So, Mel Tucker, huh? Three games into his tenure as head coach at Michigan State, Tucker took such punishment from the State University of New Jersey the refrain of “Rag Doll” played on a loop in his head up until 8 minutes ago.

He followed that up with a healthy squeeze on a bottle of lighter fluid pointed directly at a widely-considered flame-repellent rivalry for at least the next few seasons, and in turn ignited anger from Michigan fans.

For a capper, he took math into his own hands and had his kicker attempt a field goal to narrow the deficit against Iowa to 21-3. The 3 never materialized as the kicker missed.

I won’t pretend to understand him this week against the conference darlings (Indiana). No need to hunt for key numbers or believe in a bounce-back.  Let’s just get on with it and say Michigan State’s volatile ride of turnovers is too much for me to stomach. Hoosiers to cover. (Details below.)

Stickler’s note: Lines may have shifted between publication and the column’s inception. Listen, not everyone can be a Michael. Every group needs a Fredo. Ah crap, it’s probably you. My hairline exempts me from such a label. 

Iowa vs. Minnesota +3.5 ¦ o/u 58.0

The play: Minnesota

The logic: Both opponents enjoyed tail-whipping good times in their victories last week. Minnesota handled Illinois, now in the deepest darkest recesses of Big Ten puddles, and Iowa mixed in a touch of good fortune, a dash of special teams magic, and some outliers in the win on Saturday against Michigan State. 

To be fair, and I always wanted to be an arbiter in my life as an aspiring country club mixed doubles champion, Minnesota’s defense underwhelmed terribly outside of last week’s victory over Illinois. The defense needs to be good, not great, against an Iowa offense that lacks explosiveness. Throw in Minnesota’s clean, borderline immaculate gameplay where the Gophers lapped the rest of the conference nearly three times in lowest number of penalties committed, and expect the defense to get off the field on third down without any penalty to delay an Iowa field goal. Don’t expect Iowa to put up much of a fight; the Hawkeyes are 12th in conference in third down conversion percentage, only converting a touch over 33 percent of the time. 

Indiana vs. Michigan State +7.5 ¦ o/u 52.0

The play: Indiana

The logic: I have made a very public pick. We are Times Square on New Year’s Eve and the Kentucky Derby infield with this pick and I don’t care. 

When things go bad for Michigan State they go abnormally bad. Bad by a point differential of 53 and minus-7 in turnovers in its 2 losses. The latter number plays in direct contrast to the Hoosiers, who have the good sort of turnover magnets. 

The teams are somewhat evenly matched in the yards gained/yards allowed categories, but expect Indiana to get after quarterback Rocky Lombardi and maintain constant pressure for the better part of Saturday since the Spartans struggle to run the ball. Ohio State looms for the Hoosiers, but please don’t consider this game to be a look-ahead spot since they’ve won nothing yet except the admiration and throaty hoorays of a nation’s heartland in a conference-only season. 

Illinois vs. Rutgers -6.5

The play: Rutgers

The logic: COVID robbed me of every last articulate sentence and thought-provoking statistic that culminated in selecting Ohio State minus a whole mess of points. Instead, we’ll go fun, because when you bet fun, you can at least have a good time in the process of losing money.

There is a swell of enthusiasm around the Rutgers program. The team’s clean and cohesive approach to a team sport clashes directly with the mess of missed opportunities in Champaign. These are two ships passing in the night, one headed towards the rat-infested harbor, the other on its way out. Expect the Scarlet Knights to tone down the gimmicks from last week, but the mix of depth and a sound offensive game plan will be enough to push the margin of victory to a touchdown over a struggling Fighting Illini well on its way toward a winless season.

I spoke to my bookie after he officiated morning mass and he promised me a loss this week in the Rutgers-Illinois game would only count as a half loss.

Last week’s record: 1-2
Overall record: 4-5

Week 4’s other B1G lines

Penn State vs. Nebraska +3 ¦ o/u 55.5
Wisconsin vs. Michigan +4 ¦ o/u 54.5
Northwestern vs. Purdue +3 ¦ o/u 50.5