Seasons Greetings

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College Football: B1G Bets! Expert Picks for Week 13 in the Big Ten

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College Football: B1G Bets! Expert Picks for Week 13 in the Big Ten

2021-11-24 23:34:29


-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson. (Image Source: Getty Images)

Last Week: 6-3 (+5½ Units); Season: 39-26-1 (+18½ Units)

Sides: 31-19-1 (+18 Units); Game Total: 1-3 (-1 Units); Team Total: 7-4 (+3½ Units)

Here are Week 13’s B1G Bets:

B1GGEST BETS (2 Units): Last Week: 1-0; Season: 8-3-1 (+10 Units)

MICHIGAN +8½ Ohio State

Only two teams are in the top 10 in offensive success rate (a drive that ends in a score) and defensive stop rate (a drive that ends in a punt, turnover, or on downs) …No. 1 Georgia and a Big Ten school not named Ohio State. That’s right, it’s actually Michigan. Now I’m not going to tell you Michigan is definitely the better team, but it’s a lot closer than this line indicates, as the Wolverines continue to be undervalued and continue to beat the number on a regular basis.

The Buckeyes two least efficient offensive games per Pro Football Focus came against Penn State and Nebraska. Those just happen to be two of the three top-20 SP+ defenses they’ve faced this season (Minnesota is the third). It’s funny how that works, isn’t it? After thrashing the 130th-ranked pass defense last week, OSU will take on a Michigan defense that ranks 8th in passing defense, 7th in yards per attempt, 8th in opponent completion percentage, and 9th in opponent passer rating. Just a little bit different.

This Michigan pass defense isn’t just good but it’s complex and can be tough on young quarterbacks. It’s also very different than the Don Brown defenses that Ryan Day vowed to hang 100 on. Rookie defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald uses multiple packages, a lot of pre-snap movement, and often disguises coverages. Very different than Brown who basically had one pitch and one velocity. The base defense often has three safeties on the field which plays to the team’s strength and depth at the position while limiting high-leverage one-on-one situations for their cornerbacks, who fit much better in this scheme.

The key to their defense is the elite pass-rushing duo of Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo (10 sacks each), as the Wolverines have the highest-graded pass rush according to PFF, which can be subjective. They also lead in pressure rate (objective) when they don’t blitz (41.9 percent). This is how you fluster Heisman-favorite C.J. Stroud. On 16 dropbacks when pressured without the blitz against Nebraska, Stroud received a 46.0 passing grade (subjective) and the offense averaged -0.77 EPA per pass (objective).

I’m still not sold that OSU’s defense is elite while Michigan’s passing offense continues to be underrated. They don’t have a juggernaut trio like OSU, but over the past four weeks the Wolverines have seen two different receivers, a running back, and a tight end produce receiving games of 98-plus yards (including two over 150 yards), with a third receiver and a second tight end coming through with two-touchdown catch games. That’s a lot to cover for the Buckeyes, especially when priority No. 1 is stopping the run.

This line was 6½ before last week and the Buckeyes are getting too much credit for walloping MSU. Remember they were a 19-point favorite while Michigan was only a 14½-point favorite against Maryland. Ohio State won by 49 and Michigan by 41. Did that much change to make this line go through key numbers 7 and 8? Take the Wolverines and the points…and if you need some Christmas money, throw in a money-line sprinkle.

Preseason Line: Ohio State -10½

Ohio State: Out for Season: OL Harry Miller, DE Tyler Friday, S Jaylen Johnson, S Josh Proctor; Out Indefinitely: RB Marcus Crowley, WR Kamryn Babb, DT Jaden McKenzie, DE Noah Potter, LB Mitchell Melton, CB Jakailin Johnson, S Jantzen Dunn, K Jake Seibert; Questionable: Sevyn Banks; Michigan: Out for Season: WR Ronnie Bell; Doubtful: CB Gemon Green; Questionable: RB Blake Corum

Total: 64½; Money Line: Ohio State -310/ Michigan +255

Time: 12:00 p.m. ET; TV: FOX (Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt)

Location: Ann Arbor, MI; Stadium: Michigan Stadium (109,901)

Ohio State – CFB Playoffs: 2; AP Top 25: 2; Coaches Poll: 3; SP+: 2; PFF: 3

Michigan – CFB Playoffs: 5; AP Top 25: 6; Coaches Poll: 6; SP+: 4; PFF: 9

Wisconsin -6½ MINNESOTA

These teams are as similar as you will find in the Big Ten with the difference being, the Badgers are much better at what each does. In conference games, Minnesota has attempted 181 passes, only ahead of Wisconsin’s 171 attempts. Both teams need to run the football…I mean need. Minnesota is second in the Big Ten in rushing. Who’s No. 1? Wisconsin. Minnesota is fourth in the Big Ten in stopping the run. Who’s No. 1? Wisconsin.

Nationally, the gap is wider as the Badgers are 10th in the country in rushing and 33rd in yards per carry (5.03) while the Gophers are 23rd in rushing but just 60th in yards per carry (4.39). The difference in defense is even starker. Minnesota is 12th in stopping the run and 23rd in yards per carry allowed (3.49) while Wisconsin is No. 1 in the country in both, as they’ve allowed 59.8 rushing yards per game and 2.01 yards per carry. That’s nearly 1.5 yards per better per rush. The difference in yards per carry allowed (1.48) between Wisconsin and Minnesota is bigger than the difference between the Gophers and Temple (4.91), who is ranked 109th.

Linebacker Leo Chenal who has 92 tackles, 15.5 TFLs, and 6.5 sacks in just nine games, is as good as any off-ball linebacker in college football. The trio of Chenal, Jack Sanborn, and Nick Herbig has 41.5 tackles for loss combined. This is a Minnesota offense that has had some head-scratching efforts, including 10 points against Bowling Green and six points against Illinois, both at home. Now they face a defense that is tailor-made for slowing them down and second only to UGA in stop rate. During Wisconsin’s seven-game winning streak only Nebraska has managed to score more than 14 points. Say what you want about the Huskers, but their offense is far more diverse and dynamic than Minnesota’s.

Offensively, it’s been the Braelon Allen show as the true freshman has topped 100 yards in seven straight games with 401 yards in the past two weeks alone. He’s looked as good as any back in the country. Since losing to Michigan, the Badgers have not only won their past seven, they’ve covered the spread in five of their past six Big Ten games. The Gophers have lost 16 of the past 17 battles for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, including 31-0 and 38-17 at home under PJ Fleck. Against Minnesota’s top two rivals, Wisconsin and Iowa, Fleck is 1-8 and 0-4 at home, all four, losses of at least 17 points. I get the feeling that Kirk Ferentz and Paul Chryst take extra pleasure in beating Fleck.

Wisconsin: Out for Season: RB Isaac Guerendo, RB Chez Mellusi, TE Clay Cundiff, TE Cole Dakovich, TE Cam Large, LB Aaron Witt, CB Al Ashford, LS Duncan McKinley; Out Indefinitely: RB Antwan Roberts, FB Quan Easterling, TE Hayden Rucci, CB Deron Harrell; Out: WR A.J. Abbott; Questionable: RB Jackson Acker, LB Spencer Lytle, LB Marty Strey; Minnesota: Out for Season: RB Mohamed Ibrahim, RB Treyson Potts, RB Bryce Williams

Total: 39; Money Line: Wisconsin -260/Minnesota +220

Time: 4:00 p.m. ET; TV: FOX (Tim Brando, Spencer Tillman)

Location: Minneapolis, MN; TFC Bank Stadium (50,805)

Wisconsin – CFB Playoffs: 14; AP Top 25: 18; Coaches Poll: 18; SP+: 6; PFF: 12

Minnesota – CFB Playoffs: NR; AP Top 25: NR; Coaches Poll: NR; SP+: 23; PFF: 24

B1GGER BET (1 Unit): Last Week: 5-0; Season: 19-10 (+9 Units)


Bottom line: Penn State is the better team. Sean Clifford was “back to normal” at practice on Tuesday after being one of many Nittany Lions who suffered through the flu last week. PSU’s defense is elite ranked 5th by SP+, 4th in scoring (No. 1 in the B1G) and points per drive (No. 2 in the B1G), 7th in stop rate (No. 1 in the B1G), and third in the Big Ten in yards per rush allowed. They’ve allowed over 23 points just once this season when Ohio State scored 33 points against them. Not only did they hold the Buckeyes to 14 points below their season average, but OSU also needed a defensive score to get them over 30 points.

While PSU’s offense is one-dimensional (3.2 YPC) they can throw the football, and move it effectively through the air, led by Clifford and Biletnikoff Finalist Award Jahan Dotson. They will slice and dice a Michigan State defense that is last in the country in pass defense (and it’s not even close, 33.6 yards worse than 129th New Mexico State). You also have to wonder, how much does Sparty have left in the tank? They overachieved cracking the top five and last week were absolutely smashed by the Buckeyes. They are licking their wounds, are banged up physically (numerous potential injured players out), and have nothing to play for after being on the path for a playoff spot for weeks.

Preseason Line: Penn State -13

Penn State: Out for Season: DT Hakeem Beamon, DT PJ Mustipher; Out Indefinitely: OL Sal Wormley; Questionable: QB Ta’Quan Roberson; Michigan State: Out Indefinitely: WR Ricky White, TE Trenton Gillison, DE Jack Camper, LB Carson Casteel; Questionable: WR Jalen Nailor, WR Jayden Reed, WR Ian Stewart, OT Jarrett Horst, OG Matt Carrick, DT Simeon Barrow, LB Itayvion Brown

Total: 52; Money Line: Penn State -120/Michigan State +100

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET; TV: ABC (Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge)

Location: East Lansing, MI; Stadium: Spartan Stadium (75,005)

Penn State – CFB Playoffs: NR; AP Top 25: NR (28); Coaches Poll: NR (29); SP+: 12; PFF: 33

Michigan State – CFB Playoffs: 12; AP Top 25: 12; Coaches Poll: 13; SP+: 34; PFF: 30

PURDUE -15 Indiana

The Boilermakers can really sling the football, second only to Ohio State in the Big Ten and seventh nationally in passing offense. Senior Aidan O’Connell is averaging a very impressive 8.0 yards per pass while completing 72.7 percent of his passes, with Biletnikoff Award Finalist David Bell leading a quartet of pass-catchers who have at least 40 receptions. This has also been the best Purdue defense we’ve seen in years, probably over a decade, as they’re 32nd by SP+ and in the top half of the Big Ten in scoring, as well as total defense. For comparison, IU has just two receivers who have hit the 40-reception plateau, none above 44, and they’re the only two to have reached 20 (Purdue has six such players), and it’s not as if they have a stellar rushing attack to balance it out. No team has been worse down the stretch of the season than the Hoosiers, the only winless school in conference play with losses of at least 22 points in all three games this month.

Under Indiana 17½

The Hoosiers are ranked 101st in offensive SP+ and have been even worse in Big Ten play. In conference games, IU is last in scoring (10.9 PPG), total offense (256.4), yards per play (4.0), and yards per pass (4.9). They’re not much better in passing offense (13th), rushing offense (11th), or yards per rush (12th). In eight B1G games, the Hoosiers have scored more than 15 points once (at Maryland), have scored a touchdown or less five times, and have averaged 8.0 PPG in November. True freshman Donaven McCulley has completed 42.7 percent of his passes and walk-on Grant Gremel is up to 50 percent. They’ve made their best-receiving weapons Ty Fryfogle (6 catches for 28 yards) and Peyton Hendershot (5 catches for 45 yards) non-existent, while leading rusher Stephen Carr (3.9 YPC) has missed the past two games. Take the under on Indiana.

Preseason Line: Indiana -6½

Indiana: Out for Season: QB Dexter Williams II, RB David Ellis, WR D.J. Matthews Jr., CB Christopher Keys; Out Indefinitely: QB Michael Penix Jr.; Questionable: QB Jack Tuttle, RB Stephen Carr, CB Tiawan Mullen; Purdue: Out for Season: RB Sampson James, WR Mershawn Rice, WR Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen, TE Jack Cravaack, CB Cory Trice; Out Indefinitely: RB Ja’Quez Cross, OG DJ Washington

Total: 50½; Money Line: Wisconsin -270/Minnesota +230

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET; TV: FS1 (Adam Alexander, Devin Gardner)

Location: West Lafayette, IN; Stadium: Ross-Ade (57,282)

Indiana – CFB Playoffs: NR; AP Top 25: NR; Coaches Poll: NR; SP+: 82; PFF: 96

Purdue – CFB Playoffs: NR; AP Top 25: NR (31); Coaches Poll: NR (31); SP+: 54; PFF: 48

ILLINOIS -6½ Northwestern

Two bad offenses against two OK defenses but in each case, Illinois has an edge. The Illini at least have an identity on offense…running behind an experienced offensive line. In sophomore Chase Brown (5.7 YPC) and freshman Joshua McCray (5.1 YPC), Bret Bielema has two very effective runners who can do some damage, which they should this Saturday against a Northwestern team that is last in the Big Ten in stopping the run. The Wildcats allow 5.7 yards per pop and are 118th in the country in rushing defense. So, Illinois will be able to play their game which means the Northwestern offense (ranked 116th in SP+) would have to beat me. I like my odds. The Illini also have a big special teams edge (3rd in SP+ vs 128th). Finally, while this game means nothing to either team in terms of bowl contention it is a rivalry game, one in which the Wildcats have six straight. Do you want to guess which program might be more excited to (finally) get a win on Saturday?

Preseason Line: Northwestern -6½

Northwestern: Out for Season: RB Cam Porter, WR Bryce Kirtz, OL Zachary Franks; Illinois: Out for Season: QB Art Sitkowski, RB Mike Epstein, LB Jake Hansen, LB Calvin Hart Jr.; Out Indefinitely: WR Marquez Beason; Questionable: WR Desmond Dan Jr., WR Brian Hightower

Total: 43½; Money Line: Illinois -250/Northwestern +205

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET; TV: BTN (Jeff Levering, J Leman)

Location: Champaign, IL; Stadium: Memorial Stadium (60,670)

Illinois – CFB Playoffs: NR; AP Top 25: NR; Coaches Poll: NR; SP+: 77; PFF: 79

Northwestern – CFB Playoffs: NR; AP Top 25: NR; Coaches Poll: NR; SP+: 99; PFF: 98

B1G BETS (1/2 Unit): Last Week: 0-3; Season: 12-13 (-0.5 Unit)

Under 43½ Illinois-Northwestern

The team total for Northwestern is 18½ and they’re averaging 12.9 points in Big Ten games and have scored more than 14 points once since September! That’s a stretch of seven games. It’s the worst offense in the Big Ten per SP+, ranked 116th in the country, the worst of the 28 units between offense and defense in the B1G. The ‘Cats have been kittens offensively. Illinois hasn’t been that much better truth be told and they won’t need to reach their team total of 24½ in order to cover. When’s the last time the Illini scored more than 24 points? Week 2 against UTSA! All of that adds up to an under.


For those out there who don’t believe Adrian Martinez is worth four points let me remind you that he threw for 291 yards against Michigan and 351 yards against Wisconsin last week. He’s why Nebraska is second only to Ohio State with 8.6 yards per pass. He’s why the Huskers are 8th in plays of 20+ yards, 5th in plays of 30+ yards, and 3rd in plays of 60/70+ yards. Yes, he’s why they lose a lot of close games. But he’s also why they lose a lot of close games. The idea that they are better off without Martinez as a given makes me shake my head. Scott Frost has had three years since Martinez won the starting job as a true freshman to replace him. If they had better options why aren’t they playing? I told you about Nebraska’s special teams (127th in SP+) last week, while Iowa (5th in SP+) is among the best in the country. I’m taking Hawkeyes to win, a team with something to play for, on general principle.

Under Nebraska 20½

Principle isn’t the only reason I like the Hawkeyes. They have the No. 3 defense per SP+, are 8th in points per possession, 9th in scoring, 10th in stop rate, and 13th against the pass/total defense. Expect them to make life tough on Logan Smothers, who will be making his first career start. While I debated taking under 41½ in the game, what scares me is the potential for Iowa to get some special teams/defensive points. Not only is Martinez their trigger man, but Nebraska’s leading rusher. Not only will the Huskers be without Martinez, but Frost said, “most likely not,” when asked if their best running back Rahmir Johnson would be available. Don’t expect many points by the Huskers against a stout Iowa defense.

Iowa: Out Indefinitely: DL Ethan Hurkett; Questionable: QB Spencer Petras; Nebraska: Out for Season: RB Gabe Ervin Jr., LB JoJo Domann, LB Will Honas, S Javin Wright; Out: QB Adrian Martinez; Questionable: RB Rahmir Johnson

Total: 41½; Money Line: Nebraska -115/Iowa +105

Time: 12:30 p.m. ET; TV: BTN (Brandon Gaudin, James Laurinaitis)

Location: Lincoln, NE; Stadium: Memorial (85,458)

Iowa – CFB Playoffs: 16; AP Top 25: 17; Coaches Poll: 12; SP+: 18; PFF: 16

Nebraska – CFB Playoffs: NR; AP Top 25: NR; Coaches Poll: NR; SP+: 33; PFF: 69

Maryland-1½ RUTGERS

Neither team has a great defense: Maryland allows 6.0 yards per play and Rutgers allows 5.8. The weakness of both units is their pass defenses (tied for B1G-worst 8.1 yards per pass allowed). The difference is only one offense is set up to take advantage of it. The Terps have one of the better passing offenses in the Big Ten, ranked third in the conference and 15th nationally. They average 7.8 YPA compared to just 5.7 by Rutgers, who is 114th in the country in passing offense. Taulia Tagovailoa is one of the better passers in the conference and in five-star sophomore Rakim Jarrett, tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo, and emerging contributor Carlos Carriere, the passer has enough weapons to send the Terps bowling. Yes, Maryland has had a bunch of ugly losses but all six of them have come against teams ranked in the top 35 by SP+ and PFF. We told you last week, they don’t play up. But they handle business against everyone else. Rutgers has the coaching edge, but I’ll take the better quarterback and better overall roster. There are also whispers that the Scarlet Knights have brought the flu back with them from Happy Valley and are dealing with it this week.

Maryland: Out for Season: WR Dontay Demus Jr., WR Marcus Fleming, WR Jeshaun Jones, LB Durell Nchami; Out Indefinitely: RB Challen Faamatau, LB Fa’Najae Gotay, CB Deonte Banks; Rutgers: Out for Season: WR Aron Cruickshank

Total: 53; Money Line: Maryland -125/Rutgers +105

Time: 12:00 p.m. ET; TV: BTN (Cory Provus, Matt Millen)

Location: Piscataway, NJ; Stadium: High Point Solutions Stadium (52,454)

Maryland – CFB Playoffs: NR; AP Top 25: NR; Coaches Poll: NR; SP+: 70; PFF: 83

Rutgers – CFB Playoffs: NR; AP Top 25: NR; Coaches Poll: NR; SP+: 82; PFF: 86


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