Indiana (+14) @ Michigan State (44)
Pick: Michigan State -14
I’m back on the Michigan State train after last week. The Spartans quickly righted the ship in Evanston blowing out Northwestern after losing at home as a two-touchdown favorite against Arizona State the week prior. It was the conference opener for Mark Dantonio’s team and it probably came at a good time. A lot of college football teams, particularly power five teams that can make the College Football Playoff by winning their league, will treat the non-conference games as an extension of the preseason. None of this is to excuse Michigan State for a putrid performance against the Sun Devils two weeks ago, but it is to say they won’t overlook Indiana here despite traveling to Columbus next weekend to play Ohio State. It’s also difficult to know what we’re going to get from Indiana on the road in this spot. This is the first true road game for the Hoosiers after they beat Ball State by 10 on a neutral field in Week 1, and played home games against Eastern Illinois, Ohio State and Connecticut to follow. They posted double-digit victories against Eastern Illinois and Connecticut as well and covered both times. But, a 41-point blowout loss in Week 3 against the Buckeyes doesn’t inspire much confidence that Indiana can keep this one competitive against a team that already had a hiccup at home. Lay the two touchdowns with Michigan State and expect the Spartans to roll into Columbus next weekend with some confidence after two straight victories by over two touchdowns to open Big 10 play.
Michigan (-28) @ Rutgers (49)
Pick: Rutgers +28
Who is Michigan to be a four-touchdown favorite anywhere, even at home? I don’t particularly care that it’s Rutgers either. The Wolverines are 0-3 ATS after last week’s embarrassment in Madison. I expected Michigan to hit the reset button with conference play starting the way Michigan State did last week. It didn’t happen and while the Wolverines might come out angry in this one, I think the reality is they’re just not that good and aren’t a team to lay this many points with. In some ways, this spot for Rutgers is similar to last week’s game against Boston College. BC was coming to Piscataway off an embarrassing loss to Kansas the week before, and the Scarlet Knights were able to hang around for a half, as the Eagles only led 17-13 heading into the locker room. Boston College went on to win and cover 30-16, but I think we see a similar performance from Michigan in this one. Look for this to be somewhat competitive early and for the Wolverines to slowly pull away late, but I wouldn’t expect Michigan to cover the number.
Ohio State (-17) @ Nebraska (66.5)
Pick: Nebraska +17
This was one of the Game of the Year lines you could bet all summer at lots of sportsbooks. At several books that offered it, the line was as short as Ohio State -4.5. That gives you an idea about the kind of hype there was surrounding Nebraska entering the second year of the Scott Frost era. It also gives you an idea of how dominant a public darling like Ohio State was in the first four weeks. The Cornhuskers lost to their former Big 12 rival Colorado in Week 2, but in what was a prototypical look-ahead spot last week, found a way to get past Illinois, 42-38. At 3-1 and 1-0 in the Big Ten, the Cornhuskers now get their biggest test of the season with Heisman hopeful Justin Fields and new coach Ryan Day coming into Lincoln. ESPN’s College Gameday pays a visit to Nebraska as well for the first time in almost two decades. While Ohio State has a new coach and a new quarterback, remember the Big 10 games in each of the last two seasons that the Buckeyes got blown out in on the road as a double-digit favorite? It was Iowa two years ago and Purdue last season and, in both cases, the loss cost the Buckeyes a shot at the College Football Playoff. I’m not going to say the same thing is going to happen here, but I think the Cornhuskers are going to play hard for the home crowd for 60 minutes regardless of what the scoreboard reads. That will keep the backdoor open if necessary, though I think this one will stay relatively competitive the whole way and so 17 points is certainly enough for me to back Nebraska. Eventually, you have to draw the line in the sand with the public teams that dominate the non-conference the way the Buckeyes did and win their conference opener 51-10 like they did at Indiana. The sportsbooks get the better of everybody in time, and this looks like Ohio State’s first loss ATS in 2019.
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