Big Ten Week 9 picks: Can Penn State beat the Buckeyes twice in a row?

Penn State is coming off an impressive win at home against Michigan this past weekend, and now the Nittany Lions must travel to Columbus to take on No. 6 Ohio State. Penn State is in a rough stretch on its schedule, but if the team comes out unscathed, its path to the College Football Playoff will be clear.

There are some other key games this weekend with No. 16 Michigan State playing at Northwestern. The Spartans are undefeated in conference play and 6-1 on the season, but Northwestern has played the role of spoiler before. Minnesota and Iowa are squaring off to see who can stay above .500.

The Ohio State-Penn State game is the marquee matchup, but this week could help sort out who’s still in a spot to have a shot at the Big Ten championship game.

Visit our college football PickCenter page for additional information on these games and many more.

Rutgers at Michigan, Noon ET, BTN

Dan Murphy: This won't be the 78-0 bloodbath it was a year ago in Piscataway because neither team is what it was in 2016. Michigan receiver Grant Perry said the Wolverines are hoping to take some of their frustrations out on the Scarlet Knights, who bring an unprecedented two-game Big Ten winning streak to Ann Arbor. Points will still be hard to come by for Rutgers, and Michigan should get a bit of momentum back in its rushing attack this weekend. Michigan 34, Rutgers 10

No. 2 Penn State at No. 6 Ohio State, 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox

Mitch Sherman: There’s so much to break down here that I’m not even going to try to assess it all. Ultimately, I’m struggling most to answer the question of whether the Buckeyes and their revamped passing game -- 18 touchdowns and no interceptions in the past five games -- will remain productive. I think they’ll struggle, and Penn State is too good to beat without a multidimensional attack. Penn State 23, Ohio State 20

Murphy: Can Ohio State's revived offense keep its mojo flowing against the nation's top scoring defense (9.6 points per game)? Can Penn State RB Saquon Barkley find some space to get behind one of the country's deepest defensive fronts? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, Columbus could be in for an instant classic this weekend. Expect points, lots of them. And expect QB Trace McSorley's poise in big situations to give the Nittany Lions the slim edge they need to stay unbeaten. Penn State 41, Ohio State 38

Tom VanHaaren: Offense will be plentiful in this game and it should be fun to watch. Ohio State ranks No. 3 in total offensive yards per game (577) while Penn State is at No. 27 with 463 YPG. The Nittany Lions' offense proved last week against Michigan that it could score against a tough defense, so it will be interesting to see if PSU can do it two weekends in a row, and this time on the road. These two teams, statistically, are pretty evenly matched so this could be a back-and-forth battle. I’m going off of my gut and I’m going to pick Penn State to get back at Ohio State for last season’s playoff snub. Penn State 27, Ohio State 24

No. 16 Michigan State at Northwestern, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

VanHaaren: The Spartans have been ascending this season, quietly going about their business each week. Sophomore linebacker Joe Bachie has been a big part of that, and outside of a loss to a good Notre Dame team, Michigan State has done what was necessary to win. It hasn’t been flashy or in blowout fashion, but the Spartans are 6-1. The Spartans' defense isn’t getting enough credit. It will be tough for Northwestern to score, so I’m going with Michigan State to win. Michigan State 21, Northwestern 13

Murphy: Coach Pat Fitzgerald's team is normally good for at least one slugfest of a win against a quality opponent each season, but the Spartans aren't the group that will shy away from a punch in the mouth this year. Neither team is likely to have a lot of consistent success moving the ball. Michigan State's freshman receivers will continue their rise by making a couple of big-chunk plays to scratch out a win in Evanston. Michigan State 17, Northwestern 13

Sherman: The Wildcats have quietly moved into second place in the Big Ten West. It’s been quiet, of course, because a chasm still remains between Northwestern and the presumed division winner -- Wisconsin. No, this is not a good year for the West. But MSU, perhaps the most underwhelming 6-1 team nationally -- its average victory margin of 5.9 points is the lowest of all zero- and one-loss teams -- is still good enough to spoil the Cats’ recent run. Michigan State 28, Northwestern 17

Indiana at Maryland, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN

VanHaaren: Indiana seems as though it is so close to getting over that hump and beating some of these conference opponents. This game might be the one in which Indiana finds a little more success because Maryland is dealing with so many injuries at quarterback. The Hoosiers’ defense has been solid this season, ranked No. 29 in total defense (342 yards per game) and should help them get past the Terps. Indiana 17, Maryland 14

Minnesota at Iowa, 6:30 p.m. ET, FS1

Murphy: The Hawkeyes are 4-0 in games when they put up at least 20 points and 0-3 when they score 19 or fewer. That trend should continue this weekend. Minnesota's defense has been solid this season, but Iowa quarterback Nathan Stanley (16 TDs, 3 INTs) might be one of the most overlooked players in the Big Ten this season. He throws for three scores against the Gophers, which gets Iowa to its magic number. Iowa 24, Minnesota 17

VanHaaren: This is a night game at Iowa, and you know how I feel about the Hawkeyes at night -- it’s scary. The Hawkeyes are 8-2 at home since 2007 when the kickoff is after 6 p.m. That's not good news for Minnesota. If linebacker Josey Jewell is back from injury, that will be a big boost to the Iowa defense. Minnesota’s passing game has been inconsistent, which could be the key to this game. I think Iowa takes this one. Iowa 24, Minnesota 17

Sherman: This matchup exemplifies the West malaise. The Gophers and Hawkeyes both started with promise -- Minnesota after a fool's-gold rout of horrendous Oregon State and Iowa because of an overtime victory over Iowa State that looks more fortuitous by the week. Alas, the optimism has waned, especially for Iowa, which can’t point to a coaching transition as the source of its growing pains. Iowa 14, Minnesota 13

Nebraska at Purdue, 7:30 p.m. ET, BTN

Sherman: Nebraska’s 2015 Halloween loss at Purdue served as the catalyst of a downfall that led to just the third losing season for the Cornhuskers since the early 1960s. The situation is perhaps even more frightening for Nebraska this season as it attempts to rebound from consecutive losses by a combined 63 points. New Nebraska AD Bill Moos will be on hand as the Boilermakers attempt to further darken coach Mike Riley’s future. Purdue 34, Nebraska 28

Another unanimous pick

  • No. 5 Wisconsin over Illinois

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