B1G Bets: Best 5 Big Ten Football Picks for Week 11


Nov 10, 2023

With three weeks left in the 2023 college football season, we must turn it around and return to our winning ways!

Week 11 brings us a 31.5-point spread in Columbus, featuring a team total of 6.5 (not the team wearing scarlet and grey), a game total record low of 28 between Iowa-Rutgers, four teams looking to become bowl eligible, and a top-10 matchup, which is where we’ll begin.

Record: 31-24-1 overall (+12.5 units) | ATS: 17-12-1 | Team Totals: 13-11 | Game Totals: 1-1

Scared money, don’t make money. Let’s eat!

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B1GGEST Bets (1.5 Units):

Last Week: 0-0; Season: 4-1 (+4.5 Units)

Michigan -4.5 PENN STATE (consensus)

Money Line: Michigan -210 | Penn State +170 | Total: 45.5

Time: 12:00 p.m. ET; TV: FOX | Location: Beaver Stadium | University Park, PA

Michigan: CFP Ranking: 3 | SP+: 1 | PFF: 3

Penn State: CFP Ranking: 10 | SP+: 5 | PFF: 8

More Michigan-PSU: Insights & Predictions | 5 Keys For Michigan | 5 Keys for PSU | Harbaugh Responds | Weather Forecast

Get your popcorn ready, as the college football world will be focused on this top-10 matchup, our No. 1 can’t-miss game this Saturday.

This handicap is more about the eye test than the analytics.

Michigan does have a slight edge in the numbers: No. 3 vs. No. 8 EPA margin, No. 5 vs. No. 29 in offensive success rate, and No. 1 vs. No. 6 in defensive success rate. SP+ has UM’s offense and special teams ranked fifth, with PSU’s offense ranked 21st and special teams 34th.

But none of that is why I’m picking the Wolverines to beat the Nittany Lions by more than a touchdown on Saturday. Scandals aside, I believe Michigan is the best team in the country and is chomping at the bit to get tested and prove just how good they are on the field.

Michigan’s most significant edge is at the quarterback position, where J.J. McCarthy is head and shoulders above the rest of the conference’s quarterbacks. Among all college quarterbacks, McCarthy is first in EPA/pass (0.640), second in Total EPA (137.6), second in yards per attempt (10.4), and third in completion percentage (78.1 percent).

How does Drew Allar compare? The PSU passer is 37th in EPA/pass (0.249), 27th in Total EPA (66.8), 87th in yards per attempt (6.6), and 54th in completion percentage (62.8 percent).

Right now, McCarthy is a difference-maker; Allar is not. He had a solid game against Maryland last week, but as we told you, folding against the B1G East’s Big 3 is par for the course for the Terps.

This year’s offensive line isn’t as dominant as the past two Joe Moore Award-winning editions, but I will still give the Wolverines the edge in the trenches. They are tied for a B1G-best 4.6 YPC with a conference-best 25 rushing TDs. Blake Corum (5.2 YPC, CFB-best 16 rushing TDs) is still a difference-maker (there’s that word again), Kalel Mullings (6.2 YPC) gives them a physical runner with size, and even in a down season, Donovan Edwards is dynamic after the catch. 

I believe there’s a better chance the Wolverines have a breakout running game than PSU does. Both teams have elite front sevens and no shortage of edge rushers, but Michigan has a clear edge on the interior of the defensive line. They’re a more physical team…on both sides of the ball.

The one edge Penn State has is at cornerback, especially in terms of depth, but UM’s Will Johnson might be the nation’s top cover man, Mike Sainristil has made himself an NFL prospect as a slot corner, and their safeties are second to none in the B1G.

And while the Nittany Lions are still looking for a complementary receiver to KeAndre Lambert-Smith (only player over 250 yards), despite 82 fewer pass attempts by McCarthy than Allar, the Wolverines have three players over 400 receiving yards. Roman Wilson has ten TD grabs (tied for the most in the B1G), Cornelius Johnson is tied for the highest YPC (17.6) in the B1G, and TE Colston Loveland isn’t far behind (15.5 YPC). The trio is all in the top six of the conference in yards per catch. Just a sophomore, Loveland is fourth nationally among tight ends.

This is the most explosive passing team of the Jim Harbaugh era.

Head to head, Harbaugh is 5-2 against James Franklin (not counting the COVID year, which, BTW, Franklin supporters never want to count. Neither program does, if they’re being honest). That record drops to 2-2 in State College, but both losses came on nighttime “white out” games, and this one is played at noon (a “stripe out”).

There’s also a positive to the Michigan hasn’t been tested narrative. They’ve been relatively vanilla, especially in the run game, and considering how far ahead they are of everyone else in game control (percentage of the game leading by two-plus touchdowns), it’s likely they haven’t shown us everything.

Expect PSU’s offense to struggle just as they did against Ohio State, with the difference being McCarthy, who leads the Wolverines to a double-digit win.

B1GGER Bets (1 Units):

Last Week: 2-2; Season: 19-7 (+12 Units)

More CFB: Big Ten Power Rankings | Utah-Washington | Ole Miss-Georgia | Can Miami Upset FSU? | Oregon-USC

Rutgers UNDER 13.5 (DraftKings)

Money Line: Iowa -115 | Rutgers -105 | Total: 28

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

Iowa: CFP Ranking: 22 | SP+: 33 | PFF: 27

Rutgers: CFP Ranking: NR | SP+: 53 | PFF: 51

The Hawkeyes came through for us again last week! We’re 6-1 when taking Iowa’s opponent’s team total UNDER.

They’re fourth in the country in scoring defense (13.7 PPG) and have held five opponents to 13 points or fewer (only one has scored more than 16 points), including three straight. Taking out 31 points by Penn State, the defense has allowed 11 PPG in their other five Big Ten games, including 9.0 PPG in the past three.

With one of the nation’s best secondaries (second in pass defense success rate), Iowa’s zone defense is perfect for defending RU’s attack led by Gavin Wimsatt. He’s completing 49 percent of his passes (including 63.2 percent against Wagner). Since that game, he’s 44-of-100 (44 percent) with three TDs to four INTs for 5.3 yards per pass.

Phil Parker’s defense has made a living intercepting tipped passes and others that sail over the head of intended targets. The front-facing zone scheme also allows them to limit quarterback scrambles, a big part of RU’s offense.

Without diving too deep into all the numbers, SP+ ranks the Hawkeyes No. 2 defensively and Rutgers 80th on offense.

Check out SportsGrid’s CFB Game Picks and CFB Player Props

B1G Bets (1/2 Unit):

Last Week: 0-3; Season: 8-16-1 (-4 Units)

IOWA -1 Rutgers (consensus)

The humans have Iowa ranked in the CFP Top 25, and they are getting poll votes. The computers have the Hawkeyes rated higher than the Scarlet Knights. I believe Iowa is the better team…and they’re at home…and it’s basically a pick ’em?

I’ll take the B1G West leader.

RU’s defense is good. Iowa’s is great. The Hawkeyes also have the special teams edge, ranked tenth by SP+ compared to 74th.

While Rutgers is improved, who have they beaten? Their best win is 4-5 Virginia Tech or 4-5 Northwestern.

The last time the Scarlet Knights beat a bowl-bound Big Ten team? That would be 2017, 14-12 over Purdue (7-6) in Piscataway. Maybe they do it again…but don’t tell me they’re supposed to. Iowa should win this game.

Maryland-NEBRASKA UNDER 43.5 (FanDuel)

Money Line: Maryland -135 | Nebraska +110 | Spread: Maryland -2.5

Time: 12:00 p.m. ET; TV: Peacock | Location: Memorial Stadium | Lincoln, NE

Maryland: CFP Ranking: NR | SP+: 37 | PFF: 53

Nebraska: CFP Ranking: NR | SP+: 54 | PFF: 57

Maryland is the better team. Probably? But who knows? They’ve dropped four straight games since starting 5-0, including defeats against B1G West opponents with losing records in Illinois and Northwestern. How could anyone possibly trust the Terps?

You can say the same thing about the Huskers. Nebraska just lost at Michigan State, who came in with a six-game losing streak.

I trust a physical Nebraska defense ranked 29th in EPA and 20th in success rate. They are especially tough to run on, and I like their cornerbacks, with Tommi Hill finally playing up to his potential opposite Quinton Newsome. Their 28 sacks are second only to Penn State in the B1G, while Maryland has allowed 20 sacks (fourth-most in the B1G).

Both defenses should win the line of scrimmage. The Terps defense is solid (27 sacks). Nebraska’s offense remains banged up and limited in their ability to pass the football (119th in passing success rate), with Heinrich Haarberg triggering the offense. This is the weakest unit on either side.

Taking out the Michigan game (Wolverines scored 45), Nebraska’s B1G games have combined for 23 points vs. Minnesota, 27 points vs. Illinois, 26 points vs. Northwestern, 45 points vs. Purdue (including a blocked FG TD return and a fumble TD return), and 37 points vs. Michigan State.

This will be a Nebraska-type game with winds upwards of 16 miles per hour and a chill in the air.

WISCONSIN-Northwestern UNDER 42.5 (FanDuel)

Money Line: Wisconsin -375 | Northwestern +280 | Spread: Wisconsin -10.5

Time: 3:30 p.m. ET; TV: FS1 | Location: Camp Randall Stadium | Madison, WI

Wisconsin: CFP Ranking: NR | SP+: 28 | PFF: 43

Northwestern: CFP Ranking: NR | SP+: 89 | PFF: 91

Wisconsin’s defense matchups up well with Northwestern’s offense. The ‘Cats are 13th out of 14 B1G teams with 4.5 yards per play. They want to run the football, especially with Ben Bryant likely out (he hasn’t played since Sept. 30), which means running into the teeth of a strong defense.

The Badgers are 32nd in EPA/rush and 35th in rushing success on defense. Led by hybrid Hunter Wohler (85 tackles), they have seven linebackers and safeties with at least 34 tackles. Inside linebackers Jordan Turner, Maema Njongmeta, and Jake Chaney are thumpers who live to play the run.

On the road, Northwestern will have a tough time cracking 14 points. In their games away from home, the Wildcats have managed seven points at Rutgers, 14 at Duke, and nine at Nebraska (10 PPG).

Wisconsin’s offense isn’t in great shape either, especially without Braelon Allen, their featured back, and a legit offensive star. Without Allen and RB2 Chez Mellusi last week, the Badgers managed just 101 yards (3.6 YPC) on the ground against Indiana. Allen is unlikely to go this week. As is big-play WR Chimere Dike.

Like David Braun, Luke Fickell is being coy about the status of his quarterbacks. Tanner Mordecai may return this Saturday, but Week 12 is more likely. Fickell admitted he was tempted to go to QB3 last week, as Braedyn Locke (50% passing, 5.1 YPP) had another rough outing. Mordecai was better but certainly not great (three TDs, three INTs).

Should we expect the Badgers to score 28 points? I don’t see why we would. They’ve scored 24 points in the past two games combined. Wisconsin averages 19.5 PPG in the Big Ten play, including 13.8 over the past four games.

Take the UNDER in what should be a vintage B1G West showdown in Madison.

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Thumbnail photo via Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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