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Big Ten Report

   by ASA - 09/17/2005

Illinois

Illinois looked pretty impressive this last weekend beating San Jose State and starting their 2005 campaign off with a 2-0 record. The Illini offense over powered a SJSU team that couldn’t seem to stop the run. Illinois racked up a total of 492 total yards on offense in which t hey saw 243 of them rushing. I guess that was to be expected as the Spartans were horrible last year at stopping the run giving up 252 YPG. The Illini defense also showed signs of improvement as they only gave up 231 total yards which was a significant increase from last weeks 517 total yards they gave up last week to Rutgers. However things should get back to reality as the Fighting Illini will travel to Cal. The Bears throttled the Washington Huskies 56-17 while totaling an impressive 557 total yards of offense. Cal however did take a vital blow when they saw their leading running back Marshawn Lynch break his finger early in the second half. However, it looks like Lynch will play this weekend. Illinois are three TD underdogs in this game. If they are able to move the ball on offense without turning it over, they should be able to keep the game within reach, however the Illini are only 2-9 ATS in their last 11 games away from Champaign. The last time Illinois won back to back games SU was back in October of 2002 when they played host to Purdue and Indiana on consecutive weekends and came away with wins in both. They have not won three straight games since 2001. U of I has been an underdog of 21 points or more just 16 times since the beginning of the 1980 season and just three times since 1999. They are 1-2 ATS in their latest three outings that fall into that scenario and 7-9 ATS since 1980. One big question in this game is will the Illini defense be able to slow down the Bears. Cal has a much more talented offense than that of San Jose St. and Rutgers so this game may also have the making for an Illinois drubbing.


Indiana

IU hosts Kentucky this weekend and the Hoosiers have been tabbed as 2.5 point favorites. This will be a battle of two poor defenses that were embarrassed by Division 1AA teams last weekend. Both Indiana and Kentucky won their games, however their stop units looked horrible. Indiana who hosted division 1-AA Nicholls State squeaked out a victory by the score of 35-31. Nicholls State, located in Louisiana, was playing their first game of the season thanks to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Indiana defense allowed the Colonels to run over them for a total of 408 rushing yards which is unheard of when a division 1-AA team is playing a Big Ten team. Nicholls State attempted just 10 passes and was leading almost the entire game until the end of the 4th quarter. Nicholls state took a 31-28 lead with nearly 5 minutes left in the game. Indiana then got the ball and drove 89 yards for a game winning touchdown with just 47 seconds remaining on the clock. However there was one plus to this game other than the win. Hoosiers quarterback Blake Powers hit on 19 of 36 passes for 307 yards and 4 touchdowns including hooking up with his favorite target James Hardy 8 times for 122 yards and 1 touchdown. Indiana is only 1-9 SU and 3-7 ATS the last 10 games against the Wildcats. Kentucky, as we mentioned, also struggled vs. a 1AA team last week beating Idaho State 41-29. However, the Cats’ defense also looked horrible giving up 448 yards total yards However Kentucky did have a pretty good rushing attack as Rafael Little rushed for 110 yards on only 19 carries. Little should be licking his chops as he is visiting a team that just gave up 408 rushing yards against a smaller team in Nicholls State. Look for Kentucky to give this Indiana team a run for their money on the road as it will come down to the wire.


Iowa

Even though the Hawkeyes took a tough loss at Iowa State their number one concern is whether or not Drew Tate will be alright. It looks like Tate will be OK and is expected to recover from the concussion he sustained in the first quarter of last week’s loss. He will start when the Hawkeyes host another instate rival in Northern Iowa. Iowa’s tough loss came at the hands of the Iowa State Cyclones that beat up on Iowa winning 23-3. The total yardage was about equal, however the story of the game was the Iowa State defense that forced 5 turnovers and never allowed the Iowa offense to reach further than the Cyclones 26 yard line. All of ISU’s points came after Iowa turnovers. After watching the game, the Hawkeyes front four on defense was really pushed around. That was the one potential weak spot in that Hawkeye defense as they graduated their entire defensive line from 2004. In fact, coming into this season, the new starting four up front had a combined total of just seven career tackles among them. One bright spot for Iowa was that they once again ran the ball really well. The Hawks had 347 total yards of offense of which 173 of those were on the ground, but saw 3 fumbles that proved to be costly. This week the Hawkeyes should get back on track against Northern Iowa who is actually 2-0 and averaging over 50 PPG on offense. However, those games came against Drake and Minnesota-Duluth so UNI is taking quite a step up this week. Look for Iowa to rebound and win this game big as they will gain some confidence to get ready for their Big Ten opener @ Ohio State which is obviously a huge one. We would think a “look aheadâ€쳌 might be in order, however after losing last week, we are pretty sure head coach Kirk Ferentz will have his team focused on Northern Iowa.


Michigan

Michigan lost a tough one in the “Big Houseâ€쳌 to a Notre Dame team that proves to be moving back to the Irish of old. However Michigan did not help their cause this past weekend as they saw plenty of opportunities come up short. Michigan sophomore quarterback Chad Henne had two crucial turnovers both in which the Wolverines offense was driving to score. The first turnover was an arrant throw that was intercepted at the goal line by Notre Dames safety Tom Zbikowski which would have resulted in at least a Michigan field goal. Henne then lost the handle of a quarterback sneak on a crucial 4th and goal from the 1 inch line which would have brought the Wolverines within a TD. There was one main bright spot in the game for the Wolverines and that was the play of their questioned defense. The Wolverines defense held the Irish to only 244 total yards of offense (Michigan had 337 yards of offense) which was a big step up from last week’s meeting against Northern Illinois. This week things get easier for Michigan as they host instate Eastern Michigan and they are currently favored by 29 points. Eastern Michigan should not pose for much of a threat against the Wolverines as Michigan’s offense should get right back on track. EMU has given up nearly 900 yards of total offense in their first two games and that was facing the likes of Cincinnati and Louisiana-Lafayette, neither are offensive powerhouses to say the least. The one problem we see is the fact that Michigan does not play well the week following their big match up with the Irish. They are just 7-13 ATS the week after their tilt with ND and have failed to cover in that situation the last four years. The Wolverines also have a game on deck with Wisconsin so this one might be tough to focus on.


Minnesota

Minnesota got another big non conference victory against Colorado State. The Gophers have now won an amazing 18 straight non-conference games including bowl games. They have also dominated the Vegas number in those games going 12-3 ATS (three of the 18 games did not have lines on them). Minnesota did beat the Rams by a score of 56-24, but found themselves not very satisfied with the victory. The Minnesota offense was clicking, but they were not clicking on all cylinders. Minnesota had 545 total yards of offense but 355 came via running the ball. Gophers quarterback Bryan Cupito missed a lot of easy down the field passes early in the game which had head coach Glen Mason scratching his head. After the game, Mason highlighted the fact that he was not very pleased with his passing game after Cupito was only 9 of 21. He blamed this on both the quarterback and receivers as many passes were simply poor throws but many of the catchable balls were dropped. Mason was also upset with the special teams play as his freshman kicker also missed 3 extra points. Those things may not be a big deal right now, however when Minny starts conference play, it will cost them a few games if those situations don’t get straightened out. The special teams did get one big play when they blocked a punt for a TD. When looking at the positives, the Minnesota defense looked pretty good under new defensive coordinator David Lockwood forcing 3 turnovers and coming up with big plays when they needed them. Then there is Laurence Maroney and the running game that just keeps on clicking. Minny has now racked up 656 rushing yards in just two games. Minnesota is rolling and will continue to roll as they are 31 points home favorites against Florida Atlantic. FAU has already faced two Big 12 opponents this year in Kansas and Oklahoma State. They lost 30-19 @ Kansas and 23-3 at home vs. OSU.


Northwestern

Northwestern was involved in probably the most exciting game in the Big Ten other than Ohio State and Texas. Northwestern came out victorious against there instate rival Northern Illinois as they won 38-37 on a big defensive 2 point conversion stand. Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton capped off his big day rushing for his 4th touchdown with just over a minute left to play to break a 31-31 tie. NIU then drove 71 yards in only 7 plays capping the drive off with a 19 yard touchdown with only 6 seconds remaining to come within one point making the score 37-38. Instead of kicking the extra point NIU decided to go for the win by going for the two point conversion. However they fell short as Phil Horvath’s pass fell incomplete to a receiver that fell down in the end zone. Tyrell Sutton, a true freshman, had a great game rushing for 214 yards and 4 touchdowns in the victory. Sutton took over for senior Terrell Jordan who was supposed to be the starter at RB this year but injured a hamstring in practice before NU’s first game of the season against Ohio. Jordan may seek a medical redshirt if his hamstring doesn’t improve soon. The Northwestern defense did not look as good giving up 539 total yards of offense which included 256 on the ground. This victory comes as a very close one but give credit to a good NIU team that has given two Big Ten teams a run for their money the last two weeks. Northwester has shown that they have a very strong offense that can compete with many of the Big Tens finest, but in order to stay atop of the Big Ten you must have a potent defense as well. This week you will be sure to see plenty of points scored as Northwestern will travel to Arizona State a team that is coming off of a tough loss to LSU. Arizona State put up a huge 560 total yards of offense which included 461 yards passing against a very athletic LSU defense. ASU lost their game to LSU 35-31, however they really outplayed the Tigers except on special teams where they allowed a blocked field goal for a TD and a blocked punt for a TD. Northwestern is a 15 point underdog in this one. This could be a crazy game with LOTS of scoring. Look for 1,000 or so yards of total offense in this one.


Ohio State

Ohio State is coming off of their biggest non-conference game in years vs. the Texas Longhorns. Many in the Columbus area tabbed that game as the biggest home non-conference match up in the history of OSU. The Bucks lost 25-22. It just seemed like Texas quarterback Vince Young was just a little bit too much for Ohio State. Ohio State however held their own against one of the best teams in the nation leading the Longhorns for most of the game. With this in mind Ohio State had their chances to take care of the 2nd ranked Longhorns forcing 3 turnovers in Texas territory, but the Texas defense held the Buckeyes to only a field goal each time. After trailing for much of the game, the Horns scored a TD with just over two and a half minutes remaining in the game to take a 23-22 lead. They then added a meaning less safety with 15 seconds left to make the final 25-22. That safety was meaningless unless of course you had the UNDER. The total was posted at 46.5 for most of the week, thus the final safety pushed the game over the total. Ohio St hosts San Diego St. at home this week and they are currently 27 point favorites. This is dangerous game for OSU emotionally. All off season was geared toward their titanic match up with Texas and to lose that game will take a ton out of the Buckeye players emotionally. We do not expect them to be geared up this week. Especially seeing that they host Iowa in a huge Big Ten game the following Saturday. After rotating QB’s for much of the UT game, Jim Tressel has announced that Troy Smith will be the starter against SDSU this week. It looks like Tressel will try to give Smith the majority of the snaps in this game, however we expect Justin Zwick to also get some time again. Last week, Justin Zwick and Troy Smith combined to complete 14 of 26 passes for only 144 yards. Tressel still likes both quarterbacks but feels like Smith gives them the best advantage to win this weeks game against San Diego State. The Aztecs are 0-2 and struggling on defense. They have allowed more than 40 points in each of their first two games (a home loss to UCLA and a road loss @ Air Force). If they can avoid the turnover (they have 5 in the first two games), they should be able to stay within this number. One positive for the Bucks is that they have done well off a loss. Ohio State is now 12-5 ATS when coming off of a SU loss since 1998. However, a loss as big as the one last week might be too much to overcome.


Penn State

Penn State came up with another win last week vs. Cincinnati getting their season off to a 2-0 start. Penn State opened up the offense a little bit more this week and it really showed as they won 42 points. Even though it wasn’t against a great defense in Cincinnati, PSU quarterback Michael Robinson looked very comfortable completing 11/17 passes for 220 yards and 3 touchdowns. Robinson also carried the ball 10 times for 62 yards. However, Robinson was Penn State’s leading rusher which isn’t the greatest news for Nittany Lion fans. Last week’s game was a bit nerve racking for people that wagered on it. PSU led 42-10 with under 45 seconds left in the game. Cincy scored a TD with 39 seconds left but failed on the two-point conversion making the scored 42-16. The Lions were favored by 20 points so the game was safely in hand, right? Wrong! The Bearcats then recovered the on side kick and then scored on a TD pass with just 18 seconds remaining to make the scored 42-22. UC then successfully pulled off the two point conversion making the final 42-24 and giving their backers a big day at the window. Penn State will now host Central Michigan and they are currently 22 point favorites. Central Michigan is also coming off of a huge victory in which they beat Miami University in a stunning road victory after coming off of a 2-9 record in 2004. A week earlier, CMU lost at home to fellow Big Ten foe Indiana, 20-13. CMU has a very dangerous QB that PSU will have to keep a close eye on. Kent Smith will be coming off of a career night where he completed 26 of 36 passes for 356 yards in their win over Miami (Oh). An already stout Lion defense may get a boost this week. Starting LB Dan Connor, who was suspended for the first two games, has been cleared to practice. Whether he will play or not this Saturday will be up to the coaching staff. Here is a stat to remember, CMU is 0-17 SU and only 3-14 ATS in their last 17 non conference road games.


Purdue

Purdue got a closer game from the Akron Zips than what they were hoping for. Considering that all of the Boilermakers starters are back on defense, they didn’t look very good. Purdue gave up 385 total yards on the defensive side of the ball of which 362 of those were through the air. This could cause for problems against stiffer competition in the Big Ten. However the offense looked very stellar under quarterback Brandon Kirsch. Kirsch proved to people that he will be a more than adequate replacement for the departed Kyle Orton. Kirsch completed 22 of 34 passes for 256 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Boilermakers also ran the ball more than usual and found themselves to be very productive rushing for 211 total yards. This is good news for the Boilermakers as they look to be a lot more diverse on offense. Purdue will open this week up as 8 point favorites as they travel to Arizona in the heat of the desert. Arizona will coming into this game 1-1 after playing a tough Utah team losing 27-24 and handling Northern Arizona 31-12. This could be a dangerous game for the Boilers. This game reminds us of a contest last year when a very good Wisconsin team traveled to Arizona to take on the Wildcats. The Badgers were favored by 11 in that game and needed a late field goal to get the 9-7 win. U of A is very well coached with Mike Stoops at the helm and they have an experienced QB, RB and offensive line. Their defense is also solid as they allowed just 19.4 PPG a year ago. The heat could be a big time factor here. Teams from the Midwest simply cannot simulate playing in that type of heat. Purdue also has a very big game on deck at Minnesota. The Boilers have not fared well in this situation on the road. In fact, since November of 1999, Purdue has been a road favorite of a TD or more nine times. They are 1-8 ATS in those games. However, can Arizona drum up enough offense to cover here is the question.


Wisconsin

The Badgers pretty much walked through their meeting with the Temple Owls beating them 65-0. After allowing 531 total yards the week before vs. Bowling Green, the UW defense got their act together. Temple had just 45 total yards in the game. The Owls actually had just 7 total yards and only two first downs entering their final drive of the game. Things will start getting a little bit more difficult this upcoming week for the Badgers as they travel to get their first road test against the North Carolina Tar Heels. North Carolina gave the 17th ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets all they could handle in a 27-21 loss last Saturday. UNC turned the ball over 3 times in that game which killed them. A bright spot that the Badgers can look forward to is that the Tar Heels gave up a total of 475 yards against the Yellow Jackets. Wisconsin’s offense has just been dominating lately. Even though they haven’t played the toughest of defensive teams, these two games have been great for players to gain confidence. John Stocco is one of these players who is gaining great confidence in his game. Although Stocco didn’t put up huge numbers against Temple he was still very efficient completing 12 of 19 passes for 180 yards including 3 touchdowns. This should get the Badgers offense clicking on all cylinders as they already know what they are going to get from standout running backs Brian Calhoun, and Booker Stanley. The UNC stop unit has been poor against the run which will be to Wisconsin’s advantage. Last year they allowed 218 YPG rushing per game. GT had just 122 on the ground last week, however the Heels will have a tough time slowing down the Badger’s running game. This week won’t be a push over game as North Carolina has some speed and will be at home for this night game. Last year the Heels looked very good at home beating NC State, Miami (Fl) and Georgia Tech in Kenan Memorial Stadium. They also took Virginia Tech to the wire losing by just a field goal. UNC has faired well vs. the Big Ten going 11-7 SU and 7-1 ATS all-time against the Big 10. Wisconsin is a 3-point favorite in this game.


Michigan State

Michigan State is probably one of the Big Ten teams that has shown the most in their first 2 games of the season. Watch out for this team. The offense might be the best in the Big Ten. In fact, head coach John Smith said before the year started that his offense was going to be very hard to stop. Looks good so far as MSU has put up a whopping 1,184 total yards of offense in their first two games. The highlight of their offense has been the play of their junior quarterback Drew Stanton who has completed 43 of his 55 passes (78%) for a total of 598 yards with 5 touchdowns. Michigan State’s running game has also been outstanding as they ran for nearly 200 yards against Hawaii in their 42-14 victory this last weekend. This team is very balanced averaging 316 YPG through the air and 276 YPG rushing. This weekend however should get a little tougher for the Spartans as they have to travel to Notre Dame where the SU winner has covered 11 of the last 12 games in the series. With this being said the Spartans have had lots of success against the Irish winning 6 out of their last 8 SU and ATS. The one question mark will be MSU’s defense. They have looked pretty good the first two weeks of the season, however we’ll find out this week how good they are. We’re not sold on the Irish quite yet as they beat Pitt (who, oh by the way, then lost to Ohio) and beat Michigan. The Wolverines actually outgained ND by nearly 100 yards and Michigan lost their all-everything tailback Michael Hart to an injury after just 3 carries. Look for Michigan State to give the Irish some fits this week as 6.5 point underdogs seeing that the Irish are coming off of a huge victory in the Big House. We’ll find out this week if the Irish are a Top 10 type team.

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