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Big 10 Report

   by ASA - 11/06/2015

ILLINOIS (4-4) @ PURDUE (2-6) – Current Line ILLINOIS (-5) – OPENING LINE (Even)

To say the Illini offense is struggling right now is an understatement. They have scored a total of 5 offensive TD’s in 4 Big Ten games. They rank dead last in the Big Ten in scoring offense at 11.8 PPG (conference games only). The struggles came to a head last Saturday @ Penn State where the Illini were shutout and put up only 167 total yards and 2.4 yards per play. QB Wes Lunt is averaging 243 YPG passing in league play, however he’s completing only 51% of his passes. He doesn’t get much help from the running game as Illinois ranks 116th nationally in rushing averaging only 114 YPG. Because of that, Illinois threw the ball on 26 of their first 30 offensive plays @ Penn State last Saturday. In their defense, the Illini have played 3 of the top 4 overall defenses in the Big Ten already this season (Wisconsin, PSU, and Iowa). If the offense struggles against this weekend, then they have some problems. That’s because they face a Purdue defense that ranks 106th nationally in scoring defense allowing over 37 PPG. Half the teams the Boilers have faced this season (4) have topped 40 points. They rank dead last in the Big Ten in rush defense and 10th in pass defense. We’ve felt all season that Purdue, because of their record, was a bit under valued. They are 1-3 in the Big Ten but have played only one really bad game vs Minnesota. They have been outgained in every conference game (-493 total yards, -1.5 YPP) but they have covered 3 of those games and they are +16.5 points to the spread in those 4 games. The Illini are 1-3 in conference play as well (-344 total yards, -0.8 YPP) but they are -36.5 points to the spread. Their 2 Big Ten covers have come by a combined 5.5 points. Purdue’s big home win over Nebraska last week (55-45 final) was just their 2nd Big Ten win in their last 20 games! The Boilers won last year @ Illinois 37-28 as a 9-point dog. PU’s 551 yards of total offense in that game was easily their best performance of the 2014 season. The Boilermakers have ruled this series as of late winning 11 of the last 15 outright and on Saturday they go for their first back to back wins in Big Ten play since 2012. This is the biggest mover of the week with the Illini opening at a (pick-em) and has moved all the way to -5.

IOWA (8-0) @ INDIANA (4-4) – Current Line IOWA (-7) – OPENING LINE (-6.5)

Iowa stayed undefeated with a home win over Maryland last week, but to be honest, the Hawks weren’t all that impressive. We thought they’d play much better coming off a bye and getting a few key players healthy. They played a poor Maryland team that was coming off a devastating loss to Penn State a week earlier. The Hawkeyes nearly covered the 17-point spread winning 31-15, but the offense looked shaky at best. Iowa put up only 293 total yards and just 4.3 YPP. One of their TD’s came on an 88-yard interception return, although Maryland then took the next kickoff 100 yards for a TD as well. We were told that QB Beathard was back close to 100% but he shot that down after the game saying “I don’t feel like myself” due to a groin injury. The Hoosiers are off a bye. This is a huge game for them in their quest to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2007. IU is 4-4 overall but 0-4 in the Big Ten. They’ve been close to breaking through as they were within one score of their opponent at some point in the 4th quarter in 3 of those 4 losses. They played the two top teams in the Big Ten very tough losing at home to Ohio State 34-27 and losing at Michigan State with a very deceiving 52-26 final score (IU was down 31-26 with under 5:00 remaining in the game). Indiana is getting healthy as well as QB Sudfeld has missed some time but he is now 100% good to go and RB Howard returned vs Michigan State for 11 carries for 78 yards and he is now much better after the two weeks of rest. The offense is fine averaging 33 PPG which is good for 3rd in the Big Ten. The defense needs to step up and help out. They rank dead last in the conference in points allowed (37 PPG) and YPG allowed (508). Last year Indiana traveled to Iowa City as a 3.5 point dog and actually outgained the Hawks despite the 45-29 loss. The Hoosiers were -3 turnovers in that game. Dating back to 2003, Iowa has been a road favorite of -7 or more 15 times and they’ve covered only 3 of those games. This could be a dangerous game for Iowa.

RUTGERS (3-5) @ MICHIGAN – Current Line MICHIGAN (-24) – OPENING LINE (-22)

To say the Wolverines escaped last weekend @ Minnesota would be putting it kindly. Michigan won 29-26 but partly due to the Gophs botching the final 20 seconds of the game. Minnesota moved inside the Michigan 1-yard line with 19 seconds to go and 1 timeout left. After an official review to spot the ball, the Gophers let 17 seconds run off the clock before throwing an incomplete pass. Minnesota’s interim coach Tracy Claeys opted to go for the TD with 2 seconds left and the QB sneak attempt was stuffed at the line of scrimmage and Michigan picked up the win. The Gophers, who were playing with great emotion after their coach Jerry Kill abruptly retired earlier in the week, were the better team on Saturday despite the score outgaining Michigan 461 to 296 (6.8 YPP to 4.9 YPP). The Wolverines came out of that game banged up with starting QB Rudock (bruised ribs/torso) and starting RB Smith (ankle) leaving with injuries. Rudock went through a limited practice on Tuesday and was further along than Harbaugh expected. He has a good chance to play on Saturday. Smith has had an ankle problem for a few weeks and his status is up in the air. Rutgers will be on the road for the 2nd consecutive week after losing @ Wisconsin 48-10. The Knights were held to a season low 165 yards and QB Laviano was just 4 for 14 for 31 yards. They played that game without the Big Ten ‘s top WR Carroo (has played in only 15 of a possible 32 quarters this year) which took their #1 offensive weapon out of play. Head coach Kyle Flood is unsure if Carroo will be ready on Saturday but said if they would have played this game early in the week (Tuesday) he was not yet ready to go. Rutgers is last in the Big Ten in scoring margin (conference games only) at -109 points (208-99). The only Power 5 team with a worst in conference scoring margin this season is Kansas in the Big 12. These two have met only once since 1980 and that was last season. Rutgers played host to Michigan as a 1.5 point favorite and barely covered winning 26-24. How things have changed in just one year as this line has swung a full 25.5 points in Michigan’s favor when comparing it to last year’s number. The Harbaugh effect is in full force.

PENN STATE (7-2) @ NORTHWESTERN (6-2) – Current Line NORTHWESTERN (-2) – OPENING LINE (-2.5)

Northwestern entered their game @ Michigan back on October 10th with a perfect 5-0 record and a defense that was ranked #1 in the nation allowing just 7 PPG. Then the bottom fell out. In their last 3 games (1-2 record) the Cats have lost by a combined score of 106-40. They have been outgained in each of those 3 games by a combined 546 yards! After allowing just 3 offensive TD’s over their first 5 games, their opponents have lit them up for 11 offensive TD’s in the last 3 games. After getting blown out by Michigan & Iowa, the Cats did get back on track with a 30-28 win over Nebraska, but what does that mean with the Husker reeling right now? While their defense has taken a hit over the last few games, their offense has been stuck in neutral. The Wildcats are averaging only 4 YPPG in Big Ten action which is by far the worst in the conference. Northwestern is off a bye so we’ll see if head coach Pat Fitzgerald tweaked anything to get this team heading back in the right direction. They get a PSU team that is coming off their first Big Ten shutout since 2002. The Nits destroyed Illinois last week 39-0 putting up an impressive 400 yards while holding Illinois to just 167. The PSU offense, which was a big concern early in the year, looks like they’ve come around scoring 30+ points in back to back games. They have now bumped their scoring average up to 26 PPG this year after putting up just 20 PPG a year ago. After winning 6 consecutive games vs Northwestern, the Nittany Lions lost at home 29-6 a year ago as a 10.5 point favorite. This is the first time since 2001 that PSU is an underdog when facing Northwestern – a span of 10 games.

WISCONSIN (7-2) @ MARYLAND (2-6) – Current Line WISCONSIN (-11.5) – OPENING LINE (-13)

Wisconsin continues to pile up injuries, yet the just keep winning. Last week the Badgers had 8 players out that were tabbed as starters coming into the season. They entered the Rutgers game minus their top 2 tight ends, 2 would have been starting offensive linemen, their #2 WR, a defensive lineman, and 2 linebackers among others. Despite those injuries, the Badgers played an impressive game putting up 48 points and holding Rutgers to 10 (only TD was a pick 6). The Wisconsin offense did get a huge boost with the return of RB Corey Clement. They eased him back in with only 11 carries but his impact was big rushing for 115 yards and 3 TD’s. That helped UW rush for 209 yards which was a huge improvement. They had been held under 100 yards in 3 of their 4 Big Ten games entering last week. Clement is BY FAR the Badgers best RB even though he is still not at 100%. The offensive line, which has been under scrutiny, looked light years better with him running the ball. His role is expected to increase each game from here on out. The Badger defense continues to impress. Rutgers failed to score an offensive TD last week and Wisconsin has allowed only 6 offensive TD’s in 5 Big Ten games. Maryland surprisingly put up a good fight @ Iowa. They lost 31-15 but the overall yardage was close. We felt the Terps would have a big letdown after their “rally the troops” game vs Penn State a week earlier (a 31-30 loss). They were off a bye entering the PSU game and head coach Edsall had just been fired. Amazingly, this will be just the 2nd true Big Ten home game for the Terps. They lost their only other test here in College Park, a 28-0 loss to Michigan. Last year was the only meeting between these two and the Badgers destroyed the Terps 52-7 with a total yardage edge of 527 to 176.

MINNESOTA (8-0) @ OHIO STATE (4-4) – Current Line OHIO STATE (-24) – OPENING LINE (-23)

How does Minnesota respond to last week’s huge letdown? We recapped how the Gophs game with Michigan ended last week and it wasn’t pretty. Minnesota rallied for their retired coach, should have upset Michigan but didn’t, and now must travel. What will they have left in the tank against a rested Ohio State team (off bye) is a major key when handicapping this game. The Gophs dominated the game outgaining Michigan by 165 yards. What was surprising is QB Mitch Leidner lit the Wolverines up through the air completing 16 of his 33 passes for 317 yards. He’s actually done it back to back games now after throwing for 301 yards vs Nebraska in Minnesota’s previous game. Coming into those two games, Leidner had thrown for 59 & 72 yards in his first two Big Ten games (NW & Purdue). The Gophers have attempted 73 passes in their last two games after attempting 50 in their first two conference tilts. Looks like they might be moving more toward being a “throwing” team which has not been a Gopher trait. Ohio State looked like they were starting to hit their stride entering their bye week. Much of that, in our opinion, was due to JT Barrett first getting more playing time and then being inserted as the starting QB. Well so much for that. Barrett will sit this one out after operating a vehicle while intoxicated during the bye week. That means Cardale Jones steps back into the starting role here and his back up will be now WR Braxton Miller. Barrett simply puts more pressure on the defense because he is a more accomplished runner. Barrett averages over 7 YPC while Jones comes in at just 2.6 YPC. In the first 5 games with Jones taking a vast majority of the snaps, Ohio State scored 6 TD’s and 6 FG’s in 16 drives into the redzone. In the past 3 games with Barrett taking over once OSU reached the redzone (+1 start vs Rutgers) the Buckeyes made 17 trips to the redzone and scored 15 TD’s and 1 FG. Obviously they are much more efficient with Barrett at the helm. We’ll see how the return of Jones effects OSU on Saturday. The Buckeyes also get a key member of their defense back as DB Damon Webb returns from suspension. Webb, OSU’s nickel back, has missed the previous 6 games. Last year Minnesota gave this OSU team a run in Minneapolis but fell just short 31-24. However, the long term history of this series is HEAVILY in the Buckeyes favor having beaten Minnesota in 24 of their last 25 meetings dating back to 1983. All but 6 of those 24 wins have been by at least 13 points.


Oh Nebraska…Another loss last week @ Purdue has this team sitting with 6 losses already this season. To put that in perspective it’s their worst 9 game start since 1960. Not only that, since 1958, the Huskers have lost more than 6 games only TWICE! If they have one more setback this season, they will join that unenviable group (2007 & 2002). One more loss also takes the Huskers out of bowl contention and that is for a program that has gone bowling every year but two since 1968. Last week’s loss to Purdue has Huskernation up in arms. It was tough enough to lose on the final play (or in the final minute) to programs like Miami FL, Wisconsin, and BYU but losing to a 1-6 Purdue team by double digits is another deal. Nebraska did play without their starting QB Armstrong and they did outgain the Boilers but a 55-45 loss is still hard to swallow. Backup QB Ryker Fyfe put up huge numbers (407 yards passing) but he threw 4 interceptions in the loss. Now they get to host an undefeated Michigan State team, off a bye, in an attempt to keep their bowl hopes alive. The good news is, QB Tommy Armstrong looks like he will return to the lineup after missing last week with a turf toe problem. The bad news is, Michigan State’s defensive line is very good and Nebraska has been held under 100 yards rushing in each of their last 2 games (Northwestern & Purdue). While Sparty is undefeated, their numbers are not dominating. This year the Spartans have PPG margin of +11 and a YPG margin of +57. Last year’s 11-2 team had a PPG margin of +22 and a YPG margin of +185. After starting the season 0-6 ATS, MSU has covered 2 straight – one the miracle punt block and return vs Michigan and another at home vs Indiana (52-26 final) in a game that they led just 31-26 with 5:00 remaining in the game. In our opinion, this was a fishy line from the get go. It opened MSU -5 and looked like easy pickins’ for most which is a red flag. It has since gone up to -6 with 86% of the wagers coming in on Michigan State just as we suspected. We wouldn’t be at all surprised if this ended up being the heaviest publicly bet side this week.

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