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Big 10 Report

   by ASA - 11/13/2015

MICHIGAN (7-2) @ INDIANA (4-5) – Current Line MICHIGAN (-13) – Opening Line (-12)

This opening line was very interesting to us. If we rewind one week, we’ll see that undefeated, top 10 Iowa was favored by 6.5 or 7 here against Indiana. This week the oddmakers decided to make 2 loss Michigan a 12.5 point favorite despite the fact that IU gave Iowa all they could handle last week. That tells us that Michigan would be a 5.5 to 6 point favorite over Iowa on a neutral field. That tells us Iowa isn’t as good as their perfect record which we already knew. Speaking of last week, the Hoosiers had a chance to notch their 5th win and move very close to bowl eligibility. However, as has been the case in all of their Big Ten home games, it was close but no cigar. The Hoosiers were down 21-20 with 10:00 minutes remaining the lost another tight one 35-27 giving Iowa the cover (barely). That means Indiana has lost their Big Ten home games by margins of 7 (to Ohio St), 3 (to Rutgers), and 8 (to Iowa). Can they get back up off the matt this week after so many tough defeats? While Michigan was destroying Rutgers 49-16 last Saturday, they were given some help in the Big Ten East race when MSU lost @ Nebraska. Now the Wolverines have a shot at making the Big Ten Championship game which should give them an extra boost. The Michigan defense is still among the best in the nation (2nd nationally in total defense) they have shown some chinks in their armor as of late. After allowing a TOTAL of 14 points in their first 5 games, the Wolverines have given up 69 points in their last 3 games. Indiana is a team, the 5th best scoring offense in the Big Ten at 32 PPG, that is capable of putting points on the board on most anyone. That IU offense ran the ball incredibly well last week with RB Howard racking up 174 yards on an Iowa defense that is ranked 9th nationally at stopping the run. This week they face the 3rd best run defense in the nation (Michigan). Speaking of defense, that just happens to be Indiana’s main problem, and has been for a long time. IU remains dead last in total defense in the Big Ten allowing 504 YPG, nearly 50 yards more than the next worst Big Ten defense (Rutgers). This is Kevin Wilson’s 5th year as IU head coach and if they remain last in defense, they will have finished at the bottom of the Big Ten in total defense in 4 of his 5 seasons. The Michigan offense has scored 28 or more points in 4 of their 5 Big Ten games so they should continue to roll on Saturday.

MARYLAND (2-7) @ MICHIGAN STATE (8-1) – Current Line MICHIGAN ST (-15) – Opening Line (-16)

Another very interesting line when we speak of “comparisons”. Last week Wisconsin was favored by 12 points @ Maryland. This week Michigan State is currently favored by 14 at home vs Maryland. Hmmm… If Wisconsin & MSU rate evenly (which most would probably feel MSU is better) this line should probably be -20 or so. Weird line to say the least. A Michigan State letdown is almost assuredly in order here which could be why this line sits where it does. Sparty lost their first game of the season @ Nebraska last week basically taking them out of the National Championship race. The way it happened might be tough to overcome. MSU led by 12 points with under 2:00 minutes remaining and lost 39-38 on a 30-yard controversial TD pass with just 17 seconds left in the game. That was MSU’s 7 spread loss of the season to only 2 ATS wins. Sparty has been unimpressive in Big Ten play despite their now 4-1 mark with their wins coming by 3 vs Purdue, 7 vs Rutgers, 4 vs Michigan (miracle blocked punt) and by 26 vs Indiana (a game that was 28-26 entering the 4th quarter). Maryland has been playing much better football since the firing of head coach Randy Edsall. They nearly topped Penn State losing 31-30, played Iowa toe to toe losing 13-15 (yardage about even) and then took Wisconsin to the wire in a 31-24 loss last week (yardage about even). That loss last Saturday at home vs the Badgers officially eliminated Maryland from bowl consideration. With the post-season now out of play, don’t be surprised if the Terps throw caution to the wind and come out with some new wrinkles on both sides of the ball. Interim coach Mike Locksley, who has a career record of 2-29 as a head coach, clearly has nothing to lose here. These two met for the first time last season with Michigan State winning easily 37-15 and Sparty was +230 yards in that win.

OHIO STATE (9-0) @ ILLINOIS (5-4) – Current Line OHIO STATE (-16.5) – Opening Line (-17)

This line opened with OSU as a 17 points road favorite. The line quickly dropped to -16 despite over 70% of the wagers coming in on the Buckeyes. It will be interesting to watch the line as the week progresses. JT Barrett is back as the OSU starter after a one week hiatus (suspension). Head coach Urban Meyer said earlier this week he is sticking with Barrett which is not a big surprise. Last week with Cardale Jones back at the helm, the Buckeye offense struggled once again. They gained a total of 55 yards on their first 4 possessions and punted each time. Their first TD came on an interception return. We’ve also documented their problems in the redzone with Jones at QB. Last week they were inside the Minnesota 20 yard line four times and came away with just 14 points. Last week’s 28-14 win over the Gophs was the first time all season the Buckeyes did not outgain their opponents by at least 100 yards (outgained Minny by 62 yards). It’s pretty clear to us this team is much better offensive with Barrett running the show. Illinois pulled somewhat of a headscratcher last Saturday. After getting shut out a week earlier at Penn State 39-0 and putting up just 167 total yards, the Illini offense looked great last week. Granted the opponent was a “defenseless” Purdue team (105th nationally in total defense). Illinois rolled to an easy 48-14 win with 595 yards of total offense including 382 yards on the ground on 9.3 YPC! The numbers they put up on the ground was of interest to us. That’s because in their previous 3 Big Ten games they rushed for a TOTAL of 138 yards on 64 carries an average of just 46 YPG. Their top RB Ferguson returned from injury which helped along with playing a porous that is allowing 211 YPG on the ground. This was the biggest line move of the week as well and the move was dead on. This one opened at a pick-em and moved all the way to Illinois -5 as the Illini cruised.

NEBRASKA (4-6) @ RUTGERS (3-6) – Current Line NEBRASKA (-8.5) – Opening Line (-9.5)

Nebraska was able to turn the tables last week vs Michigan State. After enduring 5 excruciating down last second losses, they were able to finally pick up a last second win. The Huskers were able to outscored then undefeated Michigan State by 13 points over the final 2:00 minutes, including a controversial TD with 17 seconds left, to pick up the 1 point win. That win kept their bowl hopes alive as the Husker now need to win here @ Rutgers and then upset Iowa at home in the finale to get to 6-6. As we stated last week, this is a program that been to a bowl game every year but two since 1968. Husker QB Tommy Armstrong returned from injury in a big way with 320 yards passing and 2 TD’s. Despite their 2-4 league record, Nebraska has outgained 4 of their 6 Big Ten opponents. Rutgers is definitely heading the wrong direction and a case could be made that they were never heading in the right direction. Their defense has been shredded for 52, 49, 48, and 49 points their last 4 games. Their only Big Ten win was a 55-52 triumph @ Indiana, a game they trailed 52-27 in the second half. Since scoring 55 on IU, this Rutgers offense has scored a total of one offensive TD in their last 3 games and that was with just 13 seconds left @ Ohio State. Their offense has no big play potential with WR Carroo on the sidelines. When he was healthy he scored 6 TD’s vs Michigan State and Indiana by himself. As we stated, they have scored ONE offensive TD since and Carroo’s absence has been a big reason. He is listed as probable this week so the offense might get a boost with him back in the line up. These two have met once prior to this year and that was last season when Nebraska rolled to a 42-24 win in Lincoln as a 20.5 point favorite.

PURDUE (2-7) @ NORTHWESTERN (7-2) – Current Line NW (-15) – Opening Line (-14.5)

Purdue had back to back polar opposite weekends. Two weeks ago they topped Nebraska at home giving the Boilers their first Big Ten win of the season. After that big win, Purdue gave head coach Darrell Hazell a contract extension, despite his 2-19 record in Big Ten games, and all was right in West Lafayette. Then all went sour quickly as they Boilermakers were crushed at home 48-14 vs an Illinois team that was shutout 39-0 a week earlier @ Penn State. The numbers tell us that Purdue is the worst team in the Big Ten. They are getting outgained by 100 YPG and outscored by 10 PPG on the season, both of which are the worst margins in the league. They have been outgained in every conference game this year by at least with 4 of those coming by at least 100 yards. On the road they are just 4-21 SU their last 25. They are 0-3 SU this year away from home but 2-1 ATS. Northwestern is off a big home win over Penn State 23-21 kicking a FG with 9 seconds left for the win. With a game vs Wisconsin on deck, this could definitely be a letdown spot for the Wildcats. NW is not used to being in this spot as a large Big Ten favorite. In fact, in conference play since 1980, Northwestern has been a favorite of -14 or higher just THREE times. Unless the line drops, Saturday will be the fourth. Despite their 3-2 record in the Big Ten, the Cats have been outscored 25-18 in league play and outgained 356-281 in conference games.

MINNESOTA (4-5) @ IOWA (9-0) – Current Line IOWA (-10) – Opening Line (-12)

The Gophers are in the midst of their toughest stretch in the 2015 season. After playing Michigan & Ohio State the last two weeks, they now get undefeated Iowa on Saturday. That means in the last 3 teams they’ve been scheduled to play have a combined record of 25-2! The positive is, Minny is playing their best football of the season right now. They had Michigan beat two weeks ago but a Wolverines goal line stand in the final seconds kept Minnesota out of the endzone. The Gophs rolled up 461 yards on a very good Wolverine defense outgaining them by 165 yards. Last week they traveled to Ohio State and lost 28-14, however the Bucks scored a defensive TD so it was closer than the final score. The players were really playing hard for interim coach Tracy Claeys and hoping he would get a shot at the job. Claeys has now been given the head job at Minnesota so we expect that to be another “boost” for a team that was already playing well and will a lot of emotion. We thought Iowa would get a very tough test @ Indiana and they did. The Hawks held on for the 8-point win getting a cover by just 1-point. The two ran 151 offensive plays and put up almost 900 yards. Dating back to 2000, Iowa has won the last 6 meetings here at home by an average score of 33-17. Last year Minnesota played host to the Hawks and went down 7-0 when Iowa scored on their first possession of the game. The Gophers then went onto score 51 straight points before Iowa hit a meaningless TD with 14 seconds left in a 51-14 Minnesota win. The host has won 8 of the last 10 in this Big Ten rivalry.

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