Big Ten College Football Odds, Picks: How to Bet Week 9’s Top Conference Games
Ryan Collinsworth/Action Network.
- Saturday marks a big day for the Big Ten with five conference showdowns on the docket.
- Our staff is betting all of them from Ohio State vs Penn State to Michigan State vs Michigan.
- Check out all five of our staff's bets for Saturday's Big Ten college football games below.
Big Ten Football Betting Previews for Week 9
The team logos in the table below represent each of five Big Ten Conference matchups that the Action Network NCAAF staff is betting on Saturday, Oct. 29. Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to jump to a specific bet discussed in this article.
|Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAF Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.|
No. 2 Ohio State vs No. 13 Penn State
Only two legitimate hurdles remain before Ohio State finds itself in a de facto national quarterfinal branded as the Big Ten Championship.
Michigan will come on the last weekend of the regular season, but a victory over highly-ranked Penn State would inch the Buckeyes closer to the pole position when the first College Football Playoff rankings are announced.
Head coach Ryan Day has built a solid resume, having only been challenged by Notre Dame in the opening game of the season.
As for the Nittany Lions, head coach James Franklin rebounded from a blowout loss to Michigan with a blowout of Minnesota in Week 8. The emergence of a running game has bolstered an offense that formerly relied on the quarterback to win games.
Penn State has aspirations of winning the Big Ten East, but a victory over the Buckeyes is a must to have any shot at the conference title.
The Buckeyes have yet to be challenged as we head into the final weekend of October. An opener against Notre Dame is the closest call Ohio State has had in the upset department, but second-half scores notched a double-digit victory.
Six other victories have been smooth sailing, which is even more impressive considering the Buckeyes have the 13th-toughest strength of schedule.
New defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has supplied the remedy to previous Ohio State teams that allowed too many explosive plays.
Pick-6 for Tommy Eichenberg. Put this clip on repeat.pic.twitter.com/9lVlRwAxMo
— Eleven Warriors (@11W) October 22, 2022
Knowles’ impact can be seen all over the defensive metrics, as Ohio State boasts a top-10 rank in nearly every category. Only Boise State has allowed fewer plays to go over 10 yards on the season.
Surprisingly, the Buckeyes have allowed more points than the national average when opponents are in scoring position. Those numbers are directly linked to a small sample size, as 11 opponent trips to the red zone have resulted in 10 scores.
Quarterback C.J. Stroud may be having the quietest Heisman campaign in the history of the award. The sophomore is on pace to shatter his 2021 numbers with 28 touchdowns on just 189 passing attempts.
If there’s an area to monitor, it’s his turnover-worthy play rate, which now sits at 4.7% after achieving a mark of 2.5% last season. Stroud has posted a turnover-worthy play in every game this season, including three in the victory over Iowa last week.
Those issues are not related to drops. Despite losing two first-round NFL Draft picks at wide receiver, Stroud has seen his drop rate move from 6.2% to just 2.2%.
Head coach Ryan Day has spent the majority of the season creating a blue-collar rushing attack. Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson form arguably the best backfield in college football.
Williams enters as the eighth-best running back in PFF elusiveness grading, and Henderson averages over three yards after contact.
Miyan Williams had himself a day against Rutgers. 189 rushing yards and 5 TDs! pic.twitter.com/XwufvzNZmr
— CleBuckeye (@CleBuckeye23) October 2, 2022
Quarterback Sean Clifford is coming off of his best game of the 2022 season, throwing for nearly 300 yards and four touchdowns against Minnesota.
Although his turnover-worthy play rate is the highest of his career, the Gophers defense produced just five pressures the entire game. Penn State ranks 49th in pass blocking, as pocket pressure has long been the kryptonite in Clifford’s five-year career.
Oof Sean Clifford… pic.twitter.com/PVN4FiV7HH
— Saturday Cadence (@SaturdayCadence) October 23, 2022
One of the weapons in the victory over Minnesota was rarely-used tight end Theo Johnson. The third-year pass-catcher had previously recorded 34 career targets but caught all five targets, including a touchdown, versus the Gophers.
Considering starting tight end Brenton Strange has caught 17-of-18 targets on the season. Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich could have success running 12 personnel — formations with one running back and two tight ends — against an aggressive Ohio State front.
Penn State’s Manny Diaz-led defense was torched on the ground for 418 yards against Michigan. The Nittany Lions recovered last week, allowing just 3.6 yards per carry while loading the box against a backup quarterback.
PSU ranks 63rd defensively in Rushing Success Rate and 104th in tackling. While the Nittany Lions own a top-25 number in Stuff Rate, rushing attempts that reach the second level often create first downs.
Ohio State vs Penn State Pick
There are plenty of aspects in the head-to-head numbers that suggest Penn State will have some fortune against Ohio State.
Stroud has made mistakes at a rate that continues to climb and the Nittany Lions are fifth in Defensive Havoc. The strength of that chaos comes from pass breakups, as Penn State not only leads the nation but no other defense is close to producing the same number of knockdowns.
Both cornerbacks, Joey Porter Jr. and Kalen King, rank in the top 10 individually in forced incompletions.
One area the Buckeyes will not struggle in is running the ball. Not only is Penn State mid-FBS in Success Rate against the ground game, but the Nittany Lions are also 90th in expected points against the rush.
Ohio State is the top team in the nation in Offensive Finishing Drives, averaging 5.8 points per quality drive. Penn State has a top-25 defense in terms of scoring opportunities and red zone, but the Buckeyes’ rushing options are the primary reason for the two-touchdown spread.
Clifford continues to struggle in pressured passing attempts, having notched just one big-time throw in 47 attempts with a crowded pocket. A large drop in adjusted completion percentage, along with a steep incline in turnover-worthy plays, creates a formula for the Buckeyes to get Penn State in passing downs as quick as possible.
Ohio State has three defenders in the top 200 for individual grading in pass rush productivity, including edge Zach Harrison. To avoid any of this, running back Nick Singleton must have a career day to keep Clifford out of long down-and-distance situations.
Action Network projects Ohio State at -14.5 with a total of 64. Both numbers are shade off from the market, indicating minuscule value on Penn State and the over.
As mentioned on Green Dot Daily, the best bet in this game is on Miyan Williams rushing props to the over, as Penn State consistently struggles with ground attacks.
The early action has all been on Ohio State, but considering the history of closeness between these two teams, there will be plenty of wagers for Penn State as the number approaches 17.
Rutgers vs Minnesota
Minnesota is in search of its first Big Ten victory as it welcomes the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to Huntington Bank Stadium.
The Golden Gophers opened the season with four dominant victories, all coming by an average margin of 40 points.
But that success came to a harsh halt as the program entered conference play. Minnesota has lost its last three games by double digits.
Now the Gophers have an opportunity to right the ship against a Rutgers program going through similar struggles.
The Scarlet Knights won their first three games of the season before losing their first three Big Ten matchups. They responded last week with a comeback victory over Indiana.
The Golden Gophers’ defense will have a chance to completely shut down the Rutgers offense, but will it be enough to cover as a two-touchdown favorite?
Rutgers’ best chance at winning a Big Ten game came last week in its matchup against Indiana. Hope seemed slim after the Hoosiers went up 14-0 in the first quarter, but the Scarlet Knights battled back with 24 unanswered points and pulled out a victory.
But despite a new offensive coordinator at the helm and all the quarterbacks finally healthy, the offense still struggled.
Quarterback Noah Vedral played the whole game after returning from injury. In his two starts this season, he has completed just 46% of his passes while averaging 6.3 yards per attempt.
The program ranks outside the top 100 in nearly all passing categories in advanced metrics.
The little threat from the passing game has led the offense to lean on the rushing attack. Rutgers is averaging only 3.6 yards per carry against FBS opponents, though.
Moving the ball is going to be a monumental challenge against a Minnesota defense that ranks among the top 13 in points and yards per game.
The Rutgers defense has kept it competitive in games this season. The unit is allowing 24 points per game and only 4.8 yards per play. The defense will have to produce a dominant game if the Scarlet Knights want to keep this matchup close.
Minnesota is coming off of a 28-point loss to Penn State, which capped off its three-game losing streak.
But the Golden Gophers were without starting quarterback Tanner Morgan, who was ruled out after suffering a concussion against Illinois.
The Golden Gophers offense wasn’t the same without its gunslinger under center. Morgan is averaging 9.4 yards per pass attempt while completing 67% of his passes. When he’s under center, defenses need to be prepared for the play-action pass.
The offense is reliant on the success of running back Mohamed Ibrahim, who is averaging 5.9 yards per carry this season. The senior running back has found pay dirt in every game this season, amounting 10 touchdowns in total.
He’s rushed for over 100 yards in all six games this season while averaging 132 per game.
The Minnesota defense has been stout in 2022, allowing 18 points and 310 yards per game. It will have little issue shutting down the lackluster Rutgers passing attack.
The Gophers will need to control the line of scrimmage against a run-heavy Rutgers offense.
In its four non-conference games, Minnesota held opponents to 62 rushing yards per game and 2.8 yards per carry. But since Big Ten play began, those numbers have jumped up to 4.8 yards per carry and 185 yards per game.
Rutgers vs Minnesota Pick
This is a tough matchup for Rutgers, whose offense has been at the bottom of the Big Ten this season.
The Scarlet Knights are going to find no success through the air in this matchup. Vedral hasn’t looked great in his two starts this season, completing just 46% of his passes.
Now Vedral must match up against a Golden Gophers defense that ranks fourth in the nation in pass coverage, per PFF.
Rutgers’ offense has had 52 drives in its four games during conference play — 10 of those drives have resulted in points (five touchdowns and five field goals), while the remaining 42 drives have ended with a punt (27) or a turnover (15).
Minnesota’s offense is poised to bounce back in a big way with the return of Morgan. The Golden Gophers own one of the top rushing units in the country, which ranks 10th in Success Rate and seventh in Line Yards.
After the running game has been established, that opens things up for Morgan to take some deep shots down field.
Minnesota will jump out to an early lead, and this one will snowball into a blowout quickly.
No. 17 Illinois vs Nebraska
Illinois has found itself in the AP Top 25 rankings this season for the first time since 2011 after an excellent start to the 2022 season.
The Fighting Illini sit atop the Big Ten West and are in the prime position to represent the conference in the Big Ten Championship next month.
They’re in the position that Nebraska expected itself to be in when the year began, but the Cornhuskers have massively underperformed and already fired head coach Scott Frost.
The Cornhuskers have shown some signs of life under interim coach Mickey Joseph with wins over Rutgers and Indiana. Now, they have a chance to knock off a ranked opponent at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln on Saturday afternoon.
Both teams had last week off to prepare for this game, so there’s no decided rest advantage for either program. But the line did move from Illinois -6.5 through the key number of seven, and it might be time to sell high on the Illini after their excellent start to the season.
What you think of Illinois is heavily dependent on how much you truly believe in the excellent defensive numbers it has across the board. I tend to think a big part of its dominance is a product of the offenses it’s faced to this point.
In Week 0, Illinois stayed in Champaign to play Wyoming, which is a member of the terrible Mountain West this season. The schedule also includes anemic Iowa, Virginia without an offensive line, Wisconsin just before it fired Paul Chryst and Minnesota without Tanner Morgan for most of the game.
It’s important to use priors in a game like this, or else I could read off the numbers that say Illinois ranks top-five in Success Rate against both the run and pass and leads the country in Havoc and Finishing Drives.
If you really believe in those offenses, it may be able to shut down Ohio State or Michigan in potential future games with them.
The Illini do have one hole defensively: They allow big plays as a unit. Illinois ranks just 115th in defensive explosiveness and could get exposed for a few big plays now that a real offense can take advantage.
The defenses Illinois has faced have been better than the group of offenses, so the numbers are more realistic. Illinois ranks in the 50s in Standard Down Success Rate and efficiency but sits outside the top 100 in passing downs.
Can we really trust DeVito to get margin? Illinois has played four Big Ten games and three against starting quarterbacks. Two were decided by just three points.
Nebraska’s defense is really hard to buy into or believe in as it gets exposed week after week.
The Huskers rank outside the top 100 in both Passing and Rushing Success Rate Allowed and cause almost no Havoc to get the opposing offenses off schedule.
When looking at the Illinois offense, though, you don’t see impressive numbers across the board, either.
Nebraska’s offense is clearly the best offense that Illinois has faced all season, and we’re going to start to see some holes in the Illini defense because of that. The Cornhuskers have played a considerably more difficult schedule and are top-25 in Standard Down Success Rate, explosiveness and EPA/Play.
The Huskers also do an excellent job of preventing Havoc and staying in front of the sticks offensively.
The pass blocking hasn’t been great, so Illinois could get some pressure in this game. But if it doesn’t, Casey Thompson has a 91 PFF grade from clean pockets and averaged over 10 yards per pass.
The Illini defense could get exposed downfield in this matchup as they face the first competent passing attack of the season.
Illinois vs Nebraska Pick
I have no faith in Nebraska’s defense to get many stops, but I also don’t buy into the early-season dominance of the Illini defense at all. It’s a unit that was expected to be good but not great in the preseason and has faced an extremely favorable schedule of opponents to this point.
Nebraska has its flaws, but its strength is the efficiency of the offense. It loves to go uptempo and maximize possessions. It’s likely to be playing from behind, and there are holes in this Illinois secondary that Thompson can exploit.
Illinois isn’t playing Wyoming, Iowa, Indiana or Wisconsin anymore. Nebraska had a full week off to prepare to beat the Illini defense, and I think it will on Saturday.
Nebraska will keep this close by scoring, and I like the team total over under the key number of 21.
Pick: Nebraska Team Total Over 20.5 (-120)
Northwestern vs Iowa
By Matt Wispe
At 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Iowa hosts Northwestern in a conference matchup that is technically football.
Northwestern enters this game with a 1-6 record and riding a six-game losing streak. The Wildcats hold a 3-4 record against the spread, and they’ve gone under the total in four games this year.
Meanwhile, Iowa comes in with a 3-4 record and coming off of a 44-point loss to Ohio State. The Hawkeyes sit 3-4 against the spread and have gone under in five games of their seven games this season.
The weather shouldn’t create a significant impact on the game. Winds are forecasted to range from 6.5 to 7.4 miles per hour, and there’s no rain in the forecast. While these winds may have a slight impact on special teams, it’s not likely to create any major difficulties.
Northwestern has yet to win a game on American soil this season. Since defeating Nebraska in Ireland in their season opener, the Wildcats have dropped seven straight.
They’ve averaged 18.6 points per game and 5.0 yards per play through these eight games to go along with a 40% Success Rate and an average of 3.25 points per opportunity.
Despite their struggles, they play with a top-10 pace at 22.2 seconds per play.
Whether it’s Ryan Hilinski or Brendan Sullivan under center, there are major questions about the Wildcats’ passing attack. Hilinski remains questionable after exiting the Wisconsin game with a concussion.
Through the air, Northwestern has averaged 41 pass attempts per game for an average of 262 yards. It also owns a 41% Passing Success Rate and has recorded 3.4 passes of at least 20 yards per game.
Evan Hull has led the team with 547 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The Wildcats own a 42% Rushing Success Rate from 36.7 rush attempts per game and 3.5 yards per attempt.
Their line has generated 2.76 Line Yards per attempt and has allowed a 17.3% Stuff Rate.
On the other side of the ball, Northwestern has allowed 28.1 points per game on 5.0 yards per play. Opponents own a 44% Success Rate and score 3.76 points per opportunity.
The Cats generate Havoc on 15% of plays and have allowed an average of 3.85 20-plus yard plays per game.
Iowa holds a 3-4 record and a 1-3 record in Big Ten play.
The incompetency of this offense has been heavily discussed this season, but it’s always worth pointing out when preparing to bet an Iowa game.
The Hawkeyes average just 14.0 points per game and 3.9 yards per play to go along with a 33% Success Rate and 2.28 points per opportunity. The offensive line has also struggled, allowing Havoc on 22% of plays.
However, the most jarring statistic might be that they’ve scored only seven offensive touchdowns this season, while the defense has scored three.
Maybe Brian Ferentz was right when he said there wasn’t any upside to benching Spencer Petras for Alex Padilla. But neither quarterback has much of a chance when the game plan sets them up for failure.
As a pair, they’ve completed 52.7% of their passes for an average of 5.48 yards per attempt. They’ve thrown just two touchdowns compared to six interceptions and own a 32% Passing Success Rate.
The Hawkeyes run the ball on 47% of plays and have averaged 2.6 yards per attempt. They’ve distributed the workload between a few backs with four players recording over 30 rush attempts.
Leshon Williams leads the team with 267 yards and two touchdowns. Iowa boasts a 34% Rushing Success Rate, and its line has created an average of 2.65 Line Yards per attempt while allowing a 17.3% Stuff Rate.
However, the best unit on the field this game will be Iowa’s defense.
The Hawkeyes rank inside of the top 10 in scoring defense at 16.1 points per game. They also allow a 38% Success Rate and 3.19 points per opportunity, both of which rank inside the top 30 nationally.
They generate Havoc on 17% of plays and allow an average of 4.1 yards per play. They’ve also been great at defending explosiveness, giving up the second-fewest 20-yard plays nationally.
Northwestern vs Iowa Pick
Bettors have stepped up to the counter to back the Wildcats. As of writing, 61% of bets and 77% of the money have come in on Northwestern.
With an 11-point spread, it’s hard to imagine Iowa’s offense scoring enough to cover, but it’s also difficult to imagine Northwestern finding any success against Iowa’s defense.
With both offenses having major concerns, that points the best bet in one direction.
My preferred play is on the under at 37.5, but I’m keeping my bets small because Iowa’s defense has a tendency to score.
Michigan State vs No. 4 Michigan
Michigan State looks to play spoiler on Saturday night at the Big House when it faces its in-state rival Michigan.
It’s been a disappointing season for Michigan State, but it got its first big win of the season two weeks ago, beating Wisconsin at home in overtime.
Mel Tucker’s team is currently sitting at 3-4 with a difficult schedule to finish the season, so it looks like the Spartans will be missing out on a bowl game this year.
Michigan is undefeated at 7-0 and ranks fourth in the country. However, the only ranked team it has beaten is Penn State at home. Additionally, only two of the Wolverines’ wins have come against teams with a winning record.
They really just need to make sure they don’t trip up the next three weekends before hosting Illinois and then finishing the season against Ohio State at the Big House.
The Spartans’ offense hasn’t been as bad as the results have shown. Sparty is still gaining 5.5 yards per play and ranks 67th in Offensive Success Rate.
They have been below average running the ball, though. Michigan State is 75th in Rushing Success Rate, 95th in Offensive Line Yards and is only averaging 3.7 yards per carry.
Lead back Jalen Berger really hasn’t been that effective. He’s averaging 4.5 yards per carry, but only has a 67.3 PFF rushing grade and only has 11 runs over 10+ yards, which is not good considering he’s carried the ball 88 times.
Payton Thorne has struggled as a passer this season, averaging only 7.2 yards per attempt with a PFF passing grade of 69.3. His main target, Jayden Reed, has struggled with injuries this season, which could be a reason why Thorne has regressed.
He did have his best game of the season against Wisconsin two weeks ago, averaging 9.5 yards per attempt, throwing two touchdown passes and putting up a 82.0 PFF passing grade.
The front seven has been halfway decent for Michigan State this season. The Spartans allow only 4.0 yards per carry while ranking 34th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed and 38th in EPA/Rush.
That means the Spartans may have a shot at stopping Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards.
Perhaps the biggest mismatch in this game is J.J. McCarthy versus the Michigan State secondary, which has been horrible this season. The Spartans have allowed 8.2 yards per attempt (111th in FBS) while ranking 120th in Passing Success Rate Allowed and EPA/Pass Allowed.
McCarthy should be able to throw all over the Spartans’ secondary.
Michigan State also sits 86th in Defensive Finishing Drives, while Michigan ranks 10th nationally in that category on offense.
The Wolverines have played an easy schedule to date, but gaining 6.8 yards per play while ranking third in Success Rate and 28th in EPA/Play is nothing to scoff at.
Corum has been outstanding while taking over as the lead running back. He’s averaging 6.7 yards per carry, has 13 touchdowns, owns 23 runs of 10+ yards and is posting a 92.9 PFF Rushing Grade, which leads college football.
Last time he was on the field, he ran all over Penn State’s defense, going for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
McCarthy has been one of the most accurate passers in college football this season. He has a 82.9% adjusted completion percentage, which is only second to Bo Nix. McCarthy has Michigan ranked sixth in Passing Success Rate and 28th in EPA/Pass.
He should be able to throw all over Michigan State’s secondary.
Michigan has been incredibly stout on the defensive side of the ball. In its last game against Penn State, one of the Nittany Lions’ touchdowns came on defense, so Michigan held Sean Clifford and company to just 10 points on offense.
Overall for the season, Michigan is No. 1 in the country in yards per play allowed at 3.8 and ranks 10th in Success Rate Allowed and fourth in EPA/Play Allowed.
The front seven has been incredibly stout, allowing only 2.9 yards per carry (4th in FBS) while ranking 21st in EPA/Rush and 14th in Defensive Line Yards. Not only that, but Michigan is also doing the fundamentals well on defense, as it has the fourth-best tackling grade in the nation, per PFF.
The secondary has also been very impressive, as it held Clifford to just 5.4 yards per attempt two weeks ago. The Wolverines rank third in EPA/Pass, eighth in Passing Success Rate Allowed and have the 10th-best coverage grade, per PFF.
Michigan State vs Michigan Pick
Michigan has been on cruise control all season long and whether or not it makes the Big Ten Championship game is going to come down to its final two games of the season.
However, the Wolverines must focus on beating their rival, in which they have a fantastic matchup against, as long as McCarthy is effective in the passing game.
I have Michigan projected as a -29.3 favorite, so I like the value on the Wolverines at -22.5, which is currently available at BetMGM.