Just one of the five Big Ten games this weekend are between two ranked teams, but it's the most important week for the conference until the final week of the regular season. With No. 2 Ohio State traveling to No. 13 Penn State and No. 4 Michigan hosting rival Michigan State, both the league's College Football Playoff contenders will be participating in marquee matchups. Both games enjoy showcase spots on national broadcast TV and it marks the last time for either the Buckeyes or Wolverines to make a national statement before they play each other on Nov. 26.
Michigan coasted through one of the nation's worst nonconference slates and has seen two of its cross-division opponents (Iowa and Nebraska) fall well short of expectations. Though a game with No. 17 Illinois on Nov. 19 could give their resume a boost, the Wolverines' strength of schedule won't do it any favors for next week's first batch of CFP rankings.
Style points could help Michigan, though, and that's why Michigan State needs to be on alert Saturday. The Wolverines are already out for revenge amid a two-game losing streak against the Spartans. Throw in an obvious need to impress the CFP Committee and Michigan could be especially motivated to hit top gear this week.
The same could go for Ohio State, which is enjoying an impressive 34.7 point average margin of victory, but it's diluted by the caliber of the opponents to date. None of the Buckeyes' seven wins have come against teams currently ranked. The supposed marquee win was an uninspiring 21-10 victory over a mediocre Notre Dame team in Week 1.
With a road game against the Nittany Lions, Ohio State has a chance to turn heads. Michigan eviscerated Penn State 41-17 two weeks ago. If the Buckeyes can do something similar, it would help improve their national perception.
2022 record: 24-19-1
No. 2 Ohio State at No. 13 Penn State
The last time Ohio State covered a spread this large in a game at Penn State was 2009, and the last time the Nittany Lions were truly blown out at home by the Buckeyes was in a 63-14 loss during the 1994 season. Penn State almost always plays Ohio State tough at home, and the Nittany Lions are equipped to do so again in 2022. Secondary play is the strength of Penn State's defense, which could mean the Buckeyes wind up running the football often and, thus, running time off the clock. The Nittany Lions got some offensive confidence back in a dominant win over Minnesota last week. With a little bit of mojo and the backing of a sold-out stadium in Happy Valley, Penn State is primed for a more competitive showing than what it put forth in a 41-17 loss at Michigan two weeks ago. Pick: Penn State +15.5
No. 4 Michigan at Michigan State
Michigan State has two straight wins the series and produced the only blemish on the Wolverines' ledger prior to the College Football playoff last season. Michigan should be fuming over its recent lackluster showings against a fierce rival and chomping at the bit to issue some revenge. Considering this is a home game and the Wolverines need style points to inflate their resume because of a weak schedule, this is a recipe for a blowout. Weird things happen in this game all the time, and Michigan State showed some spunk in a 34-28 win over Wisconsin last week. But the Wolverines are coming off a bye and won't be overlooking their in-state foe this time. Pick: Michigan -23
No. 17 Illinois at Nebraska
Nebraska as a 7.5-point home underdog against Illinois would have been unfathomable prior to the season. The Cornhuskers were supposed to have a breakthrough season and Illinois was projected to finish at or near the bottom of the Big Ten West. Now, the Illini are alone atop the division while Nebraska is 3-4 and playing for an interim coach. The division's wacky unpredictability is part of the reason why the Cornhuskers are poised to make this a tight game. Just when you think this division is getting sorted out, things change.
But if you're looking for statistical justification for why the Cornhuskers are going to cover, it's their offense. Nebraska is significantly more competent offensively than Illinois' last three opponents, who were Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. The Cornhuskers are no world-beaters, but they just scored 37 on the road against an improved Purdue defense and should be able to score enough to keep pace with Chase Brown and the Illini. Pick: Nebraska +7.5
Northwestern at Iowa
Northwestern quarterback Brendan Sullivan sparked the Wildcats a bit in a 31-24 loss at Maryland last week in his first career start. Now, he gets the pleasure of facing the nation's No. 6 ranked defense. The Hawkeyes are coming off yet another disastrous offensive showing in a 54-10 loss to Ohio State, but it wasn't the defense's fault. We already know the Hawkeyes can't score, and their defense should be motivated to unleash some frustration on an inexperienced opposing QB. First team to 14 wins. Pick: Under 37.5
Rutgers at Minnesota
Minnesota has totaled just 41 points over its past three games, and though it's unclear who will start at quarterback for the Gophers this week, it doesn't really matter. Even when veteran starter Tanner Morgan has played recently, the Gophers have been bad offensively. While Minnesota's Mohamed Ibrahim is an elite running back for Minnesota, Rutgers allows only 2.93 yards per carry, which is tied for ninth-best nationally. It's hard to see the Gophers scoring enough to win this game by more than two touchdowns. Pick: Rutgers +14
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