Sam McKewon's Big Ten picks: Why is Maryland favored over a ranked opponent?

LINCOLN — Maryland is suddenly a metrics darling. All it takes is blowing out Howard, and the Terrapins are suddenly a favorite over a ranked team.

That’s the case this week, as UM hosts No. 21 Syracuse as a two-point favorite. How’d that happen?

Again: Beating Howard, a below-average FCS team. Maryland’s metrics got juiced.

The Terrapins were No. 68 in ESPN’s preseason Football Power Index. Now, they’re No. 34 — ahead of Nebraska, which dropped to No. 43 after a lackluster performance against South Alabama.

Still, that’s quite a jump, isn’t it? For beating Howard 79-0? Which beat Bethune-Cookman by all of six points last year?

Something’s off here. While Maryland has athletes and a decent quarterback in Josh Jackson it still hasn’t beaten a ranked team at home since 2010. It seems a little early to do that here.

My pick: Syracuse 35 Maryland 27

Other Big Ten predictions:

Minnesota at Fresno State

9:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

I’ve been to Fresno in September in late evening. It’s 108 degrees and there’s no wind. The Bulldogs pull an “upset” that isn’t really one. Line: Minnesota by 3

My pick: Fresno State 24, Minnesota 21

Nebraska at Colorado

2:30 p.m., Fox

Track meet in Boulder. NU’s offense rebounds in a big way. The defense holds on. Line: Nebraska by 4½

My pick: Nebraska 35, Colorado 31

Vanderbilt at Purdue

11 a.m., BTN

The Boilermakers lost their “gimme” nonconference game and now face two straight Power Five foes. Vandy’s defense is better than Nevada’s. Line: Purdue by 6½

My pick: Purdue 24, Vanderbilt 20

Cincinnati at Ohio State

11 a.m., ABC

The Bearcats have the athletes while their coach, former OSU assistant and interim head coach Luke Fickell, will have plenty of motivation, considering he was passed over for the Buckeye head coaching job. Cincinnati is a 7-5/8-4 team in the Big Ten. Line: Ohio State by 16

My pick: Ohio State 28, Cincinnati 17

Army at Michigan

11 a.m., Fox

The Wolverines’ aggressive defense will wreck Army’s triple option. Line: Michigan by 22

My pick: Michigan 28, Army 3

Rutgers at Iowa

11 a.m., FS1

The rare early Big Ten game featuring a rare FS1 appearance for the Scarlet Knights, who has enough athletes but not enough experience to give Iowa a game. Line: Iowa by 19½

My pick: Iowa 35, Rutgers 17

Central Michigan at Wisconsin

2:30 p.m., BTN

UW’s romp over South Florida suggests another MAC beatdown in Badgerville, but Wisconsin's defensive line suffered another injury when nose tackle Bryson Williams, a Lincoln Southeast graduate, hurt his leg in practice. Line: Wisconsin by 35

My pick: Wisconsin 37, Central Michigan 7

Illinois at Connecticut

2:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

The second leg in Illinois’ embarrassing tour of nonconference foes includes a trip to the Northeast. Over/under on attendance: 15,000. Line: Illinois by 21½

My pick: Illinois 21, Connecticut 7

Eastern Illinois at Indiana

2:30 p.m., BTN

The Hoosiers showed off a fancy offense in their opener and should continue to flex their muscles here. EIU lost to Chattanooga, after all. Line: None

My pick: Indiana 42, Eastern Illinois 10

Buffalo at Penn State

6:30 p.m., Fox

The Nittany Lions will face a team four times harder than Idaho, the season-opening opponent who lost by 72. Line: Penn State by 31

My pick: Penn State 28, Buffalo 10

Western Michigan at Michigan State

6:30 p.m., BTN

The best defense in college football — I’m pretty bullish on that — will remain so through Week 2. MSU’s offense is still a work in progress. Line: Michigan State by 15

My pick: Michigan State 18, Western Michigan 3

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