Using only a cork board, discarded pieces of string, headshots from the 90’s, water-damaged index cards and a faded black Sharpie, Milton the Black Lab and I spent the better part of a night anticipating Paul Finebaum’s next calculated move to get a fourth team from the SEC in the College Football Playoff. 

After several cups of coffee and biscuit breaks we were left with a few pieces of chewed cork board and a soul patch drawn on Gary Danielson. I’m not at liberty to name the party responsible for each act. Phil Fulmer will probably blame Jeremy Pruitt, but only through back channels as an anonymous source. 

While the SEC becomes inundated with compliments directed at itself from oneself and its arms in the media, the Big Ten hums along through another week and the gambling lines that keep most parties interested. 

Stickler’s note: All lines taken from Lines may have changed from the column’s inception. Fuss about your bad back all you want, we saw you lining up from the red tees long before your luggage induced injury.  

Game: Middle Tennessee vs. Iowa -24 o/u 53

The play: Iowa

The logic: Even when we don’t want to talk about Michigan all we can do is talk about Michigan. Before the Wolverines’ non-verbal plea to move to the AAC last week, the win over Middle Tennessee in Week One looked like a nice effort against a plucky team in Conference USA. 

Sports Betting in Big Ten Country

There is big news coming to the upcoming 2022-23 Big Ten football season (and NFL season). Ohio online sports betting and Maryland sports betting are on the way.

21+ and present in OH. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER.

A look inside the numbers shows a Blue Raiders team that struggles to stop the run and an Iowa team coming off of a bye that runs the ball and limits its mistakes. The Hawkeyes coughed up only one fumble and threw no interceptions in the first three games. Expect Iowa to work at a steady pace to hit the number halfway through the fourth quarter. 

Penn State vs. Maryland +6 o/u 60

The play: Under

The logic: Both teams are coming off of byes after uneventful games in Week Three. The Maryland comedy of errors in the game against Temple and Penn State’s win sponsored by Pat Narduzzi’s logic to kick a field goal instead of the logic-defying decision to go for it on the 1-yard line came before a much-needed breather. Penn State is the best defense Maryland has faced this season. Remember when Maryland’s win over Syracuse impressed us? 

I feel safe with Syracuse’s body of work to identify the Orange’s defense as no good, very bad, and downright horrible. Maryland did a lot of good work against inferior defenses and struggled the moment they played a defense with some teeth in Temple.

Penn State is converting third downs at nearly a 24 percent clip and Maryland has a 25 percent conversion rate on fourth down. Even with each team off of a bye, look for both to settle for field goals early until the offenses open up much later in the game. 

Ohio State vs. Nebraska +18 o/u 67

The play: Ohio State

The logic: We see the wondrous swaths of big fat pieces of real estate Ryan Day somehow finds for the likes of JK Dobbins and Justin Fields. Ohio State’s skill players on that side of the ball can score against anyone, especially against a Nebraska defense marked by such memorable performances as “Holy Bea Arthur, Colorado Took the Lead” and “For the Love of my Digestive System, Illinois Scored 38.”

The line is a commendation for the Ohio State defense and its improvement from last year. There are no gimmes against a group chided in 2018 for its overly complicated scheme and poor play from the linebacker position. The Buckeyes enter the week as the second-best total defense in the country specific to yards allowed and tied for third in touchdowns given up. The entire team will be ready for the PM crowd in Lincoln. 

There is an orderliness and exacting nature to the 2019 team that was absent from last year. Day is not the type to have his team underprepared for the first conference road game at night. Look for them to cover the number on the strength of the Buckeye defense. 

Last week’s record: 2-1

Overall record: 5-6-1

Status on the card: A winning record moved me from the B-towns of Rockford and Peoria to the big cities of St. Louis and Milwaukee. My efforts may have kept me out of the smaller venues, but I drew the short straw of driving with Nikolai Volkoff from town to town who insisted on belting out bars of the Russian National Anthem at each rest stop after we had to switch to a car with a higher ceiling in Cobden, Illinois so he could wear his Russian Military fur hat in the car.