iowa offense that lacks explosiveness. The Hawkeyes are generally a run-first team, but against Purdue, they were forced to throw the ball more, with limited success. Both of the Hawks’ touchdowns came on the ground and they could not put together a solid drive outside of the second quarter. Fumbles also cost them big, including one with six minutes to play in the game. The Northwestern defense stymied Maryland’s offense for the better part of 60 minutes and is one of the most underrated units in the Big Ten, led by senior linebacker Paddy Fisher–a Walter Camp preseason All-American.

Prediction: Northwestern looked dominant in week one but will probably return to earth against an Iowa team desperate to avoid an 0-2 start. I like the home team in a classic, low-scoring, smashmouth Big Ten West game. 21-16 Iowa.

#17 Indiana (1-0) @ Rutgers (1-0) 

When/Where: Saturday, October 31st, 3:30 PM @ SHI Stadium, Piscataway, NJ

Lines: Indiana -10, O/U 52.5 

(Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports.)

Both of these teams are coming off of monumental wins for the state for their respective programs. Indiana beat Penn State for only the second time in program history in a dramatic and controversial overtime finish. Rutgers won their first Big Ten game in three years by defeating Michigan State 38-27 in East Lansing.

Greg Schiano was rehired at Rutgers this offseason to try and revive a program that has been the laughingstock of the Big Ten for the majority of their tenure. A season opening win has done a lot for the psyche of the Rutgers players and fanbase, but a lot of work still needs to be done. Indiana may just be one of the most underrated teams in the nation, coming off of an 8-5 season and a massive season-opening win of their own. The Hoosiers are returning 16 starters this season, including 9 on defense. The Hoosiers defense poses a challenge for an inexperienced Rutgers defense.

Indiana lost starting quarterback Peyton Ramsey to Northwestern this offseason and it was very noticeable in their first game. The offense was inefficient for most of the game and was doubled up by Penn State in time of possession and yardage. However, a big second quarter combined with a clutch drive in the fourth quarter allowed the Hoosiers to force overtime and eventually win the game by one. Rutgers’ defense looks much different than last year, and should be more competitive than last year. However, they are a less daunting unit than Penn State. 

Prediction: Greg Schiano has the Rutgers program moving in the right direction, but there is still plenty of work to be done. Meanwhile, Indiana is on the rise and hoping for one of the best seasons in program history. 41-17 Indiana

#3 Ohio State (1-0) @ #18 Penn State (0-1) 

When/Where: Saturday, October 31st, 7:30 PM @ Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA

Lines: Ohio State -12, O/U 63.5 

(Photo courtesy of Jay LaPrete — AP Photo.)

Here’s the game of the week in the Big Ten. Ohio State comes in off a 52-17 home win against Nebraska while Penn State returns home after a crushing 36-35 defeat at Indiana.

Ohio State entered the season as the overwhelming favorite to win the Big Ten and did nothing to change that outlook in week one. Justin Fields is almost a guarantee to be a top-10 draft pick at the quarterback position while he is surrounded by some of the best weapons in the nation with wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Fields was an almost perfect 20-21 against Nebraska, but the run game really struggled to get going after JK Dobbins was drafted this offseason. Penn State’s top defender, linebackers Micah Parsons, opted out of the season but this is still a very solid unit. However, it will be tough for anyone to slow down Justin Fields and the Buckeye offense.

Quarterback Sean Clifford returns for another year as the Penn State starter, but is without running back Journey Brown. Clifford led the Nittany Lions in rushing a week ago, which is an impressive feat, but not one that coach James Franklin would like to see repeated. Ohio State might struggle to contain possible first-round pick tight end Pat Friermuth, but Clifford has been prone to mistakes in the past. The Buckeye defense lost many key starters, including defensive end Chase Young and cornerback Jeff Okudah. However, Ryan Day has had no problem replacing talent in his tenure so far. If their defense can force some mistakes by Penn State, it could turn into a long day for the Lions’ offense.

Prediction: Having this game at Beaver Stadium is huge for Penn State, but they will miss the atmosphere of a packed house. These teams have played each other close for the past few years, but Ohio State has the clear talent advantage this year. 38-21 Ohio State

Note: Nebraska @ Wisconsin has been cancelled due to COVID-19

*All lines from Odds Shark