The college football season carries on into Week 6, and the Big Ten Conference has some very interesting plot twists in the West Division. Preseason expectations have been shattered, and the outlook for teams in the West Division is very much up in the air.
Iowa Hawkeyes at Illinois Fighting Illini
Odds: Illinois -3
This is the Big Ten West Division game of the week. It’s a game which could have far-reaching implications and could decide a head-to-head tiebreaker at the end of the 2022 campaign. Iowa has usually had Illinois’ number. Most Big Ten West teams have had Illinois’ number in recent years, because Illinois has been very bad.
However, the Fighting Illini are 4-1 this season under new head coach Bret Bielema and defensive coordinator Ryan Walters. Illinois just beat Wisconsin on the road, 34-10. Bielema defeated the Badgers, his former employer, and caused Wisconsin to fire head coach Paul Chryst over this past weekend. The tricky part of evaluating Illinois after that victory is that we don’t know just how good or bad Wisconsin is. The Badgers aren’t especially good, but are they a last-place team? A fourth-place team? It’s hard to know just yet, so it’s hard to judge how good Illinois can be. This Iowa game will reveal a lot more about the Illini.
Iowa just lost decisively to Michigan. The Hawkeyes have a terrific defense and a very bad offense. What will they do against Illinois? Play great defense and struggle to score. Will it be enough? If Iowa gets a few turnovers from Illinois so that it can score without a big day from the offense, it will be enough.
Pick: Iowa +3
Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan State Spartans
Odds: Ohio State -27
Ohio State won by more than 40 points last season. Michigan State had a terrible secondary, and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud – the current Heisman Trophy favorite – smoked them with a series of long downfield passes. Michigan State’s secondary does not appear to have improved this season.
The Spartans just lost consecutive games to Washington, Minnesota, and Maryland. Ohio State will win very comfortably, but will it win by 30 points? Michigan State has a lot to prove, and the Spartans will probably put up enough of a fight in the first half to prevent Ohio State from winning by 35 or 40 points. Ohio State will probably struggle for 15 to 20 minutes before breaking this game open.
Pick: Michigan State +27
Purdue Boilermakers at Maryland Terrapins
Odds: Maryland -3
The Purdue Boilermakers won at Minnesota last week to revive their hopes of winning the Big Ten West Division. They are not the clear favorite, but they are very much in the hunt. They need this road win – in what is expected to be a close game – to significantly improve their chances. Maryland has a very potent passing attack with quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. The Terrapins should be able to find openings in the Purdue secondary and win a game which figures to have a lot of offense and a lot of passing.