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Big 10 Report

   by ASA - 09/03/2014

Big Ten Conference Report - September 3

By American Sports Analysts

GAME OF THE WEEK

Michigan State (+12) @ Oregon - 5:30 PM CST
There was a moment when the Spartans' season flashed before their eyes as QB Connor Cook took a scary hit to the knee in the 1st half against FCS Jacksonville State. Luckily, Cook returned unscathed and finished 12-of-13 passing for 285 yards and 3 TD in the 45-7 drubbing over the Gamecocks. MSU coasted to a victory behind Cook, 211 rush yards, and a dominating defensive performance. The degree of difficulty goes up dramatically this week at Oregon, the 4th ranked team in the nation and one of the toughest venues to play in. Oregon had an easy victory in week one over FCS South Dakota. Heisman candidate QB Marcus Mariota led the way with 267 pass yards, 43 rush yards, and 4 total TD in the 62-13 win. The Ducks rushed for 293 yards on 7.7 YPC en route to a +303 yard advantage over the outmatched Coyotes. It will be a true matchup of strength vs. strength on Saturday as Oregon's fast-paced offense takes on an MSU defense that has ranked at or near the top of the nation over the past few seasons. Oregon depends on its rushing attack averaged 274 YPG on 6.3 YPC last year while MSU allowed just 86 rush YPG on 2.8 YPC. MSU's defense hasn't allowed an opponent to reach exceed 28 points since 2011. If they can hold Oregon to 30 points or less they have a great shot at covering considering that Oregon is just 2-7 SU & 1-8 ATS when scoring fewer than 30 points since the beginning of the 2009 season. The Ducks are just 6-13-1 ATS in the last 20 at home as a favorite of 10 points or more. They are also 0-7 ATS their last seven as a home favorite between 10-and-20 points. Michigan State is 3-1 since 2006 as an underdog of 10 points or more. They are 7-4-1 ATS in their last 12 regular season road games against non-Big Ten teams.

Ohio State (-11) vs. Virginia Tech - 7:00 PM CST
The J.T. Barrett era in Buckeye land didn't exactly get off to a flying start against Navy last week. OSU was losing 13-14 midway through the 3rd quarter before a 80-yard touchdown pass from Barrett to WR Devin Smith gave OSU the lead for good. Navy is no pushover, and we give Barrett and co. credit for getting through a rough start and coming alive down the stretch, giving the Buckeyes a comfortable 17-point win. Navy's vaunted triple-option rushing attack gave OSU's defense some trouble, tallying 370 rush yards on 5.9 YPC, giving up a number of big plays. The Bucks buckled down in the 2nd half, forcing and returning a fumble for a TD in the 3rd quarter and allowing just 36 rush yards in the 4th quarter. OSU now takes a step up in competition as they host the Hokies of Virginia Tech this Saturday. VA Tech had a ho-hum 34-9 victory over FCS William & Mary last week. The Hokies had +295 yards, +12 first downs, and didn't allow the Tribe to reach the end zone. New QB Michael Brewer completed 23-of-30 passes for 251 yards and freshman RB Shai McKenzie had 109 rush yards on just 9 attempts. A stout defense has always been a staple in Blacksburg under head coach Frank Beamer and this year should be no different, presenting the first difficult task for OSU's QB Barrett. The redshirt freshman will have to shake off the jitters as this game will be in prime time broadcasted by ESPN. The good news is that OSU is playing at the Horseshoe, where the Bucks are 15-0 under Urban Meyer. They are also 15-1 SU & 11-5 ATS in the last 16 home games against non-conference foes. VA Tech has been a double-digit underdog just six times since 2000 and is 4-2 ATS in those situations. The Hokies are just 1-9-1 ATS in the last 11 road games against non-conference opponents. This is the first ever meeting between these two schools.

Michigan (+3.5) @ Notre Dame - 6:30 PM CST
The Wolverines were clearly ready for their "rematch" with Appalachian State after the famous loss to the FCS program in 2007. Michigan jumped to a 35-0 halftime lead behind three TD passes to WR Devin Funchess. QB Gardner finished 13-of-14 for 173 yards and 3 TD while RB's Green & Smith combined for 285 rush yards on 22 carries and 3 TD. Sure, it was against an FCS opponent, but it was a promising start for a team that has struggled with offensive consistency over the past few seasons. This week they travel to South Bend for a meeting with rival Notre Dame. The Irish got QB Everett Golson back from his 2013 suspension and his presence cannot be understated. Golson led the Irish to the 2012 BCS championship and is 11-1 overall as a starter. He showed his worth last week with 295 pass yards, 41 rush yards, and 5 total TD in the 48-17 win over Rice. Notre Dame will be without three preseason starters for this matchup after dismissals to DT Ishaq Williams, WR DaVaris Daniels, and CB KeiVarae Russell, among others, for an academic scandal. Michigan will get starting center Graham Glasglow back this week after he served his suspension sitting out against Appalachian State. Motivation will not be lacking for either side here as this is the final scheduled meeting between the two rivals (have met every year since 2002 and 28 times since 1980). Michigan is 6-2 SU & ATS in the last eight meetings with the Golden Domers, but both of the losses were in South Bend. The Wolverines are just 1-6 SU & 2-5 ATS the last two years against ranked opponents - the one SU win was at home against Notre Dame last year. The underdog has won seven of the last 10 meetings outright.

Penn State (-14) vs. Akron - 11:00 AM CST
The James Franklin era got started off with a bang as PSU survived Central Florida in Ireland last week. In a game that went back-and-forth, UCF took a lead with 1:13 remaining on a TD run by QB Justin Holman. PSU QB Hackenberg took the Nittany Lions down the field and put them in position for a 36-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. It would've been a devastating loss for PSU considering they dominated the stat book. PSU had a +265 yard advantage and +13 first downs. UCF's stout defense was able to hold PSU to just 57 yards on 2.0 YPC. Hackenberg was able to lead the way for PSU as he completed 32-of-47 passes for 454 yards. The defense also had a great day, holding UCF to just 24 rush yards on 29 carries (0.8 YPC). PSU had a difficult travel schedule as they return from Ireland (10+ hour flight) to prepare for the Zips of Akron. Akron finished just 5-7 last year, but returned nearly every key position player and have been tabbed as a contender for the MAC title this season. They got off to a promising start last week in a 41-0 win over FCS Howard. Talented Jr. QB Pohl tossed for 304 yards and 4 scores and the defense held Howard to just 216 total yards and 3-of-18 on 3rd down. James Franklin will have to fight off jet-lag and avoid a letdown performance here because this version of Akron has enough talent to pull off an upset. The Zips are 0-4 all-time against PSU, including a 31-7 loss the last time here (2009). They've dropped 20 straight road openers by an average of 28 PPG and they are 0-17 since 1998 against Big Ten squads. PSU is just 3-7 ATS in the last 10 home games as a double-digit favorite against non-conference opponents.

Iowa (-17) vs. Ball State - 2:30 PM CST
The Hawkeyes knew they were going to get a fight against Northern Iowa; but for a team that has aspirations of a Big Ten West title, getting outgained by an FCS program and barely holding them off is a bit concerning. Still, a win's a win and Iowa did a lot of things right. QB Rudocks was 31-of-41 for 250 yards with 2 scores and 0 INT, the stable of RB's pounded for 151 yards on 4.2 YPC, and the defense held the Panthers to just 25 rush yards and 13 total first downs. The renovated defense will have to work on limiting the big plays after UNI QB Kollmorgen (380 pass yards) hooked up with WR Johnson (205 rec. yards) for a couple of big gains. Next up is a battle with MAC member Ball State. BSU finished 10-3 last year but lost top QB Wenning (35 TD, 7 INT in 2013) and WR Snead (106 rec, 15 TD) so the offense that averaged 38.5 PPG in 2013 is expected to take a bit of a step back. The Cards looked good last week, albeit against FCS Colgate, so take it with a grain of salt. BSU tallied 514 yards and 29 first downs in the 30-10 win. RB's Banks and Edwards combined for 243 rush yards on 35 carries, helping ease along QB Ozzie Mann who made his first career start. Iowa and BSU have met twice previously. The Cardinals have dropped both prior meetings (2005 & 2010) by a combined score of 101-0. Ball State is 2-16 SU in its last 18 road openers including 5 straight by an average of 16 PPG. They are 7-3 ATS since 2006 against Big Ten schools, including three SU wins (all against Indiana). Iowa is just 7-20 ATS since 2006 as a favorite of 14 points or more. The Hawkeyes are 4-0 SU but 0-4 ATS the last four games preceding their annual rivalry matchup with Iowa State.

Maryland (-12.5) @ South Florida - 2:30 PM CST
There isn't too much to be learned about Maryland from a 52-7 blowout of James Madison last week, though Maryland will surely be looking for more efficiency from its passing attack after C.J. Brown completed just 11 of 24 attempts. He offset his poor passing performance with three rushing scores as the Terps gashed the Dukes for 285 rushing yards. WR's Stefon Diggs and Deon Long returned to the field for the first times since each suffered a season ending injury early in 2013. They combined for seven receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown (Diggs also returned a kickoff for 59 yards). Defensively the Terps forced three turnovers and held JMU to just 4-for-19 on 3rd down. Next up they travel to Tampa for their first road game of the year at South Florida. USF just just 5-19 over the past two seasons, but there was reason for optimism considering the Bulls return 10 starters on offense. The Bulls didn't exactly look much improved in their debut against FCS Western Carolina last week. Western Carolina jumped out to a 14-3 lead before USF woke up (won 36-31). Western Carolina had +14 first downs and tallied 454 yards against USF, holding the TOP advantage by +15 minutes. USF QB White completed just 9-of-26 passes for 181 yards and an INT. Freshman RB Marlon Mack burst onto the scene with 275 rush yards (11.4 YPC) and 4 TD. Maryland is just 2-4 SU & ATS in the last six non-conference road games. The Terps are just 4-8 ATS in the last 12 as a double-digit road favorite (first time since 2008). The Bulls are 12-6 ATS in the last 18 as a double-digit underdog, including 4-2 ATS in 2013.

Minnesota (-16) vs. Middle Tennessee State - 2:30 PM CST
The Gophers took their time getting started offensively against FCS Eastern Illinois last week, scoring just before halftime to take a 14-0 lead against the Panthers. They ended up winning 42-20, but the Gophers were outgained by 71 yards and had 9 fewer first downs. Many still question the passing ability of QB Leidner after a 9-of-17, 144 yard performance against EIU. Leidner did rush for two scores, but it doesn't appear that he'll put much fear into opposing secondaries this season. Leidner's shortcomings in the passing game allow opposing defenses to load the box against Minnesota's rushing attack - the strength of this team. As a result, the Gophers had just 182 rush yards on 40 carries (4.5 YPC) - that includes a 42-yard TD scamper by RB Edwards. Eastern Illinois exposed some flaws, and Middle Tennessee State will try to take advantage this weekend. MTSU put up 61 points in the victory over FCS Savannah State last week, scoring six rush TD, one pass TD, one defensive TD, and one special teams TD. We're not putting too much stock in that performance considering Savannah State is one of the worst FCS programs. Still, it was a promising start for Blue Raiders QB Grammer, who completed 15-of-17 passes for 250 yards and 1 TD in his starting debut. MTSU has some familiarity with the Big Ten, losing to Minnesota by just seven points in 2010, and Purdue by just 3 points in 2011. Eleven of MTSU's last 15 road openers have come against Big Five conference schools. The Raiders are an impressive 9-1-1 ATS in those 11 games. The Gophers are 13-7 ATS in the last 20 games as a favorite of 14 points or more - though they're on an 0-4 run at home in that situation.

Northwestern (-7) vs. Northern Illinois - 2:30 PM CST
After a disastrous end to last season and some tumultuous news from training camp this offseason, the nightmare continued for Northwestern in a seven-point loss to Cal to kick off the 2014 season. A loss to a team coming off a 1-11 campaign isn't a step in the right direction for the Wildcats and now there's a hint of desperation in the Evanston air. Northwestern QB Siemian was an inefficient 23-of-44 for 229 yards with 1 TD and 2 INT and the rushing attacked mustered just 108 yards on 36 carries (3.0 YPC). The defense did all it could to hold a potent Cal offense, but the Bears still gained 414 yards and achieved 23 first downs. Northern Illinois has gone an impressive 46-10 over the last four seasons, winning two bowl games and even earning an invite to the 2012 Orange Bowl. Star QB Lynch is gone, but the Huskies still return 14 starters, including nine on offense. They got off to a strong start with a 55-3 win over Presbyterian. NIU outgained the FCS foe by a staggering 508 yards and had +30 more first downs. The Huskies have one of the better rushing attacks in the nation and Northwestern will have its hands full this weekend. The Wildcats are on a 0-5 SU run at home and 0-7 ATS run at home. They are on an extended run of 17-34 ATS as a home favorite. The Huskies are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 as an underdog. NIU has won four of the last seven against the Big Ten and they are 13-4 ATS in the last 17 against the B1G.

Illinois (-6) vs. Western Kentucky - 11:00 AM CST
Illinois definitely made it interesting against FCS Youngstown State last Saturday. The Illini looked absolutely abysmal for the first three-and-a-half quarters before a TD with 8:50 remaining gave them the advantage for good. The Illini were outgained, had fewer first downs, and had 20 fewer minutes TOP. The good news for Illinois is that new starting QB Wes Lunt looked very good in his debut. Lunt completed 24-of-38 passes for 285 yards with 4 TD and 0 INT. The bad news is that Illinois gained just 78 rush yards on 3.5 YPC and the defense allowed 203 rush yards. There's still a lot of work to do before Illinois is even considered as a contender in the Big Ten West. If they play like they did last week against Western Kentucky this week, they'll be ripe for an upset. WKU looked very good in its debut against Bowling Green last week. BGU was tabbed to be one of the better teams in the MAC this season and the Hilltoppers absolutely destroyed them. WKU jumped out to a 38-10 lead and coasted to a 59-31 victory. The 'Toppers gained 708 total yards and 40 first downs. QB Doughty was extremely efficient, completing 46-of-56 passes for 569 yards with 6 TD and 0 INT. WKU allowed 466 yards on defense, but if they can replicate that offensive performance like the one against Bowling Green, the Illini will have problems keeping pace. Illinois is just 3-8 ATS in their last 11 as a home favorite. Western Kentucky is 20-6 ATS in their last 26 road games.

Purdue (-3) vs. Central Michigan - 11:00 AM CST
The Boilermakers quickly matched their win total from 2013 with a win over Western Michigan last week. The 43 points scored exceeded any Purdue total from 2013 - it also represented 24% of 2013's point total. QB Etling tossed for 181 yards on 50% completions with 2 TD and 0 INT. RB's Mostert and Hunt combined for 224 yards on 37 carries and 2 TD. There are some causes for concern starting with the defense. The Boilers allowed 456 yards and 24 first downs to Western Michigan - a middle-of-the-pack MAC offense. WMU RB Franklin rushed for 163 yards and 3 scores, repeatedly gashing this Purdue defensive front. The Boilers came away with a W, and ow they've got a chance to build a little momentum and confidence against another directional Michigan. Central Michigan opened its season with a narrow victory against FCS Chattanooga. Chattanooga actually had a 16-0 lead before CMU went on a 20-0 run to close it out. It wasn't a sharp performance by any means, but the Chippewas churned out 150 rush yards and had an efficient day from QB Rush (15-of-26 for 173 yards and 2 TD) and that was enough to get the W. Central Michigan is 3-19 in its last 22 against the Big Ten - playing at least one school every season. They are on a 6-3 ATS run against Big Ten schools, earning 3 SU wins in the process (Indiana in 2008, Michigan State in 2009, and Iowa in 2012). Purdue is just 3-9 ATS in the last 12 home games.

Nebraska vs. FCS McNeese State - 11:00 AM CST
Nebraska put together the most complete performance of any Big Ten team in week one. Florida Atlantic was overmatched in almost every way as the Huskers dominated their way to a 55-7 win. The Huskers gained 784 yards of offense and achieved 35 first downs. They rumbled for 498 rush yards and five rushing touchdowns behind 232 rush yards by star RB Abdullah. QB Armstrong Jr. added 271 pass yards and two scores. Defensively they held the Owls to just 200 yards and 13 first downs. FAU QB's Johnson and Hankerson struggled against this Huskers pass defense, completing just 11-of-30 passes for 95 yards. This week they get McNeese State, who finished 10-3 last year and has upset an FBS school in each of the past two seasons (Middle Tennessee State in 2012 and South Florida in 2013).

Wisconsin vs. FCS Western Illinois - 11:00 AM CST
The loss to LSU won't affect Wisconsin's ability to win the conference, but the complete letdown in the 2nd half and the utter lack of a passing attack certainly presented some red flags. Wisconsin built a 24-3 lead and appeared to be in complete control of the game. LSU mounted a comeback in the 2nd half and took away Wisconsin's rushing attack. QB McEvoy couldn't capitalize as he finished just 8-of-24 for 50 yards and 2 2nd half INT's. Coach Gary Anderson has stated that backup QB Stave (2013's starter) has some issues and is not available to play, so McEvoy's job is not in jeopardy at the moment. Star RB Gordon finished with 140 rush yards, but had just four attempts in the 2nd half - after the game the coaches cited a hip injury being the reason for that. Gordon won't miss any time, but the Badgers need to put together more of a passing attack if they want to compete for a Big Ten title. This week they get a refresher against FCS Western Illinois at Camp Randall, where they've won 18 straight home openers by an average of 20 PPG.

Rutgers vs. FCS Howard - 11:00 AM CST
The Scarlet Knights made a memorable debut of their 2013 season, going across the country and winning at Washington State, 41-38. Rutgers scored a TD with 3:24 left to take the lead, then held off WSU for the final minutes to seal the victory. QB Nova completed 16-of-27 passes for 281 yards and 2 scores (1 INT) while RB James churned out 173 rush yards and 3 scores. Defensively they took their lumps against Mike Leach's aerial attack as WSU completed 40-of-56 passes for 532 yards and 5 scores. Credit the Knights for winning the shootout and starting off their inaugural season in the B1G with a win. This week they get FCS Howard at home. Howard was shut-out by Akron last week, 41-0.

Indiana - Bye Week
Indiana has one of the better offensive line units in the nation and they used it to perfection last week against FCS Indiana State. The Hoosiers ran the ball 69 times for 455 yards (6.6 YPC) and four scores. RB's Coleman and Roberts combined for 376 of those rush yards and QB Sudfeld only had to attempt 18 passes. If Indiana has successfully instilled a rushing presence into its offensive arsenal - they could be a serious sleeper in the Big Ten. The defense also had a promising effort, albeit against an FCS program, as it allowed just 170 total yards and 10 first downs. They get a bye week before traveling to Bowling Green next week.

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