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There are a lot of big tests this week, both for the ranked and unranked, alike, in the Big Ten.
If Maryland wants to prove it’s legit, it can do so with a Friday-night win over fifth-ranked Iowa. No. 11 Ohio State goes to Piscataway to take on a Rutgers team that gave Michigan all it could handle at home. No. 4 Penn State has the opportunity to avenge its 2020 season-opening loss to Indiana in front of a hostile home crowd in Happy Valley. And, of course, Michigan also heads on the road for the first time this season to take on a reeling Wisconsin offense and the vaunted Badger defense.
We’re going to know a lot more about the trajectory of many teams in the Big Ten, and here is how we predict it will unfold.
5 Iowa at Maryland
Photot: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Trent Knoop: I think this could go either way, especially with the game being played in College Park. Iowa is the No. 5 team in the country, mostly due to its defense, but the Hawkeyes haven’t looked overly impressive — Spencer Petras hasn’t been the quarterback that the Hawkeyes thought he could be. The Terrapins on the other hand have arguably the best offensive attack in the Big Ten led by Taulia Tagovailoa. I predicted Colorado State to give Iowa a game last week just because of the lack of offense that Iowa has, and it was, so I’m picking the upset here. Maryland 31, Iowa 28
Isaiah Hole: This will be an interesting one as a great offense meets a great defense. I would be inclined to take Maryland in this one but Iowa has already proven it can go on the road and get a big win against a good team when it took down rival Iowa State in Week 2. I like Iowa, but barely. Iowa 21, Maryland 17
Charlotte at Illinois
Photo: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Trent Knoop: Oh boy, I could see a big upset here. Charlotte is 3-1 and has already upset Duke earlier in the season, and the Fighting Illini look like they cannot score points. Brandon Peters has been back in the lineup under center, but the offense still has no flow to it. The only good thing going for Illinois is it appears to have a good enough defense to win against a team like Charlotte. Illinois 27, Charlotte 24
Isaiah Hole: The Illini are playing better football and are favored by two scores. However, the transitive property gods, which don’t apply to Illinois here, suggest this could be a tough game, as Charlotte beat Duke which manhandled Northwestern. Still, I think Illinois’ defense hangs tough while the offense, behind talented freshman tailback Josh McCray, runs all over one of the worst rushing defenses in the country. Illinois 28, Charlotte 20
Minnesota at Purdue
Photo: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Trent Knoop: I’m not sure how anyone could pick Minnesota here, I don’t even know how the Gophers themselves think they could beat Purdue after last week’s major debacle losing to Bowling Green. Purdue very well could be undefeated going into this game with barely losing to Notre Dame a couple of weeks ago. Jack Plummer looks like the right signal caller to get the ball to David Bell. I have Purdue in a slaughter-fest here. Purdue 34, Minnesota 14
Isaiah Hole: I lost all faith in Minnesota when its offense failed to do much of anything in a stunning home loss to BGSU. It hung tough against Ohio State and the defense blanked Colorado, but Purdue has proven to be relatively formidable this year, with its only loss coming on the road to an undefeated Notre Dame. The dual-QB offense rolls. Purdue 31, Minnesota 24
11 Ohio State at Rutgers
Photo: The Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Photo Library
Trent Knoop: I’m not sure anyone thought this could be much of a game when the season started, but here we are. Rutgers appears to be a much better team than they have been in the past 10 years. Greg Schiano has the Scarlet Knights playing inspired football, and I believe they give the Buckeyes all they want. In the end, I think the Ohio State offense is too much for Rutgers to stop though. Ohio State 38, Rutgers 28
Isaiah Hole: I’ve been on the Rutgers train since last year and I haven’t gotten off. Greg Schiano has this team playing well, which was backed up by PFF director of content Austin Gayle on my podcast today. Aside from Oregon, I weirdly think this is Ohio State’s biggest challenge thus far. The Scarlet Knight defense, though it didn’t force any turnovers against Michigan, has thrived on them. OSU has shown to be turnover prone and only has been able to stop the run once — against Akron. I think it will end up going the Buckeyes way, but not without a little drama. Ohio State 24, Rutgers 21
Indiana at 4 Penn State
Photo: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
Trent Knoop: The Hoosiers are an absolute mess right now, they sit at 2-2, and barely squeaked out a win against Western Kentucky. Michael Penix Jr. has yet to resemble himself from last year, and Penn State is looking avenge last year’s loss. I look for Sean Clifford and company to hand Indiana yet another one. I would be shocked if there isn’t another white out with the game being on prime time TV, so that always make things harder. Penn State 38, Indiana 21
Isaiah Hole: Revenge is a dish best served cold. After what happened last year and the way that Indiana squeaked out a win it shouldn’t have, there’s no way that this year’s Hoosiers team replicates a similar outcome under the lights at Beaver Stadium. Cinderella has left the ball, and while IU looked better offensively against Western Kentucky, Penn State is a different animal. Michael Penix will struggle against the Nittany Lion defense and PSU keeps rolling. Penn State 42, Indiana 24
Western Kentucky at 17 Michigan State
Photo: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Trent Knoop: I predicted WKU to defeat Indiana last week, and it almost happened, but this is a new challenge for the Hilltoppers. WKU averages 426 yards-per-game thru the air, and I think it gives the Spartans a tough test — at least in the first half. Kenneth Walker IV had an off-week last week against Nebraska running for 61 yards, and he will be ready to return to form here. Michigan State will be too much for four quarters. Michigan State 38, Western Kentucky 24
Isaiah Hole: Michigan State survived against Nebraska in a week that it really should have lost, but it emerges 4-0 and has one more nonconference game to tend to. Western Kentucky hung tough with Indiana but the Spartans are playing mostly great football. Don’t expect any second half offensive woes this week as Kenneth Walker IV should get his against the Hilltoppers awful run defense. Michigan State 42, Western Kentucky 17
Northwestern at Nebraska
Photo: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Trent Knoop: Nebraska may be 2-3, but it is playing really solid football as of late. The Cornhuskers took Oklahoma and Michigan State to the brink the past couple of weeks, and the entire season outlook could be dramatically changed with a win against one of those teams. The Wildcats may have beaten Ohio last week, but they still don’t have any type of offensive identity to compete against Nebraska. Nebraska 28, Northwestern 10
Isaiah Hole: Despite the record, Nebraska has played mostly good football, it’s just got in its own way three times — which has equaled three losses. Northwestern, however, has not played good football. We don’t yet know if Ryan Hilinski is an upgrade on Hunter Johnson if he retains the quarterback role, but either way, the Wildcats are a shell of what they were in 2018 and 2020. Expect Nebraska to win big. Unless it’s looking forward to the Michigan game in Week 6. Nebraska 38, Northwestern 10
14 Michigan at Wisconsin
Photo: Isaiah Hole
Trent Knoop: This was one of the losses I predicted for the Wolverines to have before the season started. Camp Randall is always a tough place to play, which is why Michigan hasn’t won there since 2001. But since the season has started, both teams look much different than projected. Michigan looks to have a good enough offense to score points, and the Badgers look to have an inept one with Graham Mertz under center. All streaks must come to an end at some point, so I have the Wolverines winning here. Michigan 21, Wisconsin 17
Isaiah Hole: I’ve gone back and forth on this game in my mind all week. If Michigan’s second-half rivaled its first against Rutgers, my inclination would be an easy Wolverines win. However, I do think that it was a positive thing, presuming the staff properly self-scouts, that there were some struggles the week before Wisconsin. The maize and blue want to run, but the Badgers stop the run — it’s kind of their thing. However, Jim Harbaugh said after the Washington game that they ran because they weren’t going to win passing. This game will likely be the opposite, and there has been no internal lack of confidence as to what Cade McNamara can do — we just haven’t seen it.
On the other side, Michigan appears to have righted the defense compared to last year, when Wisconsin gashed the Wolverines on the edges. The Badger offense has been putrid with Graham Mertz taking a giant leap backwards. It is the first road game for Michigan, which is my biggest cause of concern, but for now, I have to expect a Wolverines win, given the data points we’ve seen thus far. But this is my uneasiest pick of the week, to be quite honest. Michigan 24, Wisconsin 23