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Big 10 Report
by ASA - 10/29/2015
ASA’s BIG TEN REPORT – Conference Games Only for October 31st
**Current Lines listed are as of Wednesday A.M.**
MICHIGAN (5-2) @ MINNESOTA (4-3) – Current Line MICHIGAN (-13.5) – OPENING LINE (-13.5)
One of the biggest factors in handicapping this game is to try and determine how the players will react to head coach Jerry Kill stepping down earlier this week. He was a VERY well liked head coach, we know that for sure. Do they rally and try and win this game for him or do they come out flat because they are devastated? Tough call and something we’ll try and find out before we decide whether or not to use this game. Both teams are coming off a bye to no advantage there. Both teams rely heavily on their defense to carry them. Michigan’s stop unit is ranked #1 in the Big Ten (and #1 nationally) in total defense & scoring defense. That’s going to be a huge problem for a Minnesota offense that simply isn’t very good ranking dead last in the Big Ten averaging 20 PPG. It may look like the Gophs “turned the corner” so to speak on offense. After getting shut out by Minnesota in their conference opener they went onto score 41 & 28 points vs Purdue and Nebraska. However, those two defenses aren’t Michigan. The Boilers and Huskers field two of the worst defenses in the league both giving up north of 420 YPG. The Wolverines allow half that total (210 YPG allowed). Three of Minny’s four wins have gone to the wire beating Kent, Ohio, and Colorado St all by a FG. Their only easy win was @ Purdue. How does Michigan bounce back after their debilitating, last second loss to arch rival Michigan State? The extra week off helps but that’s still a situation to be watched closely. The MSU game was the first in which Michigan was outgained this season. Sparty put up 156 more yards in that dramatic win. The Wolverines had outgained their previous 5 opponents by a whopping 1,267 yards or nearly 250 YPG. We know the Wolves are great on defense and their offense is getting better. QB Jake Rudock has gotten much better at protecting the ball. After throwing 5 picks in his first 3 games, he’s thrown just one since. With such a fantastic defense, limiting turnovers is obviously a key. If Michigan takes care of the ball and is efficient (not great) offensively, they will be tough to beat. This series has not been a “down to the wire” one as of late. The winning margin in this series over the last 7 meetings has been 16, 29, 22, 58, 23, 24, and 14 points. Since 1998, the Gophers have been a home dog of 14 or more just 10 times covering 8.
RUTGERS (3-4) @ WISCONSIN (6-2) – Current Line WISCONSIN (-20.5) – OPENING LINE (-19)
There’s no arguing the fact the Badgers have some key injury problems right now. Wisconsin starting QB Stave was injured (concussion) very early in the 1st quarter last week and his back up junior Bart Houston (232 yards passing vs Illini) came in and led the Badgers to a 24-13 win @ Illinois. Stave was able to practice on Tuesday and looks like he’ll be good to go on Saturday. RB Corey Clement (sports hernia), to our surprise, didn’t even make the trip to Illinois. While he had a decent week of practice, we were told he couldn’t go all out yet. He’d look very good on a few plays making cuts and running near full speed then look very tentative a few plays later. He’s continued to progress this week but still no word for sure on whether he’ll play or not on Saturday. The Badgers could use him as they rank 88th nationally in rushing and put up just 138 yards on the ground @ Illinois. With Clement out, UW is hoping to get Taiwan Deal (ankle) back after missing 3 consecutive games. Deal practiced on Tuesday but was limited. We’re told he may be at least a week away from being close to full strength. On top of all that, #2 WR Wheelwright will be out for an extended period of time with an arm injury. Oh and starting center Dan Voltz was lost for the season last week with a knee injury. Wisconsin is looking forward to getting through the next few weeks (vs Rutgers and @ Maryland) so they can take advantage of their bye week on November 14th. They need it. Rutgers has played only two road games this entire season. This will be their third. They were handled @ Penn State 28-3 and recovered from a 25-point 2nd half deficit to beat Indiana 55-52 a few weeks ago. Last week the Knights were destroyed at home by Ohio State 49-7 as the Bucks rolled up 528 yards on 7.5 YPP. Not a huge shock as nobody in the Big Ten allows more YPP on defense than Rutgers (6.7). The Rutgers offense looked good on the opening drive but missed a FG. After that they went 8 straight possessions without crossing Ohio State’s 40-yard line. We need to keep an eye on star WR Carroo here as he is still banged up and wasn’t himself last week vs OSU. Wisconsin won this game in New Brunswick last season 37-0 holding Rutgers to just 139 yards of total offense. Interesting to note that Wisconsin is averaging only 19 PPG in Big Ten play yet laying more than that in this game.
NEBRASKA (3-5) @ PURDUE (1-6) – Current Line NEBRASKA (-7.5) – OPENING LINE (-10.5)
Same old, same old for the Huskers. Another close loss, their 5th of the season. Their 5 losses have come by a total of 13 points. After getting destroyed on consecutive weeks by a combined score of 78-10, Northwestern waltzed into Lincoln and pulled off a 30-28 win. That was despite Nebraska running a whopping 30 more offensive plays (86 plays for NU to 56 for Northwestern). The Huskers are obviously reeling emotionally and physically they aren’t great either with their starting QB Armstrong in a walking boot. He hasn’t practiced this week (as of Wednesday) and his streak of 22 consecutive starts is in jeopardy. If Armstrong can’t go (he’s doubtful), Ryker Fyfe will get the start. Fyfe has played in only one game this year completing 5 of 7 passes in a blowout win over South Alabama. The one win Boilers are off a bye and they have 3 of their final 5 games here at Ross Ade Stadium. Purdue was hoping to have starting RB Knox (340 yards) back for this one but it looks like he’ll be out for at least another week. PU is 0-3 in Big Ten play and they’ve been outscored 89-41 and outgained by 465 total yards. Their home field advantage has been almost non-existent. In fact, the Boilermakers have now lost 17 of their last 22 games at home. They are just 7-16 ATS their last 23 games in West Lafayette. These two have met twice since Nebraska joined the conference and they Huskers have rolled up two big wins (35-14 & 44-7). Nebraska has been a money maker as a double digit road favorite covering 12 of their last 17 in that role & 48-37 ATS dating back to 1980.
MARYLAND (2-5) @ IOWA (7-0) – Current Line IOWA (-17) – Opening Line (-17)
Iowa had a bye last week and they seem to be getting healthy because of it. QB CJ Beathard is still banged up but getting closer to 100%. Starting left tackle Boone Myers, RB LeShun Daniels, and WR Tevaun Smith will all be back in the lineup vs Maryland on Saturday. RB Jordan Canzeri will not play due to an injured ankle. Akrum Wadley, who was listed as the 4th string tailback at one point earlier in the season, will start on Saturday after his 204 yard performance @ NW heading into the bye. Iowa doesn’t get much pub in the overall Big Ten discussion but they are 7-0 and while a few games have gone down to the wire, it hasn’t been fluky. They’ve outgained every opponent on their schedule with the exception of Wisconsin. The Hawks are +127 YPG this year & +1.6 YPP. The only teams that have them beat in both of those categories are Michigan & Ohio State. Maryland comes in with the potential of being a bit shaken. Their head coach Randy Edsall (now former) was fired heading into their bye. They then came out of the bye and played a very good game vs Penn State but came up just short losing 31-30. How do they bounce back after that will determine how this game goes. If they come out flat because of the circumstances, this could get ugly. The Terps QB play has been bad all season long. They’ve thrown 20 interceptions already in 7 games which is by far the worst in the Big Ten (11 is next). We’ve mentioned this before in this column but we don’t think it can be overstated. They are dead last in college football in total turnover margin (-13) and dead last in turnovers per game (1.86). Because of those turnovers, Maryland has run fewer offensive plays than anybody in the Big Ten (466 in 7 games). Maryland did win this match up last year 38-31 as a 4-point home favorite. If you take out their games vs Indiana, Iowa has not been a favorite of 17 or more in Big Ten play since 2008. Add IU back in and the Hawkeyes are just 1-6 ATS as a chalk of at least 17 points vs the Big Ten dating back to 2006.
ILLINOIS (4-3) @ PENN STATE (6-2) – Current Line PENN ST (-4.5) – OPENING LINE (-6.5)
The Illini fell flat off their bye last week losing at home to Wisconsin 24-13. Not only did the Badgers win @ Illinois but they did it with their back up QB (Houston) and their 3rd string RB (Ogunbuwale) playing key roles. The Illini come in with a 4-3 record and their 3 losses have all come at the hands of very good teams UNC, Iowa, and Wisconsin who have a combined record of 19-3. It looks like the Illini will again be without starting RB Ferguson leaving freshman Ke’Shawn Vaughn to start for the 3rd straight game. Illinois could use some help offensively as they’ve scored only 47 total points in their 3 Big Ten Games. Despite their 6-2 record, PSU’s offense also continues to be a problem as they rank 93rd or worse nationally in scoring, rushing offense, passing offense, and total offense. The Nits have had a problem all season converting on 3rd down with just a 27% success rate ranking them 125th nationally (out of 128). That could be even more of a problem in this game as they face an Illinois defense that ranks 6th nationally in 3rd down efficiency allowing their opponents to convert only 27% of the time. They need to keep QB Hackenberg upright which has been a problem. The Lion offensive line is allowing 3.5 sacks per game and only 4 teams in the nation allow more. That has led to Hackenberg’s back to back below average seasons. This year he is completing only 51% of his passes which is the worst in the Big Ten. Three of the last four meetings between these two have come down to the final minutes of play. Last year Illinois came out on top 16-14 kicking the game winning FG with just :08 seconds remaining. In 2013 the game was decided in OT with PSU winning 24-17. In 2011 PSU scored the go ahead and game winning TD just over 1:00 minute remaining in a 10-7 win.