After splitting games last week we’re looking to go a perfect 2-0 this weekend by doubling down our NCAAF bets on Big Ten Conference action, starting with the Buckeyes at Penn State.

Start With A Bet On Buckeyes

No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions (+800) vs No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes (-1000)
Saturday, Ohio Stadium, Colombus, Ohio | 12:00 PM ET

In my opinion, this is the biggest game of the weekend.  The reason being is the winner of this game has all about punched their ticket to the College Football Playoffs.  With Penn State’s final game against Rutgers, they are just about assured to finish the regular season with a win.  The Buckeyes have a tougher test with a surging Michigan team, but they have had the Wolverines number for years now and have just a good of a team as ever.

This marks the 33rd game played between these Big Ten rivals and the 19th time it’s happened while both teams are ranked.  Ohio State currently holds a 19-14 winning record over Penn State since their first game in 1912 and a 12-7 edge in those games where they were both in the Top-25.  Since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993, they have beaten Ohio State just four times in 16 tries. The Buckeyes have won this game in the previous two seasons.  Both of those games were played while the Lions we’re ranked in the Top-10.

Both of these teams cruised to easy victories last weekend, even if Ohio State looked bored in their game against Rutgers.  They allowed the Scarlet Knights to put up 21 points and were far from covering the 51-point spread in the game.

To be fair, Justin Fields did his part in putting up 305 yards and tossing four touchdowns.  It was the defense who let ATS bettors down as they really just seemed like their minds were elsewhere.  That will not be a problem this week with such a potent offense in town.

Better still, the Buckeyes will see the return of star defensive end Chase Young, who returns after a 2-game suspension for accepting money from a family friend. Young will not only bring the mega-talent to the field but his strong discipline to the rest of his team.  Look for the OSU defense to play like a different team than we saw versus Rutgers.

The Buckeyes currently have the No. 1 ranked offense in the nation when it comes to scoring which is something no opponent wants to see.  Even more terrifying, they give up the least points to opponents at rank No. 1 in the nation on defense as well with just 9.8 points per game allowed.  Suddenly that 18.5-point spread starts to make a lot more sense despite both teams in the Top-10.

Now, the Lions are no slouches mind you.  They are the 15th best team on offense and 4th on defense, allowing just 13.5 points per game.  Thing is, they haven’t played a team nearly as good as Ohio State this season.  The closest they came was a then-underperforming Michigan team and they just barely squeaked by with a 28-21 win at home.  They also just barely beat Indiana, who Ohio State smoked 51-10.

Add to that a loss to Minnesota and it’s actually surprising to me that Penn State is getting such CFP hype.  I won’t go so far as to say they are overrated, but I see no reasonable way they come close to beating Ohio State this weekend on the road.

So, the question becomes, can they cover?

In my mind, this come down to defense.

The Lions’ rushing defense is the best in the conference, perhaps in the nation.  They allow opposing rushers a mere 2.2 yards-per-attempt, essentially shutting down the run-first style which Ohio State relies on at times.  In fact, Penn State has covered six straight games when playing against the best rushing team in the country.

Problem is, Penn State’s defense has been struggling lately and those season rankings are skewed toward their early-season performances against lesser teams.  Two weeks ago, the Lions allowed Minnesota to throw for 339 yards and three touchdowns on just 20 attempts from Tanner Morgan.  This was arguably Morgan’s best game of the season.

In week 12, Peyton Ramsey came into Beaver Stadium and threw for 31-for-41 and 371 yards with a touchdown.  Back to back weeks with Big Ten quarterbacks putting up career games against the Lions.

Their defensive backs have been getting torched in single coverage and are making a number of fundamental mistakes in recent weeks.  Blown coverage, communication issues, and poor execution has me feeling less than confident in this squad this weekend.  Even their rush defense has struggled, even seeing a team as lowly as Buffalo putting up big numbers on the ground.

The fact is, Ohio State has the nation’s highest-scoring offense and Penn State has a great defender who has been on a steep decline in recent weeks.  Penn State will need to air it out if they have a chance to hang close in this game but they face the most dominant pass rush in the game and a stacked secondary.

I believe this bet has the signs of an Ohio State Buckeyes statement win and they will blow the door off Penn State and squash their playoff hopes.

Best Bet: Ohio State Buckeyes -17.5 (-118)

No. 12 Michigan Wolverines (-360) vs Indiana Hoosiers (+290)
Saturday, Indiana University Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, IN | 3:30 PM ET

After nearly upsetting Penn State, Indiana finds themselves up against yet another Big Ten powerhouse in Michigan. They come into this game as 8-point favorites, a line which will likely move in Michigan’s favor as kickoff nears.

This is an interesting line as the Hoosiers have clear indications of a team playing over their heads.  But can they keep it up another week?

They will face another tough defense as the Wolverines rank fourth in total passing yards allowed per game at a stingy 154.8YPG.  Thing is, much like Penn State, they had a lot of cupcake games early on.  So how much can their season-long stats be trusted?  The fact is, this Michigan team looks nothing like the team they were earlier in the season.

After a heartbreaking loss to Penn State, the Wolverines have gone 3-0, beating Notre Dame, Maryland and Michigan State.  Not only did they beat three very competent teams, but they also outscored them by a total of 95 points.  I don’t see Michigan losing them game unless Shea goes down early with some tragic injury.  They are far superior teams and are actually playing up to expectations for a change.

I don’t think Peyton Ramsey manages the 371 yards he put up against Penn State.  This is a Wolverines team who recently held Notre Dame to just 73 passing yards a few weeks ago.  I also don’t see the Hoosiers being able to put together enough on the ground and open up the field for a more committed passing attack.

This is a much tougher game than it seems at first glance.  These teams both have a tendency to play in an inconsistent manner, and both are in the red-hot streak portion of their game right now.  My brain is telling me that Michigan is a superior team on both ends of the ball and this spread should be closer to double digits.  On the flip side, my gut is trying to tell me this has a home underdog cover written all over it.

Being a student of science, I shall trust my brain in this situation and side with the Wolverines on the spread.  This team has a lot to prove and are playing to end the season in the Top-10, snag a good Bowl Game and hope to tempt a few five-star recruits in the offseason.  With more reasons to win and more weapons to do so, the Wolverines are my pick in this one.

Best Bet: Michigan Wolverines -8 (-115)