Picks, Predictions and Prognosis for Every Week 13 Big Ten Football Game
Rivalries are renewed not once, but twice this weekend in the Big Ten and that means anything goes.
The most-played rivalry in major college football gets renewed in a Top 25 matchup between Wisconsin and Minnesota, while winless Big Ten foes Purdue and Illinois clash for the Purdue Cannon.
Those two games couldn't have less in common, but both have extreme significance to each school's standing in the conference pecking order.
Outside of that it could be an ugly week in the Big Ten as division leaders Michigan State and Ohio State take on lowly Northwestern and Indiana respectively.
Week 13 features a full six matchups in conference play for the first time all season long, so if you love the Big Ten, you'll be getting your full dose of the action for once.
Before heading into the games, here's a reminder of where the picks stand after last weekend's results:
Last Week: 4-1 (3-2 ATS)
2013 Picks: 67-17 (45-38-1 ATS)
No. 13 Michigan State (-7) at Northwestern
Saturday, Nov. 23 at noon ET (ESPN)
What could a team that hasn't won a game in conference play possibly have in common with a team that hasn't lost a game in conference play?
Both of these teams know what it feels like to lose insanely close games over and over again.
In fact, 2013 Northwestern, meet your counterparts, the 2012 Michigan State Spartans.
On paper, this game appears to be a mismatch. Northwestern's offense and defense find themselves in the bottom half of the Big Ten totem poll, while Michigan State is atop the rankings on the defensive side and near the middle offensively.
Despite all of the things going against Northwestern, they've managed to stay in every Big Ten game outside of the 35-6 drubbing by Wisconsin.
How have they done that? Despite giving up 16 touchdowns through the air, the Wildcats have been very opportunistic with 18 interceptions on defense.
That's Northwestern's best hope against Michigan State, because the Spartans are going to get their yards offensively.
Expect this one to play out like so many Northwestern games before—it will be close until a late Michigan State series of touchdowns allows the Spartans to pull away.
Prediction: Michigan State 31, Northwestern 17
Illinois (-6.5) at Purdue
Saturday, Nov. 23 at noon ET (BTN)
These two teams are a combined 4-16 on the season, but are both winless in Big Ten play.
You would be forgiven for not tuning in for the battle of the Purdue Cannon, yet this game is hugely important to the futures of both programs.
Purdue needs something, anything positive to happen before the season ends, while the Illini need to find a way to stop a 20-game Big Ten losing streak in the worst way possible.
Illinois leads the all-time series between these two rivals 42-40-6, so anything could go in this one.
Most will look at this rivalry game and figure it'll be the defensive side of the football that will matter, considering both defenses are at the bottom of the Big Ten.
Really it's about whose offense can sustain drives, though, and that's Illinois' advantage.
Sure, Purdue's Danny Etling has improved every week and this is his first chance to go up against a not-so-good defense. Could this be his breakout game?
He has the weapons in the pass game in DeAngelo Yancey and B.J. Knauf, but will that be enough against a high-powered Illini offensive attack?
Nathan Scheelhaase is quietly having the best statistical season of any Big Ten quarterback, completing 65.4 percent of his passes and leading the conference in passing average (270.8) and passing yards (2,708).
The smart money is on Scheelhaase and the Illini to break their losing streak and do it in impressive fashion. Expect four touchdown passes and at least one rushing touchdown from the Illini QB in the win.
Prediction: Illinois 37, Purdue 27
Michigan at Iowa (-6)
Saturday, Nov. 23 at noon ET (BTN)
Just how far has Michigan fallen this season? It is a six-point underdog on the road against Iowa and that doesn't seem out of place.
Iowa has turned the corner offensively and it has made all the difference to where the Hawkeyes are at this season.
All three of the Hawkeyes' losses in Big Ten play are to Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Michigan is not those three programs.
The main question is if Week 12's triple-overtime win will be a catalyst to spark the Michigan offense into being what it was early on this season.
Michigan had enough talent to beat Notre Dame, but also enough problems to lose to Penn State.
If Devin Gardner from late last week shows up, Iowa could have a challenge on its hands. The key could be just unleashing Gardner in the run game and allow the rest of the offense to loosen up because of it.
However, the Hawkeyes also happen to have one of the stiffest rushing defenses in the Big Ten, giving up 130 yards a game, but just four touchdowns on the ground all season long.
In Big Ten country, defense wins out almost every time and Iowa's defense is perhaps the third or fourth best in the conference.
Watch out for Iowa to go old school and pound Michigan into submission as they grind out a win at home.
Prediction: Iowa 27, Michigan 20
Indiana at No. 3 Ohio State (-34.5)
Saturday, Nov. 23, at 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Should we feel sorry for Indiana at this point?
Back-to-back weeks against Wisconsin and Ohio State is just brutal for a team trying to hold on to fleeting hopes of a bowl game in 2013.
The thought of Urban Meyer's best offense in years against the lowly Indiana defense is frightening.
So too is Ohio State's defense against Indiana's quick-strike offense, but at least OSU's defense has proven an ability to stop someone at some point in time.
Ohio State is averaging 47.3 points a game in Big Ten play alone and is just shy of 50 points (49.4) a game overall this season.
Indiana's defense just gave up 52 points to Wisconsin last weekend and hasn't allowed an opponent less than 24 points since a 42-10 win over Bowling Green in Week 2.
Pretty sure Ohio State's offense is not Bowling Green's, so it could be an ugly day for the Hoosiers.
Carlos Hyde has been tearing up defenses in the Big Ten and that will continue this weekend as he goes for 200-plus yards and three touchdowns himself.
Don't be surprised if Hyde isn't the only one above 100 yards rushing either, as Braxton Miller joins that party and Ohio State cruises to victory.
Prediction: Ohio State 57, Indiana 21
Nebraska at Penn State (-2)
Saturday, Nov. 23, at 3:30 p.m. ET (BTN)
This game has the historic name recognition, but it lacks any true meaning this season.
Nebraska's loss to Michigan State killed off its hopes of a Big Ten championship game berth and Penn State is banned from bowl games because of sanctions.
Don't tell either coach this game doesn't have meaning though, as they both see goals still within reach.
Penn State needs to win out to maintain the same record it had last season at 8-4, which would be a great testament to Bill O'Brien's coaching ability.
Bo Pelini on the other sideline still has this thing called his j-o-b to worry about in Lincoln. A loss here and the pressure would really be on, as the Huskers' best-case scenario would be an 8-4 season.
This matchup will hinge on whose strength wins out. We know Nebraska will look to run the ball with Ameer Abdullah and Penn State will throw the ball to win.
The difference is that Penn State is better at running the ball than Nebraska is passing with Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg III at quarterback.
Sure, the Huskers defense has been a lot more aggressive as of late, but Penn State is not Michigan or Northwestern and can play competently on the offensive line from time to time.
Add in the fact that it will be an emotional senior day and the Nittany Lions find a way to pull this game out from under the Huskers.
Prediction: Penn State 27, Nebraska 24
No. 19 Wisconsin (-16) at No. 25 Minnesota
Saturday, Nov. 23, at 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Wisconsin has chopped down the goalposts with Paul Bunyan's Axe for the last nine seasons in a row. Can they make it a decade this weekend?
Las Vegas sure loves the Badgers—and rightfully so. The UW defense has been stifling opponents like crazy and the offense has been humming along in conference play—scoring 35 points or more in all but one conference game this season.
Minnesota comes in riding a crazy four-game win streak, including wins over Nebraska and Penn State, so an upset of the Badgers isn't as far-fetched as it was entering this season.
The Gophers aren't just going to lay down and let the Badgers continue to dominate the Border Battle. This game will be won in the trenches.
Wisconsin's offensive line against Ra'Shede Hageman and Co. for the Gophers is going to be a fun matchup to watch.
Both teams want to run the football and do so in a power-run-game fashion, so it means the defenses need to be stout.
That screams Wisconsin, who is giving up less than 100 yards a game to opponents' rushing attacks. Wisconsin has also allowed opponents to score all of seven touchdowns on the ground this season.
Minnesota is a much-improved team, but Wisconsin is on a different level, and this game ends in the first quarter as the Badgers put up touchdowns on three straight possessions to pull Minnesota out of its game plan.
Make it a decade of wins for the Badgers in dominate fashion in this one.
Prediction: Wisconsin 41, Minnesota 17