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Big 10 Report

   by ASA - 11/15/2012

Wisconsin wrapped up the Leaders division with a win over Indiana last week. The Badgers still have a lot to play for this week, however, when Ohio State comes to town in our Big Ten Showcase game of the week. OSU beat the Badgers on a Hail Mary a season ago and Wisconsin wants to re-establish its winning ways at home after losing to Michigan State the last time in Camp Randall. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes aim for their 11th consecutive win and to keep their perfect season alive. All the inside information on that game, as well as every other Big Ten matchup is inside!

Wisconsin (-3) vs. Ohio State – 2:30 PM CST – ABC
UW: Last week at Indiana: W 62-14
OSU: Last week – BYE

Ohio State is working on a perfect season and can lock up the Leaders division championship with a win, but because of postseason bans, Wisconsin is the team that will represent the division in the conference championship game in Indianapolis. In last week’s win over Indiana, Wisconsin rushed for a team-record 564 yards and scored seven rushing touchdowns. It was a good thing too, because the Badgers were working with their third string quarterback and he had to throw just seven passes the entire game. The strong rushing effort helped the Badgers hang onto the ball for +20 minutes time of possession over the Hoosiers. They’ll have a much more difficult time running against this Ohio State defense that ranks 16th against the run. Defensively Wisconsin held its fifth straight opponent to 16 points or fewer and now ranks 15th in total defense.

Ohio State has won ten straight and got a well-deserved bye after thumping Illinois two weeks ago. OSU hasn’t scored fewer than 29 points since September and is averaging 46 points over the last five games. QB Miller has over 1,700 yards passing and over 1,100 yards rushing with 27 total touchdowns and he can remain in the Heisman hunt with another strong performance. The defense has been below-average, allowing 31 points per game over the past five weeks. But this unit has been very opportunistic with timely turnovers (some returned for touchdowns).

Recent history: Ohio State is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings against the Badgers. They are just 1-3 ATS in the last four trips to Camp Randall, however, including a loss here in 2010 when the Bucks were #1 in the nation. Last year Wisconsin was down, 14-26, late in the 4th before two touchdown passes gave them the lead. Braxton Miller then threw the game-winning 40-yard touchdown pass with just 20 seconds remaining. Another notable note is that Bret Bielema and Urban Meyer had a recruiting spat this offseason and you can bet that neither coach has forgotten about it.

Trends: Ohio State is 27-10-1 ATS in its last 38 road games. Wisconsin is 5-1 ATS in its last six conference games and 13-5-1 ATS in its last 19 home games. The ‘under’ is 5-0-1 in the last six meetings between this two in Madison.

Injury report: OSU coach Urban Meyer says he doesn't know where LB Etienne Sabino is health-wise right now, but the senior will start at Wisconsin after missing two games.

Nebraska (-20) vs. Minnesota – 2:30 PM CST - Big Ten Network
UN: Last week vs. Penn State: W 32-23
UM: Last week at Illinois: W 17-3

Nebraska seems to have a clear path to Indianapolis to play the Badgers. The Huskers have this game at home against Minnesota and next week at reeling Iowa. However, they have been playing with fire as of late and no game has been a cake-walk for them. They’ve trailed in the fourth quarter in three of their last four games including last week vs. Penn State. The Huskers were down by 14 points at halftime and didn’t take the lead until midway through the final quarter. The offense racked up 267 rushing yards and 438 total yards against a good Penn State defense – most of it coming in the 2nd half. Defensively Nebraska struggled in the first half last week. They really stepped up in the second. Nebraska forced three turnovers, forced a safety, and allowed just three points all in the second half last week.

Minnesota reached bowl eligibility for the first time since 2009 with a win last week at Illinois last week. It was far from a dominating victory, and the Gophers will have to avoid being flat in their second consecutive road game – this one in the unfriendly confines of Memorial Stadium. This will especially tough for true freshman QB Philip Nelson. Nelson had just 78 yards passing last week against Illinois. The running game helped him out, churning out 232 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Few people pegged Minnesota as a bowl team after back-to-back 3-9 seasons. They now aim to play spoiler and for a signature win this week at Nebraska.

Recent history: Nebraska won the first meeting as conference foes last season, 41-14 (previous meeting before that was in 1990). Nebraska opened up with a scorching first half, taking a 34-0 lead into halftime. Nebraska rushed for 346 yards (6.2 YPC) and the defense held Minnesota to just 254 yards and 11 first downs.

Trends: Minnesota is a surprising 10-1 ATS in its last 11 games in November. The Cornhuskers are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven home games, but just 2-7 ATS in their last nine home games as a 20-point or more favorite.

Injury report: Star RB Rex Burkhead is testing his injured knee in practice this week in hopes that he can get back on the field this Saturday. Burkhead said he's "pretty close" to getting back on the field but that he wants to be smart about the injury. Coach Pelini said the team does not want to play Burkhead until he is 100 percent healthy.

Michigan State (-6.5) vs. Northwestern – 11:00 AM CST - ESPN2
MSU: Last week – BYE
NU: Last week at Michigan: L 31-38 (OT)

Both teams have been eliminated from the Big Ten championship picture, but that doesn't mean they have nothing to play for. The Spartans still need one more win to get to a bowl game with just two games remaining. The bye week arrived at a great time for the Spartans last week. The Spartans suffered another setback two weeks ago after having Nebraska on the ropes. MSU’s last four losses this season have been by four points or fewer and offensive deficiencies can be to blame. The Spartans have one of the game’s elite defenses and a porous passing attack is really holding them back. QB Andrew Maxwell will have to bounce back from another rough game against Nebraska (9-of-27 passing). RB Bell is holding this team together with 1,249 rushing yards and 11 total touchdowns.

With a few different strokes of fate, we’d be talking about the undefeated Northwestern Wildcats. They’ve held 4th quarter leads in all three of their losses, including a three-point lead at Michigan last week before the Wolverines kicked a tying field goal as time expired (Northwestern lost in overtime). Northwestern’s offense played extremely well against a stout Michigan defense. QB’s Siemian and Colter completed 14-of-21 passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Wildcats also tallied 248 rushing yards. This team has been a part of a few bad losses this season, and this one probably stung the most. NW outplayed the Wolverines almost the entire game and a win in the Big House would’ve been something sweet. Now they have the tough task of regrouping and trying not to be flat this Saturday.

Recent history: Michigan State has won four straight in the series and is 3-1 ATS over that span. The Spartans are just 2-3 SU & 0-5 ATS in the last five games at home against the Wildcats. MSU won in Evanston last year, 31-17.

Trends: Northwestern has covered four straight overall and is 5-1 ATS in its last six road games. Michigan State is just 2-6 ATS in its last eight games overall and 0-6 ATS in its last six home games.

Injury report: Northwestern starting CB Nick VanHoose is questionable for this game, but head coach Fitzgerald said RB Venric Mark will play.

Michigan (-14) vs. Iowa – 11:00 AM CST – ESPN
UM: Last week vs. Northwestern: W 38-31 (OT)
UI: Last week vs. Purdue: L 24-27

Nebraska is in the lead in the Legends division, but you never know in college football and the Wolverines are one Huskers misstep away from taking control of the division, so expect a motivated effort. It looked bleak for a while last week against Northwestern, but Michigan received a huge play from WR Roy Roundtree, who somehow hauled in a 53-yard pass to set up the game-tying field goal against Northwestern. The Wolverines won in overtime. Backup QB Gardner played well in his first start of the season, completing 16-of-29 passes for 249 yards and notched four total touchdowns (two passing, two rushing). Gardner will likely get the start again in place of an injured Denard Robinson.

Iowa is going through a four-game losing streak, its longest since 2007. A loss here would keep the Hawkeyes at home for bowl season. Despite playing at home against a porous Purdue squad last week needing a win, Iowa seemed checked out and unmotivated. The offense had yet another dismal day. Vandenberg completed just 19-of-36 passes for 190 yards. They also had 31 carries for just 74 yards (2.4 YPC). Vandenberg has just five touchdown passes this season and they are averaging just 87 rush yards per game over the last five at less than 3.1 YPC. The defense allowed 490 yards to Purdue, who hadn’t gained that many yards since September 15th.

Recent history: Iowa has won three straight in the series and is 5-0-1 ATS in the last six trips to Ann Arbor. Last year Iowa limited Denard Robinson to just 17-of-37 passing and held the Wolves to just 3.4 YPC in the 24-16 win.

Trends: Iowa is 2-11 ATS in its last 13 road games and 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games overall. Michigan is 8-2-2 ATS in its last 12 games as a conference home favorite of 14 points or more. The Wolves are just 10-27 ATS in their last 37 conference games overall.

Injury report: Brady Hoke is once again not providing much information on his quarterback situation. He said Wednesday that QB Denard Robinson remains day-to-day with an injured nerve in his throwing elbow. Robinson doesn't appear to be improving as quickly as the Wolverines once expected. Expect Devin Gardner to get the start again.

Penn State (-18.5) vs. Indiana – 11:00 AM CST - Big Ten Network
PSU: Last week at Nebraska: L 23-32
IU: Last week vs. Wisconsin: L 14-62

The potential Indiana Big Ten championship story was fun while it lasted (which turned out to be about five minutes into its matchup with Wisconsin last week), but the young Hoosiers are far from a championship caliber squad. Indiana never truly challenged the Badgers in its most-anticipated home game in recent memory. The Hoosiers allowed 564 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns to the Badgers and it seemed as though it didn’t matter who the ball was handed to – everyone saw success running the ball. Offensively the previously strong passing attack of Indiana was stifled against the Badgers defense. Coffman and Sudfeld completed just 25-of-47 passes for 233 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. They’ll face another tough task against when they visit an angry Penn State squad off of a loss.

Penn State may feel cheated by the refs in the loss last week, but the truth is that the offense didn’t do much to help the team in the second half. They turned the ball over three times, allowed a safety, and only managed three points after taking a 20-6 lead into halftime. The defense couldn’t stop Nebraska in the second half and the Huskers’ rushing attack racked up 267 yards. This D unit has strong rankings, but the fact is that it has struggled against the elite offenses while dominating the weak ones. Northwestern, Ohio State, and Nebraska all scored 28 points or more (PSU has held the other seven opponents to just 13 points per game). PSU has been good off of a loss this season, as the Lions have won the last two chances by 27 & 25 points.

Recent history: The Hoosiers are 0-7 lifetime in Beaver Stadium, losing by an average of 21 points per outing. The Hoosiers have, however, covered four of the last five meetings overall. Penn State won an ugly meeting last year. The Nittany Lions outgained IU by 208 yards, but had three turnovers and only won by six points – 16-10.

Trends: Indiana is 4-0 ATS in their last four games following a loss. The Hoosiers are 5-1 ATS in their last six games overall and 5-2 ATS in their last seven road games. Penn State is 7-1-1 ATS in its last nine games overall and is 4-1 ATS off of a loss.

Illinois (+7) vs. Purdue 2:30 PM CST - Big Ten Network
UI: Last week vs. Minnesota: L 3-17
PU: Last week at Iowa: W 27-24

The Boilermakers can still go bowling by beating the Illini on the road and winning over Indiana at home in the finale. Danny Hope may have saved his job – at least for another week – with that victory. A loss here to follow-up would almost certainly guarantee that Hope doesn’t return in 2013. Purdue dominated the box score at Iowa and shouldn't have needed a last-second field goal to win. The Boilers racked up 26 first downs and 490 yards, receiving big performances from QB Marve (266 passing yards and two touchdowns) and RB Ralph Bolden (102 yards on 14 carries). The defense really stepped up as well for the first time in over a month, allowing Iowa to just 71 rush yards and 16 first downs.

Illinois has dropped seven straight and remains winless in the conference. This is probably its best chance at notching that elusive first victory before traveling to Northwestern in the finale next week (the Illini have now dropped 12 straight Big Ten games dating back to last season). They are averaging just 10.5 points per game in conference play and haven’t scored over 22 points – which mostly came in garbage time in a blowout against Ohio State. Illinois was competitive in its loss to Minnesota last week. The Illini were down by just seven points before Minnesota scored the clinching touchdown with just over a minute remaining. Still, the offense managed just three points and 276 yards.

Recent history: Purdue has won six of the last seven meetings and is 3-1 ATS in its last four trips to Champaign. Last year, Purdue had a 21-0 lead in the fourth quarter but had to fend off a late rally, winning 21-14.

Trends: The Boilermakers are 2-5 ATS in their last seven games overall and 4-11-1 ATS in their last 16 games following a win. Illinois is 0-6 ATS in its last six games following a loss and 0-7 ATS in its last seven conference games.

Injury report: Illinois’ star LB Jonathan Brown has still not been cleared to play after missing the past two games. Head coach Tim Beckman said Brown is no longer using a sling and looks to be improving.

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