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Big 10 Review and Preview
by ASA - 09/20/2007
First-year head coaches Mark Dantonio (Michigan State) and Bill Lynch (Indiana) improved to 3-0. Michigan won the battle of high-profile winless teams. Purdue continued to put up huge offensive numbers. Iowa suffered an embarrassing loss. And Northwestern suffered a really embarrassing loss.
Hereâ€™s a look back at the week that was and a look forward to the week that will be in the Big Ten.
Week That Was: The Illini put forth their most dominating offense effort of the Ron Zook era in their 41-20 road win at Syracuse. A dominating rushing attack that covered 378 yards on 7.4 yards per carry was the catalyst but Illinois also employed an unusually efficient passing attack. The Illini completed 75 percent of their passes for 130 yards, doing just enough to keep the Syracuse defense off balance. The Illinois defense also did its part, allowing the Orange to average just 1.9 yards per carry on the ground. Illinoisâ€™ two wins in just three games already matches the season total of the previous two years.
Week That Will Be: Illinois kicks off its conference schedule this weekend against Indiana. The Big Ten has not been good to the Illini in recent years as they are just 2-30 SU and 11-21 ATS since the start of the 2003 season. They have lost their last four conference openers and have done so by an average of 22.5 points per game. Illinois is actually a 2.5-point road favorite in this matchup, just the sixth time that has occurred since 1999. The Illini went 3-2 SU and 2-3 ATS in the previous five occurrences.
Week That Was: Indiana improved to 3-0 on the season following a 41-24 thrashing of Akron. The win marks just the third time in the last 14 years that the Hoosiers have started the season with three straight victories. The Indiana offense continued its onslaught on opposing defenses, tallying 338 rushing yards and 475 yards total. Quarterback Kellen Lewis evoked memories of Antwaan Randle El with his performance, running for 199 yards and two scores and throwing for 137 yards and three more touchdowns. The Hoosiers are now seventh in the country in rushing offense, 20th in total offense and 10th in scoring.
Week That Will Be: The Hoosiers will look to start the season 4-0 for the first time since 1990 when they host Illinois as 2.5-point dogs. Indiana won last yearâ€™s 34-32 with a last-second field goal that capped a 27-7 run to close the game. The Hoosiers struggled to stop the run in that game but have excelled in that facet so far this season as they are allowing fewer than 66 rushing yards per game, good for 10th in the country. Indiana has won the last two meetings with the Illini both SU and ATS, covering by an average of 12.3 points per game. The home team has gone 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings between the programs.
Week That Was: Iowa suffered a major letdown when it fell 15-13 to in-state rival Iowa State as 17.5-point favorites, losing on a last-second field goal from the Cyclones. The Hawkeyes have now dropped seven of their last 10 games against the supposedly lesser Iowa State program, including four of the last five on the road. The Iowa offense took a big step back from its good showing against Syracuse the previous week, posting just 233 total yards.
Week That Will Be: The Hawkeyes will be forced to rebound against seventh-ranked Wisconsin this weekend. Iowaâ€™s defensive statistics are among the best in the country but have come against Northern Illinois, Syracuse and Iowa State, which are each ranked 102nd or lower in the country in scoring offense. The Hawkeyes will have their hands full against Wisconsinâ€™s 29th-ranked offense. Iowa held on to Bruiser the Bull for four years before falling to the Badgers 24-21 last season. The Hawkeyes, who are 8-point dogs in this yearâ€™s meeting, have fared well in this spot in the past. They have gone 22-14 ATS as conference road dogs of nine points or less since 1980, including a 6-2 ATS record with revenge.
Week That Was: The Wolverines notched their first win of the year in what was the most anticipated game between winless teams in recent memory. Michigan did it a big way too, blanking Notre Dame 38-0 in a thoroughly dominating effort. Running back Mike Hart backed up his guarantee by carrying an offense that started freshman Ryan Mallett in place of the injured Chad Henne. Hart totaled 187 yards on the ground with two touchdowns. The Michigan defense finally stopped somebody, but that could be more because of Notre Dameâ€™s ineptitude on offense.
Week That Will Be: Michigan will try to make it two in a row when it hosts Penn State in its Big Ten opener. Mallett is still listed as the starting quarterback but Henne has taken a few snaps in practice this week. Henne is currently listed as day-to-day and head coach Lloyd Carr hasnâ€™t ruled out the possibility of Henne playing this weekend. The Wolverines have won eight straight meetings between the powerhouse programs, going 6-2 ATS in those games. Michigan has gone just 2-4 ATS in the last six meetings in Ann Arbor, though. The Wolverines have been home dogs just nine times since 1982, going 4-5 SU and 5-4 ATS in those contests.
Week That Was: It wasnâ€™t pretty but the Spartans improved to 3-0 under Mark Dantonio with a 17-13 win over Pittsburgh. Much of Michigan Stateâ€™s success in recent years has been due to offense but this victory was due to defense. The Spartans held Pitt to just 292 total yards and an 0-for-12 conversion rate on third down while forcing three turnovers. Michigan State has been in this spot before, though, starting each of the last two seasons with three straight wins only to miss out on a bowl game.
Week That Will Be: Michigan Stateâ€™s season fell apart last year with a come-from-ahead loss at home to Notre Dame. The Spartans have a chance to return the favor this season against an Irish team that has underachieved like no other in college football. They have fared well against Notre Dame recently despite last yearâ€™s meltdown. Michigan State is 7-3 SU and 7-2-1 ATS in the last 10 meetings between the teams and is 15-8-2 ATS versus the Irish since 1980. This meeting marks the first time since 1980 that the Spartans, who are 12-point favorites, have actually been favored in South Bend. They have been favored just three times in the last 24 meetings overall, going 1-2 ATS in those contests.
Week That Was: A rash of turnovers and a feeble defense negated another strong showing from the Gophers offense in Minnesotaâ€™s 42-39 upset loss to Florida Atlantic. The Gophers totaled 470 yards of offense but saw many scoring opportunities wasted by seven turnovers. The Minnesota stop unit, now ranked 116th in total defense, failed to slow down a Florida Atlantic offense that was averaging just 16.5 points per game coming in. The Gophers surrendered a whopping 580 yards, including 463 through the air, and forced zero turnovers.
Week That Will Be: The Gophers will have their hands full when they host Purdue as 14-point dogs this weekend. Minnesota is among the worst in nation on the defensive side of the ball and now must take on a Purdue team that boasts the conferenceâ€™s best offense. If the Gophers canâ€™t stop Florida Atlantic, theyâ€™ll have all sorts of problems stopping a Boilermaker offense that is sixth in the country in total offense. Minnesota has had its troubles with Purdue in the past, going just 1-7 SU and ATS in the last eight meetings. The Gophers are just 5-12 ATS as the dog in the series since 1980.
Week That Was: If not for Michiganâ€™s loss to Appalachian State, Northwesternâ€™s 20-14 loss to Duke would be the conferenceâ€™s most embarrassing loss of the season. Duke has been the laughingstock of college football for some time but that didnâ€™t stop the Wildcats from losing at home to the Dukies. Northwestern dominated every facet of the game but were done in by 13 penalties and two untimely turnovers.
Week That Will Be: Northwestern pretty much secured itself a losing streak with its loss to Duke because it opens with its Big Ten schedule with Ohio State this weekend. The Wildcats are just 1-20 SU and 8-12-1 ATS versus the Buckeyes since 1980. They are 23-point dogs in this yearâ€™s meeting, marking the 17th time in 22 meetings that they have been dogs of 20 points or more. Northwestern is just 6-9-1 ATS in the previous 16 meetings under that scenario but are 3-1 ATS in the last four occurrences with the lone loss coming in last yearâ€™s 54-10 defeat.
Week That Was: The Buckeyes had their share of doubters going into last weekâ€™s road game at Washington but they put those doubts to rest with a convincing 33-14 win. The Ohio State offense had its best showing of the season, posting 263 rushing yards and 481 yards overall. The defense played well again, forcing four turnovers and holding the Huskies to 6-of-17 on third down conversion attempts. The Buckeyes are now third in the country in total defense and fifth in scoring defense through three games.
Week That Will Be: The Buckeyes have beat up on Northwestern more than any other team in the nation and will look to continue with the beat downs this weekend. Ohio State is 20-1 SU versus the Wildcats since 1980 with an average margin of victory of 32.5 points per game. The Buckeyes, who are 23-point favorites, have beaten Northwestern the last two years by scores of 48-7 and 54-10. Seeing as Northwestern just ended Dukeâ€™s 22-game losing streak, Ohio State could post a similar result in this yearâ€™s meeting.
Week That Was: The Nittany Lions picked up a 45-24 win over Buffalo in a game that was a lot closer than it should have been. Buffalo has been one of college footballâ€™s worst teams in recent years but gave Penn State all it could handle. The Lions trailed in both total yards and time of possession in the win. The 395 yards Penn State allowed surpassed the total it allowed in the first two games combined. Starting tailback Austin Scott may have lost his starting gig after fumbling on consecutive touches in the first quarter. Rodney Kinlaw got a majority of the carries, rushing 23 times for 129 yards and a score.
Week That Will Be: Penn State has its best chance in years to snap its losing streak to Michigan this week. The Lions have lost eight consecutive games to the Wolverines but this Michigan team isnâ€™t the same as previous editions. Penn State is 3-point favorites in this yearâ€™s meeting, marking the first time since 1999 that it has been favored and the first time since 1998 that it has been favored in Ann Arbor.
Week That Was: Purdue led 24-0 after the first quarter and 38-0 early in the third quarter in coasting to a 45-22 win over defending MAC champion Central Michigan. The Boilermakers ran for 223 yards and passed for another 360 in totaling a season-high 583 yards. The margin of victory could have been much larger if not for five Boilermaker turnovers. The results werenâ€™t all good, though, as starting running back Jaycen Taylor was lost for the season with a broken arm.
Week That Will Be: The Boilermakers offense has to be licking its collective chops with Minnesota on the slate this week. Purdue is averaging nearly 320 passing yards per game, good for the 15th in the country, while Minnesota is allowing 431 passing yards per game, 118th in the nation out of 119 teams. Additionally, the Boilermakers are seventh in the nation with nearly 50 points in the game while the Gophers are 104th in the country with more than 36 points allowed per contest. Purdue, which is a 14-point favorite, has won eight of the last nine meetings between these programs, averaging 37.0 points per game in those games.
Week That Was: The ninth-ranked Badgers remain undefeated at 3-0 but for the second straight looked less than impressive in picking up the victory. Wisconsin was tied at 21 with Citadel heading into halftime but pulled in the way in the second half to secure a 45-31 win. Running back P.J. Hill led the offense with 188 total yards and five touchdowns. The defense struggled, though, allowing 23 first downs and 377 total yards.
Week That Will Be: Wisconsin, an 8-point favorite, brings its nation-long 12-game winning streak into Big Ten play this week against Iowa. The Badgers ended a four-game skid to the Hawkeyes last year, winning 24-21 on the road. Starting quarterback Tyler Donovan earned his first collegiate victory as a starter last year in that game, throwing for 228 yards and two scores. Wisconsin has won 21 of its last 22 games at Camp Randall, going 14-6 ATS in those games, but the lone SU loss came to Iowa in 2005.