Line Study: It's Northwestern's turn to stop Ohio State

By Tom Fornelli | College Football Writer

Can anybody in the Big Ten get their hands on Braxton and the Buckeyes?
Can anybody in the Big Ten get their hands on Braxton and the Buckeyes? (USATSI)

Every Monday the Eye on College Football's Tom Fornelli takes an early look this week's most interesting point spreads in Line Study.

It's Monday and that means it's time to look at the early lines for next week's games. And while I certainly wouldn't advise you to listen to what I say and run straight to your bookie -- this is for entertainment purposes only, after all! -- I do feel I should point out that I went 12-3 against the spread in our Expert Picks last week.

Which just means I'm going to get everything wrong this week. So if I was giving you advice my advice would be to invent a time machine and go back to last week and bet on all my picks from then.

Then when you're done come back to the present and thank me with cash.

The Games You'll Be Watching

No. 4 Ohio State (-5.5) at No. 16 Northwestern

This is a huge game for the Northwestern program. College Gameday is coming to town as are thousands upon thousands of Buckeyes fans, looking to flood the quiet town of Evanston. Unfortunately for the Wildcats the Buckeyes themselves are coming as well, and that includes Braxton Miller and all his friends. Now, Northwestern has been a spread defying behemoth (13-3-1 since last season) but it's only 2-2 this year and it failed to cover in its last two games. There's also the fact that this Northwestern defense has been very reliant on the turnover so far this season, and Ohio State just doesn't turn the ball over often enough. So my initial impressions on this line are to take Ohio State -5.5 while I still can, before that spread gets larger because it will.

No. 15 Washington at No. 5 Stanford (-6.5)

Washington is off to a fantastic start this season, going 4-0 with wins over Boise State, Illinois and Arizona along the way. However, this new Washington offense that's currently 16th in the nation in yards per play and is averaging nearly 40 points per game hasn't had to face a team quite like Stanford yet. I've been very impressed with what I've seen from the Huskies so far, but like Arizona State and Washington State before it, I just feel like Stanford is too tall a mountain to climb at this point. Particularly in Palo Alto. While I'm not as confident in this pick as I am in Ohio State, at this point I don't see how you can't take Stanford -6.5 right now.

No. 25 Maryland at No. 8 Florida State (-15)

Forget the spread on this game, who would have bet on this game being a matchup of ranked teams before the season started? I know I wouldn't have. As for the game itself, there's always a bit of fear involved when it comes to relying on Florida State -- as was evidenced during the first quarter of Saturday's win against Boston College -- but while Maryland is off to a 4-0 start, the Terps haven't been as impressive as that record indicates. The four wins have come against teams with a combined record of 6-12. Three of those wins belong to Old Dominion, and all Old Dominion's wins have come against FCS competition. Meanwhile, two of Maryland's wins are against FIU and Connecticut, who may as well be FCS schools this season. So I'm thinking that Florida State -15 is looking pretty good right now.

The Games You Should Exploit

No. 6 Georgia (-10.5) at Tennessee

You'll see this game on CBS this Saturday, and I know Georgia is on the road but I can't help but think that spread looks small. Yes, there's the possibility Georgia could suffer a let down coming off a big win against LSU, but the Bulldogs still have a lot left to play for. Meanwhile, they're facing a Tennessee team that has three wins against Austin Peay, Western Kentucky and South Alabama. And that South Alabama win was by the skin of its teeth. This is also a Tennessee defense that was torn to shreds by Oregon, and even got battered by a bad Florida offense that lost its starting quarterback. It's hard not to jump at Georgia -10.5 here.

Illinois at Nebraska (-10.5)

I know it's hard to take Nebraska seriously right now, and Illinois has looked good on offense, but you need to look a bit deeper than that. Yes, Illinois' offense has looked good, but that doesn't change the fact it has been horrible on defense. While the numbers are a bit skewed thanks to a strong performance against a terrible Miami (Ohio) team, this is the same Illinois defense that allowed 615 yards of offense to Washington a couple weeks ago. Meanwhile Nebraska had last week off to right itself a bit before conference play, and while the Cornhuskers have had trouble on defense I still feel the talent gap between them and this Illinois team -- along with the homefield advantage -- is great enough that the Huskers won't have much trouble covering this spread. And if you're still not convinced, rememver that Illinois has lost its last seven conference road games by an average of 22.6 points per game.

 
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