Big Ten Predictions, Week 2: Putting Nebraska, Wisconsin on Upset Alert

There are no marquee games on the Big Ten’s schedule this week — certainly nothing that rivals Michigan-Alabama or Michigan State-Boise State — but several of the conference’s football teams have tough matchups in Week 2.

And without further adieu, here are this week’s picks (complete with the acknowledgement that we totally missed putting out Week 1′s picks).

Season record: 0-0
Last week: 0-0

New Hampshire (1-0) at Minnesota (1-0): Don’t look now, but Minnesota could be 2-0 after this weekend. Granted, the wins would be over UNLV and New Hampshire, but we’re talking about baby steps here, people. The Golden Gophers lost to North Dakota State at home last year, so they should be plenty focused for their home opener in 2012. MarQueis Gray will be too much for New Hampshire to handle. Minnesota 34, New Hampshire 21

UCF (1-0) at Ohio State (1-0): Both these teams are banned from bowl play this year, so this is one of a few chances for nonconference action. Ohio State looked stout in rolling Miami (Ohio) last week, but Central Florida is a different animal. The Knights carry a pretty solid defense and running game, the latter led by Latavius Murray. Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes should still have plenty to get the win, but don’t let the 18-point spread fool you. Ohio State 24, UCF 14

Penn State (0-1) at Virginia (1-0): Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, this is not the Virginia team from a couple of years ago that got run by just about everybody. Perry Jones in the backfield gives the Cavaliers a solid threat. Penn State might be able to move the ball on a UVA defense that has a lot of new faces, but it will take a much better Nittany Lions effort than last week to get to 1-1. Virginia 21, Penn State 17

Purdue (1-0) at Notre Dame (1-0): The 22nd-ranked Irish are coming off a dismantling of Navy in Ireland. Even without suspended back Cierre Wood and QB Tommy Rees, Notre Dame’s offense looks ready to make a leap in Brian Kelly’s third year. Purdue could be one of the Big Ten’s sleeper teams, but I’m not sure the Boilermakers are up for this challenge, especially on the road. Notre Dame 37, Purdue 21

Indiana (1-0) at UMass (0-1): Indiana snuck past Indiana State last week, 24-17, while UMass took a 37-0 beatdown from Connecticut. The Hoosiers are currently 14-point favorites in this one, accordingly. But going on the road will be tricky for Indiana, and it’s hard to imagine UMass is anywhere near as bad as it showed last week. This could be tight. Indiana 35, UMass 28

Air Force (1-0) at Michigan (0-1): Check back Friday for our prediction for this game.

Michigan State (1-0) at Central Michigan (1-0): Read Max DeMara’s “Keys to the Game” for Michigan State’s trip to Mount Pleasant.

Iowa State (1-0) at Iowa (1-0): It’s hard to get too jazzed up about the Hawkeyes after they inched past Northern Illinois last week, but they’ll be hungry for revenge after losing this one in a 44-41 overtime stunner last season. The key will be how Iowa defends Iowa State senior QB Steele Jantz, who put up a strong effort against Tulsa last week. Iowa 27, Iowa State 24

Wisconsin (1-0) at Oregon State (1-0): Wisconsin doesn’t often venture out on the road in conference play, so that alone could raise the upset-alert meter here. And the Badgers narrowly survived Northern Iowa, 26-21, in Danny O’Brien’s first game at QB. Heading out West is always a tough proposition for the Big Ten. Oregon State might be one of the Pac-12′s worst squads, though, and the Beavers finished 101st against the run in 2011. That’s music to Montee Ball’s ears. Wisconsin 30, Oregon State 17

Nebraska (1-0) at UCLA (1-0): Upset Alert No. 2. The Cornhuskers rolled Southern Miss last week, courtesy of a surprising 354 yards passing from Taylor Martinez. UCLA bombed Rice with a 49-point offensive explosion in Jim Mora’s debut as head coach. And all that stuff about heading West applies here too, even if it’s a shorter trip for Nebraska. Let’s roll the dice and go with the Bruins to knock off the 16th-ranked Cornhuskers. UCLA 26, Nebraska 21

Vanderbilt (0-1) at Northwestern (1-0): A very underrated nonconference matchup. Northwestern nearly imploded against Syracuse last week but held on to win. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, fell to a top-10 foe, South Carolina, in an exciting game. The Wildcats’ offense is dangerous, but Vanderbilt is a legit SEC team these days. Vandy’s offense should be able to move the ball enough to get the road victory. Vanderbilt 30, Northwestern 28

Illinois (1-0) at Arizona State (1-0): Yet another Big Ten-vs.-Pac-12 matchup. Arizona State won its opener by 57 over lowly Northern Arizona, while Illinois got past Western Michigan, 24-7. The biggest issue for the Illini? An ankle injury that could keep QB Nathan Scheelhaase out of this one. Without him, Arizona State cruises. Even with him, this will be tough for the Illini. Arizona State 27, Illinois 14

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