We’ve spent a lot of time around each other in these last 13 weeks. The commitment, primarily on Saturday, but dipping into DVR cleanup territory of Friday night, elicits more visceral emotions from the teams in Jim Delany’s fiefdom in November than it does in early September. 

The familiarity and all the hatred it engenders, maybe some of it is petty, other feelings stem from the repeated exposure to under-performance, though I see under-performance and Nebraska sees a coach in need of assurances from a generous athletic department, forced me into some serious talks with myself. 

There’s no softening the potshots in theses my heart-to-my heart conversations. After hours baked under a heat lamp and hair-pulling exasperation, I vow to not hate Michigan State football from here to all of eternity and believe Mike Locksley will beat a team outside of Rutgers for the remainder of his tenure in the Big Ten. No more emotions, just numbers and data points. “Moneyball” with no plot. 

I emerged from the conversation dedicated to the cold and unbending information presented in front of me, only deferring to the eye test in case of conflicting opinions. 

Stickler’s note: All lines taken from mybookie.ag. Lines may have shifted since the column’s inception. Weird, I didn’t know that donations to your church’s winter coat drive was mandatory information in the family newsletter.

Game: Penn State vs. Ohio State -18 o/u 57.5

The play: Ohio State

The logic: The last three games between the two teams have been decided by a total of five points, but the sort of high impact routine Penn State underwent the last few weeks against Minnesota, Indiana, and now Ohio State is a meat grinder of stress. 

Ohio State’s story on offense is told through the ranks in yards per point (first) and punts per score (third). The offense and all of its bells, whistles, flares, sirens, and emergency indicators not otherwise noted, shows no difficulty moving the ball up and down the field for scores. Expect quarterback Justin Fields to connect with his receivers against Penn State’s secondary. Then again, the Buckeye offense rides sidecar on Saturday. Saturday is about defense.

I meant Chase Young. Saturday is about Chase Young and the return from his-two game suspension. On the record, Young was suspended for NCAA violations. Off-the-record the NCAA wanted to prevent any on-field decapitations in games against Maryland and Rutgers. 

Game: Michigan vs. Indiana +9.5 o/u 53.5

The play: Over

The logic: There’s some rain predicted in Bloomington, but the myriad of weather apps on my phone tell me it won’t affect the offensive execution. Both offenses are humming along at an efficient clip the last few games. 

Michigan comes off a three game stretch of solid offensive performance, averaging six yards per play in that trio of games. The Wolverines relied on the run against Notre Dame but peppered in a little dash of run-pass balance in the wins over Maryland and Michigan State. 

Indiana, for all of its efforts to crack a big win against the steadies in the Big Ten East, has not won the big one with Tom Allen just yet. Expect a close game with a lot of back and forth as Indiana commits very few penalties but sustains drives at a steady pace. Both offenses are in a position to move the ball down the field with consistency. 

Game: Illinois vs. Iowa -15.5 o/u 46.5

The play: Illinois

The logic: Usually any sort of regression to the pack comes in the following season for a team that seems a little, uh, fortuitous, when it comes to turnovers. Illinois leads the nation in turnover margin at plus 1.4 per game and with a plus 2.3 margin in its last 3 games. That sort of ballhawking ability, from interceptions to the way the Illini force fumbles, with a number of members of the secondary reprising the role of Charles Tillman from Lovie Smith’s defense with the Chicago Bears and employing the Peanut Punch to strip the opposition of the ball, has Illinois playing its best football in several years. Let the good times roll at least until the end of the season.

Iowa, for all the wonders of Kinnick, is coming off its signature win of the season after last week against Minnesota. Normally, the Hawkeyes have the misfortune of going on the road after big wins at home, but this time it’s a home game against an Illinois team that is encroaching on endearing territory. Iowa wins, but the debris of the extra 1.5 points is enough for Illinois to cover. 

Last week’s record: 1-2

Overall record: 19-16-1

Status on the card: In the latest edition of learning the ropes of the trade I drew the responsibility to clean the Gobbledy Gooker’s costume after Mr. Fuji wore it to a Halloween party. Last time I doubt the wonders of Kinnick.