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Big 10 Report

   by ASA - 11/03/2016

NEBRASKA @ OHIO STATE (-17) – Saturday at 8:00 PM ET

OHIO STATE – The OSU games have had some interesting line movements the past 2 weeks. Their line vs Northwestern last Saturday opened at -21 and moved up to -27. The Buckeyes struggled to win and never were anywhere close to covering in a 24-20 win. This week their line vs Nebraska opened -14 and within 24 hours was up to -17. Interesting line and line movement. For comparison’s sake, these two teams played @ Wisconsin within the last two weeks, both were outgained by 40ish total yards in the game, and both games went to OT. Pretty comparable numbers to say the least. The fact is the Bucks are not playing up to their billing right now and it’s not even all that close. After starting the season a perfect 4-0 ATS, they have failed to cover their last 4 games by a combined 53 points. That’s failing to cover by an average of almost 14 points per game in each of their last 4. Last week they outgained Northwestern by only 0.3 YPP (5.9 YPP to 5.6 YPP) and they allowed the Cats to top 400 total yards. It was the second time in the last three games the OSU defense allowed an opponent to gain more than 400 yards. The defense allowed the Cats four long scoring drives of 16, 16, 12, and 10 plays. The Buckeye stop unit was unable to get off the field on 3rd down allowing NW to convert of 10 of their 18 3rd (and 4th) down plays. However, let’s not forget this team is very young as they returned the fewest starters in college football at just 6. Could they be hitting a bit of a wall? Possibly. Head coach Urban Meyer mentioned he sees “a lot of positives” from his young team after their win over Northwestern. The offense could be without key WR Parris Campbell this week after he injured his ankle vs NW. Campbell is also the Buckeyes main kick returner.

NEBRASKA – The Huskers finally played a formidable opponent last week @ Wisconsin and were dealt their first loss of the season. They played well however taking UW to OT before losing 23-17. Nebraska came in averaging almost 450 YPG in total offense and they were held to their season low of 305 on just 4.0 YPP in Madison. It was just the 2nd time this year they were held under 400 total yards. QB Tommy Armstrong was simply bad completing only 12 passes the entire game for an average of just 4.9 yards per attempt. He also threw 2 interceptions which now makes it 6 picks in the last 4 games after throwing only one his first four games. Three of his twelve completions went to WR Westerkamp who returned from an injury and moved to 3rd on the all-time receptions list with his catches on Saturday. The Nebraska defense was fairly impressive. They held Wisconsin to 17 points in regulation and kept UW RB Clement in check. Clement had one long run of 41 yards late in regulation but other than that, he didn’t have a run of more than 5 yards before OT. The Badger QB’s (Hornibrook & Houston) combined to complete only 14 passes for just 114 yards. The Huskers allowed the UW offense to get inside the red zone (20 yard line) only 2 times in their 13 possessions. NU looks decent on the “health” front with the exception of the offensive line. They came into the game banged up on the O-Line and lost starting guard Tanner Farmer to a leg injury early in the game. He left Madison on crutches and in a walking boot.

LAST YEAR – These two have not met since 2012. They have faced off twice since Nebraska joined the Big Ten with the home team winning each time. OSU won 63-38 here in 2012 and Nebraska topped the Bucks 34-27 in 2011 in Lincoln.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Nebraska has not been an underdog of this magnitude (17 or more points) since the 2008 season. Since 1980, they’ve been a dog of 17 or more just 8 times and they are 1-7 SU in those games, 5-3 ATS. OSU is just 5-11 ATS their last 16 conference games, 0-4 ATS this season. The Bucks were just 12-19 ATS as a 17-point or higher favorite heading into this season. They are 3-3 ATS in that role this year.

WISCONSIN (-7) @ NORTHWESTERN – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET

NORTHWESTERN – As we’ve mentioned many times in this column, the Cats have made more in-season improvement that any team in the Big Ten. After starting the season 1-3 with losses to Illinois State, Western Michigan, & Nebraska, the Cats have since won 3 of 4 with their only loss coming in a toe to toe match up @ Ohio State last Saturday. NW was a hefty 27-point dog but played the Buckeyes to the wire losing 24-20. Despite being big underdogs, the Wildcats never trailed by more than 10 and had a chance with a few minutes to go to tie the game at 24 but failed to put the ball in the endzone after a 1st and goal situation from the 3-yard line. They put up over 400 yards on the OSU defense and in the clutch they converted on 10 of their 18 third and fourth down attempts. The defense continues to allow opposing offenses to put up big yardage numbers, OSU had 431, but they’ve done a nice job of keeping teams off the scoreboard. While they are giving up 416 YPG, which is a full 100 yards more per game than they allowed last year, they are giving up just 22 PPG. Wisconsin obviously likes to run the ball and the NW rush defense was looking very solid heading into last week’s game. Before facing the Buckeyes, the Northwestern defense had held each of their three previous opponents below 85 yards rushing. Then last week OSU put up 208 yards on the ground so they’ll have to be better this week as the Badgers have averaged 209 YPG on the ground the last 3 games.

WISCONSIN – Wisconsin picked went to OT for the 2nd time in 3 weeks but this go around they picked up a win 23-17 over Nebraska. However, the injuries are starting to pile up for UW. Especially at linebacker. This team is already minus Chris Orr & Jack Cichy, both starters, and now TJ Watt is possibly on the shelf for this week. He injured his shoulder in last week’s win and while he finished the game, he’s been very limited in practice this week. Watt leads the Badgers with 7 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. They will also be without starting NT Sagapola for the 3rd straight game. The offense looked like they “turned the corner” coming out of their bye putting up over 400 yards on both OSU & Iowa. Last week they took a step back with just 337 yards vs Nebraska. Wisconsin finished the game with backup QB Houston in the game and freshman starter Hornibrook on the bench. Head coach Paul Chryst has gone to somewhat of a QB rotation the last few weeks and we’re not so sure it hasn’t shaken Hornibrook’s confidence. The offense continues to struggle getting into the endzone when they have a legitimate shot to do so. Since their game vs Michigan State, the Badgers have played 4 games vs Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, and Nebraska. Granted all of those teams have solid defenses, but in those games Wisconsin has had 49 offensive possessions and scored TD’s on just 8 of those. That will have to improve as the defense is starting to get beat up physically with injuries mounting.

LAST YEAR – Northwestern came to Madison last year and beat Wisconsin in a slugfest 13-7. It was obviously a defensive game with both offenses being held under 210 total yards.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Wisconsin has not won @ Northwestern since 1999, losing all 4 games during that span both SU & ATS. The last 3 years these teams have played some defensive, grind it out games with the total scores ending on 20, 34, and 41 points. Since 1995, the Cats are 37-27 ATS as a home underdog. The home team has covered 8 of the last 9 in this series with last season being the only exception.

INDIANA (-14) @ RUTGERS, Saturday at 12:00 PM ET

RUTGERS – The Knights are off a bye after blowing a game two weeks ago @ Minnesota. Rutgers nearly pulled off the upset as a 17.5 points underdog in Minneapolis losing 34-32 on a Gopher field goal as time expired. That was after getting outscored by a ridiculous 174-14 in their first four Big Ten games. Part of the spark came from a switch at QB. Getting his first start of the season, Gio Rescigno threw for 220 yards and 3 TD’s. He also ran for 26 yards. While those numbers aren’t overwhelming, they are a huge upgrade for the stats put up by former starter Chris Laviano who threw for just 5 TD’s in his 7 starts this season. Laviano’s biggest passing game this year was 190 yards vs Iowa. Rescigno led the Knights to 32 points after they put up just 64 total points vs 6 FBS opponents this year under Laviano’s direction. All that vs a solid Minnesota defense. The Rutgers offense crossed the 50-yard line and made it into Minnesota territory 8 times in the game. While that may not seem like a huge number, keep in mind the Knights crossed midfield only 8 times in their previous 3 games combined. Now that the offense seems to be at least headed in the right direction, they need some help from their defense which ranks dead last in the conference allowing 37 PPG on 430 YPG.

INDIANA – So much for the IU defense being strong and the offense struggling this season. The game vs Maryland last Saturday completely basically reversed that trend. After averaging just 19 PPG over their first four Big Ten games, the Hoosiers erupted for 42 points and 650 total yards! After failing to reach 100 in three consecutive games, IU ran the ball 57 times for a ridiculous 414 yards in the 42-36 win. They had three separate players go over 100 yards on the ground. Not bad for a team that didn’t have a single player top 100 yards rushing since way back on September 10th vs Ball State. Their 414 yards on the ground was almost as many yards as the rushed for in their first four Big Ten games combined (427). IU unleashed their brand new Wildcat package on a Maryland defense that admitted afterward they hadn’t seen it from the Hoosiers and obviously weren’t ready for it. They hadn’t seen it because it was the first time the Hoosiers ran the package this year with backup QB Zander Diamont who rushed for 111 yards on just 10 carries. The two teams combined to rush 107 times for almost 700 yards in last week’s game. The two teams combined to score 21 points in the final 3:55 of the game including 14 points in the final 50 seconds. Indiana was forced to punt just twice in their 12 offensive possessions. The IU defense, who had been playing very well, was shredded by Maryland. After allowing just 360 yards to Nebraska and 383 to Ohio State, two of the top offenses in the Big Ten, IU gave up 517 yards to the Terps, including 269 rushing.

LAST YEAR – Rutgers has won both meetings since joining the Big Ten. Last year they topped IU in Bloomington 55-52 as the two combined for over 1,200 total yards! In 2014 the Knights played host to the Hoosiers and came out on top 45-23 with the two topping 900 total yards.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Rutgers is just 3-11 ATS their last 14 games in the month of November. Indiana favored by double digits on the road in a conference game? The last time that happened was way back in 1998, one year after the inception of ASA! If this number stays at -14, IU has been a Big Ten road favorite of two TD’s or higher just 3 times since 1990. They are 0-3 ATS in those games.

MICHIGAN STATE @ ILLINOIS (No Line) – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET

ILLINOIS – There is currently no line on this game due to the status of Illinois QB Wes Lunt. He sat out his 3rd consecutive game last week as the Illini were beaten 40-17 at home vs Minnesota. They are just 1-2 in those 3 games but have been outgained in all three by a combined 492 yards. Lunt’s replacement, Jeff George Jr, has completed just 20 of his 49 passes (40%) for only 250 yards in his two starts, both Illini losses. They have been outscored 81-25 in those two games. Last Saturday’s 40-17 loss wasn’t quite the blowout it looked like. The Illinois defense actually held the Gophers to just 283 total yards. Three Illinois turnovers led directly to 17 points for Minnesota. The Gophs seemed to work on a short field all game long with TD drives of 9, 10, and 20 yards. In a very odd stat that you won’t see very often, the Illini defense forced Minny to punt 8 times in the game yet they still put up 40 points! Lunt is the only key injury for Illinois. Two key WR’s left last week’s game (Thieman & Turner) and RB Vaughn also exited with a foot injury. Now reports out of Illinois that head coach Lovie Smith is “miserable” at his current job, which he attempted to debunk this week, and this team just might have a tough time turning around their current downward spiral.

MICHIGAN STATE – Sparty continued to tumble further downward with their 6th straight loss last week @ Michigan. MSU gave a valiant effort against their arch rival easily covering the 24-point spread losing to the Wolverines 32-23. It was the first time MSU covered the spread since mid-September. It’s hard to fathom, but Michigan State, along with Rutgers, has the worst record in the Big Ten at 0-5. Who would have guessed that when this team was ranked in the top 10 at the start of the conference season? Head coach Mark Dantonio continued to juggle his QB’s starting senior Tyler O’Connor after he sat at the start of the previous two games vs Northwestern and Maryland. O’Connor was then yanked early in the 2nd half with the Spartans trailing 30-10. Dantonio then opted for Damion Terry who hadn’t taken a snap since their home loss to BYU back on October 8th. Terry played one series and then was replaced by Brian Lewerke who has started the previous two games. Lewerke led them to their final 13 points but it’s safe to say the MSU QB situation is an absolute mess. On a positive note, the Spartans rushed for 217 yards against a Michigan defense that was allowing only 63 YPG rushing in conference play coming into the game. They outrushed a Michigan team that had outgained their opponents by an average of 161 YPG on the ground entering last week’s game. Another hard to believe situation, but MSU now has to win the remainder of their games to simply finish with a .500 record. That feat seems unlikely with games remaining vs Ohio State and @ Penn State.

LAST YEAR – These two have met only once since 2010 with MSU winning that game 42-3 back on 2013.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The favorite has covered 7 of the last 8 meetings in this Big Ten battle. That would lend you to believe that Michigan State has done well vs Illinois since they’ve probably been favored more often than not. That would be correct as since 1994, MSU is 12-1 SU and 11-2 ATS in this series. The Illini have won only 7 of their last 36 Big Ten games dating back to 2012.

MARYLAND @ MICHIGAN (-31) – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET

MICHIGAN – The Wolverines topped MSU on the road last week 32-23 but didn’t come close to covering the 24 point spread which was the largest in this storied series since 1992. It was actually the fourth time in the last six weeks that Michigan failed to cover as they are a “public” team and their pointspreads have been skyrocketing. As the saying goes, you can just throw out the previous records and stats when it comes to rivalry games. A struggling MSU offense, who had scored 21 or fewer points in all but one of their Big Ten games entering last week, put up 23 points and over 400 yards on the nation’s top defense. The Spartan yardage output nearly doubled what the Wolverines had been giving up on average this year which was just 205 YPG. The 23 points were almost the same amount the Michigan defense had given up for the entire Big Ten season (25 total points allowed coming into last week). The Michigan offense certainly played well scoring points on their first 6 offensive possessions (minus one drive they threw an interception) while piling up 436 yards on 6.5 YPP. They built a comfortable 30-10 lead at that point but after scoring on all of their first 6 drives, the offense then went stale and had to punt on every possession from that point on. It gave MSU a chance to get back into the game and they did scoring TD’s on two of their final three possessions. Michigan is favored by 31 points here which makes it the third time in four weeks they’ve been a favorite of 30 or more.

MARYLAND – New head coach DJ Durkin brings his Maryland team into Ann Arbor for their second of back to back road games after the Terps lost @ Indiana 42-36 last Saturday. Durkin should have a good read on Harbaugh and the Wolverines as he was their defensive coordinator last season. If Durkin and the Terps want any chance of keeping this one close, they better improve their rush defense and improve it fast. In last week’s 6 point loss @ Indiana they allowed the Hoosiers to rush for over 400 yards! That was vs an offense that was averaging barely over 100 YPG rushing in the Big Ten before last weekend. Now they face a Michigan offense putting up 250 YPG on the ground. Since shutting down Purdue to start the Big Ten season, the Maryland defense has allowed 500+ yards twice and is giving up 477 YPG over their last four. For as poor as their defense played last week, Maryland still had a shot as the offense definitely upheld their end of the bargain. They put up 36 points, over 500 yards, and converted on 10 of their 19 third and fourth down opportunities. They got inside Indiana territory on 8 of their 12 offensive possessions and two of the four that did not end up crossing the 50 yard line were due to Terp turnovers. After getting through the “easier” portion of their schedule with a 5-3 record, the turtles now play Michigan, Ohio State, and Nebraska the next three weeks.

LAST YEAR – The road team has won each of the meetings (2) since Maryland joined the Big Ten. Last year Michigan pitched a 28-0 shutout at Maryland and in 2014 the Terps upset the Wolverines 23-16 in Ann Arbor.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two have met 5 times since the start of the 1980 season with Michigan winning 4 of those games – all by at least 20 points. This is already the 5th time this season that Michigan has been favored by 30 points or more. They are 3-1 ATS so far in those games, however entering the season they were just 10-18 ATS as a 30+ point favorite. Maryland is 16-7 ATS the game following a SU loss dating back to the 2012 season.

IOWA @ PENN STATE (-7.5) – Saturday at 7:30 PM ET

PENN STATE – The Nittany Lions quietly came in at #12 in the first College FB Playoff rankings earlier this week. They are flying under the radar a bit at 6-2 but we have to admit we were shocked they were ranked that highly. Last Saturday they cruised to an easy 62-24 win @ Purdue but that game was tied at 17 at halftime. PSU scored 6 TD’s in the 2nd half on 8 possessions. The other two possessions ended in a field goal and a turnover so it was quite a productive 2nd half for Penn State to say the least. However, four Purdue turnovers had something to do with those massive second half numbers. In fact, they had A LOT to do with it as PSU scored TD’s after each of Purdue’s 4 turnovers a drives of 24, 24, 28, and 58 yards. That win moved the Nits to 4-1 in Big Ten play and if they win out and Ohio State beats Michigan in the season finale, this Penn State team would win a share of the Big Ten East title. Their record is a bit skewed in our opinion and we’ll tell you why. After they were dominated by Michigan to open the season (lost by 39 points & outgained by 324 yards) they’ve been the beneficiary of some nice situations. After Michigan, they topped Minnesota at home in OT, beat Maryland as the Terps starting QB Hills was injured, beat OSU scoring 10 points in the final 12:00 minutes despite gaining -1 yard during that stretch, and then beat Purdue last Saturday just a week and a half after the Boilers fired their head coach. We’ll find out this weekend if PSU is really as good as their ranking. If they easily handle Iowa, we’ll back off.

IOWA – The Hawkeyes are coming off a bye week. Their most recent game was a 17-9 loss at home vs Wisconsin. The Badgers dominated that game outgaining Iowa by nearly 200 yards but struggled to score points in the red zone. It looks like Iowa was able to get some key players healthy during their bye week. Previously injured starters OT Boone Myers, TE George Kittle and DT Nathan Bazata are all slated to be back in the line up on Saturday. The Hawkeyes look like they will have their entire starting offensive line on the field for the first time since winning @ Minnesota in early October. The Hawks defense has been focusing this week on slowing down PSU RB Barkley and keeping QB McSorely from hurting them with his feet. McSorely is PSU’s 2nd leading rusher on the season. Iowa’s run defense has been trending up as of late holding their last 3 opponents (Minnesota, Purdue, and Wisconsin) to just 3.8 YPC. Offensively they need improvement from their senior QB CJ Beathard. All of his key passing numbers from last year are down including completion percentage, YPG passing, interceptions, and yards per attempt. Some of his struggles really kicked in when Iowa lost their top WR Vandeberg to a season ending injury in late September. Iowa already has more losses this year (3) than they had all of last season however those 3 losses have come by a combined 17 points.

LAST YEAR – These two have not met since the 2012 season. Despite losing 38-14 in 2012, Iowa has won 9 of the last 13 meetings.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Iowa is a road dog here and going back to the 2013 season, the Hawkeyes have won outright 4 of the last 5 times they’ve been getting points on the road. . Iowa is 21-9-1 the last 31 times they’ve been an underdog of a TD or more. PSU has failed to cover the last 9 times they’ve been tabbed a home favorite (0-7-2 ATS).

PURDUE @ MINNESOTA (-17) – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET

MINNESOTA – After starting the Big Ten season with two tight losses @ PSU (in OT) and at home vs Iowa (by 7), the Gophers have quietly put together a 3 game winning streak. Granted those three wins have come against Maryland, Rutgers, and Illinois, but a 3 game winning streak none the less. Last week’s 40-17 win @ Illinois was actually quite deceiving. First of all, the Illini played without QB Wes Lunt which really slows down their already not so productive offense. On top of that, Illinois turned the ball over 3 times which led directly to 17 Minnesota points. The Gophs had 3 TD drives of less than 21 yards in the game. The Gophers tallied 40 points but only had 283 yards of total offense vs Illinois. Minnesota should find out this week if five players currently under a restraining order will be allowed to play Saturday against Purdue. An alleged victim of a Sept. 2 incident petitioned in October to keep Ray Buford, KiAnte Hardin, Tamarion Johnson, Dior Johnson and Carlton Djam from TCF Bank Stadium, where she takes part in the university’s gameday operations. The five players have been able to play in road games but not at home. The Gophers also kicked starting WR Brian Smith off the team this week due to ongoing issues including a recent fight. He was Minnesota’s second leading receiver this season and his loss means they now turn to Tyler Johnson, who has only 13 catches, and Rashad Still, who has just 5 receptions.

PURDUE – How will Purdue respond now? That’s a tough question. They were tied last week 17-17 at half vs Penn State but then were destroyed in the 2nd half in a 62-24 loss. Two weeks ago head coach Darrell Hazell was fired and the Boilers rallied to play very well in a tight loss @ Nebraska. Last week they looked like they were heading in the same positive direction as they played PSU toe to toe. Then four second half turnovers led to a massive implosion in a blowout loss. You have to wonder how where this team’s “psyche” stands right now. They’ve had a lot of distractions over the last few weeks. They are 3-5 and can still get to a bowl eligible record although that doesn’t seem likely as they’d have to win 3 of their last 4 games. This week they face a physical Minnesota team that loves to run the ball. The Gophs average 45 carries and 207 YPG on the ground and Purdue can’t stop the run. The Boilers have allowed 300+ yards in 3 Big Ten teams and 250+ in another. The only team they’ve held below 250 yards in conference play was Nebraska. The way to beat Minnesota it to shut down their run and make them beat you through the air. Minnesota ranks just 111th in passing YPG, their QB Leidner is not all that accurate (57% completions), and has thrown just as many picks (5) as TD’s (5). Purdue’s defense hasn’t shown their equipped to win by shutting down anyone’s running game. The one positive as a big underdog is the Purdue offense can score. They have put up 35, 34, and 24 points in three of their last four Big Ten games which could make it tough for Minnesota to pull away here.

LAST YEAR – Minnesota was a 3-point favorite @ Purdue last year and won going away 41-13. The Gophers rushed for 326 yards to just 68 for Purdue.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Our in depth database goes back to 1980 and this is the largest pointspread on record for this Big Ten series. Minnesota has been a double digit favorite 3 time this year and they are 0-3 ATS in those games. The Gophers are just 4-11 ATS their last 15 in that situation. The Boilermakers have covered 8 straight as an underdog of 17 or more.

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