Get the best handicapping articles and gambling advice throughout the football, basketball and baseball seasons from the world's top sports handicappers, as well as from Bovada (Bodog) Sportsbook and Casino.
Big 10 Barrage
by ASA - 09/05/2008
(hosts Eastern Illinois â€“ no line)
Our word out of Champaign was that QB Juice Williams would be a drastically improved passer in 2008. We had to see it to believe it. If week one was any indication, those reports were dead on. Williams passed for 451 yards and five TDâ€™s last week vs. Mizzou. His previous high water mark in passing yards was just 227 last year against a poor Syracuse team.
The opponent for the Illini this week is Eastern Illinois. EIU actually hung tough with the MAC favorite last week. Central Michigan won the game 31-12, however the Panthers â€œheldâ€쳌 the potent Chippewa offense to 389 total yards.
Head coach Ron Zook took the blame for the poor effort of his defense last week. Missouri put up 52 points and Zook stated his defense didnâ€™t play fast and loose. Thatâ€™s because the Illini coaches implemented special schemes to try and contain Tiger QB Chase Daniel rather than stick to what they were good at. Because of that, Zook said the players were thinking too much rather than reacting and playing fast. He also said he wonâ€™t make that mistake again.
(hosts Murray State â€“ no line)
After beating Western Kentucky last week 31-13, the Hoosiers arenâ€™t helping their strength of schedule this week when they host Division 1AA Murray State. The Racers were 2-9 in 2007 and allowed a whopping 44 PPG. It was even worse on the road where they allowed 299 points in just six road games (50 PPG allowed). They did beat at team called Lambuth last week 41-17, so who knows, maybe they have improved.
The Hoosiers controlled the ground last week vs. WKU rushing for 297 yards while holding the Hilltoppers to just 63 yards rushing. Despite that dominance, IU led by only 11 points with just over nine minutes to go in the game. Thatâ€™s when QB Kellen Lewis ripped off a 62-yard TD run to salt it away. The Hoosiers did miss the cover however.
IU QB Lewis was recently readmitted to the team after being suspended last spring. He won the starting job back and showed no signs of rust rushing for an amazing 185 yards on just nine carries (20.5 yards per carry). He also threw for 144 yards.
DE Greg Middleton, who led the nation in sacks last year, was suspended for last weekâ€™s game however he will be back in the line up on Saturday.
(hosts Florida International â€“ Hawkeyes are favored by 27)
One of head coach Kirk Ferentzâ€™s main goals this year was to get his running game back on track. After rushing for just 126 yards per game and a paltry 3.4 yards per carry in 2007, Ferentz wants to get back to tough, hard nosed football and that means running the ball. Coming into this year, the backs vying to be the prime ball carrier had zero total carries in 2007. The Hawks may have found their man in Shonn Greene who had 103 yards vs. Maine last Saturday. Greene was a heavily recruited RB from New Jersey that missed last year at a Junior College due to academic issues. Iowa beat Maine 46-3.
Starting tight end Tony Moeaki, who had 33 receptions for 422 yards last year, sat out last week due to an injured foot. He returns to practice this week, however since he hasnâ€™t had any live contact for nearly a month, he will most likely sit again this weekend. His return looks like it will be on September 13th for the Hawkeyes rivalry game with Iowa State.
QB Jake Christensen has now started 13 consecutive games for Iowa, however he is now officially in a dogfight with Ricky Stanzi to hold onto that job. Both played in last weekâ€™s win with Christensen logging the first and third quarters while Stanzi played the second and most of the fourth. Their stats were very close with Christensen completing 9 of 15 for 122 yards and Stanzi hitting 9 of 14 for 90 yards. Neither QB separated themselves so expect Ferentz to continue this pattern this weekend.
(hosts Miami (Oh) â€“ Wolverines are favored by 14)
Michiganâ€™s offense is obviously a big time work in progress as we fully expected. However last weekâ€™s 203 yard effort vs. Utah was really bad. The mighty Wolverines rushed for only 36 yards on 24 carries. One of those carries was for 21 yards so subtract that and U of M picked up 15 yards on 23 carries. The offensive line lost four starters and was simply not very good. The two QBâ€™s who played in the 25-23 loss to Utah (Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan), combined for 10 carries and just 2 yards rushing. That wonâ€™t cut it in Rich Rodriguezâ€™s system where the QB has to be a threat to run the ball.
The Wolverines are hoping their rushing attack gets a kick in the pants this week when Kevin Grady returns to the line up. Grady was expected to make a run at the starting RB job this year, however he was suspended for last weekâ€™s game. Heâ€™ll get his chance this Saturday.
Michiganâ€™s leading receiver in last weekâ€™s loss to Utah, Greg Mathews, will most likely be out this Saturday due to a sprained ankle. The starting wideout had three catches for 54 yards last week. Mathews was a key cog in last yearâ€™s offensive system catching 39 balls for 366 yards.
Last weekâ€™s starting QB was Nick Sheridan, however we expect Steven Threet to be under center when the game kicks off on Saturday. Rodriguez is keeping mum on the topic, however despite the fact that Sheridan had better overall stats, Threet led the Wolverines to two TDâ€™s in the fourth and almost pulled out the win.
(hosts Eastern Michigan â€“ Spartans are favored by 21)
After losing every game last year by a TD or less (6 of them in 2007), MSU followed suit to start the 2008 season losing @ California by 7. Thus, if you ever get the Spartans as a dog of more than 7, you might want to consider them very strongly.
One big disappointment coming out of last Saturdayâ€™s loss was the lack of a running game for MSU. The Spartans and head coach Mark Dantonio are really focusing on the â€œPound, Green, Poundâ€쳌 running game as their calling it. However, the Bears shut down RB Javon Ringer and company to the tune of just 81 total rushing yards on 31 carries. Expect MSU, who rushed for 264 yards two years ago in a 52-20 win over EMU, to pound away with the running game on Saturday.
QB Brian Hoyer had a fantastic fall camp leading up to last weekâ€™s game. In prompted head coach Mark Dantonio to at one point state that the QB play was the best it has been since he took over at MSU. That wasnâ€™t the case last Saturday. Hoyer was a disappointing 20 for 48 with one interception. Some of the problem was the fact that Hoyer didnâ€™t have a rushing attack to support him.
(@ Bowling Green â€“ Gophers are 6-point underdogs)
If this game is anything like last yearâ€™s match up, weâ€™ll have a barn burner on our hands. It was a tale of two halves at the Humpty Dome as Bowling Green led 21-0 at halftime only to see the Gophs outscore them by 21 in the second half and send the game to overtime. Minny scored on their final four possessions of the second half to actually take a 24-21 lead with just over two minutes left in regulation. The Falcons kicked a 35-yard FG to tie the game at the buzzer and went on to win 32-31 in overtime when they were successful on a 2-point conversion.
The Gophers offense looked solid in last weekâ€™s 31-27 win over Northern Illinois. The racked up 425 total yards in the come from behind win. Minnesota scored a TD with just 30 seconds remaining in the game to get that â€œWâ€쳌.
Another positive in last weekâ€™s win was the Gopher run defense. Under new defensive coordinator Ted Roof, formerly the head coach at Duke, Minny held UNI to only 72 yards on the ground on 31 carries. They did give up 321 yards passing which is a concern. Last year Minny was the WORST defense in Division 1A allowing 518 yards per game.
While Bowling Greenâ€™s 27-17 upsets @ Pitt last week looked impressive on the scoreboard, the stats were heavily in favor of the Panthers. Pittsburgh had 12 more first downs and held the Falcons to just 254 yards of total offense (Pitt had 393). Four turnovers killed the Panthers and allowed BG to pull off the shocker.
(@ Duke â€“ Wildcats are favored by 6)
Weâ€™ve already called for the Cats to be one of the surprise teams in the Big Ten this year. The key, as we have stated, is RB Tyrell Sutton. NU struggled to run the ball last year with Sutton injured for much of the year. If he can stay healthy and get back to the form that allowed him to surpass 1,000 yards in each of his first two years, Northwestern should be solid. If last Saturday is any indication, Sutton is back. He had 144 yards rushing and NU as a team rolled up 269 yards on the ground. Granted it was vs. Syracuse, however it was a positive sign.
If you remember, last year Northwestern lost 20-14 at home to the Blue Devils ending Dukeâ€™s 22-game losing streak. Since then Duke has just one win and that was last week over Division 1AA James Madison.
Northwestern will get a big boost this Saturday on their defensive line. John Gill, who is actually one of the better linemen in the country, has been reinstated after a one game suspension. Gill, who was voted to the pre-season All Big Ten team, will start against Duke.
NU is keeping a close eye on Hurricane Hanna which is scheduled to hit the Carolina coast later this week which could affect their game with Duke which is 90-miles inland. It also might affect the Cats travel plans. They are supposed to leave on Friday afternoon but may have to move that up depending on the situation with the weather.
(hosts Ohio â€“ Ohio State is favored by 34.5)
OSU RB Beanie Wells who was injured last week vs. Youngstown State, will not play vs. Ohio on Saturday. Our word is Wells could play if he had to, however they are getting him ready for the trip to USC on September 13th.
Obviously the Bucks SHOULD dominate a team like Youngstown State, however their defensive stats were extremely impressive regardless of the competition. The Buckeye stop unit held the Penguins to only 5 first downs and just 74 total yards. Maybe even more impressive is that YSU didnâ€™t cross midfield until the final play of the game.
Since OSU is such a large favorite, we took a look into our deep database and took a look at how the Bucks fare in this range. Since 1980, Ohio State has been favorites of 34 points or more 14 times. Theyâ€™ve obviously won all 14 outright and they are 8-6 ATS in those games. However, they covered their first five in that situation, which makes them just 3-6 ATS in that spot since 1997.
(hosts Oregon State â€“ Nittany Lions favored by 16.5)
PSU started the season with a bang crushing an overmatched Coastal Carolina team 66-10. The Lions were a near perfect 9 of 11 on third down conversions and rolled to almost 600 total yards. Joe Pa called off the dogs at the start of the fourth quarter with his team up 59-7. New QB Daryll Clark looked solid completing 11 of his 14 passes for 146 yards.
PSUâ€™s opponent this week, Oregon State was quite as fortunate. They actually dominated Stanford statistically in their 36-28 loss, however three turnovers killed them. The Beavers actually looked very good on offense with 490 total yards. Their defense held Stanford to only 301 yards. Oregon State also had 11 more first downs. They were, however, beaten up on the ground where Stanford outrushed them 210 to 86.
Because of the two polar opposite opening weeks for each team, this line is MUCH different than it would have been had these two faced off in week one. Our power ratings had Penn State as a 10-point chalk going into last week. Because of last weekâ€™s performances, weâ€™re now looking at nearly a full TD difference in favor of PSU. The line value lies with Oregon State here.
Joe Pa suspended three players on Thursday. They will not be available for the game on Saturday vs. Oregon State. Starting DE Maurice Evans and starting DT Abe Koroma are the two main losses.
Since the beginning of the 2002 season, Penn State has been a favorite of -16.5 or higher 20 times. They have covered 13 of those cashing in 65% of the time.
(hosts Northern Colorado â€“ no line)
Purdue was one of the few teams around the country and the only Big Ten team to have a bye during the opening week of the season. Many times that can negatively affect a team if their opponent has a game under their belt already. That, however, wonâ€™t be the case this Saturday as Northern Colorado also watched from the sidelines last week with a bye.
As can be expected, the Boilers shouldnâ€™t have any problem with Northern Colorado. The Bears were 1-11 a year ago with their only win coming over Montana State 16-13. The only Division 1A team the Bears faced last year was Hawaii and they promptly lost 63-6.
(hosts Marshall â€“ Badgers are favored by 20.5)
For those of you who were on Wisconsin -27 last week, you deserved a much better fate. Wisconsin won the game 38-17 missing the cover. Akron scored a TD with 30 seconds remaining to get the back door money. The Badgers fumbled on the one-yard line going into score earlier in the game. They also threw an interception in the endzone late in the first half that was returned into Badger territory. Akron got a field goal out of that turnover. The score easily could have been 52-10.
Wisconsinâ€™s rushing attack will be big this year. They have a big, veteran offensive line and three very good tailbacks. Last week against the Zips the Badgers rolled up 404 yards on the ground. Starting RB P.J. Hill had 210 yards, second-teamer Zach Brown had 87 and third-stringer John Clay had 71 yards. The could be bad news for Marshall this week who allowed Illinois State to control the time of possession last week, 39 minutes to just 21 for the Herd. Marshall did win that game 35-10.
UW still might be short handed this week on offense. All-American tight end Travis Beckum sat out last week due to a sore hamstring. He practiced early this week but tapered back as the week went along. He is a game time decision, however we wouldnâ€™t be surprised if they held him out one more week.