The Big Ten schedule is going to look quite a bit of different this week than originally planned. "The Game," which is annually played between Michigan and Ohio State on the final week of the regular season, has been canceled as the Wolverines are dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak within their program. Michigan also was forced to cancel its game against Maryland last week due to the outbreak.
Earlier this week, the Big Ten ruled that Ohio State will still play in the Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern despite only playing five games this season. The Buckeyes have had three games canceled as a result of COVID-19 outbreaks within their program and opposing programs. With the Big Ten title game already set in stone, the conference slate isn't quite as intriguing in the final week of the regular season.
One of the more interesting games on the schedule is No. 16 Iowa taking on Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes have won five consecutive games while the Badgers suffered a disappointing defeat against Indiana despite the Hoosiers being shorthanded. Even with the Big Ten Championship Game set, Iowa could end up playing in a very high-level bowl game if this group is able to defeat Wisconsin.
This is certainly one of the more difficult games to forecast. After all, Minnesota hasn't played since Nov. 20 when the Golden Gophers narrowly defeated Purdue. While Nebraska isn't the most dangerous team in the Big Ten by any stretch, it's hard not to expect some rust from Minnesota in its return to the field. Both of these teams rank in the bottom half of the conference in terms of defense, so I'd expect quite a few points to be scored in this one. Assuming that Minnesota's stellar rushing attack picks up where it left off, I have no doubt that the over hits in this one. Pick: Over 58.5
Illinois at No. 14 Northwestern
Northwestern has locked up a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game against Ohio State, but the Wildcats will need to keep their positive momentum trending in the right direction prior to that pivotal contest. This will be Northwestern's first game since falling to Michigan State two weeks ago. The Wildcats have been a well-oiled machine the majority of the year with key wins over the likes of Wisconsin and Iowa. Northwestern will rely on its defense in this one like it has throughout the majority of the season. With Illinois having one of the more stagnant offenses in the conference, this one shouldn't be in doubt. Pick: Northwestern -14.5
Rutgers at Maryland
Maryland and Rutgers have been two of the bigger surprises in the Big Ten. Yes, the two teams only have two wins apiece this season, but not a lot was expected. Mike Locksley and Greg Schiano have brought a renewed energy to their programs and this one could end up being very interesting. After having its game against Michigan canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak, Maryland has a chance to end its season on a strong note. The Penn State offense was able to impose its will on the Rutgers defense and Maryland dominated Penn State earlier this season. The extra week off should help Taulia Tagovailoa and company get healthy. The Terps should be able to cover without too much of a problem. Pick: Maryland -7.5
Michigan State at Penn State
Let's just say that the 2020 season hasn't exactly been what fans envisioned in Happy Valley. Penn State lost its first five games and three of them came by double-digits. While the Nittany Lions could've just packed it in, the group won back-to-back games against Michigan and Rutgers. Penn State has stepped up its game on the defensive side of the ball and only allowed 24 total points over the last two games. As for Michigan State, who knows what Spartans team will show up for the season finale. Michigan State upset previously unbeaten Northwestern, but were shut out by Indiana. I'm certainly not a huge fan of this game, but I'm more confident in Penn State at home in this one. Pick: Penn State -14.5
Wisconsin at No. 16 Iowa
This game has a lot less allure than it would've originally. Wisconsin had three games canceled as a result of COVID-19 and are coming off a deflating loss to Indiana. On the other hand, Iowa won five consecutive games after dropping its first two to start off the season. Like the majority of its games this season, Iowa rode its stellar rushing attack, which totaled 204 rushing yards in a win over Illinois. It's going to be one of the deciding factors of this one since Wisconsin has the Big Ten's top-ranked rushing defense. If the Hawkeyes can have their running game be even semi-productive, this is a winnable game. It'll be close, but I'll roll with Iowa in a tight affair. Pick: Iowa +1
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