Picks, Predictions and Prognosis for Every Week 12 Big Ten Football Game
Welcome to Week 12—where rivalry trophies are on the line, division races could be wrapped up and two nationally recognized programs look to avoid losing to the cellar-dwellers of each division.
This week may not feature "marquee" matchups on the national scale, but there are a lot of important matchups across the Big Ten.
Can Indiana get a signature win and continue to have hope for a bowl game?
Will Illinois shock the world, snap its conference losing streak and end Ohio State's national title hopes?
What about Northwestern getting off the winless pile over Michigan?
There is plenty of intrigue in Week 12, you just have to look for it.
Oh, and a word to the wise, be careful with your rivalry trophy—we don't want this happening again.
After going undefeated in picks last weekend, celebration was in order, but at least this author was careful while doing so. Geez, Minnesota.
Here is how my picks have done this season:
Last Week: 5-0 (3-2 ATS)
2013 Picks: 63-16 (42-36-1 ATS)
Purdue at Penn State (-21.5)
Saturday, Nov. 16, at noon ET (BTN)
Penn State is the Big Ten's version of a yo-yo, never winning or losing more than one game in conference play.
After last weekend's loss at Minnesota, it would stand to reason that the Nittany Lions would be in line for a win. Facing Purdue at home also would seem to put them in line for a win as well.
However, a rash of injuries to important players for Penn State puts this game in a different light. Star wide receiver Allen Robinson has a shoulder injury, but is expected to play. Ben Kline, a recent starter at linebacker, is out for the season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle in the loss to Minnesota.
Purdue, on the other hand, comes in just searching for any signs of positive life. After giving up 40 or more points in four of the last five, at least Purdue didn't give up 40 last weekend to Iowa.
Heck, it even scored 14 points, to bring its conference average up to a whopping 6.2 points a game.
Penn State's defense is susceptible to the pass game, ranking 11th in conference play by giving up 272.2 yards a game.
Danny Etling has the horses at wide receiver, in fellow freshmen DeAngelo Yancey and B.J. Knauf, to challenge the Nittany Lions secondary. That is the Boilermakers' best and perhaps only chance at keeping this one close or pulling the upset.
Watch for this one to be close and possibly an aerial shootout, but with Penn State being at home, look for them to pull out a closer-than-expected victory.
Prediction: Penn State 38, Purdue 24
Indiana at No. 22 Wisconsin (-22)
Saturday, Nov. 16, at noon ET (ESPN2)
Wisconsin held the high-powered BYU Cougars in check last week until a late fourth-quarter scramble made it 27-17 at Camp Randall.
Combine that with games against Illinois and Arizona State earlier this season and the Badgers have seen it all against spread attacks.
However, the question shouldn't be how Wisconsin finds a way to stop the high-powered Indiana offense, but rather how the Badgers offense will find a way to stay on the field long enough to stretch this game out.
No, not because Wisconsin likes to strike quickly themselves, but because the offense is capable of it and Indiana's defense is just bad enough to give up a ton of those quick strikes.
The Badgers lead the nation in runs of 50-plus yards (eight), 60-plus yards (six) and 70-plus yards (five).
On the flip side, the Hoosiers' chances took a big blow when running back Tevin Coleman was ruled out of the contest earlier this week with an ankle injury. He added another explosive dimension to the offense.
Indiana hasn't won against Wisconsin since a 2002 game at Camp Randall, and the margin of victory has been crazy. UW has won the last eight games by an average of 35.4 points a game.
The Badgers have also scored an average of 52 points a game, while giving up just 16.6 in the current eight-game win streak.
Don't expect that streak to end Saturday as Melvin Gordon gets back on track with a huge 200-yard rushing game. James White and Corey Clement also both go over the 100-yard mark on the ground and the Badgers win easily.
Prediction: Wisconsin 52, Indiana 21
NO. 3 Ohio State (-32) at Illinois
Saturday, Nov. 16, at noon ET (ESPN)
The Illibuck, a traveling wooden trophy that was once a live turtle, is on the line for the 87th time this season and unlike the last few years, Illinois' offense can match anything Ohio State likes to do.
Will it be enough to win this game? With a defense that ranks at or near the very bottom of the Big Ten in every statistical category, that is highly unlikely.
Besides, Indiana just took Illinois out to the woodshed last weekend, and IU is not OSU.
The only way the Illini have a chance is to force some turnovers. That is easier said than done, as the Buckeyes have turned the ball over only five times. Illinois has forced all of four turnovers on its own.
Ohio State's Carlos Hyde is second in rushing during conference play, with 660 yards in five games. He could be the biggest difference-maker, going up against an Illini defense that ranks dead last in the Big Ten (302.8 yards a game).
Illinois' chances of winning the Illibuck for the first time since 2008 are slim to none and slim is leaving the building as we speak today.
Prediction: Ohio State 41, Illinois 21
Michigan at Northwestern (-2.5)
Saturday, Nov. 16, at 3:30 p.m. ET (BTN)
This was supposed to be one of the games that helped decide the division, but it hasn't played out that way on the field.
Northwestern has been ravaged by injuries and is on a five-game losing streak, while Michigan has lost three of its last four contests and is coming off back-to-back weeks with negative rushing yards.
Something has to give in this one. It should be telling that Northwestern is favored in this game despite its record.
Getting Kain Colter healthy has been a major help to the cause as of late. We wouldn't be talking about a Wildcats team without a win in Big Ten play had it not been for that Hail Mary at Nebraska.
After re-watching games from both of these teams over the past few weeks, it is clear that the Wildcats and Wolverines are on different trajectories.
Michigan has gotten worse as the season has gone on and Northwestern, with Colter in, has gotten better.
Look for Colter and Trevor Siemian to have big days in the run game and pass game, respectively, while Tyler Scott creates all sorts of havoc in the Michigan backfield.
It's just a matter of time before the Wildcats get a Big Ten win—and this is the week it happens.
Prediction: Northwestern 31, Michigan 21
No. 16 Michigan State (-6.5) at Nebraska
Saturday, Nov. 16, at 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
In a week full of nonmarquee matchups across Big Ten country, this is a massive one. The winner holds its own destiny in its hands for the Legends Division title and a trip to Indianapolis.
A Michigan State win all but locks up the division. Even in a loss, a win the following week would be the final nail in the coffin of Minnesota and Michigan's hopes of winning the Legends Division.
For Nebraska, a win Saturday at home means it would control its own destiny the rest of the way as the leader division.
With a lot on the line, expect emotions to be high at the start. Controlling those emotions for Tommy Armstrong Jr., Ron Kellogg III and Connor Cook will be key in helping each to avoid turning the ball over early on.
Nebraska can't afford to turn the ball over against the best defense in the country and they need to sustain a few long drives early on to give itself a shot.
On the other side of the coin, Nebraska's defense keeps getting better and defensive end Randy Gregory is a budding star in the conference. He's got 39 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hurries.
It means Michigan State needs to find a way to neutralize him and get the run game going.
Look for Jeremy Langford to have a good enough game to help his defense win this matchup. Cook struggles for Michigan State, but it gets a defensive touchdown and all but locks up the division.
Prediction: Michigan State 24, Nebraska 17