Get the best handicapping articles and gambling advice throughout the football, basketball and baseball seasons from the world's top sports handicappers, as well as from Bovada (Bodog) Sportsbook and Casino.
Big 10 Football Report
by ASA - 11/09/2017
**Odds listed are as of Wednesday, November 8th and are subject to change**
IOWA @ WISCONSIN (-12) – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
Wow. Sure Iowa caught Ohio State in a great spot for a letdown coming off their big PSU comeback win, but 55-24? Nobody saw that coming. Entering last week’s game, the Hawkeye offense had topped 19 points only once in their previous 5 conference games. The only team they looked good offensively against was Illinois who is the worst team in the Big Ten. Take that game out and Iowa had averaged just 14 PPG. That’s 56 points in four conference games for Iowa (vs Northwestern, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Penn State) and 100 in the other two (Ohio State and Illinois)! After getting outgained in each of their first four Big Ten games, the Hawks have now outgained Minnesota (by 34 yards) and Ohio State (by 116 yards) on back to back weeks. This offense was as balanced as they could possibly be last week rushing for 243 yards and passing for 244 yards. That was vs an OSU defense that held a very potent PSU team to 283 total yards and just 91 yards rushing a week earlier. Iowa QB Nate Stanley is slowing turning into one of the Big Ten’s best. He led the way last Saturday with 5 TD passes and no interceptions. On the season, Stanley, a sophomore, now has 23 TD’s and just 4 interceptions. Their rushing attack was averaging 3.6 YPC in league play coming into the game and ripped the OSU defense for 6.4 YPC on Saturday. It’s not like the Buckeyes did nothing offensively. They had 371 total yards and averaged 5.8 YPP. Four OSU turnovers, however, turned into 17 Iowa points and one interception was in the endzone taking points away from the Bucks.
Wisconsin looked a bit vulnerable last week as we felt they might. The Badgers got down 10-0 in the game before outscoring Indiana 45-7 the rest of the way. As per usual Wisconsin dominated the ground game 237 to 40 which led to a 2 to 1 time of possession edge. Freshman RB Jonathan Taylor came back strong after sitting out the 2nd half of the Illinois game with a leg injury. Taylor ran for 45 yards on the Badgers first play from scrimmage and racked up 183 yards rushing for the game. We’ve mentioned it before but this offense is completely different with Taylor in the game. The concern is his durability moving forward. He is a true freshman and he’s already carried the ball 190 times on the season which is the most in the Big Ten. After allowing 146 yards and 10 points on IU’s first three drives of the game, the UW defense locked in. After that, they gave up just 120 total yards and 7 points on the Hoosiers final 10 offensive possessions. The Badger defense has held every opponent but one to 17 points or less and in the one game they didn’t, vs Northwestern, the Cats scored 2 TD’s in the final 4:46 of the game to get to 24. Wisconsin definitely has some injury concerns heading into this game as their top WR Quintez Cephus is out and could be for awhile with a leg injury. They’ll also be missing starting LB Chris Orr as both were injured last week.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Wisconsin topped Iowa 17-9 on the road last year and outgained the Hawks 423 to 236. That was the 4th win in the last 5 meetings for the Badgers with their only loss during that stretch coming in 2015 by a final score of 10-6. The road team has covered 8 of the last 10 in this intense rivalry. This current number of Wisconsin -13 is quite high for this series. In fact, the last time either of these teams were favored by double digits in this match up was back in 2000. This series has been a low scoring, defensive battle for the most part as only 6 of the last 34 meetings have topped 50 points. The Hawkeyes have been a double digit underdog twice this year and covered both easily beating OSU outright as a 21 point dog and nearly upsetting PSU as a 13 point dog. That makes Iowa and impressive 15-4-1 ATS the last 20 times they’ve been an underdog of 10 points or more
MICHIGAN STATE @ OHIO STATE (-15.5) – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
MSU pulled the big upset at home last week topping Penn State to keep their fate in their own hands when it comes to the Big Ten East title. Sparty kicked the game winning field goal as time ran out and topped the Nittany Lions 27-24. The game was interrupted by a 3 hour and 22 minute lightning delay as the contest took 7 hours from start to finish. That win sets up the Spartans huge showdown with OSU this week as both teams control their own destiny in the Big Ten East. MSU’s rush defense continues to be a brick wall holding a very good Penn State rushing attack to just 65 yards. They continue to lead the Big Ten in rush defense allowing just 87 YPG on 2.9 YPC. The only conference game in which they allowed more than 100 rushing yards was vs Michigan and the Wolverines tallied just 102 on the ground in that game. This week’s match up at Ohio State will be an interesting one to say the least with the old cliché “unstoppable force vs immovable object” coming into play. That’s because OSU’s running game leads the Big Ten averaging 5.9 YPC. If MSU’s defense has trouble slowing down the Buckeyes, can the Spartan offense keep up? MSU is 11th in the league in scoring at just 24 PPG, a full 20 points below Ohio State. Last Saturday was just the 2nd time in the last 7 games the Spartans were able to top 18 points (in regulation). If QB Brian Lewerke keeps up his stellar play, they may just be able to. Lewerke has thrown for 845 yards and 6 TD’s in his last two games alone.
What can we say about Ohio State? They were obviously flat last week after coming from behind to beat Penn State a week earlier. It was a game OSU had circled for a year and they weren’t ready for what was about to hit them last week. QB JT Barrett who had been fantastic this season throwing for 25 TD’s and only 1 interception coming into the game, probably took himself out of Heisman consideration with his 4 interception performance last Saturday. The 55-24 loss in Iowa City was the worst setback in Urban Meyer’s career. The defense which has been stellar for most of the season was shredded for nearly 500 yards by an Iowa offense that was struggling coming into the game. After allowing only 7 offensive TD’s in their previous 4 games, the Buckeye defense gave up 6 offensive TD’s to Iowa last Saturday. That was a Hawkeye offense that put up only 12 offensive TD’s in their first 5 Big Ten games. Despite that terrible outing, OSU remains the top team in the conference in yards per play differential at +2.5 (7.2 YPP offensively and 4.7 YPP defensively). The also lead the league by a wide margin in YPG differential at +226 with no other team topping +171. They key moving forward will be trying to figure out OSU’s mental state. Will they bounce back and play at a high level after their embarrassing performance or will they take the “I don’t care” mentality now that they have basically been eliminated from the College Football Playoff?
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – MSU has been very competitive in this series as of late winning 3 of the last 6 meetings with their 3 losses coming by a combined 14 points. Last year OSU was a 20 point road favorite in this match up and squeaked out a 17-16 win. Dating back to 1980, the Spartans are 34-23 ATS as a double digit underdog. As an underdog of any number, MSU is an impressive 18-4-1 ATS their last 23. Since 1981, the Buckeyes are 1-9 ATS in this series when a favorite of 10 points or higher.
PURDUE @ NORTHWESTERN (-4.5) – Saturday at 7:00 PM ET
The Boilers cracked their 3 game losing streak with a 29-10 win last Saturday over Illinois. After winning 3 of their first 5 games to start the season, Purdue dropped 3 straight tight games coming into this game which made this one a must win if they have any hopes of going to a bowl game. Purdue has been much more competitive overall this season under first year head coach Jeff Brohm with 4 of their 5 losses being one score games and coming by a combined 18 points. The Boilermakers put together a balanced attack in their win over Illinois with 236 yards rushing and 209 yards rushing. After scoring only 45 combined points their previous 3 games the offense put 29 on the board and outgained the Illini by 185 yards. Starting QB David Blough put together a solid game before a serious leg injury early in the 4th quarter ended his season. That means Elijah Sindelar takes over under center and while he has played sparingly the last two games, he was in a rotation with Blough for much of the season. Sindelar has thrown for just under 1,000 yards and has 7 TD passes on the season. The Purdue defense continues to impress allowing just 19 PPG on the season (5th in the Big Ten) after allowing more than 30 PPG in each of their previous 5 seasons.
After starting the conference with an 0-2 record, the Cats have won 4 straight with their last three all coming in OT! Last week they traveled to Nebraska as 2 point favorites and topped the Huskers 31-24 in overtime. They have now beaten Iowa, MSU, and Nebraska all in overtime on consecutive Saturdays. The Cats dominated last Saturday’s game in the stat sheet outgaining Nebraska by 138 yards which included a 232 to 112 edge on the ground. After struggling for much of the early season, the NW offense has now topped 400 yards in 3 of their last 4 games including their 475 yard performance last Saturday. The Cats are now one of just five Big Ten teams averaging over 400 YPG offensively. In their game vs Nebraska they were able to win the game and rack up nearly 500 yards despite going just 1 for 11 on 3rd downs. That has been one downside to this offense for much of the season as they rank near the bottom of the Big Ten in 3rd down conversion rated at just 34%. Their win over Nebraska made them bowl eligible for the third straight season.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS - Last year Northwestern traveled to West Lafayette as a 13 point favorite and rolled over the Boilers 45-17 putting up over 600 total yards in the process. Purdue has been a big time money maker on the road as of late covering 15 of their last 19 games away from home. This will be the 3rd straight year Northwestern is favored in this Big Ten battle, however from 1980 – 2014, the Cats were favored only 5 times vs Purdue. Northwestern is 10-3 ATS the last 13 times they’ve been a favorite of less than a TD.
NEBRASKA @ MINNESOTA (-2.5) – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
The Huskers continue to play out their rudderless season with a home loss in OT to Northwestern last Saturday. After the Nebraska brass let go of their AD a few weeks ago, head coach Mike Riley need a miracle to stay on board after this season and the Huskers have now lost 3 of their last 4 games. Last week’s 31-24 loss in OT looked close on the scoreboard but the Huskers were outgained for the 3rd time in 4 weeks as Northwestern tallied 475 yards to just 337 for Nebraska. Starting QB Tanner Lee, who seemed to have things moving in the right direction after a terrible start to the season, threw 3 interceptions. Lee had thrown just 1 pick in his previous 4 games. The offense isn’t the only side of the ball with issues. Nebraska currently rank 13th in the Big Ten in total defense allowing over 400 YPG. In their defense, they’ve been shredded for 466, 475, and 633 yards vs Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Ohio State who are all in the top 4 in the league in total offense. Against lower tier offensive teams (Purdue, Rutgers, and Illinois) they’ve done much better holding those three opponents to an average of 252 yards per game. This week they play a Minnesota offense that ranks 12th overall in the Big Ten. Expect a better showing from the defense this weekend.
The Gophs only Big Ten win was a tight 24-17 game vs the worst team in the Big Ten (Illinois). Last Saturday they went on the road for the 2nd straight Saturday and were not competitive losing 33-10 @ Michigan. The Minnesota defense, which had been playing fairly well, made a struggling Michigan offense look like a juggernaut. The Wolverines simply pounded it down their throats with 371 yards rushing (on a whopping 10 YPC) while completing only 8 passes the entire game. The Minnesota run defense should find it a bit easier this weekend vs a Nebraska team that has been outrushed by 757 yards over their last 4 games (an average of 190 YPG). Forget about the defense, if Minnesota doesn’t start finding a way to put some points on the board, they’ll continue to lose. They’ve scored fewer offensive TD’s this season than everyone in the Big Ten not named Illinois. Their rushing attack is solid, but they have ZERO passing game right now. Since PJ Fleck switched to Demry Croft as his starting QB they have completed a TOTAL of 19 passes in 3 games. In his three starts Croft is 19 for 56 (34%) with 1 TD and 3 interceptions. Conor Rhoda was the starter before the change and he has not seen the field since.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Last year Nebraska scored the game winning TD with 7:00 remaining and held on for a 24-17 home win over the Gophers. The Huskers have actually been better on the road this year where they are 2-1 with wins over Purdue & Illinois to go along with a 7-point loss @ Oregon. Minny is just 3-11 ATS their last 14 games at home as a favorite (1-3 ATS this year). This hasn’t really been a close series. Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten, these two have met 6 times with the average margin of victory being 16 points.
RUTGERS @ PENN STATE (-31) – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
Rutgers has already doubled their win total from last year as they sit with a 4-5 record after their home win vs Maryland last week. That win also put them at 3-3 in league play which is not bad for a team that won a grand total of ONE Big Ten game the last two years combined. While the record looks solid, let’s also keep in mind that Rutgers, while winning a few games, is getting beat basically every week on the stat sheet. They have been outgained in every game this year with the exception of Morgan State. That includes last week when they topped Maryland 31-24. The Knights scored with 7:30 remaining to take the 31 -24 lead and the Terp offense was put in a very tough spot for their final drive of the game when starting QB Max Bortenschlager who was dinged on the previous possession couldn’t return. His absence meant 4th stringer Ryan Brand, a walk on transfer from Air Force, had to lead Maryland on their final drive. Brand actually gave them a chance pushing it to the Rutgers 15 yard line before turning the ball over on downs. While they have improved, let’s put it in perspective. Rutgers ranks last in the Big Ten in total offense and near the bottom in total defense. They have won 3 conference games but been outgained by 1,121 yards in those 6 games (a deficit of 186 YPG)! They are also 31 point underdogs to a team that sits just one spot ahead of them in the standings!
How quickly things can change over a few weeks in college football. PSU is a prime example. Two weeks ago they had visions of the College Football Playoff dancing in their heads and now they are completely out of that discussion and have pretty much eliminated themselves from the Big Ten East race. Last week’s 27-24 road loss dropped the Lions to 4-2 in conference play with losses to both teams that sit ahead of them in the standings (Michigan State & Ohio State). After blowing a 15-point fourth quarter lead a week earlier @ Ohio State, last week’s result in East Lansing was not surprising. That was a very tough spot for PSU to bounce back and play well. All American RB Saquon Barkley was shut down for the 2nd straight week. After rushing for just 44 yards on 21 carries @ OSU the Spartans held Barkley to only 63 yards on the ground last week. Barkley only touched the ball 17 times the entire game with 14 rushes and 3 receptions. How that happens with a player that talented is beyond us. A definite mistake in our opinion by head coach James Franklin and company. We’ll make a prediction that Barkley sees the ball A LOT this weekend after that situation. Add that to the fact that Rutgers is 13th in the conference in rush defense allowing 190 YPG and we could step in and come up with a great gameplan in this one. What will PSU’s mental state be in this one and moving forward will probably be the key to their ATS success or failure.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – PSU has won all 3 meetings since Rutgers joined the Big Ten by margins of 39, 25, and 3 points. Rutgers as covered 6 of their last 7 games and they are 7-2 ATS this season. Penn State was 15-1-1 ATS their previous 17 games before their ATS loss @ Michigan State last Saturday. The Nittany Lions are 8-0-1 their last 9 home games and have topped the spread by a combined 165 points or 20 PPG above and beyond the number. Before Rutgers started making their bettors some money this year with a 7-2 ATS mark, they were 5-13 ATS their previous 18 games coming into this year.
MICHIGAN (-16.5) @ MARYLAND – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
Could the Maryland Terrapins have any more bad luck when it comes to the QB position? After losing their starter (Pigrome) and back up (Hill) early in the season, now current starter and 3rd stringer Max Bortenschlager could be on the shelf this weekend. Head coach DJ Durkin said it will be a game time decision for Bortenschlager and was very vague on what the injury actually was. Those in the know feel it was a possible concussion although he may have a shoulder problem as well. If he can’t go, walk on Ryan Brand, a transfer from Air Force, will get the nod. Brand was thrust into action late in the 4th quarter last week and nearly led the Terps to a game tying TD on their final drive @ Rutgers. He drove the team 63 yards in 17 plays but was stopped on downs inside the Rutgers 20 yard line in a 31-24 loss. Brand is not known as a proficient passer so the Terps will have to rely heavily on the run in this game. That could be a problem as Michigan allows only 3 YPC and held Minnesota to 90 yards on 44 carries in last week’s blowout win. The Wolverines looks like they’ve turned the corner offensively the last few games which bad news for a Maryland defense that ranks dead last in the Big Ten in total defense (433 YPG). They allowed Rutgers to put up 346 yards last week and while that may not seem like much, the Scarlet Knights have only topped 300 yards one other time in conference play.
The Michigan offense seems to have gotten a shot in the arm with the insertion of new starting QB Brandon Peters. He entered the game in the 2nd quarter of the Rutgers game for the first time this season and proceeded to lead Michigan to score 4 TD’s on their next 5 possession with their only non-scoring drive ending in a missed FG. Peters got his first start last weekend vs Minnesota and led the Wolves to 33 points and 427 yards in their 33-10 win. He has now led Michigan on 18 offensive possessions and they have scored TD’s on half of those (9) which is a huge step up from their previous production. Peters hasn’t done much through the air completing just 18 passes in his two games but the offense obviously has responded to him as their starter. Staying on the QB theme, starter Wilton Speight, who has been out since late September with a back injury, has started throwing again. There is no time table as to when he might be able to return to game action if at all this season. The Maryland offense has put up 66 points in their last 2 games but you can bet they will be slowed dramatically here vs a Michigan defense that has allowed more than 20 points only once the entire season (PSU).
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Michigan crushed Maryland in Ann Arbor last year by a final of 59-3 outgaining the Terps by almost 300 yards. Maryland has been an underdog in every Big Ten game this year with a spread mark of 2-4 ATS. The Terps are just 5-14 ATS the last 19 times they’ve been an underdog in conference play. Michigan has been a road favorite of 2 TD’s or more 12 times since 1997. They are 4-8 ATS in those games.
INDIANA (-8) @ ILLINOIS – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
Indiana remained winless in the Big Ten with a 45-17 home setback at the hands of undefeated Wisconsin last Saturday. We still believe the Hoosiers are better than their 0-6 conference mark as they have played the toughest schedule of anyone in Big Ten play. Five of IU’s six conference losses came at the hands of Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State, and Michigan. Their other Big Ten loss was a 3-point setback @ Maryland, a game in which they outgained the Terps by 140 yards. Starting QB Peyton Ramsey sat out last week’s game vs Wisconsin and former starter Richard Lagow took over. Lagow is the better passer, however Ramsey gives the Hoosiers a mobile QB who can throw but also beat opponents with his legs of needed. Lagow and IU looked good on offense their first 3 drives putting up 10 points but were held to just 120 total yards after that. Ramsey is questionable again this Saturday with a knee injury. The Indiana defense had been playing very well as they had not allowed an opponent to top 400 yards of offense since their season opener vs Ohio State. Wisconsin shredded the Hoosier defense for 407 yards including 237 on the ground. Now IU gets a shot at their first win of the year vs the Big Ten’s worst team. A big step down from who they have been facing off against so far in league play.
Illinois continues to get rolled week in and week out and that continued last Saturday with a 29-10 loss @ Purdue. It was the sixth time this season the Illini have been beaten by double digits. Their only loss that was not by 10 or more was a 24-17 setback @ Minnesota. It was also the fifth time in their six Big Ten games the offense had been held to 17 points or less. They are averaging just 16 PPG on the season which is last in the conference by a full 6 PPG (Rutgers is 13th at 22 PPG). Illinois was solid for a half last week as they trailed Purdue just 13-10 at the break. They went scoreless in the 2nd half and Purdue went on to the easy win. Freshman Cam Thomas got his second straight start at QB and played OK in the first half leading Illinois to 10 points on their 5 offensive possessions. He was 10 for 20 overall with 159 yards. That’s fantastic compared to what he did in the previous two games completing a grand total of 4 passes with 3 interceptions. Their young offensive line with 4 freshmen starters continues to have problems allowing 5 sacks and 9 TFL’s in the game. The defense played well in the first half but ran out of gas with Purdue racking up 255 yards in the 2nd half.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS - This may seem like a meaningless match up between two winless Big Ten teams. However, It is a big rivalry as these two are separated by just 170 miles. This is just the 6th time since 2000 that Indiana has been a Big Ten road favorite (2-4 ATS). The Hoosiers have been a road favorite of 7 or more 19 times since 1987 and they are 13-6 ATS in those games. Illinois is just 1-8 ATS the last 9 times they’ve been a home underdog in conference play.