The college football season moves into Week 5 with conference play kicking into high gear. Let’s consider some of the selections for the Big Ten as October begins and the season reaches a newer, higher level of urgency.
Michigan Wolverines at Iowa Hawkeyes
Odds: Michigan -10.5
This is Michigan’s first road game of the season. Michigan spent the whole month of September playing at home against not-very-good teams. That isn’t the best way to prepare for this game against Iowa. The Hawkeyes handled Rutgers comfortably on the road, with their defense making huge plays to relieve the burden on their very limited offense. It is true that Michigan blew out Iowa last December in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis, but this game is in Iowa City, where the Hawkeyes are very tough.
Also, Michigan’s offense does not look as potent or dangerous as it did last year. Iowa is severely limited on offense under quarterback Spencer Petras, and it probably doesn’t have enough offense to actually win this game outright, but Iowa’s defense is likely to give Michigan’s offense all sorts of problems and do enough to keep this game very close. Michigan probably wins, but only by one score. This feels like a 17-13 or 20-17 kind of game.
Pick: Iowa +10.5
Illinois Fighting Illini at Wisconsin Badgers
Odds: Wisconsin -7
This is a fascinating game because it pits Wisconsin against its former coach, Bret Bielema, who now coaches Illinois. Wisconsin just got pounded by a very good Ohio State team. The Badgers do not look good, but it has to be said that a lot of teams, not just the Badgers, are going to lose to Ohio State by a lopsided margin this season. That game isn’t the red flag for Wisconsin. The real red flag for the Badgers is their loss at home to Washington State, a team which gave up 44 points to Oregon this past weekend. Wisconsin could not score in the second half on that Washington State defense, which shows how limited the Badgers have been on the offensive side of the ball.
It’s not easy to have faith in Wisconsin right now, but coming off the Ohio State loss, the Badgers will play with a great deal of urgency. They know this is a must-win game, and they have seen on film study how Ohio State exposed them. For all of Wisconsin’s flaws, the Badgers are a better team than Illinois. They are playing at home. They have already lost one home game this season and very rarely lose two home games in the same year.
Wisconsin is going to be inspired to set things right. Take the Badgers in a game many people will follow closely. Doing a quick Bovada review of their lines shows that they have one of the best prices on the board for the Badgers at -7 -105.
Pick: Wisconsin -7
Purdue Boilermakers at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Odds: Minnesota -12.5
This is a fascinating game because Minnesota might be the team to beat in the Big Ten West Division. The Golden Gophers crushed Michigan State on the road last week, one week after blowing out Colorado. Minnesota is getting great play from its offensive and defensive lines, which is the cornerstone for success in the rugged and physical Big Ten. Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell did not play last week against Florida Atlantic. He should be ready to play this game. And having two weeks to break down Minnesota game film and get a good plan from head coach Jeff Brohm is another plus. He probably won’t lead them to a win, but he will keep Purdue close enough to cover.