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Big 10 Report

   by ASA - 11/10/2016

ASA’s BIG TEN FOOTBALL INSIDERS REPORT – for games on Saturday, November 12th

MICHIGAN (-20) @ IOWA – Saturday at 8:00 PM ET

IOWA – The Hawkeyes had a chance to turn their season back in the right direction last week as they were coming off a bye and traveling to Penn State. It didn’t happen as Iowa was stopped 41-14 and it was no fluke. PSU outgained the Hawkeyes by a whopping 365 yards and were 8 of 15 (53%) on 3rd and 4th down. The slumping Iowa defense gave up 599 total yards on 8.5 YPP. It was the 3rd straight game Iowa allowed at least 420 yards and 2nd time in 3 weeks the allowed over 500 yards. During that 3 game stretch they have allowed opposing offenses (PSU, Wisconsin, and Purdue) to average 6.9 YPP. That’s from a defense that gave up just 341 YPG last year on 5.0 YPP. Obviously a huge drop on that side of the ball for the Hawks. The offense isn’t helping out either. They’ve been held to 14 points or less in 4 of their 6 Big Ten games this season. Iowa ranks just 12th in the Big Ten in total offense averaging 324 YPG ahead of only Rutgers & Illinois (conference games only). This struggling offense now has to face a Michigan defense that has given up 10 points or less in every Big Ten game but one. Could be tough sledding for QB Beathard who has regressed this season and struggles to pick up big plays for this offense. In fact, on Saturday, before their final meaningless TD drive late in the 4th quarter, Iowa had only 3 offensive plays in the game that gained 10 yards or more. Struggling defense + lethargic offense does not equal much success for this team.

MICHIGAN – The Wolverine starters should be well rested here as they walloped Maryland last week 59-3 and many of the regulars were able to sit the 2nd half. Nine different players carried the ball for Michigan while eight different players caught at least one pass. QB Wilson Speight threw for a school record 292 yards in the first half and led Michigan to TD’s on all 5 of its offensive possessions. Head coach Jim Harbaugh heaped praise on Speight after the game saying, “That's the best half of football I've ever seen a Michigan quarterback play.” The Wolverines didn’t punt in the game and scored points on 9 of their 10 offensive possessions. The only possession that ended in no points was when Michigan was stopped at the Maryland 14-yard line on fourth and one. The defense was their usual dominant self as they held another opponent to 10 points or less, their fourth in five Big Ten games. They lead the Big Ten in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense, and total defense (conference games only). They are winning their Big Ten games by an average score of 45-8 and outgaining their conference opponents by 300 YPG (521 YPG to 221 YPG).

LAST YEAR – These two haven’t met since 2013 when Iowa won 24-21 at home vs Michigan. That was the 4th time in the last 5 meetings the Hawks have beaten the Wolverines dating back to 2009.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The home team has won 7 of the last 10 games in this Big Ten series. The underdog is 11-2-2 ATS the last 15 meetings. Iowa has not been a home dog of +20 or more since the 1999 season. Before this season, Michigan hadn’t been a Big Ten road favorite of 20 or more points since 1997. This year, if this line holds at -20, it will already be the third time in three Big Ten road games they’ve been favored by 20 or more.

MINNESOTA @ NEBRASKA (-7) – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET

NEBRASKA – There is no opening line on this game due to the status of Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong who was taken away in an ambulance late in the 1st half of their game @ OSU last week. The number has since come up at Nebraska -7 in spots. Armstrong returned to the sidelines in street clothes and he is currently going through concussion protocol this week. If Armstrong can’t play, Ryker Fyfe, will start and his back up will be WR Zach Darlington who used to be a QB before changing positions. Fyfe took his first snap last week since Sept 17th and finished the game just 5 of 18 for 52 yards in Nebraska’s 62-3 loss to the Buckeyes (including 2 pick 6’s). In Fyfe’s 5 drives under center, the Huskers punted 3 times (3 three and outs), he threw a pick on the 3rd play of another drive, and the final possession stalled inside the OSU 10-yard line. They are hoping to get some reinforcements back on the offensive line this weekend with 3 former starters all banged up and recently out, but getting better. The Nebraska defense, that actually looked solid a week earlier @ Wisconsin, was shredded for 590 yards on 8.0 YPP. The OSU offense scored points on their first 8 offensive possessions and probably would have on their final and 9th drive as well but the game ended with the Bucks on the Nebraska 39 yard line. Just a game to forget for Nebraska who now no longer controls their own destiny in the Big Ten West as they had entering the last two games.

MINNESOTA – After starting the Big Ten season 0-2, the Gophers are on a 4 game winning streak and are now one of two teams in the Big Ten West, along with Wisconsin, that control their own destiny in that half of the conference. While Minnesota’s 4 game run has been obviously impressive because they’ve won all of those games, the opposition has been less than impressive with a combined record of 5-19 in league play. The streak began by beating Maryland with the Terps playing their back up QB. Their last three wins have come against the three worst teams in the entire Big Ten (Rutgers, Illinois, and Purdue). While they won those three games, each as a heavy favorite, they outgained those three opponents by just 117 yards combined or just 39 YPG. Not overly impressive vs teams that have been outgained by an average of 208 (Rutgers), 132 (Illinois), and 108 (Purdue) yards per game in Big Ten play. After trailing 28-23 at half in last Saturday’s 44-31 home win over Purdue, the Gophers took advantage of 3 Boilermaker 2nd half turnovers turning them directly into 21 points. Partly due to the turnover, the Minnesota defense was able to hold Purdue to just 3 points after the break.

LAST YEAR – Nebraska came into Minnesota last year in a pick-em game and destroyed the Gophers 48-25 outgaining them by 100 yards.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two have met 5 times since the Huskers joined the Big Ten with Nebraska winning 3 of those games. Total scoring numbers in those games are Nebraska 174 – Minnesota 115 (Average score of Nebraska 34-23. The total yardage in those 5 games looks like this Nebraska 2,148 – Minnesota 1,643 (Average yardage per game of Nebraska 430 – Minnesota 328).

RUTGERS @ MICHIGAN STATE (-14) – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET

MICHIGAN STATE – Can Sparty possibly lose another game when listed as a favorite? This team has now lost 7 straight games and they were a favorite in 6 of those. They are just 2-7 ATS this year with those games losing to the spread by a combined -96 points or over 10 points per game. They’ve played a fairly difficult schedule up until last Saturday so there was hope they may be able to turn it around with a few games coming up vs the Big Ten’s worst (Illinois & Rutgers). Well that didn’t happen as last week this team lost @ Illinois 31-27 as a 9.5 point favorite. That was an Illinois team playing with their 3rd string QB (Jeff George Jr) who had been creamed by a combined score of 81-25 the two previous week’s with George at QB. It was a loss to a poor Illinois team despite MSU running 90 offensive plays to just 53 for the Illini. The offense moved the ball but was obviously extremely inefficient. They crossed inside the Illinois 36-yards line on 8 of their 12 possessions but scored just 2 TD’s and kicked 4 FG’s on those possessions. They were forced to punt from the Illinois 36, 40, and 45 yard line. Let’s not forget we’re talking about a team that was in College Football’s “Final 4” last season. Turnover margin and red zone efficiency have dropped big time and are keys to this huge decline. Last year they were 23rd nationally in turnover margin and this year they are 125th! They also rank 125th in red zone efficiency which is a big reason they average just 23 PPG which is down a full TD from last season (30 PPG). Can they turn it around vs Rutgers this week? If not, this team is obviously done if they aren’t already.

RUTGERS – Watch out for this Rutgers team. Well we don’t want to get too hyped up on that but this team is definitely improving. Since switching QB’s from Laviano to Rescigno two weeks ago, the Knights have lost 34-32 @ Minnesota and 33-27 vs Indiana. While they obviously lost both of those games so improvement is relative, let’s remember this team lost their first four Big Ten games by a combined score of 174-14 (although games vs Michigan & Ohio State are included in those numbers). After a very good first start vs Minnesota a few weeks ago, Rescigno was solid again throwing for 258 yards and 1 TD. The Rutgers offense was helped by 4 Indiana turnovers which led directly to 2 of their 3 TD’s. Defensive they continue to stink. They allowed Indiana to rack up 567 total yards which keeps Rutgers dead last in the Big Ten (conference games) giving up a ridiculous 485 YPG. Which Rutgers team shows up here? The one that was beaten handily by Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio State (the last 2 are obviously not a big surprise) or the team that lost their other 3 Big Ten games vs Iowa, Minnesota, and Indiana by a combined 15 points?

LAST YEAR – MSU has won both games since Rutgers entered the Big Ten. Last year was a tight 31-24 win @ Rutgers and the year before was an easy 45-3 home win.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – MSU already has 7 losses this year after losing just 5 total games between 2013-2015. Michigan State has won 34 straight games (outright wins) when favored by 14 or more dating back to the 2009 season. Rutgers has been a road dog of 14 or more 71 times since 1980. They are 2-68-1 SU in those games.

NORTHWESTERN (-13.5) @ PURDUE – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET

PURDUE – This team has put up solid fights in the first half of many games. They are often “hanging around” at halftime only to get blown out in the 2nd half. It happened again last week at Purdue led Minnesota 28-23 at half but lost the 2nd half 21-3 in their 44-31 loss. The last three weeks vs Nebraska, Penn State, and Minnesota, the Boilers led or were tied at the half of each winning the 1st half battle by a combined score of 59-50. They have also been destroyed in each of those 2nd halves losing in those games by a combined score of 78-10 after the break! In those three games, the Boilers have had 23 offensive possessions, scored just one TD & one FG, punted 10 times, turned the ball over 7 times, and 4 drives ended on downs when Purdue went for it on 4th down. Those are some putrid second half numbers. Purdue defense, however is the key problem for this team. They continue to get shredded on the ground giving up 288 YPG rushing in Big Ten play and the Gophers did their part rolling up 235 yards rushing last week. They are also dead last in the league allowing 44 PPG in conference play. This team has now played 3 games under interim coach Gerad Parker and lost all three. They now have very little chance to get to .500 as they’d have to win their remaining three games. Is this team close to folding? If they lose another one this weekend, we’d have to say the chances are pretty good.

NORTHWESTERN – The Northwestern offense was rolling along nicely averaging 34 PPG their previous four games entering last week’s game vs Wisconsin. The Badgers top notch defense shut them down to just 7 points in a 21-7 Northwestern loss. They only crossed midfield 3 times in their 13 offensive possessions and had 5 three and outs. The Cats weren’t able to get anything going on the ground with just 19 total attempts for 39 yards. They knew they’d have trouble running the ball against the Wisconsin defense and came out throwing with 8 of their first 10 plays being passes. QB Thorson attempted 52 passes, which was by far the most in his career, and completed 28 of them. While NW ran the ball only 19 times, UW kept it on the ground 57 times and thus dominated the time of possession with a 2 to 1 advantage. The NW defense actually played fairly well. They held Wisconsin to just 333 total yards although that was a bit skewed as Badger QB Bart Houston took 47 yards in losses on the final drive simply running backwards to try and run out the clock. It was the third straight game the Wildcat defense held their opponent below their scoring average. At 4-5, NW has to close out the season strong to make sure they get to a bowl game. With games @ Purdue, @ Minnesota, and Illinois that is definitely doable.

LAST YEAR – These two have met twice since 2010 with Northwestern taking both games. They won 21-14 last season and 38-14 in 2014.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Northwestern has won 6 of the last 9 in this series. Prior to that, the Boilers were 18-4 vs Northwestern from 1980 – 2003. Northwestern has been a double digit, conference road favorite only THREE times since 1980. The most recent was in 2005. They are 2-1 both SU & ATS in those games. Purdue has been an underdog in this series only 6 times in the 31 meetings since 1980 (2-4 SU & 4-2 ATS).

OHIO STATE (-29.5) @ MARYLAND – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET

MARYLAND – The Terps began the season winning their first 4 games and it looked like new coach DJ Durkin was a shoe in for a post-season bowl bid. Maryland has since lost 4 of their last 5 including last week’s 59-3 whitewashing @ Michigan. Their only win during this 5 games stretch was at home vs Michigan State who is still winless in the Big Ten. The Maryland defense, which looked good early allowing 17 points or less in their first four games, has looked terrible as of late. Two weeks ago they allowed 650 yards to a struggling Indiana offense and last Saturday Michigan stomped them for 660 yards. Those numbers include almost 700 yards rushing allowed the last two weeks. That could be a recipe for disaster facing an Ohio State offense that definitely got back on track last week with 62 points and 590 yards vs a solid Nebraska defense. Will the Terp defense allow over 600 yards for the third consecutive game? It certainly looks like a possibility. Durkin has shuffled his starting line up on defense this week as it looks like he’ll go with 4 new starters including two on the defensive line. They are banged up on the other side of the ball with starting QB Hills questionable with a shoulder injury, top RB Johnson possibly out with a shoulder issue, and starting left tackle Dunn also a game time decision with an injury.

OHIO STATE – After struggling on offense for three consecutive games, the Buckeyes hit the after burners last week and put up 62 points and almost 600 yards on the Huskers. The 62-point outburst was almost as many points as they had scored in their previous three games combined (68 in regulation). They scored on every possession except one and that was their final drive of the game which ended inside the Nebraska 40-yard line as time expired. The Bucks also put up 238 yards on the ground as they have not outgained and outrushed every opponent except one (Wisconsin). It was their 4th win by at least 45 points this season. The Buckeye defense had been “struggling” a bit coming in allowing 2 of their previous 3 opponents to top 400 yards (Northwestern & Wisconsin). They played one of the best games of the season vs Nebraska giving up just 209 total yards and only 9 first downs. The Husker offense got inside the OSU 45-yard line only three times the entire game. We have to say this is an interesting number. The spread sits at Maryland +28.5 & +29 which is the same number they were AT Michigan last week. Only difference is this week they are at home against a team that most view as comparable and fairly even with Michigan. That tells us this line is probably inflated but with the Terp injuries and struggles on defense, we can’t say we’ll jump in on this one.

LAST YEAR – Ohio State has dominated both meetings between these two winning 49-28 last year and 52-24 in 2014.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Maryland has gone OVER the total in 13 of their last 18 home games. The Terps have been a home dog of +28 or more just 5 times since 1980. They are 0-5 SU & 1-4 ATS in those games. Interestingly enough, all of those games were against Florida State back in Maryland’s ACC days. OSU has been a road favorite of this magnitude (-28 or more) just twice since 1998. Those games were both in 2013 @ Purdue and @ Illinois (1-1 ATS).

ILLINOIS @ WISCONSIN (-26.5) – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET

WISCONSIN – We felt Wisconsin was in a very tough spot last weekend. They had come off a number of tough, emotional type games (Michigan, Ohio St, Iowa, & Nebraska) including 2 OT’s. They were facing a dangerous Northwestern team that was playing their best football of the season and took Ohio State to the wire on the road a week earlier. Even with that, the Badgers just continued to impress handling NW 21-7 and holding a hot Wildcat offense who had averaged 30+ points over their last four games in check. Now they come in favored by 26.5 vs an Illinois team that beat Michigan State week. What’s interesting about that number is Wisconsin averages just 24 PPG thus they are favored by more points than they average offensively. They have only scored more than 26 points twice this season vs Akron & Michigan State. With their win over Northwestern and Nebraska’s loss @ Ohio State, Wisconsin now controls their own destiny to the Big Ten West Title. The simply need to beat Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota and they go to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Title game. If past history has anything to say, they are almost a shoe in as the Badgers are 31-1 against those three opponents dating back to 2004. If they can pull it off, it would be Wisconsin’s fourth Big Ten Title game appearance in the last six seasons.

ILLINOIS – The Illini pulled a big upset at home last week beating Michigan State 31-27. If you simply took a look at the boxscore and not the final score, you would have thought the Spartans beat the Illini easily. In the win, Illinois was -189 in yardage, -14 first downs, and -20:00 minutes in time of possession and still won by 4. Jeff George Jr remained at QB with starter Wes Lunt still week to week (expected out again this week) and his back up Chayce Crouch out for the season. In the three games George has been the starter, the Illini are 1-2 but have been outgained in each game by a grand total of 613 yards or an average of 204 YPG. Going back further, since their opener vs FCS Murray State, the Illini have been outgained in every game but one. They outgained Purdue by 40 yards and have been outgained by their other seven opponents since the opener by a combined 1,106 yards (158 YPG). Wisconsin will be Illinois’ fifth ranked team they’ve faced so far this season. They’ve lost those games by an average of 24 points and this spread is currently Wisconsin -26.5.

LAST YEAR – Wisconsin went to Illinois as a 4.5 point favorite last year, lost starting QB Joel Stave during the game, but still won 24-13. It was Wisconsin’s sixth straight win over Illinois.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Wisconsin has dominated this series going 15-3-1 over the last 19 meetings. However, Wisconsin has only beaten Illinois by more than 26 points (the current spread) ONE time since 1980. The Illini are 15-24 ATS the last 39 times they’ve been an underdog.

PENN STATE (-7) @ INDIANA – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET

INDIANA – The Hoosiers went to Rutgers last week and topped the Knights 33-27 in a game that was more lopsided than the final score indicated. The truth is IU dominated the game with 27 first downs (13 for Rutgers) and 567 total yards (351 for Rutgers). The problem was the Hoosiers turned the ball over 4 times in the game. Not only did they turn the ball over, but two of those giveaways led directly to 14 of Rutgers 27 points. On top of that, IU was unsuccessful on two short field goals and on two other possessions pushed the ball inside the Scarlet Knights 30-yard line and came away with no points. Minus being inefficient on the few drives we just spoke of, the offense as a whole played very well for the second straight week. After struggling early in the Big Ten season in comparison to other recent IU offenses, they’ve kicked it in the last two weeks totaling over 1,200 yards. After getting outgained in each of their first four conference games, the Hoosiers have out yarded their last two opponents by a combined 349 yards. They need one more win to qualify for their second bowl appearance in as many years (no bowls since 2007 before last season) but the road isn’t easy with PSU this week, @ Michigan next week, before closing with arch rival Purdue.

PENN STATE – Penn State is rolling right now. Since getting a bit “lucky” to beat OSU a few weeks ago, this Nittany Lion team then scored 62 on Purdue and last week destroyed Iowa 41-14. The Hawkeyes were coming off a bye and actually in a pretty good spot for a solid performance as they were as healthy as they had been in a while. Our handicap had this game closer to -10 than -7.5 so once it dropped below a TD we jumped on PSU as our Top Play at -6. It was no fluke and it could be argued the Nittany Lions dominated even more than the final score indicated. They outgained Iowa by a whopping 365 yards and rushed for 359 yards. They pushed into Iowa territory on every possession except one and ended the game taking knees on the Hawkeye 9-yard line. The only time they didn’t push across the 50-yard line they made it to the PSU 45. The defense simply thwarted a rested and healthy Iowa offense holding them to just 234 total yards on 4.5 YPP. Half of Iowa’s 10 offensive possessions resulted in 14 yards or less. The Nits defense has really stepped it up since getting a few starting LB’s back in the line up who had been out since early in the season. They have allowed 341 yards or less in 3 of their last 4 games and none of those four opponents have topped 24 points. As we stated in last week’s edition, if Penn State can win out beating IU, Rutgers, and Michigan State, and Ohio State beats Michigan they will at least have a share of the Big Ten East title.

LAST YEAR – Penn State rolled to an easy 29-7 win last year vs Indiana nearly doubling the Hoosiers in total offense (420 to 234).

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Talk about dominating a series. PSU has won 18 of the 19 meetings between these two since the 1980 season. Indiana’s only win in this series game in 2013 as they whipped PSU 44-24 as 3.5 point underdogs. The Nittany Lions have NEVER been an underdog in this series. Coming into this season, PSU was just 2-8 the last 10 times they were road favorites dating back to 2011. They are 1-0 in that spot this year winning and covering @ Purdue.

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