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Big 10 Conference Notes

   by Tom Stryker - 10/16/2010

Five Big Ten games a week ago only produced more new questions than answers. Ohio State continued to roll, but Michigan State took a huge step forward with a convincing victory at Michigan. Northwestern, off to a 5-0 start, fell to Purdue, and then Illinois startled Penn State with a lopsided win at State College.


Four teams are still unblemished in conference play – and this new slate of games could finally paint a clearer picture of where the power in the league lays. Let’s look at this week’s action:


Ohio State at WISCONSIN

After Alabama’s upset loss at South Carolina, the Buckeyes now wear the No. 1 target on their backs. The red-clad crazies in Madison will be ready for this one – to be played in prime time in the Badger state.


Wisconsin is 5-1, 1-1, and features the tandem of junior John Clay and freshmen James White at running back. That duo puts the Badgers 11th in the nation in rushing at 240.8 yards per game.


But, the Buckeyes, 6-0, 2-0, have held their last 11 opponents to only 77.7 yards rushing per outing and are third in the nation in total defense. Which line will control the contest? To date, no one has stopped Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who is 6th in the nation with a passing efficiency of 170.47. And, if the Badgers take away his arm, can they also control his uncanny running ability? This is one battle to be determined in the trenches.


SERIES TRENDS OF NOTE: Ohio State 15-10-1 SU and 9-15-2 ATS including 3-10-1 ATS provided the Buckeyes check in off a blowout win of 14 points or more.


KEY ANGLES: OSU 19-6-1 SU and 15-10-1 ATS coming off Indiana. Buckeyes also 19-1 SU and 15-4-1 ATS in their last 20 on the conference road.


Wisconsin 40-4 SU L44 home games including 21-4 SU L25 in Big 10 action. Badgers also 15-7 ATS L22 as a conference home dog.


Iowa at MICHIGAN

Embattled Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez is hearing from his critics again after the Wolverines were manhandled at home last week against Michigan State. Yes, the Wolverines are 5-1, 1-1, but they have given up 69 points in their last two outings – 35 to Indiana and 34 to the Spartans. Michigan’s feeble defense also allowed 37 points in a narrow victory over Massachusetts. Third nationally in total offense, the key to Wolverine fortunes is simple – find a way to stop somebody.


The visiting Hawkeyes, 4-1, 1-1, are ranked 14th and hope their rushing defense, ranked second in the nation, can stop Michigan phenom Denard Robinson, who has rushed for 991 yards in six games. Iowa has allowed no rushing touchdowns through its first five games. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi continues to play solidly for Iowa. He is first in the conference and third nationally with a passing efficiency of 176.85.


SERIES TRENDS OF NOTE: Iowa 7-15-1 SU and 14-7-2 ATS including 8-2-1 ATS in the Big House.


KEY ANGLES: Iowa 8-1 ATS last nine as a Big 10 guest. Hawkeyes are also 27-8 SU and 21-10-1 ATS in their last 29 games including 19-7 SU and 19-6-1 ATS facing a foe that owns a won/loss percentage of .400 or better.


Michigan 32-48-3 ATS last 83 as a conference host including a soft 6-11-1 ATS in this role coming off a straight up loss. Wolverines are just 4-10 ATS in their last 14 in the Big House after facing the Spartans.


Minnesota at PURDUE
Most feel there is not much Tim Brewster can do to save his job at Minnesota. Off to a 1-5, 0-2 record, Brewster can only hope for some victories. But, after Purdue, Minnesota is looking at games against Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa. There is not much room for optimism.


Quarterback Adam Weber threw for three touchdowns in a loss against Wisconsin a week ago (he has 64 TD passes in his career), but there are not many other bright spots for the Gophers.


Purdue, shackled by a host of injuries to key offensive skilled position players, was written off for dead in 2010. Yet the Boilers wandered over to Evanston last Saturday and handed Northwestern its first defeat in six games.


The Boilers threw for only 47 yards against Northwestern. Yes, that was 47 yards – totally different from the kind of Purdue offense used for more than a decade. Danny Hope’s team is 3-2, 1-0, and now is lead by redshirt freshman Rob Henry.


The Boiler defense, bolstered by NFL sure thing Ryan Kerrigan holds the key to Boiler fortunes the rest of the way. Last week, the Boiler D had 5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss.


SERIES TRENDS OF NOTE: Minnesota 13-15 SU and 11-15-2 ATS including 0-10 SU and 1-8-1 ATS in their last 10 provided the Golden Gophers are an underdog.


KEY ANGLES: Minnesota 17-34-1 ATS last 52 priced as a road underdog of +12 or less including a miserable 9-27-1 ATS in this role matched up against an opponent that owns a won/loss percentage greater than .400.


Purdue 30-12 SU and 29-13 ATS facing a foe that checks in without momentum off two or more straight up losses including 23-7 ATS in this role provided its opponent owns a won/loss percentage of .400 or less.


Illinois at MICHIGAN ST

A week ago we said that Ron Zook needed a signature win at Illinois. Spanking host Penn State 33-13 did just that. The surprising Illini, 3-2, 1-1, opened some eyes during their first victory at State College, and may have hastened the exit of legendary coach Joe Paterno, whose 2010 team simply has no offensive firepower.


Sparked by Michael Leshoure’s 119 yards, the Illini ran for 282 rushing yards against the normally solid Penn State defense. Freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhasse continues to play within careful parameters and was 15 for 19 with a touchdown.


If you think the Illini are excited now, so too are the 6-0, 2-0 Spartans, ranked 11th and fresh off an impressive showing in their victory at Michigan.


Coach Mark Dantonio likely will continue to watch the action from the press box as he recovers from a heart attack, but the Spartans are 3-0 without him on the sideline.


Michigan State is stout defensively- allowing only 111.3 yards rush and 225 total in its first 6 games.


SERIES TRENDS OF NOTE: Illinois 10-13-1 SU and 9-13-2 ATS including 3-7-2 ATS versus the Spartans provided the Illini enter off a straight up win.


KEY ANGLES: Illinois 21-12 ATS on foreign soil provided the Illini are matched up against an opponent that checks in off two or more straight up wins.


Michigan State 8-8 SU and 6-10 ATS at home after fighting Michigan. Spartans also just 16-24-1 ATS in their last 41 as a Big 10 host including 8-15 ATS in this role priced as a favorite.


ELSEWHERE: Indiana, 3-2, takes a week away from conference play Saturday when it hosts Arkansas State, 2-4. Penn State and Northwestern are idle.


AN IRISH HIT: After consecutive victories over Boston College and Pittsburgh, Notre Dame’s offense took a big hit this week when it was announced that tight end Kyle Rudolph was to be lost for the rest of the season. Rudolph is to undergo surgery for a hamstring problem. The 6-6, 265-pound junior was the highest ranked tight end in the nation, according to NFL experts.

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