Even a blind squirrel stumbles upon the occasional nut. That’s the lesson in last week’s blistering 4-0 performance. It’s important to stay humble, to keep one’s head down and go confidently in the direction of Big Ten home teams.
To the picks…
Penn State at IOWA (+12.5): Last year, the Michigan Wolverines rolled into a night game at Kinnick and left deflated. The atmosphere will once again be electric. Penn State sports a high-voltage offense. Saquon Barkley is making his Heisman case, averaging 8.1 yards/carry. Trace McSorely has lit up three bad defenses with his arm in addition to adding effectively using his legs. Iowa, always a tough, blue-collar side, reduced Wyoming’s Josh Allen to a shell of himself (174 yards and two interceptions). And the Nittany Lions’ 33-point output against Pitt isn’t as impressive after seeing what Oklahoma State did to that Swiss cheese unit. The Hawkeyes’ offense is balanced with Nathan Stanley taking good care of the football. If they can limit possessions and turn this into an old-school Big Ten game, a backdoor should be in play late. Penn State 31, Iowa 20
Central Florida at MARYLAND (-3.5): Maryland’s defense is fourth is sacks/game and second in shutting teams down in the red zone. Running back Ty Johnson is averaging 15.1 yards/carry. Quarterback Kasim Hill has completed 16 of his 19 passes. The Terrapins are a model of efficiency, early. The same Texas team they tore up later effectively neutered USC’s high-skill athletes. The entirety of UCF’s sample size is one game against Florida International. “Fear the Turtle” has some actual weight behind it, finally. Maryland 40, UCF 31.
Oklahoma at Baylor (OVER 62.5): Don’t know how many times I have to say it, but Baylor is very, very bad. The Bears are 101st in scoring defense. They can’t stop the run or the pass. Baker Mayfield sports a 224.2 passer rating and his offense has posted 56 points in two out of three games thus far. It’s the sixth most explosive and will be higher after Saturday. Big plays will abound. Oklahoma 45, Baylor 21.
Rutgers at Nebraska (OVER 48): Forty-eight? Forty-eight points? Both teams have glaring weaknesses. This will not be a pleasant watch. Cornhuskers Tanner Lee has been inconsistent (5 TDs, 7 INTs). Scarlet Knights signalcaller Kyle Bolin hasn’t been great either (3 TDs, 4 INTs). This suggests more than a few chances for defensive touchdowns. So there’s that dangle. The more realistic scenario, in my mind, is that Rutgers — a bad team — goes into Lincoln and gets steamrolled by an angry and motivated Nebraska team. Hard to imagine that Nebraska offense not posting 35 itself. Nebraska 38, Rutgers 14.
Notre Dame at MICHIGAN STATE (+4): It is with deep and profound trepidation that I type the following sentence: Michigan State may have a competent football team. The Spartans’ defense has allowed just a single field goal through two games to Bowling Green and Western Michigan and is third-best at stopping yardage. Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush has been iffy throwing the football. But he and Josh Adams have been dynamic will carrying it. MSU has had two weeks to prepare. In a similar situation last year, they went into South Bend and emerged victorious. Sophomore quarterback Brian Lewerke is another running option to go along with a trio of stellar backs. If you like the ground game, this is your game. Expect a tight one decided in the final two minutes. Notre Dame 21, Michigan State 19.
2017 Record: 10-5