Bobby Carpenter's Big Ten Big Games and Best Bets: Week 8

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The bye week is over for the big dogs in the Big Ten East. Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State are all playing their first games in two weeks, and in Penn State’s case, the bye came at just in time. Michigan State is off this weekend after an ugly win against Indiana, but all 4 of those teams remain firmly planted in the AP top 10.

It will be another week before the Big Ten East gauntlet begins, but there are important games to be played in the Midwest this week. Ohio State travels to Bloomington to take on an underachieving Indiana squad that is playing well but not finishing games. Maryland travels to Minnesota, one of the few teams in the West who controls their own destiny to win the division. And Purdue, the newly minted Big Ten team to crack the Top 25, welcomes the struggling Wisconsin Badgers to West Lafayette. 

Ohio State at Indiana -21.5

It’s been a season of unfulfilled expectations for Indiana. This year was supposed to be the breakthrough season for Tom Allen’s squad, but less than stellar offensive play and a host of injuries to key pieces has led to a 2-4 record. QB Michael Penix Jr will most likely be sitting out again after suffering an AC separation in his throwing shoulder. He has been week to week the last few games, and reserve QB Jack Tuttle got the start last week against Michigan State. The Hoosiers held their own, but Tuttle’s 2 INTs were too much to overcome.

Ohio State has been rolling on offense since their scare against Tulsa in Week 3. QB CJ Stroud looks more comfortable in the pocket and has been dropping dimes to the best group of receivers in college football. That offensive success is a product of the offensive line absolutely dominating games. The Hoosiers will challenge the recognition of both the offensive line and Stroud with a variety of complicated blitzes. Stroud is extremely talented, but still very green and this will be a great chance to develop his ability to diagnose defenses and make quick decisions. The battered Hoosier secondary won’t be able to hang with the WR trio of Olave, Wilson, and Smith-Njigba for long, and a clean pocket for Stroud will be a problem. Ohio State should score plenty and the Indiana offense looks anemic at best… lay the 21.5.

Wisconsin at Purdue +3.5

Purdue is coming off their biggest win of the season against the No. 2 Iowa Hawkeyes on the road -- and their reward is being a 3.5 point home underdog against a Wisconsin team that has struggled to get to .500. Purdue’s No. 25 ranking in the AP should garner some respect, but the public still doesn't believe in the Boilermakers. WR David Bell had another career day against the Hawkeyes, and he should be poised to have yet another big day against a Badgers defense that has some of the same issues he faced last week. HC Jeff Brohm deployed a trio of QBs against Iowa to help confuse and slow down the defensive front 7. It’s an unorthodox strategy, but it has worked for them this season. 

Wisconsin has been anything but consistent this year on the offensive side of the football. QB Graham Mertz has failed to live up to expectations and needs a strong running game to operate. That running game has been wildly inconsistent and very atypical for the Badgers. It has forced the Mertz to have to win games with his arm, which he has struggled to do. Wisconsin has a solid front 7 on the defensive side of the football, but their secondary can be had. It’s a similar setup to Iowa, who was repeatedly victimized by Bell. Once Purdue gets a lead by striking with Bell, it will be tough day for Wisconsin. Purdue gets it done at home and wins outright… take the 3.5 points. 

Maryland at Minnesota -4.5

In a hard fought home opener, Minnesota not only lost their first game of the season but also their star RB Mohamed Ibrahim. Then they had an albatross loss to Bowling Green, but since then they have been quietly playing good football. Last week against Nebraska, they were able to control the line of scrimmage and get new starter RB Bryce Williams going. He rolled up over 125 yards and with Maryland’s struggles to stop the run, it should be another big day. Minnesota’s only conference loss has come against Ohio State in the Big Ten East, so they control their destiny in the Big Ten West and could be a dark horse to win the division. 

Entering the season, Maryland’s strength was their WR unit. Since then, the WRs have been decimated by injuries and a group that was once one of the best in the country has become an average unit. Without the explosive threats on the perimeter, QB Taulia Tagovailoa's yards per game have dipped and his interceptions have exploded. Minnesota should be able to contain the Maryland offensive attack and control the game with their ground attack. Lay the 4.5 points.