Big Ten college football picks, odds in Week 4: Ohio State could be tested, Michigan needs style points

With so many college basketballers thriving on the gridiron as the 2022 season begins, let’s sustain the synergy between the sports for a moment. Let’s take a look at No. 4 Michigan as it prepares to host undefeated Maryland – a school many would consider better known for basketball.

It’s hard to argue that the Wolverines don’t earn their high rank. After all, they’re a young college football playoff team that beat their first three opponents 166-17. However, if you employ the quadrant system that college basketball uses to categorize games, the Wolverines would be one of only a handful of Power Five teams to have played Quad 4 games exclusively to date. Home wins over Colorado State, Hawaii and UConn are the football equivalent of beating Alcorn State, Fairleigh Dickinson and Eastern Illinois on the hardwood.

With offensively lifeless Iowa and utterly inept Nebraska serving as Michigan’s cross-division opponents, the Wolverines’ schedule is comically easy for a team that’s often considered one of college football’s toughest divisions in one. No. 14 Penn State and No. 3 Ohio State are the only teams on Michigan’s schedule currently ranked.

What’s all this about? Style points may be important for Michigan this year if they want some margin for error in the playoff picture. Winning the Big Ten Championship Game as a one-loss team would certainly put the Wolverines in, but if they have to make it as a one-loss non-champion, it stands to reason that the weakness of that schedule could become a serious handicap.

It’s early days to think about such things, but it will be interesting to see if Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh feels compelled to rack up some style points to stand out on a schedule that may only feature rare moments of adversity.

As the Week 4 action draws near, let’s delve deeper into the Big Ten list and hit up some tips.

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Record from week 3: 8-4

Maryland at No. 4 Michigan

Featured Game | Michigan Wolverines vs. Maryland Terrapins

Michigan’s 3-0 start came against Colorado State, Hawaii and UConn, teams ranked 113th, 125th and 126th on our CBS Sports 131, respectively. The Wolverines scored at least 50 points in each of those games, but it stands to reason that offense will return to Earth this week against their first competent opponent. No one will mistake this Maryland defense for the 85 Bears, but at least it has a pulse. Maryland overcame a whopping 15 penalties last week to beat a decent SMU team. Some of those automatic touchdowns Michigan scored against underdog opponents could end up as mere field goals this week.

Maryland is also in for an offensive regression as it faces the best defense it has played to date. When Maryland played a good team for the first time last season (Iowa), quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa threw five interceptions. Even if the Wolverines hit the upper 30s or the lower 40s, it still seems likely that that floor will be hit. Tip: Below 66.5

Wisconsin in State No. 3 in Ohio

Featured Game | Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers

These teams have failed to surpass 57 total points in their last four encounters and it will take a game-changing performance from the Wisconsin offense for the over to hit in this game. The Badgers scored just 14 points in a home loss to Washington State, and the Buckeyes’ early signs suggest their defense is better under first-year coordinator Jim Knowles.

Ohio State showed us with a 21-10 win over Notre Dame in Week 1 that their offensive explosiveness is no barrier to translating it against high-profile opponents. Wisconsin is strong defensively, like the Fighting Irish, and should be able to force the Buckeyes to punt at least a few times in a game the Badgers might like to play at a slow pace. Choice: Under 57

Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan was barely touched in three games. He’s only been released once, and the Golden Gophers allow pressure on just 16.7% of dropbacks, according to TruMedia and Pro Football Focus data. That’s the fifth best in the country, and it’s unlikely to be sustainable in the Big Ten. Minnesota’s opponents were western Illinois, Colorado and the state of New Mexico. This is an FCS team and two of the worst teams in FBS.

Michigan State’s pass defense showed the demons of 2021 are still alive in a 39-28 loss in Washington last week. Minnesota’s passing attack isn’t nearly as explosive as Washington’s, however, and its offensive line is tested in far more significant ways. This will also be the first away game of the season for the Golden Gophers and Michigan State should be able to hold at love at home against an untested opponent. Choice: Michigan State (+3)

Featured Game | Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Indiana Hoosiers

The point total here can be inflated by the fact that teams totaled 62 points in a 38-24 win for Cincinnati last season. Neither team surpassed 400 yards that game, however, and the score was boosted by six combined turnovers and a 99-yard kickoff return for a Cincinnati touchdown. Neither offense has improved dramatically from last year, and Cincinnati’s defense seemed to find a rhythm in last week’s 38-17 win over Miami (Ohio).

After trailing 17-7 early on, the Bearcats kept the Redhawks scoreless on their last 10 possessions and allowed just 83 total yards on those drives while forcing six punts, two turnovers on downs and one interception. Look for some of that defensive mojo to carry into this game as the Bearcats continue to build their identity after knocking out nine NFL draft picks from last season’s College Football Playoff team. Tip: Under 57.5

It’s well known how awful the Iowa offensive is, and that grim reality has once again overshadowed how dominant their defenses are. The Hawkeyes are the national No. 1 in yards per game allowed of 2.92 and have given up just one touchdown in three games. Rutgers proved last week how bad it is to move football in this clash. The Scarlet Knights celebrated a 16-14 win over Temple and mustered just 201 total yards and 12 first downs against an Owls roster that was set on fire for 500 yards in a 30-0 loss to Duke in Week 1.

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Rutgers will be lucky enough to score in this game and Iowa could actually benefit from being on the road for the first time this season. Iowa City is currently fearing the offensive ineptitude of that program, but there were at least some signs of life from the running game in the 27-0 win over Nevada last week. The Hawkeyes’ excellent punter, Tory Taylor, should set his team up well in field position play which will result in some field goals and maybe a touchdown or two. Defense does the rest. Choice: Iowa -7.5

Tips for remaining Big Ten games

What college football picks can you hit with confidence in Week 4, and which top 25 favorite will go down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the range – all from a proven computer model that has generated more than $3,300 in profits over the past six years – and find out.

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