Big Ten Football: B1G Bets for Week 11

With another winning week (5-3), we’re up to 33-23 on the season, a solid 59 percent clip. There are picks we regret (shakes fist at Ohio State for 15 minutes, turns game off), but any week in the black is a good one!

Overall Record: 33-23 overall (+6.5 units) | ATS: 17-13 | Team Totals: 16-10

Onto this week’s picks. Scared money, don’t make money. Let’s eat!

B1GGEST Bets (2 Units):

Last Week: 1-0; Season: 3-5 (-4 Units)

MINNESOTA -17.5 Northwestern

Money Line: Minnesota -1200 | Northwestern +720 | Total: 40.5
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET; TV: BTN | Location: Huntington Bank Stadium | MN, MN
Northwestern: 1-8 | CFP: NR | AP:  NR | Coaches: NR | SP+: 94 | PFF: 115
Minnesota: 6-3 | CFP: NR | AP: NR | Coaches:  NR | SP+: 19 | PFF: 32

In eight of Minnesota’s nine games, the spread has not mattered. The winner of the game covers the number, regardless of how high. Included are five of their six wins this season, and in three covers against B1G foes, they outpaced the spread by more than two touchdowns each time.

After a rare one-score win at Nebraska (after they trailed 10-0, Minny won the second half 20-3), P.J. Fleck’s team will get back to what they do best, blowout cupcakes.

Behind Mohamed Ibrahim, the Gophers are 14th in EPA per rush, which has them 14th in success rate as well. Northwestern’s defense is terrible, ranked 70th in rushing EPA and 95th in success rate. The Gophers are second nationally in time of possession and will wear the Wildcats down.

Regardless of who’s under center for Minnesota–they scored 20 second-half points with backup Athan Kaliakmanis in for Tanner Morgan in Lincoln–they will move the ball.

The even bigger mismatch is when Minnesota’s defense is on the field. 

The Wildcats are coming off a surprising scare of Ohio State, their fourth cover of the season. Do you know what they did the week following their three previous covers? Yup, they failed to cover, losing by eight as a ten-point favorite, by 35 as a ten-point dog, and by 20 as an 11.5-point dog. 

Both teams find their level this week as the Gophers romp. 

B1GGER Bets (1 Unit):

Last Week: 3-2; Season: 24-15 (+9 Units)

Northwestern UNDER 11.5

In the past two weeks, we’ve been on a team total UNDER of Minnesota’s opponent, and each time, we’ve cashed in. The theory was the Gophers are a bully defense that will get back to their early season ways as they play inferior opponents.

Inferior opponents, not just offenses, are the key because it allows the Gophers to dominate the ball and play keep-away.

Over the first four weeks, Minnesota allowed 24 points (6 PPG), then they gave up 91 points over a three-game stretch (33.3 PPG) and only 13 in the past two games (6.5 PPG). Whom do they play this week? The worst team in the Big Ten, the Northwestern Wildcats. 

The ‘Cats are 95th in success rate, 114th in offensive EPA, and 111th in SP+ on offense. The Gophers are ninth in success rate, 27th in defensive EPA, and sixth in SP+ on defense.

The Wildcats have played four quality defenses, scoring seven at Penn State, seven vs. Wisconsin, 13 at Iowa (TD on the game’s final play), and seven vs. Ohio State. 

Purdue +7 ILLINOIS

Money Line: Illinois -260 | Purdue +210 | Total: 44.5
Time: noon; TV: ESPN2 | Location: Memorial Stadium | Champaign, IL
Purdue: 5-4 | CFP: NR | AP: NR | Coaches: NR | SP+: 48 | PFF: 43
Illinois: 7-2 | CFP: 21 | AP: 21 | Coaches: 20 | SP+: 29 | PFF: 11

I know all about Illinois’s impressive defensive numbers this season, but are you aware of their opponents?

The highest-ranked passing offense they’ve faced this season is Indiana (ranked 55th). Indiana. Who, by the way, scored 23 points and beat the Illini. Of the eight FBS teams Illinois has played, four are ranked in the 100s in passing the football.

Teams like Minnesota and Wisconsin run the ball more than they throw, while offenses like Indiana and Michigan State throw it 60 percent of the time, just like the Boilermakers (62.2 percent), who rank 16h in the country in passing offense (298 YPG).

I also love this spot for Purdue and Jeff Brohm. Against ranked teams, Brohm is 11-4 ATS with the Boilers, including an outright win at Minnesota this season. They’re 17-12 ATS coming off a loss, 15-11 on the road, 21-11 as an underdog, and 10-5 as a road dog under Brohm.

On Saturday, the Boilermakers will be getting points on the road against a ranked opponent coming off a loss. Certain spots suit a team’s personality, their DNA. Expect Purdue to keep this one close and potentially pull off the upset as they did against the Gophers earlier this season.

IOWA +1.5 Wisconsin

Money Line: Iowa -118 | Wisconsin -102 | Total: 38.5

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET; TV: FS1 | Location: Kinnick Stadium | Iowa City, IA

Wisconsin: 5-4 | CFP: NR | AP:  NR | Coaches:  NR | SP+: 23 | PFF: 39

Iowa: 5-4 | CFP: NR | AP:  NR | Coaches: NR | SP+: 24 | PFF: 36

I’m throwing out the stats in the matchup for the Heartland Trophy between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Wisconsin Badgers. Both teams seem to have figured things out and appear headed toward strong finishes.

Right now, I’m not sure much separates these teams from each other. SP+ has Wisconsin ranked 23rd and Iowa 24th, which sounds right to me. I was surprised to see the Badgers favored in Iowa City. I don’t believe either should be favored at the other team’s stadium. 

Both offenses have progressed, but neither has shown they can move the ball against a top-notch defense. Of the two, Iowa has the better defense. I don’t doubt that. The Hawkeyes also have a significant edge in special teams, so don’t be surprised if that’s where the game turns.

Not much complexity here. Please give me the points with the home side in a contest between comparable teams. 


Money Line: Rutgers +275 | Michigan -360 | Total: 41.5

Time: noon; TV: BTN | Location: Spartan Stadium | East Lansing, MI

Michigan State: 4-5 | CFP: NR | AP: NR | Coaches: NR | SP+: 49 | PFF: 63

Rutgers: 4-5 | CFP: NR | AP: NR | Coaches: NR | SP+: 82 | PFF: 73

The overall numbers aren’t great for Michigan State, but since their four-game losing streak, they are playing better football and have won two of three (all three as an underdog of at least seven points), with their loss coming to No. 3 Michigan.

In three Power Five games against non-top ten defenses (MSU has faced four!), Payton Thorne has completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 809 yards (269.7 PG) and six touchdowns to one interception. With the emergence of the big-bodied Keon Coleman (legit 6’4”) to complement Jayden Reed, they have a sneak top-notch receiving duo.

Not only does Rutgers not have a top-ten defense, but they are also easily MSU’s worst opponent since Sparty started the season with blowout wins over a pair of MAC schools.

On the other side, the Scarlet Knights have a non-competitive Big Ten offense. They’re 119th in success rate and 117th in EPA. Sure, most teams can throw on the Spartans, but Rutgers can’t.

Sophomore Gavin Wimsatt is expected to make his third career start. He’s completing 43.5 percent of his passes with two touchdowns to eight interceptions (in 69 attempts!). Neither their leading passer, Evan Simon (740 yards, 4 TDs-to-6 INTs), nor their most-experienced quarterback, Noah Vedral (45.7 percent this season), has been appreciably better.

Michigan State rallied to upset ranked Illinois after their embarrassing postgame showing in Ann Arbor. With four wins, they know they can lock up a bowl by taking care of business against Rutgers and Indiana in the next two weeks before they close out the season with Penn State. Expect them to do so.

B1G Bets (1/2 Unit):

Last Week: 1-1; Season: 6-3 (+1.5 Units)

PENN STATE -10 Maryland

Money Line: Penn State -385 | Maryland +300 | Total: 56.5

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET; TV: FOX | Location: Beaver Stadium | University Park, PA

Penn State: 7-2 | CFP: 14 | AP: 14 | Coaches: 15 | SP+: 12 | PFF: 15

Maryland: 6-3 | CFP: NR | AP: NR | Coaches: NR | SP+: 35 | PFF: 32

This handicap is about trust and trends, as in the direction each team is trending.

After four-straight covers, Maryland has lost four straight against the spread. In typical Terps fashion, they have not responded well to injuries or failure. Since losing a home game, they probably should have won against Purdue; Maryland struggled to beat the worst two Big Ten teams (Indiana and Northwestern) before they were dominated last week by Wisconsin.

Maybe they rise up against Penn State, their toughest opponent in over a month, but why should we expect that? What in Maryland’s DNA says they will?

While James Franklin has issues with Ohio State and Michigan, the Terps are typically barely a nuisance. Since he lost his first game against Maryland, Franklin has won six of seven against the rival school, with the lone defeat coming in 2020, the COVID year. The past five wins have all come by at least 17 points.

Conversely, Penn State comes in confident, playing their best football of the season. Since Michigan blew them out, PSU crushed Minnesota (45-17), gave Ohio State all they could handle, and dominated Indiana (45-14).

This is a young team that was projected to win 8-9 games, that is improving with experience, and has ten wins in their sights.

It’s also not an ideal matchup, as Maryland’s bread and butter is passing the football, while the Nittany Lions feature the Big Ten’s most talented secondary.

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