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Big 10 Report

   by ASA - 09/30/2005

Michigan +5.5 @ Michigan St

Michigan State proved critics wrong last weekend handling the Illini 61-14. Coach Smith showed people that this year’s Spartan team is not like past editions. This has been a team that has been known for falling flat after winning a big game. In fact, the last seven times MSU had beaten a top 10 team, they lost their game the following week. They finally broke that trend last week and in a big way. After beating Notre Dame two weeks ago many people thought that the Spartans may have a letdown but it didn’t happen as they creamed the Illini on their home turf. Michigan on the other hand dropped a thriller to Wisconsin losing 23-20 in a game that they pretty much controlled for most of the way.

Not only did Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton set a Spartan record, the entire offense as a whole set a record. The Michigan State offense set a school record piling up 705 total yards on the Illini. Drew Stanton completed 20 of 26 passes for 275 yards along with five scores which was good for another school record. Stanton scored all five touchdowns in the first 40 minutes of play as he sat out almost half of the third quarter and all of the fourth as the Spartans called off the dogs. The Michigan State offense was simply clicking on all cylinders. The Spartans had a very balanced attack passing for nearly 330 yards and running for another 376 yards. Although Illinois may not be one of the best Big Ten teams, Michigan State showed why they are. The defense also stepped up to the plate allowing only 271 total yards of offense. After a rough week playing at Notre Dame the Spartan secondary shut down Illinois receivers allowing them to catch only 16 passes for 145 yards. This week things will get a little bit more difficult against a Michigan team that is expected to have running back Mike Hart returning to the lineup.

Michigan took a devastating loss as they traveled to Madison to play the Wisconsin Badgers. Michigan suffered a 23-20 loss after John Stocco scored on a quarterback draw with 24 seconds left. Michigan was pretty much in control for much of the game but failed to capitalize on their opportunities. Their opening drive of the game took Michigan to within inches of the goal line and they failed on a fourth down conversion coming up with nothing on the scoreboard. It was a game where U of M let Wisconsin hang around when they could have put them away. The Wolverines out gained the Badgers 401 to 287. Wisconsin did control the time of possession holding the ball for 35 of the 60 minutes. The Badgers ran the ball 43 times keeping the Wolverine defense on the field. The Michigan defense however played very well not giving up any big runs as Wisconsin’s longest gain on a run was just 15 yards. The defense also held the Badgers passing game in check as Stocco completed only 15 of 32 passes for 147 yards. The Michigan offense however could just never seem to capitalize and always seemed to have drives stalled because of the average play of quarterback Chad Henne. Michigan also lost a few key first downs thanks to penalties. In all the Wolverines were flagged nine times for 68 yards. This week the Wolverines should get a confidence booster as RB Mike Hart is expected to return to the lineup and help out an offense that seems to be in shambles.

Michigan State is favored by 5.5 points in this game. Our database records go back to 1980 and since that time, MSU has NEVER been favored over the Wolverines. Not once in the last 25 years. Until this season that is. Of those 25 games, the Wolverines have won 18 straight up. However, MSU has had a spread edge at home covering seven of the last nine but obviously those were all as an underdog. The Wolverines are not used to being in this position as they have been an away dog just seven times overall in the last seven years. Their spread record in those games is 4-3. This is a huge game for both teams especially Michigan as they do not want to start the Big Ten season 0-2. The Wolverines are sort of “backed into a cornerâ€쳌 so to speak which can be dangerous for their opponent. One thing for sure, you will be getting some line value if you side with Michigan. If this game were played just three or four weeks ago, the Wolverines would have most likely been favored by four or more points. This is a tough call right now as the MSU offense is simply clicking on all cylinders while Michigan is struggling. History says to take Michigan while MSU is definitely playing better right now.

Illinois +17.5 @ Iowa

Both Illinois and Iowa are teams that are coming off of losses last weekend. Iowa was whipped 31-6 by Ohio State while Illinois took a blow losing 61-14 to Michigan State. Both teams never really settled in to their respective games as they were both dominated.

Iowa’s 31-6 loss to Ohio State was their second loss of the season after losing @ Iowa State earlier this year. Many people are now starting to write this team off which could be a mistake. They are very well coached and much better than they performed last week. Keep in mind, this team was in nearly the exact same situation last season. In 2004 the Hawkeyes were 2-2 after loses at Arizona State and Michigan and most people weren’t sure how good they really were. Iowa then went on to rattle of eight straight wins (covered seven of those games), including a win over LSU in their bowl game. Head coach Kirk Ferentz has also been fantastic at getting his kids ready to play after a SU loss. In fact, dating back to September of 2000, Iowa is a fantastic 15-2 ATS the game following a SU loss. Last Saturday, the Hawkeyes offense was just simply shut down gaining only 137 total yards. Their running game was atrocious with 18 total carries for a negative 9 yards. Those numbers should improve drastically this week at home vs. an Illinois team that allows 215 YPG on the ground. OSU ripped through Iowa’s defense to the tune of 314 yards rushing on 60 carries which was good for an average of 5.2 yards per rush. The Buckeyes played fantastic last week and obviously had the Iowa game circled after getting embarrassed in Iowa City the year before. Now we’ll see if the Hawkeyes can bounce back from their most recent embarrassment in Columbus last Saturday.

The Illini’s 61-14 loss gave first year head coach Ron Zook a little taste of his new life in the Big Ten. Illinois simply found themselves outmatched in this game against a very good offense. However both sides of the ball were very disappointing. MSU rolled up a total of 705 yards of offense which was a school record and a Memorial Stadium record. The Illinois defense also allowed Michigan State to convert on seven of their 12 third down attempts which kept the chains moving and kept the already tired Illini defense on the field. The Illini offense was poor running for only 123 yards (QB Tim Brasic was their leading rusher with 56 yards) and passing for just 148. That could be cause for some concern as MSU’s defense is not all that great. Especially their pass defense that allowed over 1,000 yards combined in their first three games (341 YPG).

This match up will be the first Big Ten road game for Illinois Head Coach Ron Zook. It will also be Iowa’s first Big Ten home game. Iowa has been fantastic at home winning 20 straight games and their spread record in those games is an amazing 18-2 (90%). The Illini however have held their own lately against Iowa going 6-3-1 ATS in their last 10 games. The key in this game will be if Iowa can play enough defense to distance themselves from Illinois and cover this lofty spread. The offense should be able to put up points.

Minnesota -2.5 @ Penn State

Penn State and Minnesota are two of the dark horses in the Big Ten this season. Both teams came out victorious in their Big Ten openers and are undefeated on the season. However both teams had close calls. Penn State just got by Northwestern thanks to a strong fourth quarter and Minnesota handled Purdue in an overtime thriller.

Penn State scored 17 fourth quarter points to upend the Northwestern Wildcats 34-29 in their Big Ten opener. It was not a pretty game for the Nittany Lions as they fell behind 23-14 going into halftime thanks in part to PSU QB Robinson committing four turnovers in the first half alone. They did regroup and outscored Northwestern 20-6 in the second half for the 34-29 win. That was the second time this season the PSU defense gave up more than 21 points in a game after not allowing more than that in any game last year. This is a huge game for the Lions who have a bear of a schedule the next three weeks as they play Minnesota, Ohio State and Michigan. The one main concern on defense is the fact that Penn State allowed 198 on the ground to Northwestern. They better shore that up in a hurry as Minnesota’s ground game is tops in the nation at 326 YPG. This is a Penn State defense that returned nine starters from last year’s tough run defense. They are still allowing just 85 YPG on the ground this year but that is due to their weak non-conference schedule. What NU did to them could be cause for concern. We will find out this week how good they really are. Another problem was the amount of time that Penn State held (or didn’t hold) the ball. Northwestern dominated the time of possession at 40 minutes to just 20 for PSU. That could turn into a big problem this week vs. Minnesota. If they cannot stop the Gopher ground game, expect them to get beat up in the time of possession category again.

The Golden Gophers had a exhilarating come from behind win last Saturday. The Boilers took an eight point lead on Minny when Dan Bick intercepted a Bryan Cupito pass and took it in for a TD with just five minutes left in the game. Minnesota came back and scored a TD plus the two point conversion with 1:34 left to get the game back to even. The Gophers then won in OT 42-35. Once again Minnesota’s rushing game did the job keeping Purdue’s offense off of the field. Minnesota held the ball for 39 of the games 60 minutes. Much of this success can be attributed to Laurence Maroney who ran the ball 46 times for 217 yards. He also had five receptions for another 59 yards. Cupito also had a pretty good game completing 22 of his 35 passes for three scores. However he did throw three interceptions which pretty much describes Cupito. He can be great and he can be bad all in the same game. He is simply not very consistent. When looking at the defense the final stats do not look very impressive as they gave up 426 total yards of offense. The Gophers did hold Purdue to just 4 of 15 on third down conversions which helped make up for the poor yardage stats. In watching Minnesota this year, they are fairly solid against the run, however their pass defense is not good (allowing 245 YPG). PSU QB Michael Robinson has turned into a decent passer (55% completion rate) this season after struggling in that area in the past. He’ll have to take advantage of Minny’s poor pass defense this weekend for the Nittany Lions to have a chance.

Penn State has lost four consecutive games to Minnesota giving up an average of 209 rushing yards per game. This year Minnesota’s rushing attack is probably the best they have had in five years so the Lion defense will again have their work cut out for them. The Nittany Lions have struggled against the ground squirrels with a spread record of just 2-6. Minnesota has been a Big Ten road favorite 23 times since the start of the 1985 season. They are 18-5 SU in those games and 15-7-1 ATS. Bringing those numbers closer to the present time, the Gophs have been a conference road chalk nine times since 2002 winning seven of those both SU and ATS. This is a huge Big Ten game for both teams. We’ll find out which one of these teams stays in the Big Ten race after this game.

Notre Dame +2.5 @ Purdue

Notre Dame and Purdue will hook up once again this weekend for the 77th time. The Irish have the edge with a record of 49-28 SU in this series. However the Boilermakers have won the last two years including a big victory last year in South Bend by the score of 41-16. Notre Dame is on the road again this week after beating Washington 36-17. Purdue will be looking to bounce back after losing in OT @ Minnesota.

The Purdue rushing defense entered last weekend’s game ranked number one in the nation allowing only 16 yards per game. Minnesota changed all that by hanging 301 rushing yards on the Boilermakers last Saturday. The part of the PU stop unit that head coach Joe Tiller was most concerned with going into last Saturday’s game was their pass defense. That didn’t change as Minnesota not only ran for over 300 yards, they also passed for 271. Purdue now gives up a whopping 306 YPG through the air which could be a problem vs. a Notre Dame offense that averages just under 300 yards passing. The Boilers could be a bit undermanned at LB this week as starter Bobby Iwuchukwu had knee surgery on Monday following the Minnesota game and he is out this Saturday. However, even with their poor defense vs. Minnesota, this was still a game that certainly could have been a victory for Purdue. Purdue had plenty of chances and actually scored the first touchdown in overtime. However on a 4th down play in the second overtime Brandon Kirsch saw his play action pass get deflected and knocked to the ground for a Minnesota victory. The offense struggled in one area however, converting only 4 of their 15 third down conversions. PU did rack up nearly 400 total yards of offense despite only having the ball for 21 minutes in regulation play (overtime not included).

This week the Purdue defense is going to have to step up to the challenge as they will once again be up against a very talented offense. Notre Dame will look to take advantage of what has been a weak secondary for Purdue so far this season as we stated earlier. Fighting Irish quarterback Brady Quinn ranks 13th in the nation in passing yards per game. Notre Dame running back Darius Walker has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the Fighting Irish’s first four games so they can do it in more than one way. The winning team has been known to put up a bunch of points in this series averaging 34.8 PPG since 1982. The one concern for the Irish might be the travel situation as they were on the west coast last weekend.

The home team is 7-3 ATS in the last 10 games in this series. Purdue has also covered eight of their last 12 games against the Fighting Irish. Since 1983, these teams have met 22 times and the team that has won SU has also covered 18 of those games. Notre Dame does have a bye week after they travel to Purdue which is probably needed as the Irish played an overtime game vs. Michigan State, then had to travel to Washington before heading to West Lafayette this Saturday. However, the Irish are only 4-19 ATS before a bye week since 1991. Purdue does have a very strong home field advantage going 40-11 SU since 1997. Not only do they win, they cover. Their spread record at home since 1997 is 32-16 (67%). This is a big game for the Boilermakers as they do not want to be on a two game losing streak when they host Iowa next week.

Indiana +18 @ Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Badgers are coming off of a huge victory against Michigan beating the Wolverines 23-20 in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter. This week they will face an Indiana team that will be coming off of a bye week. The 4-0 Badgers will host the undefeated Indiana Hoosiers who are 3-0 for the first time since 1994. The Badgers opened as a 19-point favorite and it has since dropped to 18.

The Hoosiers are a team that may have not played the best competition to date with wins over Central Michigan, Nicholls State, and Kentucky. They are, however, playing at a higher level under new head coach Terry Hoeppner who was very successful at Miami (Oh). The Indiana Hoosiers in their last game handled the Kentucky Wildcats fairly easily beating them 38-14. This is the same Kentucky Wildcat team that put up 28 points against the Florida Gators last weekend and played Louisville tough earlier this season losing just 31-24. Indiana’s passing offense is ranked third in the Big Ten at nearly 240 yards per game. The Hoosier pass defense is the best in the conference allowing just 135.7 yards per game. That is a bit skewed as IU has not played a really good passing offense yet this season. In fact, one of their wins vs. Nicholls State, their opponent attempted just 10 passes completing four of them for only 51 yards. That will help your pass defense stats. The problem is, that same Division 1AA opponent, Nicholls State rushed for 408 yards on the Hoosiers. IU is now giving up 218 YPG on the ground which plays right into Wisconsin’s strength as the Badgers average 240 YPG rushing.

The Wisconsin Badgers got a huge come from behind victory over the Michigan Wolverines meaning this game could have let down written all over it. Wisconsin was out gained by the Wolverines 401 to 287 in the game. Michigan had numerous blown opportunities including getting inside the Wisconsin 1-yard line on their opening drive and coming away with no points. As usual, the Badgers relied very heavily on running back Brian Calhoun. He had 35 carries for 155 yards and seven receptions for 59 yards. Thus, Calhoun accounted for 214 of Wisconsin’s 287 yards which is amazing. The problem is, he has already had a ton of touches this year and it will be tough to keep him healthy at the rate he is going. He actually injured his ankle late in the game and was gimpy after the game. You can bet that if Wisky gets a decent lead in the second half of this game, Alvarez will have Calhoun’s butt squarely on the Wisconsin bench getting him some much needed time off. The Wisconsin defense played well enough to get a victory over Michigan. The defense came up with the turnovers when needed and caused Michigan quarterback Chad Henne to be very erratic. You can give a lot of credit to the Wisconsin secondary that did not allow any receivers to get open deep downfield other than the flea flicker which went for a 49 yard touchdown pass. The one problem for Wisconsin defensively is they are very thin on the defensive line. They actually had a walk-on linebacker playing defensive tackle in the final two series vs. the Wolverines. They already have two starters out (DT Justin Ostrowski and DE Jamaal Cooper) and DT Jason Chapman left the field twice last weekend due to injury. He is supposed to be OK for this Saturday, however any more injuries up front and the Badgers could be in trouble.

The Badgers haven’t met the Hoosiers since 2002 where they lost at Indiana by a score of 29-32 as 11-point favorites. At the time of that game the Badgers were ranked 23rd with a 5-1 record. The Hoosiers also beat the Badgers in 2001 in another upset handling them 63-32 in an offensive show put on by IU QB Antwaan Randel-El and RB Levron Williams. The Badgers were favored by 14 points in that game. Wisconsin is not a good spread team if they have to lay double digits. In fact, as a double digit favorite, the Badgers are just 4-15-1 ATS the last five years. The Hoosiers, however haven’t been world beaters on the road either. IU has lost 13 consecutive games SU on the road in the Big Ten. In those games, they are just 2-10-1 ATS. We think IU has a good shot to stay within this number if Wisconsin comes out flat as expected.

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