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Big 10 Conference Report

   by ASA - 10/13/2010

Big Ten Conference Report – Week 7

ASA Inc.

Wisconsin Badgers (5-1, 1-5 ATS) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (6-0, 5-1 ATS)

Saturday, October 16 – 6:00 PM CST – ABC

UW: Last week: Defeated Minnesota, 41-23

OSU: Last week: Defeated Indiana, 38-10

This is the marquee matchup in the Big Ten in week seven. Ohio State will face their biggest test to date this weekend when they travel to Madison to play the Badgers. Wisconsin is 40-4 at home since the start of the 2004 season (20-4 in Big Ten home games) while Ohio State has just three road losses in the past five years. OSU opened as a 6 point favorite but that number has fallen and is currently 4 points.

It’ll be strength vs. strength as UW brings the nation’s 11th best rushing offense (240 ypg) against OSU’s 4th best rushing defense (78 ypg allowed). UW’s Clay and White have combined to rush for 1,177 yards (6.6 ypc) and 17 touchdowns behind UW’s mammoth offensive line (avg size 6’5” and 320 lbs). Ohio State hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in the past 29 games and held the Badgers to just 2.7 ypc while garnering six sacks of UW QB Tolzien last season.

The Badgers out-gained the Buckeyes by 184 yards and had 14 more first downs in last years meeting; but lost by 18 points thanks to three defensive/special teams’ touchdowns by OSU. Buckeyes QB Terrelle Pryor is having an excellent season so far, completing 68% of his passes with 15 TD’s and just 3 INT’s. But he’s struggled in two career starts against the Badgers, completing 18/32 passes for 231 yards with 1 TD and 2 INT’s while rushing for just 55 yards on 25 carries.

Wisconsin is 15-7 ATS in its past 22 games as a home underdog while Ohio State is 15-3 ATS in their last 18 games as a Big Ten road favorite. Wisconsin has had two home night games against Ohio State since 2003. They upset then #1 OSU in 2003, 17-10; and lost against then #14 OSU in 2008, 17-20.

Michigan State Spartans (6-0, 4-2 ATS) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (3-2, 4-1 ATS)

Saturday, October 16 – 11:00 AM CST – Big Ten Network

MSU: Last week: Defeated Michigan, 34-17

ILL: Last week: Defeated Penn State, 33-13

This could be a trap game for MSU. They are coming off of two emotion-charged victories over ranked opponents (Wisconsin and Michigan) and are now playing at home against a very confident Illinois team that just notched their first ever road win over Penn State. Michigan State has won 10 of 11 in this series but lost their last home game (2006) as a 26 point favorite. MSU opened as a 7.5 point favorite and the line currently sits at an even 7 points.

MSU’s offense has displayed tremendous balance this season, averaging 248 passing ypg and 225 rushing ypg. They face a huge challenge against Illinois’ vastly improved defense, which ranks 20th nationally and shut down Penn State last Saturday in a 33-13 win (allowing just 304 ypg after allowing 403 ypg in 2009). Illinois’ defensive unit hasn’t allowed an opponent to score over 24 points in a game while MSU hasn’t been held under 30 points.

MSU has been good at limiting rushing yards against good teams. They held Wisconsin to 75 yards below its season average and Michigan to 135 yards below its season average. They’ll have another test against this Illinois offense that averages 217 rush ypg. MSU will try and slow down RB Leshoure (121 rush ypg) and force Illinois to pass more with freshman QB Scheelhaase. Scheelhaase has only attempted 98 passes this season and has 4 TD’s and 4 INT’s.

Michigan State is 11-3 ATS against Illinois since 1990. Sparty is 7-14 ATS as a Big Ten home favorite while Illinois is 9-1 ATS in their last 10 games as a Big Ten road underdog.

Michigan Wolverines (5-1, 3-3 ATS) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (4-1, 3-2 ATS)

Saturday, October 16 – 2:30 PM CST – ABC

UM: Last week: Lost to Michigan State, 17-34

IOWA: Last week: Idle

The Hawkeyes have had two weeks to prepare for Michigan QB Denard Robinson after shutting down Penn State in their last game. Michigan lost its first game of the season last week and we finally saw what happens when they face a good defense. Michigan was held to their lowest output of the season, 377 yards, while MSU cruised to 536 yards and the 17-point victory. They’ll face their toughest test of the season against Iowa this weekend. Iowa is allowing just 242 ypg and 10.2 ppg this season. They haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season long and surrender just 63 rushing ypg.

Iowa will try and duplicate MSU’s gameplan against the Wolverines. MSU was able to sustain long drives and keep the dangerous Robinson off the field. With UM trailing, Robinson appeared to get flustered and he threw three interceptions (two in the redzone). Like MSU, Iowa boasts a balanced attack on offense. They average 254 passing ypg and 172 rushing ypg. Expect QB Stanzi (68%, 10 TD, 2 INT) to attack Michigan's shaky secondary.

This young UM defense has allowed over 500 yards three times this season and are 119th in pass defense. Michigan is 0-8 ATS in its last 8 Big Ten home games while Iowa is 8-1 ATS in its last 9 Big Ten road games. Iowa has covered in 8 of its last 11 visits to the Big House and they opened as a 3.5 point favorite.

Purdue Boilermakers (3-2, 2-3 ATS) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-5, 3-3 ATS)

Saturday, October 16 – 11:00 AM CST – ESPN2

PU: Last week: Defeated Northwestern, 20-17

MINN: Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin, 23-41

Purdue looks to start 2-0 in league play after an exciting comeback win over Northwestern last week. Freshman quarterback Rob Henry (making his first start after Robert Marve’s season ending knee injury) didn’t throw the ball well – just 6/18 for 47 yards and one interception – but he ran for 132 yards and a touchdown. Minnesota was outgained by 110 yards (-10 first downs) but took advantage of special teams gaffes by the Wildcats. Purdue opened at -4.5 and is now -5.5. The favorite is 9-1-1 ATS in their last 11 meetings.

Purdue averages 196 rushing yards per game, good for 30th nationally. Expect the Purdue coaching staff to have a run-heavy game plan against this Minnesota defense that allows 196.3 rush yards a game, last in the Big Ten. Defensively, the Gophers are allowing 418 yards per game and 32.3 points per game – the main reason they have lost five straight games.

Minnesota is just 5-18 in West Lafayette all-time, but has won two in a row over Purdue and is 4-1 ATS in the last five. Last year’s 35-24 Minnesota win is a bit misleading. Minnesota was outgained by 121 yards (-9 first downs) but forced three turnovers, converting two into short scoring drives (also had a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown).

Purdue has been great at pressuring QB’s as they average 4 sacks per game, compared to 3 sacks all year from the Gophers. Tim Brewster has led Minnesota to a 6-20 Big Ten road record, but they are 8-2 ATS in the last 10 Big Ten roadies. The Boilermakers are 0-6 ATS in their last 6 games as a home favorite.

Indiana Hoosiers (3-2, 3-2 ATS) vs. Arkansas State (2-4, 4-2 ATS)

Saturday, October 16 – 11:00 AM CST – ESPNU

IU: Last week: Lost to Ohio State, 10-38

ARKST: Last week: Defeated North Texas, 24-19

After back-to-back losses, Indiana should get back on track in this non-conference matchup with Arkansas State. IU QB Chappell is averaging 295 passing yards per game (70%) with 12 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. He and WR’s Doss (24 receptions) and Belcher (35 rec) should have a huge day against this Arkansas State team that ranks 88th nationally against the pass (237.7 ypg). Indiana opened at -14 and currently sit at -12.

Arkansas State can sling the ball with talented sophomore Ryan Aplin. Aplin has thrown for 10 touchdowns compared to just 4 picks and is averaging 262 yards per game. Their strong offense has been able to keep them competitive so far this season as three of their four losses have been by a touchdown or less.

ASU is 2-3 ATS vs. Big Ten opponents, including a narrow 24-21 loss to Iowa last year as a 21 point underdog. They are 4-13 ATS in their last 17 road games and 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games as an underdog. Indiana is 9-4-1 ATS in its last 14 games as a home favorite and 5-0 ATS in its last 5 as a double digit home favorite.

Penn State Nittany Lions (3-2, 1-4 ATS) - IDLE

PSU: Last week: Lost to Illinois, 13-33

This bye couldn’t have come at a better time for the Nittany Lions, as Penn State needs to regroup on both sides of the ball. They are just 3-3 and find themselves in a 0-2 hole in Big Ten play. They have a handful of notable injuries on their defense and their offense is averaging just 13 points per game against FBS opponents. They’ll use this week to get healthy and prepare for their next game, @Minnesota.

Northwestern Wildcats (5-1, 2-4 ATS) - IDLE

NU: Last week: Lost to Purdue, 17-20

The Wildcats had a great shot at being 6-0 heading into this week’s bye. But Northwestern did a poor job of containing the one-dimensional Henry, QB of the Boilermakers; and lost a heartbreaker at home despite outgaining Purdue by 110 yards. NU QB Persa continued his excellence against Purude, and is now completing 78% of his passes for 277 ypg with 10 touchdowns and just 2 picks. They’ll spend the bye week preparing for a home date with the #11 Spartans of Michigan State.

Texas + over Nebraska, Saturday at 3:30 PM EST

Wow. What a difference a year can make. Last year Texas was a 14-point favorite in the Big 12 Championship game vs. this Nebraska team. That was on a semi-neutral field in Dallas. Now the Horns are getting 9.5 points traveling to Lincoln this Saturday. That’s a 23.5 point swing in the span of just 10 months! We’re not buying it. Expect Texas to hang within this number.

The Horns are in a good spot here. They’ve had two full weeks off since the Red River Rivalry to study and get ready for Nebraska. After an embarrassing loss to UCLA at the end of September, the Horns were left for dead. They struggled in the first half against Oklahoma the following week, however they really started to play pretty well in half #2. They had a number of chances late to tie that game yet they wound up losing 28-20. Texas put up 188 yards in the second half of that game while holding OU to just 101. After looking lost in the first half, the Horns looked like the better team in the second. Texas has not lost three straight since 1999. Looked for an inspired effort here as Mack Brown plays the underdog card.

The Texas defense will obviously be zeroed in on the Husker’s rushing offense here. Nobody has been able to slow it down yet. That has made QB Martinez look unstoppable. We wonder what will happen if Martinez is forced to make plays through the air ala Michigan’s Denard Robinson last week. Our guess is he won’t be nearly as effective and will be forced into some mistakes. Texas has the speed and talent on defense to slow down this unit. In last year’s game, the Longhorns held Nebraska to just 67 yards rushing on 1.9 yards per carry. Minus their debacle against UCLA, this Texas team has been very solid against the run. They are allowing just 2.6 yards per rush. That includes the debacle against the Bruins. Take that game out and this stop unit has allowed only 1.8 yards per carry (142 carries for just 256 yards). This team can stop or at least slow down the run (especially with two weeks to prepare). That should push the Nebraska offense out of their comfort zone and make this game very interesting.

This Texas program has been so successful they are not accustomed to being an underdog very often. Since the start of the 2000 season, they have been tabbed a dog just 12 times, covering 9. They haven’t been an underdog of more than 7 points (other than vs. Oklahoma) since 1999. Look for Mack Brown to rally his team and pull out a huge effort on Saturday. That should be enough to keep this within this lofty number.

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