10 of the 14 Big Ten teams are in action this Saturday, and finally nonconference is essentially over (though there are still some holdovers in future weeks).
There’s one gigantic, ranked-on-ranked matchup between No. 3 Iowa and No. 4 Penn State, and otherwise three games featuring ranked Big Ten teams. The sole unranked-on-unranked matchup is between Wisconsin and Illinois.
Four teams are idle — Purdue, Minnesota, Indiana, and Northwestern. For the Boilermakers, Hoosiers, and Wildcats, it’s a good chance for them to lick their wounds after having suffered losses in Week 5.
For those who are playing, here is how we see it going down on Saturday.
3 keys to a Michigan football win vs. Nebraska
Maryland (4-1) at No. 7 Ohio State (4-1)
(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Trent Knoop: Maryland let me down last week as I picked the Terrapins to upset Iowa and boy, was I wrong. It was the first real challenge that Maryland faced all season and all it could muster was 14 points — granted, Iowa is a really good defense. Taulia Tagovailoa threw five interceptions last week, and we have no clue if he will be ready mentally for the rising Buckeye defense. Ohio State hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 20 points since week 2 loss against Oregon. C.J. Stroud appears to be locked in again after his performance last week and TreVeyon Henderson continues to put up huge numbers in the limited touches he gets. I think Maryland hangs with Ohio State for a half, but the Buckeyes win easily. Ohio State 41, Maryland 21
Isaiah Hole: Here’s the thing: Ohio State is finally looking like Ohio State for the first time this year, but it’s really only been two games, so I’m not sold it’s righted all of its wrongs on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, I’m sold, but Maryland has one of the top offenses in the country, let alone the conference. I don’t think Taulia Tagovailoa will throw that many interceptions again in any game this season as he did in the debacle against Iowa. Maryland has no defense, so it will need the offense to get it all together — a harder proposition with Dontay Demus out for the season. I think it’ll be closer than the spread, but not by much. Ohio State 48, Maryland 28
No. 11 Michigan State (5-0) at Rutgers (3-2)
Photo: Lansing State Journal-via Imagn Photo Library
Trent Knoop: The Scarlet Knights got thrashed last week against the Buckeyes, but I still believe they are a much better team than that. This could be a trap game for the Spartans, especially if the Michigan State secondary can’t stop the passing game. Noah Vedral will need to step up in a big way this weekend to get Rutgers back in the win column. On the other hand, this may be the best offense that Michigan State has had in a long time behind the arm of Payton Thorne, who has thrown only one interception this year, and running back Kennth Walker III is a beast on the ground. I can’t see the Spartans losing this one, but it will be close. Michigan State 24, Rutgers 20
Isaiah Hole: Well, I thought Rutgers would show up last week against Ohio State and I was brutally wrong. I think they’ll show up against Michigan State. But I don’t think it’ll make a difference. The Spartans’ pass defense has been atrocious all year, but they’ve still found ways to win. MSU has also won on the road twice, so I don’t expect it to be shell shocked. I think it’ll be a close game for three quarters and then the State offense pulls away. Michigan State 31, Rutgers 17
Wisconsin (1-3) at Illinois (2-4)
Photo: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Trent Knoop: This Badgers team doesn’t remotely resemble the team that we are used to seeing year in and year out. Wisconsin doesn’t have much of a run game and the passing game looks even worse with Graham Mertz throwing the ball. Luckily, the Badgers face Illinois this weekend and they are bound to get a win. The Fighting Illini look really bad and they have zero offensive identity to this point in the year. The Illinois defense looks decent, but it gives up a ton of yards per game. This should be a game that Wisconsin gets its offense flowing. Wisconsin 28, Illinois 14
Isaiah Hole: Wisconsin isn’t this bad, right? Illinois is finding some juice, but it is this bad, I think. Brandon Peters cannot do much of anything through the air, but Joshua McCray, the freshman running back, has been a revelation as of late. However, the Badgers still feature the top-ranked run defense in the country, and the No. 3 defense overall. As much as Wisconsin has little going for it offensively, it appears that Graham Mertz will return, and we saw what he did to the Illini in Week 1 last year. Give me Bucky Badger, big. Wisconsin 38, Illinois 7
No. 4 Penn State (5-0) at No. 3 Iowa (5-0)
Trent Knoop: This should be a great game with the Penn State offense against the Iowa defense. The Nittany Lions average 418 yards per game and the Hawkeyes only allow 271 yards-per-game. This one will come down to which quarterback can make more plays. Spencer Petras hasn’t really impressed me this year, but he really hasn’t been asked to do too much with the mighty defense the Hawkeyes have. I like Sean Clifford way more here, and I like his weapons, like Jahan Dotson, to throw to. This game is definitely a toss up to me, but I have to take the home team here. Iowa 21, Penn State 20
Isaiah Hole: I am salivating at this one, two undefeateds, ranked in the top five, going at it. I don’t know that I’m fully sold on Penn State as a playoff contender, but I am sold on the Nittany Lions as a complete team. Between them and Iowa, I think PSU’s got a much better offense and James Franklin finally got the big road win monkey off his back in Week 1 in Camp Randall. This is close to being a night game, but it’s not the same being a 3 p.m. local kick. No Kinnick magic this time around. Penn State 20, Iowa 17
No. 9 Michigan (5-0) at Nebraska (3-3)
Photo: Isaiah Hole
Trent Knoop: I think this game ultimately comes down to the Nebraska offense against the Michigan defense. Adrian Martinez does a great job with the read-option attack, but if the Michigan edge defenders can stop him, then the Wolverines should win this game fairly easy. Cade McNamara has done a great job managing the the Michigan offense, he has yet to throw an interception, and he will need to continue doing just that in a hostile environment at night. I’ll take the Wolverines to win their first game ever in Lincoln. Michigan 31, Nebraska 17
Isaiah Hole: Nebraska is much better than its record, having lost all three games by just one score. The offense is high-powered and the defense is stellar. The biggest issue for the Huskers is that they make mistakes and are undisciplined, essentially beating themselves. This is a home game, at night. All these things favor Nebraska. Except, it hasn’t (theoretically) seen a defense like Michigan’s and they have the worst offensive line in the country. For me, the big question is how the Wolverine defense will handle Adrian Martinez, as I think the offense will be able to score, given what it was able to do vs. Wisconsin. I think this will be a tough game, but Michigan pulls away on the road. Michigan 42, Nebraska 24