Continuing a look at games to circle with the Big Ten. Here are six I picked out where you have the opportunity to fade teams:
October 10- Northwestern at Michigan: There’s a lot of excitement about Michigan this season with coach Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor. One of their bigger games on the schedule is against Michigan State at home. With Northwestern going to Michigan the week before, I can see the Wolverines overlooking the Wildcats.
October 17- Nebraska at Minnesota: I’m going to pick on Nebraska a few times here. They have a new coach and lost their star running back. The Cornhuskers host Wisconsin on October 10. Regardless of that result, I can see a major letdown from Nebraska when they travel to Minnesota a week after.
October 31- Nebraska at Purdue: Purdue is probably the worst team in the conference but this might be a time to back them against the spread. Nebraska plays Michigan State the week after and I’m not sure if the Cornhuskers will be too excited about being in West Lafayette on Halloween.
Florida State (+1) over North Carolina State: North Carolina State hits the road after back-to-back home games against rivals Duke and North Carolina. Big letdown spot here.
Notre Dame (-6.5) over Miami: Miami just beat Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium and now have to go to unfamiliar territory at Notre Dame. This line is too low.
Ohio State (+1) over Iowa: Ohio State is looking for revenge after the Hawkeyes beat them at home in their conference opener.
Michigan State (+3) over Maryland: Michigan State will also be seeking revenge after dropping their conference opener to Maryland in double overtime back on December 30.
The first ever College Football Playoff National Championship sees Ohio State and Oregon play in Arlington, Texas. The talent level on both teams are about equal. The Buckeyes have the coaching edge with Urban Meyer, who thrives in the role as an underdog. The reason Oregon is a touchdown favorite over Ohio State is because of the quarterback edge. Marcus Mariota has been decorated with awards throughout this collegiate career and has the chance to win the most important prize tonight. Mariota is very consistent, doesn’t turn the ball over much and has great foot work. Ohio State is starting Cardale Jones who is only making his third start. He impressed in wins over Wisconsin and Alabama but it’s hard to say if his success will continue on Monday night. If Jones plays like he did in the Sugar Bowl, then Ohio State will stay close in this game throughout. I think Urban Meyer will come out with a game plan to control the clock early, which will lead to a lower scoring first half. The first half under 37.5 looks attractive. I think Jones will play well and there has been something with Oregon not playing well in big games in the past. I think Ohio State can win this game but will take the points just in case.
Pick: Ohio State (+7) over Oregon
Don’t have time for analysis but here are the five games I like today:
North Carolina State (+14.5) over Virginia
Grizzlies (+3.5) over Hawks
Pistons (+9) over Mavericks
Maryland (-2.5) over Illinois
California (-1) over USC
Tennessee is a four-point favorite against Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl. The Volunteers are a young team with shaky offensive line. They probably wouldn’t be a favorite against Iowa on a neutral field in the regular season. However, this is a bowl game and Tennessee has to be thrilled to be in this situation. The Volunteers haven’t been in a bowl game since 2010, and earned six wins this season with a tough schedule.
Iowa had high expectations this season and had a shot to win their division with a very favorable schedule. They finished 7-5 and ended the year with a very disappointing loss to Nebraska at home.
Tennessee’s young offensive stars will show up and the rest of the team will be motivated. I like Butch Jones over Kirk Ferentz in this situation, and the mediocre SEC team over the underachieving Big Ten squad.
Pick: Tennessee (-4) over Iowa
Auburn and Wisconsin play in the first New Year’s Day game. Auburn didn’t meet their season expectations and finished their brutal schedule with a 8-4 record. Wisconsin won the weak Big Ten West, and were embarrassed by Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Auburn may have not met their season goals but I still think there will be motivation and effort from the Tigers. Winning this game would get the program back on the right path after losing three games in November. Former Florida head coach Will Muschamp has already been named the defensive coordinator for 2015. There will be a lot of preseason hype about Auburn and I think they will use this bowl as a way to get momentum before the spring. Auburn still has a quick strike offense and they probably enjoyed watching Wisconsin’s defense on film against Ohio State.
Since the nightmare against Ohio State, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen shockingly left for Oregon State. Former coach and current Athletic Director Barry Alvarez will be on the sideline just like he was for the 2013 Rose Bowl. The focus might not be there for the Badgers after Andersen departed out of nowhere. Auburn has a very weak passing defense but Wisconsin’s pass offense might be even worse. If the Badgers can’t get running back Melvin Gordon going, then Auburn should contain the Wisconsin offense and score plenty of points of their own.
Pick: Auburn (-6.5) over Wisconsin
USC and Nebraska play Saturday night in the Holiday Bowl. It’s a short trip for the Trojans to San Diego, while the Cornhuskers have to do some traveling. Nebraska will be without head coach Bo Pelini who was fired after his per usual nine-win season in Lincoln. Apparently that doesn’t cut it at Nebraska, and the Cornhuskers surprisingly hired Oregon State coach Mike Riley to take over the program. Riley won’t be on the sideline yet and I don’t see Nebraska having any motivation in this game.
USC has been to better bowl games before but this program has been quickly rebuilt after facing sanctions and scholarship losses. This bowl game is important for the Trojans to gain momentum into 2015. The USC offense led by quarterback Cody Kessler might be able to score at will against a Nebraska defense that really fell off towards the end of the season.
Another reason to pick USC is to pick against a Big Ten school. Nebraska’s best win was probably out of conference against Miami. They did beat Iowa but it took an epic Hawkeyes collapse for the Cornhuskers to win the game. USC had the better schedule and should have a slight home field advantage.
Pick: USC (-7) over Nebraska
*Note my Week 17 NFL picks will be posted on the website after 11 pm central time on Saturday night.