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Big 10 Report
by ASA - 09/23/2015
ASA’s BIG TEN REPORT - for games on September 27th
**Current Lines listed are as of Wednesday**
WESTERN MICHIGAN @ OHIO STATE – Current Line OHIO STATE (-31) – Opening Line (-27)
OSU’s offense is in a rut right now. After racking up 45 PPG on 512 YPG a year ago, they are averaging 33 PPG on “just” 411 YPG. Both of those marks for this year rank them out of the top 30 nationally and the scoring numbers include 2 defensive TD’s. After struggling with Northern Illinois last week head coach Urban Meyer said he doesn’t know who he’ll start at QB but neither Jones nor Barrett are playing well right now. With 4 skill players that are all Heisman type candidates, what could possibly be the problem? Possibly the departure of OC Tom Herman who is now the head coach at Houston. He was a fantastic play caller and had a knack for putting his talented players in a position to do well. Look what he’s doing at Houston. The Cougs are averaging 43 PPG on 541 YPG including an upset win @ Louisville. New OC Ed Warriner has helped Herman the last few years but his experience as “the man” calling the plays is limited to two years with Army in the 1998 & 1999 and two years with Kansas in 2007 & 2008. Western Michigan is one of the MAC favorites along with last week’s opponent Northern Illinois. The Broncos have an experienced & talented offense that hung with Michigan State a few weeks ago (lost by 13) so they might give the Bucks some problems if they don’t figure out their offensive struggles this week.
HAWAII @ WISCONSIN – Current Line WISCONSIN (-25) – Opening Line (-27)
We saw Wisconsin open -27 here and drop quickly. Wisconsin struggled a bit offensively last week against Troy. The Badgers started the game simply trying to enforce their will on Troy and pound them at the line of scrimmage running the ball. With a fairly inexperienced OLine and top RB Corey Clement out, they will struggle to operate their offense in that manner this year. At least until Clement returns and their offensive front starts coming together. Clement’s back-ups are nowhere near his level right now. In fact, their starter at tailback right now is Dare Ogunbowale and he is a walk on. After having to punt on 3 of their first 4 drives, head coach Paul Chryst opened up the passing attack and QB Stave looked very good again (13 of 17 for 202 yards and a TD). Once he did that, Wisconsin scored TD’s on 3 of their next 5 drives. Unless Clement is absolutely set at 100%, we doubt he’ll see action again this week vs Hawaii as the Badgers open Big Ten play the following week vs Iowa. They will need Clement for that one. The Rainbows are 1-2 on the year but their defense has really impressed us. In their first two games vs Colorado & Ohio State they limited those opponents to just 4.2 and 4.6 yards per play respectively. Last week they seemed to let down a bit defensively allowing Cal Davis to score 27 points on 5.6 YPP, but their first two outings were ones to make note of. Offensively Hawaii has struggled. They did score 47 last week vs UC Davis but averaged just 14 PPG in their first 2 games. That might be a problem on Saturday against a Wisconsin defense that has allowed just 3 total points over their last 2 games. The Bows are 1-18 SU on the road in head coach Norm Chow’s tenure.
BYU @ MICHIGAN – Current Line MICHIGAN (-5.5) – Opening Line (-4.5)
Our question with this matchup is what will BYU have left in the tank? They’ve already played the 3rd most difficult schedule to date according to Jeff Sagarin and that’s BEFORE they travel to Michigan on Saturday. They opened the season with the infamous hail-mary win @ Nebraska then came home and basically beat Boise in a similar way. Then last week they traveled to UCLA and had the Bruins on the ropes. The Bruins first lead of the game came with just over 3:00 remaining when they scored a TD to take a 24-23 lead. BYU was driving in UCLA territory for a potential game winning FG attempt when their young QB Tanner Mangum threw an interception ending the game. The Cougs outgained UCLA by a few yards in the game, however they also ran a whopping 89 plays to just 61 for UCLA. Now they have to travel again this Saturday which will be their 3rd time in 4 weeks. Michigan’s offense has been somewhat pedestrian but their defense has been outstanding. The Wolves currently rank 87th in total offense putting up 379 YPG but they are 7th in total defense allowing just 236 YPG. The Michigan defense has allowed only 4 offensive TD’s in 3 games. After struggling to run the ball against Utah in their season opener, Michigan has made a concerted effort to pound their last two opponents on the ground with 87 rushing attempts in those two games combined. We’ll see if that continues on Saturday against a BYU defense that was really good stopping the run in their first two games before UCLA lit them up for 296 yards rushing on 7.8 YPC last week.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN @ MICHIGAN STATE – Current Line MICHIGAN STATE (-27) – Opening Line (-29)
Sparty struggled a bit with Air Force last week as we expected. We were on AF at +26 early in the week and the game played out almost as we envisioned. MSU was obviously flat off their epic home win over Oregon a week earlier and it showed. If it wasn’t for a Spartan pick 6 in the first half with BYU driving along with 3 total turnovers by the Falcons, this game could have been tight down the stretch. The Falcons actually outgained MSU by 104 total yards and dominated on the ground rolling up 279 yards rushing to only 77 for the Green & White. For the game AF averaged 7.1 per offensive play while MSU averaged only 4.9. Air Force lost by just 2 TD’s in a game that should have been much closer and a strong case could be made that AF could have and should have come out on top if not for the turnover disparity. Despite the poor offensive showing, Michigan State still managed to put up 30+ points and that was the 12th time in the last 13 games they’ve done that. Defensively they look a bit down from prior editions as 2 of their first 3 opponents have put up 400+ yards on them. The only one that didn’t was Western Michigan and they had 383. Central Michigan has already played two Power 5 opponents and showed themselves well losing to Oklahoma State 24-13 and Syracuse 30-27 (in OT). The Chippewas dominated the stats last week vs Syracuse with a big edge in first downs (30 to 11), total yardage (520 to 326), total offensive plays (91 to 47), and a 2 to 1 time of possession advantage. The Orange did lose their QB to an injury in the 2nd quarter and he did not return. He was their back up as they had already lost their starter for the year so Cuse was down to their 3rd stringer. Even despite all of that, CMU came up short in OT.
SOUTHERN MISS @ NEBRASKA – Current Line NEBRASKA (-22) – Opening Line (-23.5)
We had USM pegged as one of the more improved teams coming into this year and we were dead on. Despite their 3-9 record in 2014, they were competitive in a number of games and they brought back one of the more experienced offenses in Conference USA. After playing Mississippi State very tough in week 1, the Golden Eagles have won each of their last 2 games. They were @ Texas State last week and won in a shootout 56-50. Since playing a competitive game vs Miss St, the Eagles have rolled up 108 points and 1,127 yards in their last 2. It will interesting to see Nebraska’s mental state coming into this one. They’ve been through a full season worth of emotion in just a few weeks. They opened the year with their hail-mary loss to BYU and then came from way behind last week @ Miami FL to tie it late only to lose in OT. They could go two ways this weekend. They could be spent and come out flat or rally behind new coach Mike Riley and come out with an “us against the world” mentality on Saturday. The latter would be tough with what they’ve been through so far and with the Big Ten slate starting next week. While the offense has been solid, the defense which was torched at the end of last year continues to struggle. They rank 94th in total defense giving up 451 YPG on 6.1 YPP. The only team in the Big Ten that is worse than the Huskers in those 2 categories is Indiana. Now they face an offense that is experienced (9 upperclassmen starters) and seems to be clicking. If Nebraska doesn’t come to play they could be in for a fight here.
SAN DIEGO STATE @ PENN STATE – Current Line PENN STATE (-15) – Opening Line (-10)
The key question here for us is has the Penn State offense (& offensive line) started to figure it out or was it the competition? After looking atrocious in their first game vs Temple (3.4 YPP) they have looked better the last 2 weeks. They put up 4.9 YPP on a retooled Buffalo defense working under a new coach. That same Buffalo defense was ripped for 490 yards @ FAU last weekend. The Nits game last week was impressive as they rolled the Rutgers defense for 7.8 YPP including 330 yards rushing. Albeit a Rutgers program in a bit of disarray with their coach and a number of key players suspended. After allowing QB Hackenberg to get sacked 10 times in their opener vs Temple, they have kept him upright the last two games with zero sacks allowed. They host a struggling San Diego State team this Saturday. After beating FCS San Diego in week 1, the Aztecs were trounced @ Cal and then followed that up with an OT loss at home last week to South Alabama. That’s the same South Alabama team that was crushed at Nebraska 48-9 just one week earlier. Last week’s loss for San Diego State was no fluke as they were outgained 511 to 305 by a South Alabama team that was in their 2nd of back to back long road trips. PSU’s offense may look better again this week but with games vs Army and Indiana the two weeks following, we may not know if they’ve really improved until mid-October.
BOWLING GREEN @ PURDUE – Current Line BOWLING GREEN (-1.5) – Opening Line PURDUE (-2.5)
This one opened with Purdue as a 2.5 point favorite and quickly swung to Bowling Green as the road chalk. The Falcons are wading in unchartered waters here as they have NEVER been favored one the road vs a Big Ten team. In fact, the only Power 5 team they have visited and been favored was Kansas back in 2002. The Boilers, on the flip side, have only been a home dog to a MAC team twice since 1980. They were a 4-point dog to Northern Illinois in 2013 & a 16-point dog to Ball State in 2010. How did they fare in those two games? They were blown out by NIU but upset Ball State. The Boilers sit at 1-2 and they really need this win or they might be staring 1-6 in the face. After this game Purdue plays @ Michigan State, home vs Minnesota, and @ Wisconsin. Purdue looked solid (minus the turnovers) in their week 1 game @ Marshall, a game they should have won. They followed that up with an easy win vs Indiana State and then last week they hit a wall called Virginia Tech. The Hokies rolled to a 51-24 win but 14 of their points came on a blocked punt & a fumble return. Miscues have been a huge problem for PU as they’ve turned the ball over 9 times in 3 games. Because of that, starting QB Appleby will take a seat this Saturday in favor of freshman David Blough. It’s the third straight year that head coach Darrell Hazel has changed starting QB’s in either September or October. Bowling Green has played a very tough slate losing @ Tennessee, winning big @ Maryland, and then losing a tight one to Memphis in their home opener last weekend. This team can score. Despite playing a fairly tough schedule, they are averaging 40 PPG on 609 YPG. The only team that is averaging more yards per game than BG is Baylor. Purdue’s new QB better be able to put points on the board on Saturday.
KANSAS @ RUTGERS – Current Line RUTGERS (-12.5) – Opening Line (-13)
Wow what a stinker this game is. Rutgers has half their team and their coach suspended (not quite that bad but bad enough) and Kansas looks like they have no chance to exceed their year win total of 1.5. The Knights mental state has to be shot. At least that’s what it looked like last week when a very average (probably below average) Penn State offense rolled them for 330 yards on the ground and 7.8 YPP. That’s a PSU offense that hadn’t topped 5 YPP in either of their first two games. Are the Jayhawks a team that can take advantage of the chaos that is going on in Piscataway? Probably not. Kansas is already 0-2 with home losses to South Dakota State & Memphis. They’ve given up 96 points in those two games along with 1,114 yards. Yes that is in just two games! Coming into the season, Kansas returned just 91 total career starts on their entire team and 12 players started their first game ever when they faced South Dakota State. Now those inexperienced players are making their first road start. The positive is that KU has had two weeks to get ready for this game with a bye last week. Kansas has lost 30 STRAIGHT road games and they are just 7-23 ATS in those games. These teams have combined to play 5 games this season and the only win came against Norfolk State. That tells you enough about this match up.
INDIANA @ WAKE FOREST – Current Line INDIANA (-3.5) – Opening Line (-3.5)
WF QB Wolford left early in the game last week @ Army with an injured ankle and is doubtful here. His replacement, freshman Kendall Hinton, was impressive with 101 yards rushing and 159 yards passing in the 17-14 road win. Wake overcame a 3 to 0 turnover deficit to win the game. Both of Army’s TD’s came after Wake turnovers including a 1-play 9-yard drive for one of them. Wake is definitely a vastly improved team under 2nd year coach Dave Clawson (came over from Bowling Green). They were 3-9 last year and they already have 2 wins this season. Their only loss was @ Syracuse, a game in which they outgained the Orange 419 to 370. You might not look at Wake’s rushing attack and think much as they are averaging 108 YPG on the ground. However, that’s a drastic improvement from last year when they finished dead last in the NCAA averaging only 34 YPG on the ground! IU’s concern continues to be their porous defense. The Hoosiers are dead last in the Big Ten allowing 544 YPG on 7.1 YPP. Not only are the 14th in total defense in the conference, the 13th team (Nebraska) is nearly a full 100 yards better than the Hoosier defense. Despite that, IU is now 3-0 and with a win @ Wake they would be 4-0 for the first time in 25 years. Indiana came from behind last week to knock off Western Kentucky 38-35. They were down 28-17 at half but picked off WKU QB Doughty and consecutive snaps and both led to Indiana TD’s. The Hoosiers, however, are “this close” to being 0-3 as they beat Southern Illinois by a single point, came from behind in the 4th quarter to beat FIU, and then overcame a double digit halftime deficit last week.
MARYLAND @ WEST VIRGINIA – Current Line WVU (-17) – Opening Line (-17)
WVU has dominated this rivalry as of late winning 8 of the last 9 outright. Despite this being a big rivalry, the outcomes have been lopsided with the winner topping the loser by double digits in 17 of the last 20 meetings. The Mountaineers have outscored their two opponents 85-17 but have yet to be tested (Georgia Southern & Liberty). The Neers have had two weeks to get ready for this game after having a bye last week. Maryland will be making their first road trip after beating Richmond & South Florida at home while losing to Bowling Green. In their lone loss to BG, the game was tied at 27 with under 10:00 remaining in the game but the Falcons exploded 3 TD’s from that point on walking to a 48-27 win. The Terps most dangerous weapon might just be punt returner William Likely. He already has 2 punt returns for TD’s and is averaging almost 29 yards per return. Maryland head coach Randy Edsall switched QB’s in their most recent game giving then back up Caleb Rowe the first start of his career replacing a benched Perry Hills. Rowe put up solid stats in their 35-17 win over USF, however he has shown to be turnover prone already throwing 5 interceptions this year in just 37 pass attempts. The West Virginia defense, who has already picked off 4 passes in two games, will try and take advantage of that on Saturday.
NORTH TEXAS @ IOWA – Current Line IOWA (-24.5) – Opening Line IOWA (-26.5)
This line opened initially at Iowa -26.5 but has come crashing down two full points to -24.5. This is a tough spot for the Hawkeyes as they are off a huge last second win over Pitt after beating rival Iowa State the week before and they travel to Wisconsin next week. Last week they topped the Panthers 27-24 on a 57-yard field goal as time ran out. The Hawks came out of the physical match up a little banged up. QB CJ Beathard took 13 direct hits from the blitz happy Panthers but came out of it just a little sore. RB LeShun Daniels has a bad ankle and is not 100%. Daniels and top defensive end Drew Ott (elbow injury) only practiced twice this week and they could be held out this Saturday. North Texas coach Dan McCarney was an assistant at Iowa back in the 80’s. He’s very familiar with the program and he and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz are good friends. The Mean Green are 0-2 on the year with losses to fellow Texans SMU & Rice. McCarney was pleased with the big improvement offensively from game 1 to game 2. The offense put up just 240 yards in their opening loss to SMU but then more than doubled that total to 478 yards last week vs Rice. UNT was outgained by 200 yards vs SMU and cut that to just 80 yards vs Rice. The problem has been turnovers. The Green have a whopping 7 turnovers in their two games. The defense is a work in progress after losing 6 starters including 2 all conference players from last year. They are allowing 34.5 PPG after two contests. They rank dead last in the NCAA in 3rd down defense allowing opponents to covert on almost 62% of their 3rd downs. The only Big Ten team that UNT has played since 2000 is Indiana. They lost 49-28 @ IU last year and actually beat the Hoosiers 24-21 back in 2011.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE @ ILLINOIS – Current Line ILLINOIS (-6.5) – Opening Line ILLINOIS (-7)
One of the top scoring offenses in the nation comes to Champaign this weekend. MTSU is 2-1 on the season and they’ve scored at least 70 points in two of those games (averaging 51 PPG)! However, those games were against Jackson State (FCS) & Charlotte (first year in FBS). Their game sandwiched between those two blowout wins was a trip to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama. The Raiders only scored 10 points in that game and lost 37-10. Their lone TD in that game came with just 6:00 minutes remaining. Their offensive success is not surprising as they return most of their key players from a team that put up 31 PPG and 431 YPG last year. After ripping their first two opponents, the Illini came back to earth a bit last week as they were whipped 48-14 @ North Carolina. The Illini defense had allowed only 3 points total in their first two games (Kent & Western Illinois) before getting shredded for 471 yards on 7.5 YPPG last week. Illinois actually should have had a better showing on offense (just 14 points) as they missed a few FG and blew some opportunities in UNC territory. They did put up 399 yards. Illini head coach Bill Cubit and MTSU coach Rick Stockstill have been friends for 30 years as they were on the same staff at UCF back in 80’s. The Blue Raiders traveled to Big Ten country last year facing Minnesota in Minneapolis. MTSU definitely held their own losing 35-24 but outgained the Gophs by nearly 100 yards.
OHIO @ MINNESOTA – Current Line MINNESOTA (-10.5) – Opening Line (-13)
The Gopher offense has really been struggling early in the year. They have scored a total of only 50 points in three games (16.7 PPG) ranking them dead last in the Big Ten and 123rd nationally in that category. Starting QB Mitch Leidner has been shaky completing only 46% of his passes this season. It got to a point in last week’s 10-7 squeaker over Kent, the Gophs had true freshman QB Demry Croft warming up and ready to replace Leidner. Head coach Jerry Kill stuck with Leidner but has been non-committal on the QB topic this week. On top of that, they are only averaging 142 YPG on the ground (13th in the Big Ten) after averaging 215 YPG a year ago. RB David Cobb moving onto the NFL has really been magnified so far with this team. To put their 10-7 win vs Kent into perspective – that same Kent team lost 52-3 to Illinois in their season opener and the Flashes have been outscored 268-6 in their previous 6 games vs Big Ten teams! Ohio brings an impressive 3-0 record into Minnesota on Saturday. The problem is, it’s still hard to tell how good they might be. They beat a terrible Idaho team to open the season. Their second game they played host to rival Marshall in a huge revenge game and they scored a TD very late to extend the margin in a tight game and get by with a 21-10 win. Last week they pounded SE Louisiana. The Bobcats do have a talented and experienced offense including a solid QB Vick so Minnesota better be on their game here and not peaking ahead to next week’s game @ Northwestern.
BALL STATE @ NORTHWESTERN – Current Line NORTHWESTERN (-19.5) – Opening Line (-19)
The Wildcats have probably been the surprise of the Big Ten thus far. Not that we didn’t expect them to be solid, but there aren’t a lot of people that saw them at 3-0 having to play Stanford and @ Duke early in the year. Defense is obviously leading the way for the Cats. They currently rank 6th nationally in total defense allowing only 235 YPG. They allowed only 6 points to Stanford and just 10 to Duke. To give you an idea of how good that is, Stanford went onto score 31 points the following week vs UCF and then 41 points last Saturday vs USC. Duke scored 55 & 37 points in their other two games. NW has allowed only 1 TD in three games this year. Now their offense is far from explosive ranking 97th (365 YPG) but they won’t need to be with the defense they have in place. Ball State comes in at 2-1 beating two cupcakes (VMI & Eastern Michigan) while getting whipped @ Texas A&M 56-23. In that game the Aggies had 3 offensive possessions in the first quarter and scored TD’s on all 3 to go along with a pick 6 to lead 28-3 at the end of the first quarter. It was 49-3 at half. One positive for Ball State, they did rush for 230 yards vs A&M and they are averaging 246 YPG rushing on the season. Last week the Cards got down 17-0 to a marginal EMU team but stormed back for a 28-17 win. They are led by a freshman QB Riley Neal who completed 24 of his 28 attempts last week. Northwestern has been a favorite of this magnitude (-17 or higher) just 9 times (vs FBS teams) since 1980. Ball State has actually beaten 2 of their last 3 Big Ten opponents outright but this one will be very tough with a young QB vs a great defense.