Indiana, Maryland, Purdue, and Wisconsin are all taking a break from the Big Ten football wars. It’s their bye week. That’s a good thing. None of those teams is ranked. The Big Ten’s four ranked teams — No. 2 Ohio State, No. 4 Michigan, No. 13 Penn State, and No. 17 Illinois — are all playing Saturday.
Two of them will collide when Ohio State plays at Penn State. The Buckeyes are more than a two-touchdown favorite, but the Nittany Lions will be at home, and they’ll be led by quarterback Sean Clifford, the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. The senior completed 23-of-31 passes for 295 yards and four touchdowns last week in a 45-17 victory over Minnesota. It was Clifford’s 10th career game with 250 or more passing yards, and three or more touchdown passes. The Buckeyes have a lot of weapons. They’re practically unstoppable.
They even have a great placekicker. Noah Ruggles is his name, and he’s the reigning Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week. He kicked four field goals and had six PATs in Ohio State’s 54-10 win last week over Iowa. The 18 points Ruggles scored was a career high for a game, and his four FGs tied for the second-most in a game in Ohio State history.
Michigan will be home to play arch-rival Michigan State in a prime-time game. The Wolverines are more than a three-touchdown favorite against the Spartans, perhaps the Big Ten’s biggest disappointment this season (although some Iowa fans may disagree). U-M is still seething about last year’s 37-33 loss to MSU, so this game could get uglier than the Paul Bunyan Trophy that goes to the winner of the annual U-M vs. MSU battle.
Illinois will travel to Nebraska, which has shown some signs of life recently. The Illini might have the most unknown Heisman Trophy candidate in the country in running back Chase Brown, whose 1,059 yards rushing and average of 27.4 carries per game lead the nation. Brown had a national season-high 41 carries for 180 yards, and he caught a 40-yard touchdown pass in Illinois’ 26-14 victory over Minnesota on Oct. 15.
He’s rushed for at least 100 yards in eight straight games and is averaging 151.3 yards per game on the ground this season. So why is Brown unknown? It’s probably because Illinois has been a hot mess for football for a decade and is just starting to emerge from the abyss. The Big Ten West-leading Illini are ranked No. 17, the highest since 2011. Another reason for Brown’s anonymity is he hasn’t exactly been on the national radar for a long time. He began his college career at Western Michigan and transferred to Illinois in 2019 to join his twin brother Sydney, who is a three-year starter in the Illinois secondary.
Big Ten football games Saturday and picks
— Ohio State (7-0, 4-0) at Penn State (6-1, 3-1), noon EDT, FOX (Take Penn State +15.5)
— Rutgers (4-3, 1-3) at Minnesota (4-3, 1-3), 2:30 p.m. EDT, Big Ten Network (Take Minnesota -14.5)
— Illinois (6-1, 3-1) at Nebraska (3-4, 2-2), 3:30 p.m. EDT, ABC (Take Illinois -7.5)
— Northwestern (1-6, 1-3) at Iowa (3-4, 1-3), 3:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN2 (Take Iowa -11.5)
— Michigan State (3-4, 1-3) at Michigan (7-0, 4-0), 7:30 p.m. ABC (Take Michigan State +22)
How I did last week (2-3)
— Rutgers 24, Indiana 17 (I took Indiana +3) LOST
— Ohio State 54, Iowa 10 (I took Ohio State -29.5) WON
— Wisconsin 35, Purdue 24 (I took Purdue +2.5) LOST
— Maryland 31, Northwestern 24 (I took Maryland -13.5) LOST
— Penn State 45, Minnesota 17 (I took Penn State -4.5) WON
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