Week 3 Big Ten Football Preview

(Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Week 2 in the Big Ten was a wild ride. The fireworks started on Friday night with Taulia Tagovailoa’s five-touchdown performance in Maryland’s overtime victory over Minnesota. They continued into Michigan State’s stunning victory over Michigan. After two weeks, it is looking more and more like this league is going to be tough to predict each week. 

Let’s take a look at the Week 3 matchups:

Michigan State (1-1) @ Iowa (0-2)

When/Where: Saturday, November 7th, 12:00 PM @ Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA

Lines*: Iowa -6.5, O/U 46 

(Photo courtesy of Michigan State Athletics.)

Michigan State is coming off an incredible upset against rival Michigan while Iowa is looking to avoid an 0-3 start for the first time since 2000.

Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi bounced back in a huge way after a rocky Week 1 performance, throwing for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. Wide receiver  Ricky White also exploded for 196 yards and a touchdown, all against a solid Michigan defense. The Iowa defense was competent against Northwestern and put them in a position to win, but the Hawkeye offense struggled.. It will be interesting to see which Ricky Lombardi shows up this week against the Hawkeyes. 

The Iowa offense started off hot against Northwestern, jumping out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, but managed to add just one field goal the rest of the way. Quarterback Spencer Petras threw three interceptions and was forced to throw 50 times, not a great blueprint for success. Iowa desperately needs to get the running game going this week against a Spartan defense that has been fairly stout against the run so far this year. 

Prediction: Michigan State has momentum coming into this game while Iowa is reeling. However, I still think the Hawkeyes have the more talented roster and it will show. 26-20 Iowa.

Nebraska (0-1) @ Northwestern (2-0) 

When/Where: Saturday, November 7th, 12:00 PM @ Ryan Field, Evanston, IL

Lines: Northwestern -3.5, O/U 54.5

(Photo courtesy of Northwestern Athletics.)

Northwestern (2-0) enters Week 3 undefeated while Nebraska comes off a bye week as their game versus Wisconsin was cancelled due to COVID-19. 

Nebraska should be well rested heading into this game, but the Huskers were not very competitive in their season-opening loss at Ohio State. They relied heavily on the run against the Buckeyes and were able to move the ball fairly well in the first half, but fell apart after halftime. Backup quarterback Luke McCaffery, was very impressive as a dual threat weapon and will probably be used heavily again this week. Northwestern’s defense has allowed the second fewest yards and points in the conference, so the Huskers are in for a tough test.

The Northwestern offense has been quite impressive through two weeks, even if the numbers don’t show it. They are middle of the pack in the Big Ten in both yardage and points. However, they were dominant against Maryland and did just enough for a victory against Iowa. This is not an explosive unit, but led by running back Isaiah Bowser, they are able to slow any game down and control the time of possession battle. Nebraska’s defense was helpless against Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, but was impressive against the run, which creates an interesting matchup on Saturday.

Prediction: It’s tough to judge Nebraska after only one game against the best team in the conference, but it’s also tough to pick against the hot hand, especially when they’re at home. 27-23 Northwestern.

#23 Michigan (1-1) @ #13 Indiana (2-0) 

When/Where: Saturday, November 7th, 12:00 PM @ Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN

Lines: Michigan -3, O/U 54

(Photo courtesy of Indiana Athletics.)

Michigan enters Week 3 off an embarrassing home loss to rival Michigan State while Indiana is coming off of their second straight win to open the season. 

The Michigan offense, led by quarterback Joe Milton, put on a show in Week 1 but took a step back last week, as they rushed for 100 fewer yards, punted seven more times, and were much less efficient on 3rd down. Milton’s stat sheet looked impressive, passing for 300 yards and rushing for 59 more. However, the Michigan offense never got into a rhythm against the Spartans. Indiana’s defense looked susceptible against Penn State in Week 1, but improved greatly against the inferior Rutgers offense. 

Indiana put up 37 points against Rutgers, but they were the beneficiaries of three  Scarlet Knight interceptions. They are now the 4th highest scoring offense in the Big Ten, but have the 2nd fewest yards, which shows that they have relied on the field position battle to win their games. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was solid against Rutgers, but shaky against Penn State. It will be interesting to see how he performs against a Michigan defense that has underperformed expectations so far in 2020.

Prediction: I went with the hot hand with Northwestern earlier, but I’m going to ignore that strategy in this game. Michigan needs to bounce back in a big way and I think they do. 31-21 Michigan. 

Minnesota (0-2) @ Illinois (0-2) 

When/Where: Saturday, November 7th, 3:30 PM @ Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL

Lines: Minnesota -7, O/U 61.5 

(Photo courtesy of Illinois Athletics.)

Minnesota is coming off of a heartbreaking 45-44 loss at Maryland while Illinois recently fell to Purdue, 31-24. Both teams have lost back-to-back games. 

Minnesota has had no problem moving the ball by virtue of running back Mohamed Ibrahim, but the passing game has lagged behind. Quarterback Tanner Morgan and receiver Rashod Bateman were a vaunted duo entering the 2020 season, but have not lived up to the hype. The Gophers must get those two going this week. Illinois has been shredded by both Wisconsin and Purdue so far this year. Therefore it’s a perfect opportunity for Minnesota to get their passing game working well again. 

Illinois was much more competitive against Purdue than they were against Wisconsin, but this is an offense that is not fundamentally sound. According to the Chicago Tribune, fourth-string quarterback, Coran Taylor, got the call last week after starter Brandon Peters tested positive for COVID-19, backup Isaiah Williams was quarantined, and third-stringer Matt Robinson suffered a leg injury. Taylor did not look terrible, but threw two interceptions and the Illini fumbled twice. Minnesota’s defense has been the worst in the Big Ten through two weeks, so it will be interesting to see if they can bounce back against a quarterback with very little experience. 

Prediction: It is clear that Minnesota is not the team that the experts thought they were before the season, but I still think they hold a sizable advantage over Illinois. 45-33 Minnesota.

Maryland (1-1) @ Penn State (0-2) 

When/Where: Saturday, November 7th, 3:30 PM @ Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA

Lines: Penn State -25, O/U 64 

(Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Maryland is coming off a wild overtime win against Minnesota while Penn State suffered their second straight loss against Ohio State. 

Maryland’s victory against Minnesota was a tremendous win for the program and served as the coming out party for transfer quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. He threw for 394 yards and scored five times, three in the air and twice on the ground. Tagovailoa scored what ended up being the game winning touchdown in overtime. Against Northwestern, the Maryland offense was dormant, but they have the weapons to score points, and it showed last Friday. The Penn State defense is looking for a bounceback game after giving up over 30 points to both Indiana and Ohio State, but they’ll run into a unit with a lot of confidence after last week.

Penn State’s battle against Ohio State went about as expected: they competed but simply lacked the talent on offense to keep up with the Buckeyes. Quarterback Sean Clifford tossed three touchdowns but the Nittany Lions rushed for only 44 yards, which is blameworthy on both game flow and a strong Ohio State defensive front. Maryland’s defense has given up the most rushing yards in the Big Ten, so Penn State will have the opportunity to get back on the right track this week. 

Prediction: Penn State is the huge favorite and is badly in need of a win, but Maryland could give them a run for their money if the offense plays like it did in Week 2. I still like the home team in a must-win game. 44-27 Penn State. 

Rutgers (1-1) @ #3 Ohio State (2-0) 

When/Where: Saturday, November 7th, 7:30 PM @ Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH

Lines: Ohio State -38, O/U 64 

(Photo courtesy of Ohio State Athletics.)

Rutgers enters Week 3 coming off a loss at Indiana, but has looked much more competitive than they have been in recent years. Ohio State continued their dominance of the Big Ten last week against Penn State, who was arguably their greatest competitor. 

Rutgers fell back down to earth last week after a season opening win against Michigan State, but they were fairly competitive against a very good Indiana team. They had only 247 yards of offense, turned the ball over three times, and were a dismal 3 of 14 on fourth down. However, they were able to put up 21 points and avoid a blowout. Ohio State’s defense poses a much tougher task than Indiana did though. Rutgers will have to jump on the Buckeyes early and often if they want to make this a competitive matchup.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields had another fantastic performance last week, throwing for four touchdowns and finishing with a completion percentage of 82%. Receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson both eclipsed 100 yards. The Buckeyes got the running game going as well with Master Teague finishing with 100 rushing yards. This offense is a juggernaut and the only hope for an improving but still developing, Rutgers defense is for Fields and company to have an off day. 

Prediction: Since Rutgers has joined the Big Ten, the Buckeyes are 6-0 against them with an average margin of victory of 46.5 points. Rutgers is on the right track, but they are not in the same universe as Ohio State. 55-14 Ohio State. 

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

*All lines from the William Hill Sportsbook  

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