A few weeks into the season things seemed a little unsteady in the Big Ten West. Iowa was 0-2, Wisconsin downplayed the start of the Graham Mertz era of passing excellence and explosive plays by admitting things were too good to be true and having COVID outbreaks cancel their next two games, and Purdue and Northwestern shared first place.

After all that time, and all these cancellations, we’ve somehow crawled back to the highway after being dropped smack dab into an Area 51 site for Big Ten football, with some lingering abnormality, but not much. 

There’s still this business of Northwestern’s first place standing in the West, but Iowa looks good. Wisconsin is back on the field, and Nebraska, well, Nebraska continues its unrequited love with the sport of college football in the 2020 version of Gary Walsh bag handling for Selina Meyer

With the West somewhat back in order, I’m riding a traditional favorite there before turning Eastward.

Stickler’s note: All lines taken from mybookie.ag. Lines may have changed since the inception of the picks.

Pick 1: Hawkeyes to cover

The game: Nebraska vs. Iowa (-13.5). … o/u 52.5

The play: Iowa

The logic: Illinois tallied so many rushing yards against the Huskers I thought Nebraska dressed up as the Drake Relays last weekend. Expect more of the same from the Hawkeyes this weekend as Mekhi Sargent and Tyler Goodson salivate for the chance to run against a Huskers defense that allows the second most rushing yards per game in the conference. 

Iowa’s defense is stingy in all the right spots, 1st in the B1G in average yards per play, 4th in rushing yards allowed per game, and 3rd in passing yards allowed per game. Expect Iowa to grind out a win and a cover with a late score. We’re not asking much of quarterback Spencer Petras. Nebraska will do most of the work for him. 

Pick 2: Ohio State to cover

The game: Ohio State vs. Illinois (+28.5). … o/u 70.5

The play: Ohio State

The logic: Ohio State’s win over Indiana last week served all masters in the respect the Buckeyes won and the Hoosiers looked formidable.

Sure Justin Fields hurried some throws in the face of an aggressive pass rush, but even Michaelangelo snuck a stick figure or two into the Sistine Chapel. Illinois does get after the quarterback relatively well, tied for fourth in conference with Ohio State, but Ryan Day’s excellence and genius as a coach is to make corrections, continually tweaking his offense for his quarterbacks to make unhurried throws to open receivers. Day (probably) stressed smart completions and taking care of the football all week. Do not expect Illinois turnover magic unless the Illini cast the spell on themselves.

Flipping the field, Illinois continues to run the ball well, but the challenge against Ohio State’s front appears too daunting. I don’t know what sort of running game cocktail of the wing T, wishbone, flexbone, or spread would get Ohio State to over-pursue enough for any Illinois running back or quarterback to fall backward, spin, stumble or trip into an explosive play, let alone chunk yards for first downs.

Pick 3: Over 58.5 at The Big House

The game: Penn State vs. Michigan (-2). … o/u 58.5

The play: Over

The logic: I promised to never play Michigan as a side in any sort of matchup for the remainder of the Jim Harbaugh era. Promise made and promise kept. No need to reveal it was made under a month ago. That’s still a streak. 

Eventually Penn State will convert red zone trips into touchdowns, and what better way than against a defense that prides itself on man-to-man coverage the same way the remarkably fit senior citizen at the end of the block prides himself on his push mower? That it takes him four days to cut his one city lot matters little, he’s proud of his mower. Nothing will allow him to part with it. 

Not that life is much better for the Penn State defense. Both teams give up an average of 36 points per game. Why not watch both teams let their hair down and cut loose on offense? Don’t expect either team’s defense to put up much of a fight. 

– – –

Last week: 3-0 
Overall record: 8-7

The B1G’s other Week 6 lines

Maryland vs. Indiana (-11.5). … o/u 62.5
Northwestern vs. Michigan State (+13.5). … o/u 42.5
Rutgers vs. Purdue (-12). … o/u 62