Big Ten Week 12 picks: Badgers begin drive for playoff

Week 12 has a little drama to the regular season’s finish, especially within the Big Ten. Wisconsin is currently ranked No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings and Ohio State is No. 9.

If the Badgers win out, it seems very likely they would make the playoff, considering Clemson and Miami are ranked No. 2 and 3 and still have to play each other in the ACC championship game. However, it won't be easy for a Wisconsin team that has dealt with injuries and still must play Michigan, Minnesota and the East Division champ in the Big Ten championship game.

This week will give us a better picture of where the Big Ten stacks up in the playoff picture. Visit our college football PickCenter page for additional information on these games and many more.

No. 24 Michigan at No. 5 Wisconsin, noon ET, Fox

Dan Murphy: The forecast in Madison on Saturday afternoon calls for footballs raining from the sky. In other words, expect lots of punts. Wisconsin ranks first among FBS team in total yards allowed this year. Michigan is sitting at third. If the Wolverines’ young athletes can force Alex Hornibrook (three interceptions last week) into some big mistakes, they’ll have a shot to play spoiler. The Badgers know that, though, and will keep it conservative. Wisconsin 17, Michigan 14

Mitch Sherman: What to make of Michigan’s recent run against the lower tier of the Big Ten? Appears the Wolverines have found something, particularly in the run game. But the Badgers are stout defensively -- among the best units nationally, in fact. If Hornibrook limits his mistakes, Michigan’s improving QB situation won’t matter. Wisconsin 21, Michigan 13

Tom VanHaaren: As noted above, Wisconsin’s defense has performed well this season. The stat I’m looking at is that Wisconsin ranks first in rush yards allowed per game, giving up an average of only 81.5 yards per game on the ground. Against Minnesota, Michigan ran the ball 37 times for 371 yards, but gained only 160 yards on 38 attempts against Maryland. If Wisconsin’s defense contains the Michigan run game, we will have to see Brandon Peters air it out more often. I think Wisconsin’s defense against Michigan’s offense decides it. Wisconsin 13, Michigan 10

Minnesota at No. 23 Northwestern, noon ET, BTN

Sherman: Don’t be fooled by the resurgence of the Gophers last week at home in a rout of Nebraska. A big difference exists between a get-well game and a feel-good win. Minnesota got the latter. QB Demry Croft won’t find the running lanes so large in Evanston against the Wildcats, who rank seventh nationally and second in the Big Ten in defending the rush. Northwestern 27, Minnesota 14

VanHaaren: Northwestern is on a five-game win streak, which includes wins over Michigan State and Iowa, so this game is going to be tough for Minnesota. As mentioned above, Minnesota likely won’t see Croft with the production he had last week against Nebraska. On top of that, the Gophers’ defense has given up 54 points over the past two games, which averages out to 27 points per game, pretty close to Northwestern’s average points scored over this five-game win streak, which is right around 29 points. Northwestern 28, Minnesota 17

Rutgers at Indiana, noon ET, BTN

Murphy: The loser of this game won’t be headed to a bowl game this season. Cole Gest looked like he could provide a bit of a spark for the Hoosiers’ absent rushing attack last week. Sorry, Rutgers fans: Your team has given you a bit more to cheer about this fall, but it’s safe to start making your holiday plans without accounting for a bowl trip. On the bright side, the Scarlet Knights have a good shot to beat the spread for the ninth time this year. Indiana 24, Rutgers 20

Illinois at No. 9 Ohio State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

VanHaaren: Ohio State still has an outside shot at the playoff, so these games still matter for the Buckeyes, whether coach Urban Meyer wants to talk about it or not. A lot would have to happen for them to make it, but it’s not out of the question. That’s unfortunate for Illinois, because Ohio State isn’t going to let up in this game, especially as it prepares for Michigan the following week. Ohio State 48, Illinois 10

Murphy: The Buckeyes have frustrated fans with a couple anomalous duds this season when they didn’t have their “A game.” If they can muster up even a C or D performance on Senior Day at the Horseshoe, they should just be fine against the Illini. Meyer said his team would have zero discussion this week about their shot a College Football Playoff spot, but don’t be surprised if the Buckeyes take an opportunity to remind the committee how powerful its offense can be, just in case. Ohio State 52, Illinois 13

Purdue at Iowa, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN

Sherman: Unpredictable Iowa returns home for Senior Day after an anemic offensive showing last week at Wisconsin that followed the fireworks of a blowout win over Ohio State. What will it be this week? The Boilermakers, fighting to get bowl-eligible, are strong enough to push the Hawkeyes. It will be a rebound for Nathan Stanley and his weapons on offense. Iowa 31, Purdue 21

Nebraska at No. 10 Penn State, 4 p.m. ET, FS1

VanHaaren: Nebraska has been spiraling this season, and although Penn State has two losses, they can still get to a 10-win season by finishing out the season with wins. Nebraska’s run defense ranks 105th in the country, giving up 200.1 yards per game. They are also coming off a game in which Minnesota quarterback Demry Croft ran for 183 yards and running back Rodney Smith had 134 yards of his own, so this should be a game in whichSaquon Barkley and Trace McSorley can both find success on the ground. Penn State 31, Nebraska 7

Sherman: The Nittany Lions lost part of their edge three weeks ago in the second half at Ohio State and still have yet to regain it despite a rout of Rutgers last week. Here’s a chance to get completely well against a Nebraska team, likely with a backup at QB, that’s simply playing out the string for coach Mike Riley and his staff. Penn State 42, Nebraska 6

Maryland at No. 17 Michigan State, 4 p.m. ET, Fox

Murphy: The Spartans’ offensive line couldn’t handle Ohio State a week ago, but they should get a much more manageable task this Saturday against Maryland. That the Terps have managed nearly 28 points per game (fourth in the Big Ten), despite an epidemic of injuries at quarterback, is remarkable. They’ll have trouble reaching that 28-point mark against Michigan State. Michigan State 30, Maryland 21