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Championship Weekend in the Big Ten features two deserving teams but two teams who were decided underdogs to get to Indianapolis.
J.J. McCarthy and the Michigan Wolverines (12-0) were a touchdown underdog last weekend in Columbus but authored numerous big plays enroute to a dominant 45-23 victory over their archrival, the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Iowa's loss Friday to the Nebraska Cornhuskers opened the door for Aidan O'Connell and Purdue. The Boilermakers (8-4) rolled the Indiana Hoosiers to reach Indianapolis and the title game.
#2 Michigan Wolverines (-800) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (+550)
Spread: Wolverines -17 Over/Under: 51.5
Michigan took apart the Iowa Hawkeyes in last year's title game winning by the score of 49-3. This is Purdue's first appearance in the Big Ten Title Game.
This is the 9th time this season Michigan is the favorite in a Big Ten game. They are 4-4 ATS in the first eight. (They are 1-0 as the underdog.) Purdue has been dubbed the “Spoilermakers” as they are 3-1 ATS when dubbed the underdog in Big Ten play this season.
Wolverines' bettors have cashed on the UNDER eight times this season while those holding similar tickets involving Purdue have seen the Boilermakers cash to the OVER seven times.
That is a quick overview of this week's championship game. The NBC Sports EDGE Analysts have taken a deeper dive into it and present their top plays for those so inclined.
Purdue Team Total Over 17.5 (+110)
Vaughn Dalzell (@VmoneySports)
Aidan O'Connell is expected to play but miss some practice after the unexpected death of his brother prior to the Indiana game.
O'Connell could have another emotional showing as a he went 18-of-29 for 290 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Indiana to clinch the Big Ten Championship berth (30-16 win).
With O'Connell as the starting quarterback, the Boilermakers scored 18 or more points in nine out of 11 games this season and six-straight to end last year (15 of the last 17). The only defenses to keep Purdue Under 18 points was Iowa (3 points) and Norhtwestern (17 points) during that 17-game span.
While it will be an unpopular bet, Purdue could score two-plus touchdowns on Michigan -- Rutgers (17), Penn State (17), Illinois (17), Ohio State (23) and Maryland (27) all scored at least 17 points versus Michigan this season.
Get ready to bet Championship Saturday. Join NBC Sports analysts Vaughn Dalzell, Eric Froton, and Brad Thomas Saturday from 11A-12P Eastern for the NBC Sports YouTube Championship Saturday Q&A as they dive into the weekend's slate of games, answer your questions, and offer value plays including sides, totals, and props.
Michigan -17 (-110)
Brad Thomas (@MrBradThomas)
When betting on this game, there is certainly a fear of a possible letdown by Michigan after they upset their rivals in Columbus last week. However, after watching them destroy Iowa in the Big 10 Championship last year after handing Ohio State the same fate the week prior, I have faith that Jim Harbaugh will have his boys prepared and ready to chase after that #1 spot in the final College Football Playoff Rankings.
A 17-point spread is a massive spread to cover, especially in a title game. Yet, Michigan is 7-4 ATS and has won nine of their 12 games by 17 points or more, including the 22-point win over Ohio State. Michigan will lean on its defense. They are fourth in defensive FEI, second in total defense, and third in scoring defense.
Purdue is known for their gunslinging quarterback, Aidan O'Connell. Despite still planning to play this weekend, he is away from the team and with his family after the sudden death of his brother. When playing against a defensive juggernaut like Michigan, every extra second of preparation is vital. With the possible lack of preparation and being outmatched on the field, I have to take Michigan -17 this weekend.
Alt Spread: Michigan -19.5
Zachary Krueger (@ZK_FFB)
We are roughly a year removed from Michigan making a run to the Big 10 championship where they absolutely waxed Iowa, downing the Hawkeyes 42-3 in a game the Wolverines entered as 12-point favorites. Now, Michigan is running it back, heading to their second-straight Big 10 championship game after downing undefeated Ohio State 45-23 in the Horseshoe, with their best player, Blake Corum sidelined for the majority of the day.
Michigan and Purdue are set to square off for the first time since 2017 — the Wolverines won that game 28-10, although that will not matter much this weekend. The 12-0 Wolverines are 7-5 ATS and are absolutely blowing out opponents. The 23 points Ohio State hung on them last week was the second-most any team has scored this season (Maryland scored 27 in Week 4). Beyond those two teams, Michigan has allowed 17 or fewer points to every team they have faced, beating opponents by an average of 27.2 points per game.
As noted by my colleague earlier, Purdue has been without quarterback Aidan O'Connell for most of the week leading up to this game. O'Connell is expected to play on Saturday, though.
These two teams are completely unfamiliar with one another outside of what they have seen on tape — and Michigan is one of, if not the best team in the nation. The 17-point spread feels like a formality at this point. Seeing how Michigan handled Ohio State on the road, and how they crushed Iowa last season, I like the Wolverines to run away with this win by 20+ points. As a result, I am playing an alternate spread in hopes of earning a little extra cash on the weekend.
J.J. McCarthy, QB - OVER 15.5 Rushing Yards
Eric Froton (@CFFroton)
QB JJ McCarthy made good on his blue-chip prep billing in their convincing victory over OSU last Saturday. Michigan's offense is operating at peak efficiency as a top-10 offense that ranks ninth in FBS with a 51% success rate and 8th in points per drive (3.4). They are not just winning either, they are completely outclassing their opponents, with their narrow victory over Illinois (54% win expectancy) being the only game all season where Michigan had an expected win rate below 96%.
The Boilermakers do a nice job of slowing teams down and making them mount drives, ranking 29th against the run and 25th in EPA/Play. Can they hold up against Michigan's Joe Moore finalist offensive line that just mauled a very talented Ohio State defense up front?
The more plays per drive it takes Michigan to score, the better for our chances of clearing the 15.5 rushing yards hurdle, since every RPO they run is another opportunity for McCarthy to pull it down and scoot for a nice gain.
I also do not see Purdue threatening Michigan's OL from a pressure standpoint, so he should not be taking many sacks that kill QB rushing Overs. With a CFP Playoff spot on the line, I expect Michigan to ruthlessly grind down Purdue on the ground, which means McCarthy will clear the 15.5 rushing yards mark for the sixth time in his last eight games.
Enjoy The Big Ten Title game and enjoy the sweat!
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