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Big 10 Report

   by ASA - 10/31/2012

The Big Ten race if finally starting to take shape. Nebraska is in control of the Legends division but faces a tough task as it travels to Michigan State this weekend. MSU is off of a huge win over Wisconsin (their first loss at Camp Randall since 2009) but the Badgers are still in control of the Leaders division. The only other real threat in the Leaders? Indiana. That’s right, the Hoosiers. They are favored in a conference game for the first time since 2005 when Iowa visits Saturday. All the inside information on every Big Ten matchup is here!

Michigan State (+2) vs. Nebraska – 2:30 PM CST – ABC
MSU: Last week at Wisconsin: W 16-13 (OT)
UN: Last week vs. Michigan: W 23-9

This should be a classic offense vs. defense showdown. Nebraska leads the Big Ten in scoring and total offense, while the Spartans are tops in points allowed and yards allowed. Nebraska has control of the Legends Division now after defeating Michigan at home last week. The Huskers defense played well but definitely capitalized on a Denard Robinson-less Michigan team in the second half last week, allowing just 52 yards. They picked off Robinson’s backup, Russell Bellomy, three times and allowed just three points to the Wolverines after halftime. Offensively Nebraska played well against a strong Michigan defense. The running game churned out 160 rush yards and QB Martinez completed 14-of-24 passes with a score. They’ll be tested by a better defense from the state of Michigan this weekend.

There's new life in Sparta as Michigan State got what could be a season-saving win in Madison last weekend. The Spartans’ struggling offense showed up just in time to score with 1:08 left in the fourth quarter to tie, then scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime. MSU’s defense has been elite for most of the season but really cranked things up at Camp Randall, limiting Wisconsin to just 190 yards, 10 first downs, and 19 net rushing yards. They also tallied five sacks and 12 tackles for loss. There are still reasons for concern on offense, as 100 of Sparty’s 277 total yards came on their final two drives in the fourth quarter and overtime. RB Bell was held to 77 rush yards on 21 carries and he is now being held to just 3.4 YPC over the last five games (5.2 YPC over the first four weeks).

Recent history: This is a big revenger for Michigan State after getting dominated in Lincoln a year ago. Nebraska held MSU to just 187 total yards, 12 first downs, and three points. Nebraska churned out 190 rush yards and RB Burkhead scored all three of UN’s touchdowns.

Trends: Nebraska is just
Nebraska 2-6 ATS in its last eight games following a SU win. The Cornhuskers are also 0-5-1 ATS in their last six road games. Michigan State is just 2-5 ATS in its last seven games overall and 0-5 ATS in the last five home games. The Spartans have finished ‘under’ in five straight home games and seven of their last nine overall.

Injury report: Nebraska has survived almost two full Big Ten games without top running back Rex Burkhead, who should be back this week.

Minnesota (+12.5) vs. Michigan – 11:00 AM CST - Big Ten Network
Minn: Last week vs. Purdue: W 44-28
Mich: Last week at Nebraska: L 9-23

Minnesota true freshman QB Philip Nelson showed off his skills against Purdue. In just his second career start, Nelson tossed for 246 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was a good day all around for this Gopher offense as they tallied 212 rush yards, including 134 from RB Kirkwood. It all was against a surprisingly inept Boiler defense and they’ll face a much more daunting task against an angry Michigan “D” this weekend. Defensively Minnesota still needs to tighten up. The Gophers allowed 381 total yards, 183 rush yards (5.3 YPC), and 21 first downs.

Michigan QB Denard Robinson was hurt just before halftime of last week’s game against Nebraska, and the offense completely deflated after that. The Wolves tallied just 52 total yards and three points in the second half. They also managed just 95 rush yards on 37 carries without their top rushing threat. Robinson’s back-up, Russell Bellomy, completed just 3-of-16 passes with three interceptions. The defense performed admirably for continuously being put in bad situations. The Wolves allowed Nebraska to just 3.9 YPC while forcing two turnovers. Michigan is now 1-3 on the road this season but will need to play well to stay in the Legends Division race.

Recent history: The Little Brown Jug has been won by Michigan four straight meetings by an average of 30 points per game (4-0 ATS). Last year the Wolves had +403 yards and +24 first downs in the 58-0 drubbing in Ann Arbor. Michigan hasn’t lost in Minnesota since 1977 and they are 11-2 ATS in the last 13 meetings there.

Trends: Michigan is 9-26 ATS in its last 35 conference games. The Wolverines are also 3-10 ATS in their last 13 games following a SU loss. Minnesota is 7-1 ATS in their last eight home games and 9-4 ATS in the last 13 games overall. The score has remained ‘under’ the total in four of the last six meetings.

Injury report: Head coach Brady Hoke sounded more optimistic about having starting QB Robinson for Saturday’s game. "He should be fine," Hoke said Tuesday. Minnesota’s top WR A.J. Barker (ankle) has a chance to return Saturday against Michigan. Barker had 135 receiving yards and two touchdowns before leaving the Purdue win with the injury.

Purdue (+3.5) vs. Penn State – 2:30 PM CST – ESPNU
PU: Last week at Minnesota: L 28-44
PSU: Last week vs. Ohio State: W 23-35

Ross-Ade Stadium likely won’t be rocking for this conference game. Boilers fans are understandably frustrated with their team after a four-game conference losing streak – the last of which was a blowout at the hands of the Golden Gophers in Minnesota. Coach Danny Hope had dubbed this as “his best team” during his tenure. He’s not getting the results lately as the offense and defense have been greatly underperforming. Starting QB Celeb TerBush completed just 5-of-18 passes for 49 yards against Minnesota and now Hope has to decide how to divvy up his quarterback rotation between TerBush, Robert Marve, and Rob Henry. The Boilers' defense has allowed four Big Ten opponents to average 284 rush yards per game (6.1 YPC average) and 39 points per game.

Penn State is also looking to rebound after a disappointing home loss to Ohio State in a much-anticipated game. They had a seven-point lead in the second quarter and were tied with the Bucks at halftime. But by the end of the third quarter the Lions were down 28-10. They managed just 32 rush yards on 28 carries against OSU and QB McGloin was an inefficient 27-of-45 passing; a lot of which came in garbage time. He led to offense to just 5-of-17 on third downs A normally stout PSU run defense allowed 234 rush yards and three rushing scores. The Lions are 2-0 on the road in the Big Ten so far with wins by 28 & 24 points and they’ll aim for their third Big Ten road win this weekend.

Recent history: Purdue hasn’t won against the Nittany Lions since 2005 and they are 3-7-1 ATS over the last 11 meetings. Penn State won 23-18 in State College. PSU’s defense forced three interceptions by TerBush and Marve. The Lions have won two straight in Purdue by 14 and 12 points, respectively.

Trends: Penn State is 6-1 ATS in its last seven games overall and 5-2 ATS in its last seven road games. Purdue is 1-4-1 ATS in its last six conference games and 1-4 ATS in its last five games overall. These two have finished ‘under’ in seven of the last eight meetings.

Injury report: Purdue’s star DT Kawann Short is questionable for Saturday's game against Penn State after suffering an ankle injury last week. Starting CB Ricardo Allen (ankle) is improving and could play this week. PSU TE Kyle Carter, who ranks second on the team with 35 receptions and 441 receiving yards, is "day-to-day."

Indiana (-1.5) vs. Iowa – 2:30 PM CST – Big Ten Network
Ind: Last week at Illinois: W 31-17
Iowa: Last week Northwestern: L 17-28

Iowa’s offense again struggled last weekend against Northwestern. It has been a reoccurring theme all season and we just might have to accept that things won’t get any better. The Hawks rushed for just 3.0 YPC and QB Vandenberg yet again failed to throw a touchdown pass. Vandenberg has just three touchdown passes this season and teams are learning that they don’t have to fear an aerial attack from the Hawkeyes. Iowa currently ranks 100th or worse in passing, total offense, and scoring offense. A bigger concern is a defense that has surrendered 937 yards the past two weeks. Northwestern relied on its running attack that gained 349 yards (7.1 YPC) and they only attempted 10 passes all game.

The Hoosiers lead the league in passing yards per game at 286.6 and have more than five times as many touchdown passes as the Hawkeyes (16 to 3). Last week they notched their first conference win since 2010 at Illinois and that should provide a much-needed confidence builder going forward. Freshman QB Sudfeld came in off the bench to complete 10-of-15 passes with two touchdowns to provide a lift last week and Indiana’s defense surrendered just three second-half points to the Illini. Indiana is currently favored it its first conference game since 2007.

Recent history: Indiana has dropped four straight to the Hawkeyes by 20 points per game, but the Hoosiers have covered two straight. Last year in this meeting Iowa QB Vandenberg threw for more touchdowns (four) than he has through eight games this season (three).

Trends: Iowa is 35-15-1 ATS in its last 51 games following a SU loss. The Hawks are just 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games overall and 2-10 ATS in their last 12 road games. Indiana has covered four straight games (all Big Ten games). These two have finished ‘over’ the total in six of the last seven meetings.

Injury report: Freshman QB Nate Sudfeld continues to provide a spark off of the bench and the Hoosiers aren't changing their approach at the position for this week's game against Iowa. Coach Kevin Wilson noted that Cameron Coffman will remain the starter.

Ohio State (-27.5) vs. Illinois – 2:30 PM CST – ESPN
OSU: Last week at Penn State: W 35-23
UI: Last week vs. Indiana: L 17-31

These two programs are on opposite sides of the Big Ten echelon right now. Ohio State is aiming for an undefeated season while Illinois has dropped five straight. The Buckeyes have the Big Ten's best player in QB Miller, who tallied 277 total yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win over Penn State. Overall the Buckeyes racked up 234 rush yards against a stout Penn State run-defense. Defensively OSU had arguably its best performance of the season, frustrating a scalding hot Penn State offense and keeping them out of the end zone for the better part of three quarters. They are nearly 30-point favorites at home here against a hapless Illinois squad.

Last week Illinois had more first downs and total yards than Indiana, and held the ball for more than 33 minutes Saturday. But they had a number of mistakes – penalties, turnovers, sacks – and couldn’t put the ball in the end-zone. The defense allowed Indiana to score 24 of the game's final 27 points. Illinois now ranks 111th in total offense and 118th in scoring offense. An upset doesn’t look likely here as the Illini travel to Columbus.

Recent history: Ohio State is 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS in the previous four meetings, winning by an average of 15.3 points per game. Last year Ohio State rushed 51 times and threw it just four times in the 17-7 win in Champaign.

Trends: Illinois is 0-4 ATS in its last four games following a SU loss. The Illini are also 0-5 ATS in their last five conference games. Ohio State is just 4-10 ATS in its last 14 games following a SU win. These two have remained ‘under’ the total in five of the last seven meetings.

Injury report: OSU coach Urban Meyer said LB Etienne Sabino is doubtful for Saturday. Illinois’ Miles Osei, who saw some time at QB, is working exclusively at WR as the Illini try to find more weapons.

Northwestern – BYE
NU: Last week vs. Iowa: W 28-17

Northwestern had a huge day offensively against the Hawkeyes last week. The Wildcats controlled the ball with 49 rushing attempts for 349 yards (7.1 YPC). QB Colter and RB Mark each topped 160 rush yards while the defense held Iowa to just 17 points. The bye week comes at a perfect time as Northwestern prepares for two road games at Michigan and at Michigan State.

Wisconsin – BYE
UW: Last week vs. Michigan State: L 13-16 (OT)

The Badgers lost their first home game since 2009 last week against Michigan State. They also lost starting QB Joel Stave to a clavicle injury, and he will miss the remainder of the season. Stave was 9-of-11 for 127 yards and a touchdown before the injury last week and the offense was stagnant without him. The running game managed just 19 yards on 37 carries and the Badgers relinquished a late lead and lost the game in overtime. Believe it or not the Badgers still are in the lead to represent the Leaders division in Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game.

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