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Big 10 Report

   by ASA - 11/17/2016

OHIO STATE -21.5 @ MICHIGAN STATE – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET

MICHIGAN STATE – Who would have guessed that MSU would pick up their FIRST Big Ten win on November 12th? Not us. Sparty moved to 1-6 in Big Ten play with a 49-0 whitewashing of Rutgers. The Spartan defense looks like they might be kicking it up a notch at the end of the season. We’ve grown accustomed to good defense when discussing the Green & White and last week they held Rutgers scoreless on just 149 total yards. A week earlier they stopped Illinois for 305 yards but MSU lost that. Those two games are a huge improvement after they gave up an average of 425 YPG over their first five Big Ten games. The Scarlet Knights had 13 offensive possessions in the game and 12 of those went for 18 yards or less. They allowed Rutgers to cross midfield only twice the entire game. Star DL McDowell was injured and sat out the game forcing head coach Mark Dantonio to start two freshman defensive lineman for the first time in their careers. Offensively much maligned senior QB Tyler O’Connor had only 10 completions but 3 of those were for TD’s all in the first half. He didn’t need to complete many passes as the Spartans dominated the ground game with 277 yards, their season high, on 50 carries.

OHIO STATE – The Buckeyes won their second consecutive game by the exact same score of 62-3. Two weeks ago they whipped Nebraska by that margin and last Saturday Maryland was on the receiving end. After going 3 straight games without reaching 30 points in regulation (Wisconsin, Penn State, & Northwestern) they have exploded for 124 points in the last two games on almost 1,100 total yards. Over that two game span OSU is +47 in first downs (what?) and +791 in total yardage. Dominating to say the least. QB J.T. Barrett has been fantastic in the last two games completing 44 of his 65 pass attempts for 543 yards and 6 TD’s (no interceptions). Last year in a home loss to Michigan State, Barrett had one of the worst games in his career completing just 9 passes for only 46 yards. The Buckeyes were held to just 132 total yards in last year’s 17-14 loss. Interestingly, Ohio State was a 14.5 point favorite at home last year and now they are -21.5 on the road this season. Despite the disparity in the two teams records, the Buckeyes will be motivated here due to last year’s results. We’ve been told many of the OSU players have been waiting patiently for this rematch.

LAST YEAR – Michigan State (+14.5) upset the Buckeyes on the road last year 17-14 with backup QB Tyler O’Connor at the helm. That won catapulted MSU to the Big Ten Championship and eventually College Football’s Final 4.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The road team has won 5 of the last 6 meetings in this Big Ten series. The underdog has covered 6 of the last 7. The dog has also claimed outright wins in each of the last 5 meetings in this match up. This is just the third time that MSU has been a home dog of more than 20 points since the 1980 season. They are 2-0 ATS in that spot including a cover in a 9-point loss at home vs Michigan this season as a 24 point underdog.

IOWA (-10) @ ILLINOIS – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET

ILLINOIS – The Illini should get a boost offensively this week with starting QB Wes Lunt ready to go. His last start was back on October 8th @ Purdue. Lunt was injured in the 2nd quarter of that game and was inserted in the 2nd half last week for his first game action in over 30 days. He came in for Jeff George Jr who continues to struggle. George threw 4 interceptions in the first half last week @ Wisconsin, a 48-3 loss. He led Illinois on 7 offensive possessions in the first half turning the ball over in 4 of them. He ended the game with one more completion (5) than interception (4). Lunt took over in the 2nd half and while he didn’t really do anything (2 for 8 passing) he did get some reps which should help prepare him for this week. He didn’t have a chance to do much as Illinois ran only 15 plays in the entire 2nd half. That’s because Wisconsin dominated the ball rushing for 363 yards on 64 attempts and held a 42:00 to 18:00 time of possession edge. It was the second straight game the Illini defense was on the field for more than 40:00 minutes and they were gassed late in the Wisconsin game. That definitely should have a negative effect this week if Iowa is able to control the ground game.

IOWA – In what has been a very disappointing year for Iowa, the Hawkeyes were able to create a highlight moment last week in a season devoid of them. They were just 1-3 at home coming into last week’s game facing a Michigan team that was undefeated and favored by 20+ points. The last time Iowa was a home underdog of that magnitude was back in 1999. They pulled the upset kicking a field goal as time expired to win 14-13 moving them to 6-4 which makes them bowl eligible. It was their third straight win over Michigan in Iowa City. The defense was the big surprise. We knew they would struggle on offense against a great Wolverine defense. Iowa had just 230 yards of total offense and after kicking a FG on the opening drive of the 2nd half, never crossed midfield again until 1:16 remaining in the game. The Iowa defense was the big surprise. After allowing 600 yards and 41 points a week earlier @ PSU, the Hawkeye defense stifled a very good Michigan offense holding them to 13 points and just 201 total yards. Coming into the game they had allowed each of their previous three opponents to reach at least 423 yards with two of them topping 500. It was impossible to foresee this defense slowing down a Michigan offense that was averaging 521 YPG in conference play. Now they have to avoid the proverbial “letdown” traveling to Illinois coming off their big Michigan win with a home finale vs Nebraska on deck.

LAST YEAR – Iowa topped Illinois 29-20 at home last season. They failed to cover the 10.5 point spread however. They Hawkeyes are favored by basically the same number @ Illinois this season.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Iowa has won 10 of the last 13 in this series. This is just the third time since 1980 that Iowa has been a double digit favorite @ Illinois (1-2 ATS). This has been a low scoring series as of late. Since 2000 these two have met 9 times and the average combined score in those game has been 39 points with the highest output during that stretch being 51.

MARYLAND @ NEBRASKA (-14.5) – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET

NEBRASKA – The Huskers bounced back with a nice 24-17 win over Minnesota after back to back road losses @ Wisconsin and @ Ohio State. QB Tommy Armstrong didn’t practice the entire week and finally cleared concussion protocol on the morning of the game so he was able to start and played well with 217 yards passing, 61 yards rushing, and 3 TD’s. With the game tied at 17 in the 4th quarter, Armstrong led Nebraska on a 91 yard go-ahead TD drive to put them up 7. With Minnesota driving late for a potential tying TD, the Nebraska defense made a key interception inside the 5-yard line for the game clincher. The defense played very well shutting down Minnesota’s running game to just 2.5 YPC on 34 attempts. After scoring 17 in the opening 30 minutes, the Husker defense held Minnesota scoreless in the 2nd half and held the Gophers to under 100 yards after the break. Back to Armstrong… Different week, different ailing body parts for Armstrong who is again questionable this week after injuring his hamstring AND ankle in last week’s game. Word is he was limping very badly early in the week and back up QB Ryker Fyfe is getting the first team snaps. However, it’s Senior Day and Armstrong’s last home game so if he can find a way to play on Saturday he will. If Nebraska wins out and Wisconsin loses one of their final two games, the Huskers will be in the Big 10 Championship game so still a lot for them to play for.

MARYLAND – What once looked like a promising season for Maryland and new head coach DJ Durkin has gone south in a hurry. Coming into Big Ten play, the Terps were only three wins away from bowl eligibility and the way they were playing that looked like a lock. After last week’s embarrassing home performance vs Ohio State, a 62-3 loss, Maryland needs to win one of their final two games to get to six wins. The Terps are coming of back to back huge losses to Michigan & Ohio State in which they were outscored by a combined 121-6 and outgained by a combined 697 yards! They got behind quickly in each of those games trailing Michigan 35-0 at half and Ohio State 45-3 at the break. In those two losses, the Terp defense allowed Michigan & Ohio State to score TD’s on 11 of their 14 combined first half drives. Maryland heads into this Saturday’s game @ Nebraska as a bruised and battered squad. Durkin suspended three players just before kickoff last week due to a violation of the athlete code of conduct. That included RB Lorenzo Harrison who had rushed for over 600 yards on the season. Then QB Perry Hills was injured (shoulder) on the 2nd series of the game and didn’t return. It was the fourth time this season Hills has been knocked out of a game due to injury. He may not play this week. Durkin will see what his team is made of as they try and rebound from their two worst losses they’ve ever had in Big Ten play coming in back to back weeks.

LAST YEAR – These two have not met since Maryland joined the Big Ten a few years ago.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The Terps have covered 8 straight games following a loss at home by 10 poitns or more. Maryland is 0-3 ATS their last 3 games. The last time the Terps failed to cover four games in a row was back in 2011. Nebraska has lost and failed to cover each of their last 3 home finales.

WISCONSIN (-27.5) @ PURDUE – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET

PURDUE – The Boilers officially eliminated themselves from bowl contention last Saturday with a 45-17 loss at home to Northwestern. That dropped Purdue to 3-7 on the year. PU jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead at home last week but then were outscored 45-7 the rest of the way. It continued a Purdue trend which we brought up in last week’s edition. They continue to play teams tight in the 1st half only to be demolished in the 2nd half. They trailed NW just 14-10 at half last week. In the last four games, Purdue has outscored their opponents 69-64 in the 1st half and they’ve gone on to lose the 2nd half of those four games by a combined score of 109-17! The defense continues to be absolutely shredded on a weekly basis. They rank dead last in the Big Ten (conference games only) in total defense allowing 500 YPG and in scoring defense giving up 44 PPG. They have allowed at least 30 points in every Big Ten game except one and they’ve given up at least 44 points in 5 of their 7 conference tilts. The Boilers played last week without their two best defenders – Jake Repogle and Ja’Whaun Bentley – and they may not be ready again this week. It was Purdue’s 15th consecutive loss in the month of November.

WISCONSIN – We keep waiting for this Wisconsin team to have a “letdown” type game and they just continue to play well. Last Saturday was a perfect scenario for potential flat game for the Badgers as they were hosting an overmatched Illinois team after playing a brutal stretch of games vs Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Nebraska, and Northwestern. All the Badgers did was come out and dominate 48-3 rushing for 363 yards while holding the Illini to 201 total yards. They were averaging just 18 PPG over their previous five games, albeit vs much better defenses, before busting out for almost 50 points last week. Head coach Paul Chryst continued his “musical QB’s” playing both Hornibrook and Houston for the 5th straight game although it really didn’t matter who lined up under center in this one. The QB’s combined to attempt just 13 passes but handed the ball off 64 times. After keeping Illinois out of the endzone the Badgers have given up just 8 TD’s in their 7 Big Ten games. If you take out their games vs Michigan and Ohio State they have allowed only 3 TD’s vs their other five conference opponents.

LAST YEAR – Wisconsin beat Purdue last year 24-7 in Madison. The Badgers had 418 total yards to just 191 for the Boilermakers.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Wisconsin has beaten Purdue 10 straight times (9-1 ATS in those games). This spread sits at Wisky -27.5 which is the highest number in any of the last 10 years. The closest margin of victory for Wisconsin vs Purdue over the last 8 years was last year when the Badgers won by “just” 17. Purdue has won only 3 of their last 24 Big Ten home games.

INDIANA @ MICHIGAN (-23.5) – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET

MICHIGAN – This line opened in the range of -26 all the way up to -28 at some spots. It dropped to -23.5 at most spots after the announcement that Michigan QB Wilton Speight would most likely be out for at least the remainder of the regular season due to a collarbone injury. Next in line for the Wolverines looks to be junior John O’Korn who transferred from Houston after losing his starting job to Greg Ward. He has appeared in eight games and gone 13 of 18 for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns as the team's primary backup quarterback. As you are now well aware, Michigan was beaten at Iowa 14-13 last week as a 20 point favorite. A struggling Hawkeye defense held the Wolverines a full 319 yards below their season average! Michigan came into the game thinking they could run all over an Iowa defense that allowed 359 yards on the ground a week earlier @ PSU. That wasn’t the case last Saturday as Michigan rushed for only 98 yards on just 2.8 YPC. The defense again played well enough to win holding Iowa to only 230 yards on 3.9 YPP. Even with the loss, Michigan came out at #3 in this week’s College FB poll which pretty much indicates if they win out, including the Big Ten Championship game, they are basically a shoe in for the College Football Playoff.

INDIANA – Indiana is still battling to get to that 6th win for bowl eligibility and they have to win one of their last two games to do it. Last week they lost at home to a red hot Penn State team 45-31. It was a disastrous start for IU who punted on their first two possessions and then fumbled on three of their next four. Even with that the game was tied at 14 at halftime. It could be argued that IU actually outplayed Penn State as the Hoosiers had more yards, more first downs, and were better on 3rd down (8 of 17). Two keys to the loss were Indiana’s 5 turnovers and the fact their defense allowed a number of big plays - nine plays of 20+ yards. Not only did those turnovers were lead to PSU points (14 points off turnovers) but the ones that didn’t came in Lion territory which prevented IU from potentially putting a bigger number on the board. The Hoosiers turned the ball over on the Penn State 24, 39, and 50 yard lines and were shut out on downs at the Nittany Lion 1 yard line. Defensively they held Penn State to just 77 yards rushing on 45 attempts (only 1.7 YPC). That was very impressive vs an offense the rolled up 257 & 359 yards rushing their previous two games. Michigan struggled to get any running game going last week which might be a glimmer of hope for this Indiana team.

LAST YEAR – Last year we saw a lot of offense in this match up. Michigan won @ Indiana in OT by a final score of 48-41. Both teams topped 500 yards of total offense.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – This series has been about as one sided as they come. Since 1980, Michigan is 27-1 SU in this series (17-11 ATS). Indiana has been an underdog in EVERY ONE of those 28 match ups, including going off as a double digit dog in 22 of those games. The Wolverines are 14-6 ATS (70%) coming off a SU loss dating back to the 2011 season.

NORTHWESTERN (-1) @ MINNESOTA – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET

MINNESOTA – After a 24-17 loss @ Nebraska last Saturday, the Gophers no longer control their own destiny in the Big Ten West. Wisconsin is now the only team that holds that distinction. The Minnesota offense struggled in the loss tallying only 265 total yards. They jumped out of the gate with 17 first half points but kept off the scoreboard after the break. The Gophs are now 4-3 in the Big Ten and 7-3 overall. A close look at their overall results reveals they don’t have an impressive win but also don’t have a bad loss. Their four conference wins have come against Rutgers, Maryland, Purdue, and Illinois who have a combined 5-23 Big Ten record. If you throw out their win against FCS Indiana State, their other two wins came against Colorado State & Oregon State, both one possession games at home. The fact is, they haven’t beaten a team that currently has a winning record and if you throw in their wins over OSU & CSU, the seven teams they’ve beaten have a combined record of 12-36. It also has to be said that their losses have all been very close with margins of 3 (vs PSU), 7 (vs Iowa), and 7 (vs Nebraska). While their wins aren’t impressive, the Gophers aren’t that far from being unbeaten. This will be Minnesota’s final home game before traveling to Wisconsin the last week of the regular season.

NORTHWESTERN – The Cats were in a battle at halftime last week at Purdue leading just 14-10. Going into halftime last week, Northwestern has only scored 21 points over their last 6 quarters combined. They broke out in a big way after halftime against a terrible Purdue defense tallying 31 points in the final 30 minutes. The Wildcat offense scored TD’s on their first four possessions of the 2nd half, kicked a FG on their fifth possessions, and were stopped on downs at the Purdue 1 yard line on their 6th and final possession of after the break. QB Clayton Thorson continued his big season throwing for a career high 352 yards vs the Boilers. This week he faces a Minnesota defense that has allowed more TD passes than any other team in the Big Ten (20) and currently ranks 12th in the league (all games included) allowing 231 YPG passing. Last Saturday’s win moved NW to within one game of bowl eligibility with a 5-5 record. That goal didn’t seem very reasonable early in the season when they lost 3 of their first 4 games including home setbacks to Illinois State and Western Michigan. After traveling to Minnesota this weekend the Cats host Illinois next week to close out the regular season.

LAST YEAR – Northwestern (-4.5) pitched a 27-0 shutout at home last year holding Minnesota to only 173 total yards.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Minnesota is 7-1 ATS their last 8 games following an outright loss. Northwestern was a road favorite last week @ Purdue and covered easily. That means since 1980 the Cats are 25-8 SU as a road favorite (20-13 ATS). Throw out their game vs FCS Indiana State and the Gophs are 0-5 ATS at home this year failing to cover those games by a combined 42 points or 8 PPG.

PENN STATE (-28) @ RUTGERS – Saturday at 8:00 PM ET

RUTGERS – Just when it looked like Rutgers might be “sort of” turning the corner, they were destroyed at Michigan State 49-0. The Knights had played two tight games vs Indiana and Minnesota the previous two weeks before the Spartans crushed them to pick up their first Big Ten win. An offense that looked like it was at least getting close to respectable under new starting QB Rescigno was simply terrible last week. Rescigno completed only 6 passes the entire game and the running game was held to just 3 YPC. Rutgers was forced to punt on 9 of their 13 offensive possessions, 2 ended in turnovers, and the other 2 the Knights had the ball as time ran out in the first half and at the end of the game. They have now lost seven consecutive games and the offense during that stretch has been shutout three times and scored just 7 points twice. The defense hasn’t been much better allowing at least 33 points in 5 of those 7 including giving up 49 or more three times during that span. You can bet that the Rutgers defense, which ranks 124th nationally vs the run, will get a heavy dose of the PSU ground game here after the Nits rushed for only 77 yards last week @ Indiana.

PENN STATE – Well it’s now official, win their final two games vs Rutgers and Michigan State and the Nittany Lions will win at least a share of the Big Ten East title. They will go to the Big Ten Championship game if they win out and Michigan loses @ Ohio State to close out the regular season. Michigan made this all possible by losing @ Iowa last Saturday. The Penn State offense is on a ridiculous roll right now. If you subtract their game vs Michigan in which they scored just 10 points, Penn State is averaging 40 PPG in their other six Big Ten games. Over the last three games alone they have put up 148 points. The offense has been extremely efficient scoring points on 23 of their last 36 offensive possessions minus drives that ended in a turnover. They’ve now won six games in a row and scored 30 TD’s during that stretch! Fifteen different players have scored TD’s this year for PSU. Now facing a Rutgers defense that has allowed 33 or more points in 5 of the last 6 games, we can expect another big showing from the Penn State offense.

LAST YEAR – Penn State has won both games in this series since Rutgers joined the Big Ten. Two years ago it was a tight 13-10 win on the road and last year an easy 28-3 win in Happy Valley.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – PSU has now covered 5 consecutive games covering 4 of those 5 games by at least 20 points! These two teams have met 16 times since 1982 and Penn State has won 15 of those games. All but 3 of those 15 wins came by at least 10 points.

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