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Big 10 Preview

   by ASA - 09/21/2012

There’s one marquee matchup again this week in the Big Ten. And again it features a Michigan team facing the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Irish embarrassed Michigan State in East Lansing last week. This time it’s the Wolverines traveling to South Bend to try and get a win against the Golden Domers. Full analysis of that game and the rest of the Big Ten schedule inside…

Michigan (+5.5) at Notre Dame – 6:30 PM CST - NBC
UM: Last week vs. UMass: W 63-13
ND: Last week at Michigan State: W 20-3

This is the headliner of the week in the Big Ten and Michigan could use a win to give the conference back some pride after the Irish smoked Michigan State last week and Purdue earlier this season. The Wolverines are off of a blowout win over UMass. The Wolves dominated that game to the tune of 585 yards and 63 points with eight different players scoring a touchdown. Before beating a hapless FCS UMass, Michigan lost its only road game at Alabama and looked shaky at home against Air Force. A strong showing here would put the Wolverines back on the national map.

The defense shined as the offense continued to sputter in Notre Dame’s big win over Michigan State last week. The Irish held Michigan State to just 237 total yards, 15 first downs, and 3 points last week. They never allowed MSU’s rushing attack gain legs as the Spartans rushed for just 50 yards on 25 carries. Offensively QB Everett Golson struggled and was just 14-of-32 for 128 yards and one touchdown and the Irish were just 1-for-14 on third downs. RB Cierre Wood returned from suspension to rush for 56 yards on 10 carries.

Michigan has beaten Notre Dame three consecutive years and five of the last six overall. QB Denard Robinson has had two huge games against the Irish. Robinson has 582 pass yards and five touchdowns and 366 rush yards and three touchdowns in two career starts against the Golden Domers (both victories).

Including last season, seven of the last eight meetings have been straight-up wins by the underdog. Michigan is 2-9 SU and 3-8 ATS in its last 11 games as a road underdog.

Minnesota (-1) vs. Syracuse – 7:00 PM CST - Big Ten Network
UM: Last week vs. Western Michigan: W 28-23
SU: Last week vs. FCS Stony Brook: W 28-17

The Gophers will try to go 4-0 for the first time since 2008 but will have to do so without injured QBMarQueis Gray (suffered a high ankle sprain against Western Michigan last week and is expected to miss 2-4 weeks). Gray has had seven of Minnesota’s 13 touchdowns so far this season. QB Max Shortell played well relieving Gray on Saturday. He threw for 188 yards and 3 touchdowns against Western Michigan. The sophomore is much more of a pocket-passer and doesn't bring the same kind of threat with his legs that Gray does, but Syracuse has allowed 10 touchdown passes through three games, so Shortell could have a big day. Defensively the Gophers will face their toughest test of the season thus far against Syracuse.

The Orange are 1-2 but played Northwestern close and hung with USC. On the offensive side, QB Ryan Nassib has looked great as he has tossed nine touchdowns and just three interceptions and is averaging 376 passing yards per game (5th nationally).Syracuse has allowed an average of 200 rush yards per game through three games so expect the Gophers to run it early and often to keep Nassib off the field.

Minnesota won at Syracuse in 2009 in overtime. This is only the third non Big Ten BCS opponent that Minnesota has faced at home since 1998 (Lost to USC in 2010 and to California in 2009). Syracuse is 2-10 SU and 4-8 ATS in its last 12 road openers.

Penn State (-7.5) vs. Temple – 2:30 PM CST – ABC
PSU: Last week vs. Navy: W 34-7
TU: Last week: BYE

The Nittany Lions finally got a win last week against Navy after losing to Ohio and Virginia. They’ll try and use that momentum to avoid losing to Temple for the first time since 1941. Offensively they put up 34 points against Navy after scoring just 30 total in the previous two weeks combined. PSU still ranks 107th in rush offense and 101st in total offense. It’s the defense that’s keeping this team afloat. They are bending a little bit (68th in rush yards allowed and 69th in total yards allowed) but not breaking (28th in points allowed).

Temple didn't inspire a whole lot of confidence in losing to Maryland last week.The Owls gained just 230 yards and tallied 9 first downs against the Terrapins. QB Coyer has completed just 12-of-29 passes so far this season (41%) and this offense ranks 114th in total yards through two games. Temple has been a thorn in PSU’s side the past two seasons, however. The Owls led 13-12 into the 2nd half the last time in State College and they led 13-9 last season against the Nittany Lions. Temple lost both games outright but covered each.

Temple has covered three straight against PSU. Penn State is 1-7 ATS its last eight home games as a seven-point or more favorite against non-Big Ten squads.

Injury update: Running backs Derek Day (shoulder) and Bill Belton (ankle) are both day-to-day for the Temple game, with Day having a better chance to return than Belton, coach Bill O'Brien said. Left tackle Donovan Smith (ankle) also is day-to-day after missing the Navy game.

Illinois (-2.5) vs. Louisiana Tech – 7:00 PM CST – Big Ten Network
UI: Last week vs. FCS Charleston Southern: W 44-0
LT: Last week vs. Rice: W 56-37

Illinois has looked good on its home field and not good in its only trip away from Champaign. Saturday's win against Charleston Southern showed very little about the Illini. They won 44-0 and allowed just nine first downs and 125 total yards to its hapless FCS foe. QB Reilly O’Toole tossed for five touchdowns as regular starting QB Scheelhaase continued to sit out with an ankle injury. Scheelhaase could be back for this one, but his status is still uncertain. Either way, defending WAC Champion Louisiana Tech will not be an easy win for Illinois.

Louisiana Tech’s opener against Texas A&M was cancelled due to hurricane Isaac. Since then the Bulldogs have scored 56 points apiece in wins against Houston and Rice. QB Colby Cameron (7 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) leads an offense that ranks 9th in rushing, 16th in passing, 3rd in points, and 5th overall. The big problem with LA Tech is its defense. They allowed 49 points at Houston and 37 against Rice. This unit ranks 124th in total defense and 121st in scoring defense.

LA Tech is 1-10 SU in its last 10 road games visiting BCS-schools but 3-1 ATS in its last four. Illinois is 11-3 SU but just 3-11 ATS its last 14 home games against non-BCS schools.

Wisconsin (-17.5) vs. UTEP – 11:00 AM CST - ESPN2
UW: Last week vs. Utah State: W 16-14
UTEP: Last week vs. New Mexico State: W 41-28

Who would’ve thought that three games into the season UTEP would have a better scoring offense than Wisconsin? We didn’t. UTEP is ranked 106th in scoring offense. Wisconsin is ranked 113th. Wisconsin has played so poorly this season that no game is safe at this point. The Miners gave Oklahoma a minor scare in Week one and we wouldn’t be surprised if they did the same to the Badgers here. Utah State outgained the Badgers and missed a field goal late in the 4th quarter that would’ve given Wisco its 2nd loss of the season. The Badgers are likely making the switch at QB from Danny O’Brien to redshirt freshman Joel Stave. Stave played in the 2nd half last week and completed 2-of-6 passes for 15 yards.

As we said above, the Miners put a scare into Oklahoma in week one and did the same to Mississippi in week two (both losses) before notching their first win against New Mexico State last week. A win over NM State is nothing to write home about, but it was a start. QB Nick Lamaison tossed for 300 yards and four touchdowns and UTEP tallied 177 rush yards.

Wisconsin is 0-2 ATS this season, and 3-7 ATS its last 10 in home games against non-conference opponents. UTEP is 14-6 ATS its last 20 games as an underdog of 17 or more.

Iowa (-15.5) vs. Central Michigan – 11:00 AM CST – Big Ten Network
UI: Last week vs. FCS Northern Iowa: W 27-16
CMU: Last week: BYE

Iowa found a little bit of an offensive rhythm against Northern Iowa last week and should not have much trouble if it can keep that up. RB Mark Wiesman rushed for 113 yards and 3 touchdowns and this offense totaled 429 total yards in the 11-point victory. The strong suit of this team continues to be its defense. They rank 24th in total defense and 18th in scoring defense. They haven’t allowed more than 17 points in any of their three games so far.

The Chippewas got drilled at home by fellow Big Ten member Michigan State two weeks ago and had an off week last week. The Spartans put up 495 yards and 41 points while holding CMU to just 245 yards and 7 points. MSU appears to be better than Iowa at this point in the season so take those stats with a grain of salt. Still, if Iowa can get its rushing attack going against this CMU defense that has allowed 181 per game, the Hawkeyes should win comfortably.

Iowa is 12-4 ATS in its last 16 home games as a 14-point favorite against non-BCS schools. Central Michigan is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games against Big Ten squads.

Injury update: RB Damon Bullock (head) is doubtful andRB Greg Garmon (elbow) is questionable for Saturday. Coach Kirk Ferentz said Mark Weisman will start for Iowa following his three-touchdown performance.

Ohio State (-36.5) vs. UAB – 11:00 AM CST – Big Ten Network
OSU: Last week vs. California: W 35-28
UAB: Last week at South Carolina: L 6-49

This should be an easy “tune-up” victory for the Buckeyes before their showdown at Michigan State next Saturday. For the 2nd straight week, the Buckeyes had troubles scoring in the 2nd half. It took two touchdowns in the 4th quarter to put away a pesky California team away after Central Florida gave them a scare two weeks ago. QB Miller continues to impress in Urban Meyer’s spread scheme. He has 611 pass yards and 377 rush yards and 12 total touchdowns. He and this offense should have no problem putting up points against UAB.

The Blazers have been outscored 88-35 in their first two games, losses to Troy and South Carolina. UAB ranks 108th in yards against and 123rd in points allowed. Offensively this team was completely shutdown by South Carolina. The Blazers had 27 rush yards on 42 carries and most of the 265 total yards came in garbage time during the blowout. OSU allowed over 500 yards to the Cal Bears, but that won’t happen here.

Ohio State is 7-2 ATS in its last nine games as a 30-point favorite or more. UAB is 0-14 SU (7-7 ATS) on the road against BCS-schools – losing by an average of 23 points per game.

Michigan State (-33) vs. Eastern Michigan – 2:30 PM CST – Big Ten Network
MSU: Last week vs. Notre Dame: L 3-20
EMU: Last week at Purdue: L 16-54

Expect a fired up Spartans squad for this game after the home loss to Notre Dame a week ago. Notre Dame held MSU to just 237 total yards, including 50 yards on 25 carries. It was the first time Michigan Statehad been held touchdown-less at home since 1991. The defense was solid again, only allowed 300 total yards and 20 points, but deficiencies on offense cost the Spartans last week. Eastern Michigan ranks dead last nationally in rush-defense (312 rush YPG allowed), so expect the Spartans to have a big game on the ground behind Le’Veon Bell.

EMUlost last week to fellow Big Ten Purdue 54-16. The Eagles were beaten in the first two weeks by Ball State and FCS Illinois State. They’ve been bad all around. They rank 111th in total offense and 119th in total defense and they have more turnovers than touchdowns this season. They are 0-5 SU & ATS in the last five games against Michigan State and have lost each by an average of 41 points per game (none by fewer than 32 points).

Michigan State is 8-1 ATS its last nine non-conference home games as a 20-point favorite or more.

Nebraska (NL) vs. FCS Idaho State – 2:30 PM CST – Big Ten Network
UN: Last week vs. Arkansas State: W 42-13

Nebraska bounced back after its loss to UCLA to beat Arkansas State handily last week. The Huskers gained 527 total yards, 347 of them coming on the ground. They’ve looked very good against weak competition but struggled against their only big-name opponent so far. Expect another big win over FCS Idaho State in this “tune-up” before Big Ten play begins.

Northwestern (NL) vs. FCS South Dakota – 2:30 PM CST – Big Ten Network
NU: Last week vs. Boston College: W 22-13

After improving to 3-0 against three straight BCS teams, the Wildcats get a bit of a break here and should improve to 4-0. Offensively the Wildcats put up 560 total yards, rushed for 293, completed 30-of-40 passes, and totaled 34 first downs – but that only translated into 22 total points. Still, it was a promising win over Boston College as they played stout defense for the 2nd consecutive week, only allowing 13 points. South Dakota did pull an upset at Minnesota two years ago, but the Coyotes lost to Maine in their season opener.

Bye: Indiana
IU: Last week vs. Ball State: L 39-41

The Hoosiers lost their first game last week at home against Ball State. BSU kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired and won the game by two points. Starting quarterback Cameron Coffman left last week's loss with a hip pointer, and third string QB Nate Sudfeld entered the game and performed well. Coach Kevin Wilson said Coffman remains the starter, at least right now. IU's defense still isn't up to snuff. The Hoosiers allowed 440 yards and 41 points without recording a turnover against Ball State. That can’t happen if Indiana wants to win a few Big Ten games.

Bye: Purdue
PU: Last week vs. Eastern Michigan: W 54-16

So far Danny Hope's squad looks like the best postseason-eligible team in the wide-open Leaders Division (Ohio State ineligible). Purdue definitely has the defense to go a long way this season as the Boilers rank 22nd in total defense and 19th in points against. If they can get solid quarterback play going forward, this will be a dangerous team.

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