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Big 10 Weekly Preview
by ASA - 09/07/2017
Ohio @ Purdue (-3.5) – Friday at 8:00 PM ET
Ohio – The Bobcats picked up an easy 59-0 win last week at home vs Hampton. They rushed for 248 yards and 7 TD’s in the game. The defense walled off Hampton for just 108 total yards on a paltry 1.9 yards per play. Hampton trailed 20-0 at half and was able to muster only 15 total yards in 7 second half possessions. The Bobcats have covered 6 of their last 7 road games dating back to last season.
Purdue – The Boilers fared much better than many thought in their opener under new head coach Jeff Brohm. They were 26.5 point underdogs to the Louisville Cardinals and actually had the lead into the 4th quarter. Louisville scored the final 10 points of the game, in the final 9:00 minutes, and won 35-28. The final 7-point margin was the Cards largest lead of the game. Despite the tight contest throughout, neither team ever led by more than 8 points, Louisville dominated the statistics. The Birds rolled up 524 yards on 6.6 yards per play. Heisman trophy returning QB Lamar Jackson accounted for a whopping 485 of Louisville’s 524 yards. Purdue had 344 total yards on 4.4 yards per play. The Boilers will probably try and establish a running game in this one as 293 of their 344 yards vs Louisville came through the air. They did so with 2 QB’s with Elijah Sindelar getting the first start of his career (118 yards & 2 TD’s) with last year’s starter David Blough (175 yards & 2 TD’s) entering in the 2nd quarter. Blough played through the 3rd quarter and Sindelar came back in the 4th and finished the game. Can Purdue bounce back after the disappointing loss with a game @ Missouri on deck? That will play a key role in this one. If you subtract their games vs FCS opponents, Purdue has been a favorite just 4 times in the last 4 seasons (2-2 both SU and ATS).
Florida Atlantic @ Wisconsin (-31.5) – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
FAU – Lane Kiffin’s lid lifter as the FAU head coach didn’t go well. In a game that lasted nearly 6 hours due to 3 lightning delays, the Owls were trounced by Navy 42-19. Kiffin’s debut saw his team get outrushed to the tune of 416 yards to 40! Navy held the ball for 40 minutes to just 20 for FAU. Those are all bad signs for this weekend as the Owls travel to Wisconsin to face the Badgers who will obviously look to run the ball a lot on Saturday. With a defense that was worn down last Saturday facing 68 Navy rushing attempts, Wisconsin is not the ideal opponent to have to enter the ring against just a week later. FAU comes into this game having lost 24 of their last 30 games dating back to the 2014 season.
Wisconsin – The Badgers started more than slowly last Saturday as they trailed Utah State 10-0 with just over 1:00 minute remaining the first half. Wisconsin’s offense was out of synch putting up only 40 total yards (0 points) on their first four drives of the game. After the slow start, UW’s offense rolled up 59 points in 31 minutes on 438 yards. They scored points on 8 of their final 9 drives with their only non-scoring possession ending in a Wisconsin fumble. Sophomore QB Alex Hornibrook was solid and it looks like the Badgers will have a 3 headed monster at RB with Bradrick Shaw, Chris James, and true freshman Jonathan Taylor, who averaged nearly 10 YPC last Friday. Taylor very well may get more work this weekend (9 carries last week) as starter Shaw injured his leg and is listed as questionable. Update – Shaw has been getting some work in practice and may play on Saturday. We’re guessing with a blowout expected, the coaches will be careful with him.
Western Michigan @ Michigan State (-7) – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
WMU – After losing head coach PJ Fleck, starting QB Zach Terrell, and WR Corey Davis, there were some questions for the Broncos heading into this season after a near perfect 12-1 year in 2016. They answered those questions with a fantastic effort @ USC. The Trojans (-29) won 48-31 but the game was much closer than the final score might indicate. In nearly 100 degree heat, USC led just 35-31 with under 4:00 minutes remaining in the game. The Trojans final two scores were on a 52 yard run and a 37 yard pick six just 36 seconds apart. While the Broncos passing game struggled with new QB Jon Wassink at the helm (just 67 yards passing) their rushing attack was dominant with 263 yards facing a talented USC front seven. We’ll find out more about this team on Saturday when they face an MSU defense that allowed only 67 rushing vs Bowling Green last Saturday. Can they put in another top notch performance on the road after last week’s disappointment? Will the physical toll of playing USC in brutal heat play a factor this week? These two met in 2015 with Sparty tabbed as a 16.5 point favorite. MSU won 37-24.
Michigan State – Sparty bounced back nicely in their season opener after last year’s disappointing 3-9 season. Just a season removed from their appearance in College Football’s Final 4, MSU won only 1 Big Ten game in 2016. Last week they rolled over Bowling Green 35-10 holding the Falcons to just 9 first downs. It could have been much worse as BG’s only TD came on a MSU fumble in the endzone and the Spartans also coughed it up at the Falcon 1-yard line going in to score. QB was a major issue for Michigan State last season. If last week is any indication they should be in much better hands this season. Starter Brian Lewerke threw for 250 yards and 3 TD’s last week to go along with his 69 yards rushing. Despite rushing for 215 yards last week, the MSU running game is still a bit of a concern. It took them 46 attempts to get to that 215 number (4.7 YPC) and their leading rusher for the game was their QB. That was against a defense that allowed 191 YPG a year ago. Their starting tailback, LJ Scott, had only 39 yards on 15 carries. This week they face a potentially tired WMU defense that allowed 232 yards rushing @ USC last Saturday. Our database shows that MSU has played a team from the MAC 21 times since 1997. The oddsmakers starting setting lines for MAC teams in 1998 and since then this is the lowest number for MSU vs the MAC. In fact, this is the only time they’ve been a single digit favorite vs the MAC.
Eastern Michigan @ Rutgers (-4) – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
EMU – The Eagles kicked off the season with a 24-7 home win over Charlotte last weekend. Senior QB Brogan Roback, who’s thrown for 6,000 yards in his EMU career, completed 71% of his passes for 267 yards in last week’s win. The defense also did their part holding Charlotte to one TD on only 4.3 yards per play. It was the 2nd straight year the Eagles topped Charlotte after winning 37-19 on the road. The Eagles seem to be headed in the right direction under Chris Creighton. They had a winning record last season and went to a bowl game. Not bad after finishing with a record of just 7-41 from 2012 through 2015
Rutgers - Emotionally it will be interesting to see where Rutgers stands in this game. There was much build up heading into last weekend’s home opener vs Washington. It was a revenger from last year’s embarrassing blowout @ Husky Stadium. The Scarlet Knights showed very well last week easily covering the 28 point spread in their 30-14 loss to one of the top teams in the country. A 61 yard punt return for TD late in the 1st half turned the game around for the Huskies. It was their 3rd punt/kick return for a TD vs Rutgers in the last 2 years. Similar to last season, Rutgers more than held their own in the stat sheet getting outgained by just 59 yards. It was the Knights 10th consecutive loss under head coach Chris Ash and we’ll see how they respond this Saturday as a favorite. Rutgers has covered just 5 of the last 18 times they’ve been tabbed a favorite dating back to the 2012 season.
Northwestern (-3.5) @ Duke – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
Duke – There wasn’t much to be gained on our end from Duke’s 60-7 win over NC Central last weekend. The Devils looked great on both sides of the ball outgaining NCC by 364 yards in a game they led 40-0 midway through the 2nd quarter. However, the competition was obviously poor so we won’t get a solid gauge on Duke until after this week’s game. Remember, the Devils basically did the same last year routing NC Central to open the season winning 49-6 but went on to lose 8 of their next 11 games. Between November of 2004 and September of 2013, Duke was a home dog 38 times. The pulled off an upset a grand total of TWICE in those 38 games (2-36 SU record). However, from September of 2013 through last season, they were a home dog just 5 times but won 3 of those games outright (3-2 SU record).
Northwestern - This will be the 3rd consecutive years these high level academic schools have met on the gridiron. Northwestern has taken the first two meetings 19-10 in 2015 and 24-13 last year. The spread in this year’s contest is an interesting number. The Cats are currently favored by -3.5 on the road. For comparison’s sake, last year NW was favored by 4 at home which is basically the same number as we are seeing this year except the game is @ Duke. Two years ago the Devils were a -3.5 point favorite at home so this spread is definitely not in line with those previous odds. Despite NW winning both of those games, the combined stat sheet of those two games were almost identical (Northwestern 37 first downs & 677 total yards / Duke 39 first downs & 721 total yards). The Wildcats were shaky at best in their opener vs Nevada. They came into the game at 24 point favorites and never came close to that number. Their biggest lead of the game was the final score of 31-20 and NW grabbed that margin with only 52 seconds remaining in the game. They did outgain the Wolfpack 508 to 341 but the Wildcats also ran 88 offensive plays to just 63 for Nevada. With that the yards per play average was very close with Northwestern at 5.7 and Nevada 5.4. Since 1980, the Wildcats have been a road favorite 34 times covering the spread in 20 of those games (59%).
Cincinnati @ Michigan (-34) – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
Cincinnati – The new head coach at Cincinnati is Luke Fickell who was an assistant at Ohio State since 2002. He should have a good feel for Michigan to say the least. The Bearcats were less than impressive in their season opener. They topped Austin Peay 26-14 but were outplayed from beginning to end. Cincinnati had 5 fewer first downs, 65 fewer total yards and they were -15:00 minutes in time of possession. They were also outrushed 224 to 97 by the FCS team. The Governors fumbled at the Cincy 34 yard line, threw an interception at the Bearcat 2 yard line, and were shut out on downs at the Cincinnati 3 yard line. If not for those three crucial mistakes deep into Cincinnati territory resulting in no points, we could have been talking about an upset here. The Bearcats have not been a dog of more than 30 points since the 1999 season and only twice since 1991.
Michigan – The Wolverines dominated Florida more than the 33-17 score would indicate. The Gator offense did next to nothing the entire day. They had just 192 total yards and just 11 on the ground. The Florida offense didn’t score a single TD in the game as their two trips to the endzone came on interception returns. Not bad for a defense that lost 10 of their 11 starters from last season. With the score Florida 17, Michigan 13 at halftime, the Wolverines came out and scored a TD and two FG’s in the first 6:00 minutes of the 2nd half. Florida’s offense had only 3 first downs the entire 2nd half before their meaningless final possession which started with 1:37 left in the game. Offensively Michigan played well with the exception of starting QB Wilton Speight. He had only 11 completions in 25 attempts and threw two pick 6’s on back to back plays in the 2nd quarter to give Florida their only TD’s of the game as we mentioned earlier. Harbaugh has given Speight a vote of confidence and he will start again this week vs Cincinnati. On a sidenote, it was Florida’s first season opening loss since 1990, a run of 27 straight wins! Michigan is just 12-21 ATS (36%) as a home favorite of -28 or more dating back to 1980.
Iowa (-2.5) @ Iowa State – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
Iowa State – The Cyclones play their second of back to back in-state teams this Saturday. After beating Northern Iowa 42-24 last Saturday ISU hosts Iowa this week. The Cyclones have been waiting for this one after getting embarrassed last year in Iowa City 42-3. The Hawkeyes dominated that game outgaining ISU 435 to 291. Surprisingly it was the first time since 2011 that the home team actually took home the CyHawk Trophy which goes to the winner of this intense rivalry. The road team had won 4 straight entering last season. The Clones relatively easy win over UNI last week was a solid start. Northern Iowa is one of the top programs in FCS and actually beat Iowa State last season. The stats were fairly close however Iowa State had two interceptions returned for TD’s which gave them 14 of their 42 points in the win.
Iowa – The Hawkeyes thwarted a solid Wyoming offense and QB Josh Allen last week. Allen is rated by some NFL scouts as the top QB in college this season. Iowa held Allen to only 173 yards passing on just 4.4 yards per pass attempt. The Hawkeyes defensive goal coming into the game was to take away the big play. They did just that as Allen completed a grand total of ONE pass for more than 14 yards the entire game. The Cowboys rushing attack did next to nothing to help him out (59 yards rushing). That was an impressive performance by the Iowa defense. The concern? The offense looked pedestrian at best. New QB Nate Stanley was “OK” completing 8 of his 15 pass attempts. The running game wasn’t great either as they put up 138 yards on just 3.8 YPC. Iowa running backs Akrum Wadley and James Butler had a grand total of TWO runs of more than 10 yards the entire game. That was against a defense that allowed nearly 470 total yards per game last season. It’s obvious Iowa’s defense will carry them this year but they’ll need some help from the offense when they start facing better competition. After dominating this series from 1983 – 1997 with a perfect 15-0 record, Iowa has a record of just 9-10 vs Iowa State from 1998 – current.
Indiana (-3) @ Virginia – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
Virginia – The Cavaliers kicked off head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s 2nd season at the helm with a 28-10 win over William & Mary last Saturday. While that win may seem like a given, let’s remember that this UVA team lost at home to Richmond in Mendenhall’s debut last year on their way to a 2-10 season. Returning starting QB Kurt Benkert had a great game completing 27 of 39 for 262 yards and 3 TD’s. The running game will have to be much better this week however as they averaged only 2.9 YPC vs the FCS foe. Since November 21st of 2015, Virginia has won a grand total of two home games (William & Mary and Central Michigan).
Indiana – The Hoosiers head to Virginia off probably their biggest home opener ever. IU played host to Ohio State last Thursday to open not only the season but the conference season. The Hoosiers had the Buckeyes on their heals in the first half and went into the break leading by a point. They still led 21-20 late in the 3rd quarter before the Buckeyes took over. Through the first 38 minutes of game time, OSU scored just 13 points. They went on to score 36 points over the last 22 minutes as IU started to turn the ball over on offense. Defensively, IU played very well in the 1st half but was obviously worn down heading into the fourth quarter. That was fairly evident looking at the OSU offensive drive chart. After the Buckeyes 13 play drive that ended in a TD getting them to 20 points, their remaining scoring drives were 1, 5, 5, 1, and 13 plays. The high paced game featured a whopping 181 offensive plays. The Hoosiers attempted a ridiculous 68 passes in the game. Since 2000, IU has been a road favorite just 13 times (9-4 SU, 6-6-1 ATS).
Pittsburgh @ Penn State (-21) – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
Pittsburgh – Just a huge swing in the line here from just one year ago. These two met in Pittsburgh last season and the Panthers were favored by 3.5. Now they are 21 point dogs so a massive 24 point swing in the line in just 365 days. The Panthers jumped out to a big 28-7 lead in the 2nd quarter in that game and then hung on for dear life winning 42-39. PSU actually had the ball down to the Pitt 30 yard line going in for the winning score or tying FG late in the game but threw an interception which ended the huge comeback attempt. Speaking of hanging on for dear life, Pitt played host to FCS power Youngstown State last weekend (coached by former Nebraska head man Bo Pelini) and jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead. While the Panthers then looked to go into cruise control mode, YSU made a furious comeback outgaining Pitt by more than 200 yards in the 2nd stanza and sending the game into OT tied at 21. Pittsburgh won 28-21 on overtime. Head coach Pat Naduzzi admitted he had a “vanilla” gameplan and wanted to simply get out of the YSU game with a win without showing very much to Penn State. Max Browne (140 yards passing) made his first start at QB for Pitt after transferring from USC. Since the start of the 2001 season, Pitt has been a dog or 20 or more just 5 times (4-1 ATS).
Penn State – The Nittany Lions opened as huge 31 point favorites last week at home vs Akron. The line dropped throughout the week and went off at -29. The line move was definitely wrong at the Lions absolutely dominated an Akron team that should be fairly solid in the MAC this year. Penn State led 35-0 at half in route to a 52-0 shutout. This offense returns nearly everyone from last year’s Big Ten Championship team and it showed as they racked up 569 total yards. The Lions were balanced in doing so with RB Saquan Barkley rushing for 172 yards on just 14 carries and QB Trace McSorely passing for 280 yards. Defensively they completely shut down the Zips to only 2.5 yards per play (159 total yards). The closest Akron got to paydirt was the PSU 33 yard line and that was on the final play of the game. They crossed into Penn State territory only two times the entire game. Penn State has been a favorite of 20 or more in this state series just 4 times since 1980 (1-3 ATS).
Western Kentucky (-7.5) @ Illinois – Saturday at 8:00 PM ET
Western Kentucky – These two last met 3 years ago here in Champaign. The Illini were 3.5 points favorites in that game and won 42-34. Western Kentucky comes in with a 1-0 mark after topping Eastern Kentucky 31-17 last week. It was Mike Sanford’s debut as head coach after last year’s head man Jeff Brohm moved on to Purdue. Sanford was the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame last year. While WKU was quite vanilla offensively compared to past editions of the Hilltopper offense, Sanford made it clear the play calling and formations will change “drastically” from one week to the next. Western led the nation in scoring last year at 45 PPG and averaged 7.6 yards per play. In last Saturday’s win, they averaged just over 5 yards per play. The Hilltoppers have NEVER been favored vs a Big Ten team on the road, until this game that is.
Illinois – The Illini had all kinds of trouble with Ball State last Saturday. While they did win 24-21, they were shaky at best in doing so. They needed a blocked Ball State FG as time expired to preserve the 3 point win. Despite the win for Illinois, Ball State simply looked like the better team. The outgained the Illini by 160 yards and had 7 more first downs. Illinois led 16-7 at half but two long TD drives from the Cardinals to open the 2nd half gave them a 21-16 led. BSU held onto that 5 point margin until just 2:00 minutes remaining in the game when Illinois scored a TD and completed a 2-point conversion to grab the 24-21 lead. The Illinois offense looks again like it lacks big play ability and the numbers in week one showed just that with only 4 plays the entire game gaining more than 15 yards. Ball State ran 85 offensive plays in the game to just 49 for Illinois. This is just the 2nd time since 1998 the Illini have been a home underdog of 7 or more vs a non-conference opponent. The only other was in 2013 when they destroyed Cincinnati 45-17 as a 9.5 point underdog.
Oklahoma @ Ohio State (-7.5) – Saturday at 7:30 PM ET
Oklahoma – While both teams are very talented on both sides of the ball, one might consider this a potential coaching mismatch. The Sooners Lincoln Riley is the youngest head coach in the FBS and will be on the sidelines for just the 2nd time in his career as a head coach. Last week was this first game as a head coach and it was a great debut to say the least. OU overwhelmed UTEP in a 56-7 win. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield threw for 329 yards and 3 TD’s with ONE incompletion. That’s right, Mayfield had one incomplete pass the entire game. As good as the offense was, UTEP head coach Sean Kugler admitted that OU’s defense wore his team down. The Miners had a great opening drive going 78 yards in 8 plays to tie the game at 7-7. However, after their opening drive, UTEP had 11 more offensive possessions and gained a total of 89 yards. Five of the last eight times that Oklahoma has been an underdog of a TD or more, they have won the game outright.
Ohio State – While Oklahoma has an inexperienced head coach, Ohio State does not. Urban Meyer comes into this one with 165 career wins as a head coach. As mentioned above, Riley has 1. Ohio State started extremely slow last week and trailed Indiana 14-13 at half. They went on to roll up 46 second half points in the 28 point blowout. Despite playing without starting tailback Mike Weber, the Bucks were able to roll over IU for 292 yards on the ground. It looks like Weber will be back in the line up this Saturday. OSU ran the ball 51 times to just 27 rushing attempts for Indiana. There is some concern that the Ohio State defense might have some holes after Indiana ripped off 437 total yards. The Buckeyes face a much more potent offense this weekend in Oklahoma so that side of the ball better shore up quickly. These two met last year @ Oklahoma and Ohio State won easily 45-24 as a 3.5 point favorite. Big plays from Ohio State were the difference in that game as the offense scored TD’s on plays of 37 & 36 yards, the defense added a 68 yard pick six, and the special teams chipped in for a 97 yard kickoff return. Ohio State has won 31 of their last 36 home games by at least 7 points.
Nebraska @ Oregon (-14) – Saturday at 4:30 PM ET
Oregon – This is a rematch from last year when Nebraska squeaked by Oregon 35-32 in Lincoln. Neither team could stop the run in that game with Nebraska rushing for 228 yards and Oregon 336. The Huskers were -3 on that game and now are full 2 TD underdog in Eugene this year. The Ducks opened last week at home vs Southern Utah and it could not have gone any better offensively. They returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a TD and didn’t stop after that. They scored 11 TD’s on over 700 yards of total offense in their 77-21 win. Not a bad showing for Oregon in new head coach Willie Taggart’s debut. Defensively Oregon wasn’t great allowing 365 yards and 21 points to the FCS team. The Thunderbirds could have put up a bigger number as they were stopped 3 times on downs in Oregon territory and missed a FG. The Ducks also need to shape up their discipline as they had well over 100 yards in penalties. There is a chance this game may get postponed due to air quality problems from the wildfires currently burning in Oregon. Over the last 2 seasons the Ducks have covered just 3 of their 13 home games.
Nebraska – The Huskers got a bit of a scare in their home opener last week. Nebraska almost blew a 15 point second half lead when Arkansas State pushed the ball to the Husker 11 yard line with under 30 seconds left and had a few chances at the game tying TD. Nebraska won 43-36 but their new 3/4 defense under coordinator Bob Diaco (former Notre Dame DC) did not play as planned. Arkie State ripped the Big Red defense for nearly 500 yards. Red Wolf QB Justice Hansen shredded the Nebraska secondary for 415 yards and 3 TD’s. Unlike the defense, the Husker offense played very well averaging 6.6 yards per play. The much anticipate debut of QB Tanner Lee also went well as he threw for 238 yards and 2 TD’s. The Huskers have been an underdog of 14 or more only 10 times since the start of the 1980 season (6-4 ATS).
Minnesota @ Oregon State (-2) – Saturday at 10:00 PM ET
Oregon State – The Beavers are one of the few teams that already have two games under their belt. They were blown out two weeks ago @ Colorado State 58-27. The game wasn’t nearly as lopsided as the final score would indicate. The yardage wasn’t all that lopsided with CSU outgaining Oregon State by 69 yards. The key was five OSU turnovers that led to 27 Colorado State points. Last week they played host to FCS foe Portland State. The Beavs were outgained by 126 yards in the game and needed a TD pass with just 1:08 remaining to secure the 35-32 win. PSU ran 82 offensive plays in the game to just 57 for the Beavers. Oregon State coach Gary Andersen, former coach at Wisconsin, has been rotating two QB’s, Jake Luton & Darrell Garrettson, many times during the same drive. Like Oregon, the Oregon State brass are monitoring the wildfires in the area and the option to postpone the game remains open due to potential air quality problems. The Beavs are just 7-14 ATS the last 21 times they’ve been a home favorite.
Minnesota – The PJ Fleck era is underway in Minnesota. There was massive build up to his opening game as coach last week vs Buffalo and while they did get the 17-7 win, it didn’t live up to the hype. Fleck’s high flying, high scoring offense at Western Michigan (39 PPG last year) didn’t transfer over to the Gophs, at least in game one. Minnesota was very conservative offensively running the ball 51 times. The Gophers are inexperienced and neither Conor Rhoda or Demry Croft separated themselves during spring ball or in camp leading up to this game. Thus, Fleck played both. Croft is more of a threat to run (32 yards rushing) while Rhoda is the more consistent passer (176 yards through the air). Minny scored TD’s on 2 of their first 4 drives and ended the first quarter with 14 points. They then struggled offensively for much of the final 3 quarters. It looks like this team may have to lean on their defense as they have in recent seasons. They played well at the point of attack and held the Bulls to only 51 yards rushing on 22 attempts. Minny is 13-4-1 ATS their last 18 road games.