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Big 10 Report
by ASA - 09/14/2017
ILLINOIS @ SOUTH FLORIDA (-17) – Thursday at 7:00 PM ET
The Illini are surprisingly 2-0 on the season. The Illinois win total before the season that was set by the oddsmakers was 3.5 so they are over half way there in just two weeks. After getting outplayed in week one (-159 yards) yet still getting a win over Ball State the Illini looked much better last week. After getting shut down on the ground vs Ball State gaining 2.4 YPC, they put up nearly 200 yards on the ground last week. The young Illinois defense, 3 freshmen in the starting line-up, held the high powered WKU attack (45 PPG last year) to just 7 points on only 244 total yards (4.1 yards per play). To give you some perspective on that defensive performance, the Hilltoppers had over 400 yards of total offense in every game last year with the exception of their tilt with Alabama when the Tide held them to 239.
USF comes in with a 2-0 record as well with wins over San Jose State and Stony Brook. Their game last week vs UConn was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. Their 31-17 win two weeks over Stony Brook wasn’t all roses as the Bulls actually trailed 10-7 before they got things under control in the 3rd quarter. Defensively they’ve held their first two opponents to an average of just 3.9 yards per play. The Bulls have 16 starters back from last year’s 11-2 team including QB Quintin Flowers who has already accounted for 535 total yards in the first two games. Former Texas head coach Charlie Strong is now the head coach for South Florida. We’ll keep an eye on how Hurricane Irma may affect this team’s preparation leading up to this game.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – USF has a 3-19 SU record their last 22 games vs Power 5 opponents. However all 3 of those wins have come in the last 2 seasons vs South Carolina and Syracuse (twice). The Bulls have been a favorite of -17 or more vs a Power 5 opponent just twice since 1980. Both games were vs Syracuse and USF won and covered both. Since 1990, the Illini have been a dog of 17 or more outside of conference play just twice (0-2 SU but 2-0 ATS).
AIR FORCE @ MICHIGAN (-25.5) – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
After dominating Florida two weeks ago, the Wolverines had a bit of a letdown at home vs Cincinnati last week. The Bearcats won their season opener vs Austin Peay a week earlier but looked horrendous in the process with fewer first first downs, yardage, and time of possession. In this game Michigan led 17-14 with under 4:00 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter before they took over and pushed the margin to 36-14. The defense continued to shine allowing just 200 total yards on 70 Bearcat offensive snaps (2.85 yards per play). On the season, two games, the Wolverine defense has allowed just 392 total yards! QB Wilton Speight played was much better this week with 221 yards and 2 TD’s passing. That was after throwing two pick 6’s and completing only 44% of his passes against Florida.
Air Force had last weekend off after throttling VMI 62-0 in their opener on September 2nd. The Flyboys outgained VMI 647 to 95 in that win which included 457 yards on the ground. The Falcons were 10-3 and finished 3rd nationally in rushing last year at 317 YPG. However they bring back only 7 starters from that team that put up 10 wins a year ago. That includes only one regular returning on defense where they lost 12 of their top 13 tackler from a year ago. These two last met in 2012 when Air Force came to the Big House and nearly pulled the upset losing 31-25 as a 21.5 point underdog.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Since 1980 Air Force has been a 3 TD or more underdog just 12 times (9-3 ATS). Since 1996 the Falcons are a perfect 6-0 ATS in that role. Since 2011, Michigan is 18-10-1 ATS as a favorite off an ATS loss the previous game.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS @ NEBRASKA (-14.5) – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
The Huskers are 1-1 on the season winning by a TD in week one at home vs Arkansas State and losing by a TD last week @ Oregon. If you watched the game last week, you realize that Nebraska was fairly fortunate to lose by just 7 points in Eugene. The Ducks led 14-0 less than 4 minutes into the game and held a 42-14 edge at halftime! They had nearly 400 total yards at halftime vs the new defensive 3x4 scheme Nebraska has implemented this season. That’s a defense that has allowed a whopping 1,063 yards already this season in just two games. Nebraska did rally in the 2nd half after Oregon took their foot off the gas to make it respectable. For the game Oregon outgained the Huskers by more than 200 yards and more than 2.0 yards per play. One of Nebraska’s top offensive weapons, RB Tre Bryant (300 yards rushing this year), injured his knee and is questionable for this Saturday’s game.
NIU gave Boston College all they could handle in week one before falling 23-20. They bounced back last week with an easy 28 point win over Eastern Illinois. They outgained the Panthers in that game by more than 300 yards. It was a balanced attack with 269 yards passing and 230 on the ground. Starting QB Ryan Graham put up 190 yards passing and 99 on the ground vs BC but didn’t play last week due to an elbow injury. He’ll be out 2-4 weeks. His replacement, Daniel Santacaterina, played very well last week with 252 yards passing with 3 TD’s. “Santa” as his teammates call him, threw for 216 of his 252 in the first half. The Huskies, who dominated the MAC between 2010 – 2014, are coming off their first losing season (5-7 record) since 2008.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The Huskies have covered 17 of the last 22 times they’ve been tabbed a road underdog. They are 22-9 ATS as a road underdog of 10 or more points since 1998. The Huskers are 22-12 ATS as a double digit favorite coming off an outright loss their previous game (since 1980).
WISCONSIN (-17.5) @ BYU – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
After destroying Utah State 59-10 to open the season, Wisconsin struggled a bit through last Saturday’s win over Florida Atlantic. The Badgers, a 34.5 point favorite, led 24-14 and limped to a 31-17 win. That was against an FAU team that lost 42-19 a week earlier to Navy AND were dealing with Hurricane distractions. Wisconsin did dominate the stats (+316 total yardage differential) but looked shaky at times offensively. They had 7 offensive drives of 5 plays or fewer that ended in a punt or a turnover. The offense put the defense in some bad spots as well as FAU’s two TD drives consisted of 5 plays & 2 plays. It looks like the Badgers have found another gem at the RB position as true freshman Jonathan Taylor, who has great size and speed, put up 223 yards on the ground in his first start. Taylor now has 310 yards rushing in two games and is average 8.9 YPC. UW was hit up front with a couple of injuries as both starting offensive guards, Beau Benzschawel and Jon Dietzen, are questionable with injuries.
BYU has already played three games on the season coming up short in two of those games. However their two losses were nothing to be ashamed of losing 27-0 @ LSU and 19-13 vs Utah. Their lone win on the season was at home vs Portland State 20-6. As you can see by the scores, this is an offense that has really struggled. They have scored just 4 offensive TD’s in 3 games this season. The Cougs have a grand total of 58 yards rushing in their last two games combined. Granted, two of those games came against very good defense teams in LSU & Utah. That won’t change here as Wisconsin has allowed 12 PPG in two games this year after finishing 4th nationally in scoring defense last season. BYU will most likely take the field without starting QB Tanner Mangum who injured his ankle near the end of the game last week. If Mangum can’t go, sophomore Beau Hoge, who has appeared in 3 games in his career, will get the start.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The line on this game before the season began was Wisconsin -10. Now just two weeks into the season we’re seeing the Badgers favored by as many as 18 as some spots. BYU’s QB injury situation has played into that. BYU is 22-10 ATS the last 32 times they’ve been an underdog (0-2 ATS this year included). The Cougars have been a home dog of more than 17 points only ONCE since 1980. That was in 2004 vs USC. Dating back to 1999, the Badgers are just 4-11 ATS the last 15 times they’ve been a road favorite of 2 TD’s or more.
NORTH TEXAS @ IOWA (-21) – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
The Hawkeyes won a thriller last week @ Iowa State to retain possession of the CyHawk trophy for the 3rd straight season. The 47-44 overtime win was an evenly played game on the field and the stat sheet. Iowa jumped out to a 21-10 lead early in the 3rd quarter only to see ISU come back and score 21 straight points to take a 31-21 lead with under 7:00 remaining in the game. The Cyclones led 38-31 until Iowa scored the game tying TD with just over 1:00 left on the clock. The 3-point win in OT for Iowa was a push as far as the spread was concerned. After a shaky debut in their opener vs Wyoming, first year QB Nate Stanley was terrific completing 27 of 41 for 333 yards and 5 TD’s. Defensively, after holding Wyoming to just 3.3 yards per play in their first game the Hawks were torched for 467 yards last Saturday.
North Texas goes on the road for the second straight week after losing @ SMU 54-32. UNT jumped out to a 10-0 lead in that game before SMU scored 38 straight points to take command. The Mean Green actually trailed 54-17 into the 4th quarter before scoring two meaningless TD’s to make the final margin 22 points. Surprisingly, the yardage was dead even in the game with each team rolling up 493 yards. However, nearly 200 of UNT’s yards came on their final three drives when the game was out of reach. These two met here in Iowa City just two years ago and UNT is hoping for a much better result. The Mean Green lost that game 62-16 as a 25 point favorite.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Since the start of the 2006 season, North Texas has played 16 Power 5 opponents losing 15 of those games. Their one win was at home vs Indiana 24-21. I their 15 Power 5 losses since 2006, 14 of those have come by at least 14 points and they have allowed at least 32 points in all 15 of those losses. Iowa has cashed in 65% of the time as a favorite of 21 or more dating all the way back to 1980 (33-18 ATS). However they are just 2-7 ATS in that role since 2009.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE @ MINNESOTA (-10.5) – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
Can the Gopher football team get some “revenge” for the Gopher basketball team in this one? The Minnesota hoops team took on MTSU in the opening round of last year’s NCAA tourney and came up short 81-72. The gridiron Gophs, after struggling a bit at home vs Buffalo in their opener, they went to Corvallis last Saturday a destroyed Oregon State 48-14. The Gophers scored 17 of their 48 points directly off Beaver turnovers. The game was tight at half with Minnesota leading 20-14. The defense played lights out in the 2nd half holding OSU scoreless on just 35 yards of offense. Offensively, Minny was so dominant running the ball (253 yards) they only attempted 8 passes the entire game. After splitting snaps with Demry Croft in the season opener, QB Conor Rhoda took most of the snaps vs the Beavs. He will take all of the snaps this weekend vs MTSU as Croft has been suspended by head coach PJ Fleck.
MTSU will take to the road for the second straight Saturday after pulling the upset @ Syracuse last week. The Blue Raiders came into last week’s game as a 7.5 point underdog and beat the Orange in the dome 30-23. They are now 1-1 on the season after losing at home to Vandy in the opener. The Raiders have proven they can get it done on the road as they have now won 8 of their last 10 road games. They have one of the most potent QB/WR combos in the country. QB Brent Stockstill returns after throwing for over 3,200 yards and 31 TD’s last year. His top target, WR Richie James, had 1,625 yards receiving last season. These two have faced off twice since 2010 with Minnesota winning at home in 2014 by a final score of 35-24. The Gophs also won @ MTSU 24-17 in 2010.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Minnesota is just 5-13 ATS (27%) as a favorite of -10 or more since the start of the 2007 season. They are also only 2-9 ATS the last 11 times they’ve been a home favorite. Not many upsets - despite their recent road success, MTSU is just 4-19 SU the last 23 times they’ve been a road underdog.
PURDUE @ MISSOURI (-7) – Saturday at 4:00 PM ET
The Boilers played much better than we expected last Friday Night. They were coming off a tight loss to Louisville (@ Indianapolis) in their opener and came home to face Ohio. Despite the tight 7 point margin vs the Cards, Purdue was dominated in that game. We envisioned a letdown vs a solid Ohio team but they proved us wrong. The Boilermakers rolled to a 44-21 win over the Bobcats and outgained them by 150 yards in the process. Head coach Jeff Brohm continued with the QB rotations of Sindelar and Blough as he did in the first game. Blough, who was the starter last year, was the better of the two in this game completing all but two of his 13 attempts for 235 yards and 3 TD’s. We stated in last week’s Big Ten report that we felt Purdue would try and establish their running game vs Ohio after doing next to nothing on the ground vs Louisville (just 51 yards). They did just that with 44 rushing attempts for 263 yards. All of that with their leading RB Markell Jones on the shelf with an injury.
Missouri kicked off the week by firing defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross. The Tiger defense allowed 43 & 31 points in their first two games of the season vs Missouri State and South Carolina. The offense is definitely the strength of this team. The Tigers brought back 10 starters from an offense that averaged 31 PPG last season. That includes QB Drew Lock, their top 2 rushers, and top 4 receivers. In their opener vs Missouri State the offense was unstoppable putting up 72 points. Last week, not so much, with just 13 vs South Carolina. They did put up over 400 yards but didn’t help themselves with 3 turnovers and a missed FG. After two weeks, the Tigers are the fastest paced offense in the nation averaging a snap every 18 seconds.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Mizzou is an impressive 25-7-1 ATS as a home favorite coming off a loss their previous game. While Purdue is a money making 13-3 ATS their last 16 games away from home, they only have 8 outright wins in their last 48 games away from home.
ARMY @ OHIO STATE (-30.5) – Saturday at 4:30 PM ET
How do the Buckeyes respond after getting dominated at home vs Oklahoma last Saturday night on prime time TV? That will go a long way in determining who covers this game. Let’s face it, after two weeks the Buckeyes don’t look like a top 5 type team. In their opener they struggled with Indiana and actually trailed the game late in the 3rd quarter before pulling away. Last week Oklahoma looked like the better team from the opening kick. The OSU offense, specifically the passing game, looked pedestrian. QB JT Barrett has not progressed under new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, which was part of the reason he was brought in. Slow starts on offense have been a problem as the Buckeyes have scored just 16 points in the first half this season. The defense was supposed to be one of Urban Meyer’s best but has allowed 52 points and over 900 total yards in two games. This one could have been worse. In their first four drives the Sooners were shut out on downs, had two turnovers, and missed a FG. After that OU scored points on 5 of their next 6 drives to put the game away.
Army could be a dangerous opponent in this one. Especially if the OSU players are sulking after last week’s loss. The Cadets run an offense that OSU rarely sees. With just a week to prepare and the potential distractions off a big loss Army could have some success. The Cadets are 2-0 with wins over Fordham and Buffalo and this team rarely throws the ball. In their opener they rushed for 517 yards and had just 2 pass attempts. Last week vs Buffalo they had 322 yards on the ground and threw the ball only 8 times. They were 8-5 a year ago, including a bowl win, and they return 16 starters. If they can have some success on the ground they will eat clock which may make it tough for OSU to cover this huge number. They have lost by 30 points or more just twice in their last 36 games.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Army is 6-2 ATS as a dog of 28 or more since the start of the 2000 season. They’ve been tabbed an underdog for 4 TD’s or more only 12 times in the last 28 seasons. The Buckeyes are 6-1 ATS the last 7 times they’ve been a double digit favorite and coming off an outright loss.
BOWLING GREEN @ NORTHWESTERN (-21.5) – Saturday at 7:30 PM ET
Northwestern has been a disappointment in their first two games to say the least. They have failed to cover each of the first two games by a combined 39 points! Last Saturday they traveled to Duke as a 2 point favorite and were thoroughly embarrassed. The Cats lost 41-17 and were outgained by a ridiculous 347 yards on the process. The Devils completely controlled the game from the opening kick running an unheard of 104 offensive plays to just 54 for Northwestern. You read that correctly. Duke ran 50 more offensive plays in the game. The defense couldn’t slow down Duke QB Jones who had 413 total yards. The NW offense, which was supposed to be a strength this year under returning QB Clayton Thorson and top RB Justin Jackson, failed to gain more than 15 yards in 10 of their 13 offensive possessions.
Bowling Green might be the perfect medicine for a struggling Northwestern team. BG is 0-2 on the season with losses @ Michigan State and at home vs South Dakota. They have been outgained by a combined 300 yards in their first two games. Their 35-10 road loss @ MSU was to be expected however their home loss to an FCS team is obviously concerning. The Falcons never led last week vs South Dakota and trailed 35-19 late in the game before tacking on a TD to make the final 35-19. After two games Bowling Green has yet to hold a lead. They have scored just 3 offensive TD’s on the season. The Falcons have struggled to stop the run (430 yards allowed this season) and been outgained on the ground by 200 yards combined in their two games. Look for NW to pound the ball with Justin Jackson who has only 127 yards in two games.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – This is rarified air for Northwestern who has been a favorite of 21 or more only 9 times in the last 28 seasons. They are just 3-6 ATS in those games including a spread loss at home vs Nevada in the season opener as a 24 point chalk. The Cats are just 5-14 ATS as a home favorite coming off an outright loss. BG is 0-1 ATS on the road this season, however coming into the year they were 39-18-1 ATS their previous 58 games away from home.
GEORGIA STATE @ PENN STATE (-38.5) – Saturday at 7:30 PM ET
The Nittany Lions rolled over in-state rival Pitt by a final score of 33-14. Depending on your number it was a loss or a tie if you were on PSU. The line was -21 for much of the week before dropping to -19 closer to game time. While it looked like it on the scoreboard, we’d say it was far from a dominating win for the Nits. The Panthers were actually +10 in first downs, +30 in total yardage, and had a whopping 17:00 minute time of possession edge. How did PSU win by such a wide margin? Three Pittsburgh turnovers and a number of blown offensive opportunities by the Panthers made this score more lopsided than it should have been. This could set up as a dangerous type game for Penn State when it comes to the spread. They are off a huge revenge/rivalry game and have a big game @ Iowa on deck. They can probably name the score but do they really need to win by 40+?
Georgia State was 3-9 last year and they are 0-1 this season. However, they were a team last season that rarely was blown out by huge margins. They took Wisconsin (-34.5) to the wire in Madison losing 23-17. Their only two complete duds a year ago were @ Air Force (lost by 34) and @ Wyoming (lost by 25). Other than that they were fairly competitive. They also have had two full weeks to get ready for this game and it’s a big one for them. On top of that, they had an embarrassing loss to open the season losing 17-10 to Tennessee State back on Sept 2nd. This team does return 15 starters including QB Connor Manning who threw for 2,700 yards and 16 TD’s last year. They are under the direction of a new head coach however as Shawn Elliott came over after one year as FAU’s offensive coordinator. He was at South Carolina as an assistant for the seven years prior to that.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – This is the highest a PSU team has been favored (vs an FBS team) since the 1998 season. Since 1980, the Nittany Lions have been favored by more than 35 points just 9 times (9-0 SU & 6-3 ATS). Georgia State has played 8 Power 5 teams in their schools history. They have lost all 8 of those games by an average margin of 34 points.