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Big 10 Report

   by ASA - 10/07/2005

Ohio State -3 @ Penn State

The Nittany Lions will once again host a team that is undefeated in the Big Ten. Penn State is coming off of not only a huge victory but also a very convincing one after handling the Minnesota Golden Gophers 44-14 this last Saturday.

The Nittany Lions seemed to beat the Golden Gophers at their own game on Saturday out rushing them 364 to 113. This included holding Minnesota’s star running back Laurence Mahoney to only 48 yards on the ground. The Nittany Lions on the other hand had two 100 yards rushers in running back Tony Hunt who ran the ball 21 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Michael Robinson who had 112 yards on the ground. Star freshman wide receiver Derrick Williams also carried the ball four times for 40 yards and two touchdowns. Although the PSU offense played exceptionally well the story of the game was the defense holding the number one ranked rushing offense to only 113 yards on the ground. That’s about one-third of the Gophs per game rushing average coming into the game (326 YPG). The Nittany Lions surrendered only 287 total yards of offense to the Gophers who were averaging nearly 560 total yards offense coming into the game.

The Buckeyes had a bye week this last weekend and will be on the road for the first time this season. The Buckeyes are 3-1 overall with their only loss coming at the hands of #2 Texas 25-22. They are also 1-0 in the Big Ten with an easy 31-6 win over Iowa. In that game the Buckeyes offense had their best game of the year ripping up the Iowa defense for 530 yards of total offense. The defense also had what was their best game of the year not allowing a potent Hawkeye offense to move the ball at all. Iowa was only able to muster up 137 total yards of offense while gaining a negative 9 yards on the ground. The Ohio State defense has been very dominating in their first four games of the season allowing opponents offenses to an average of 258.3 yards per game while also allowing only 12.6 points per game. Those statistics are impressive as they have faced some very potent offenses including Texas, Iowa and Miami (Oh). The Bucks have played the much tougher schedule to date which could be an advantage on Saturday.

The Nittany Lions will be a home dog for only the ninth time since 1996 where they are 5-3 ATS with three SU upsets including a win over Ohio State in 2001. Dating back to last year the Nittany Lions have won seven games in a row, including four straight Big Ten games. Ohio State also currently has a three game win streak against Penn State including a victory last year beating Penn State 21-10. The Buckeyes are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games against the Nittany Lions, but they are only 5-12 ATS in their last 17 games away from Columbus. However, since 1995 OSU has been a road favorite of three points or less six times and covered five of those games.

Iowa @ Purdue -4.5

The Iowa Hawkeyes will return to the road after beating Illinois 35-7 at home, while Purdue will be awaiting their second consecutive home game after suffering a very tough 49-28 loss to Notre Dame. The Hawkeyes are now 1-1 in the Big Ten while Purdue is 0-1 with an overtime loss at Minnesota a few weeks ago.

The Hawkeyes’ offense got back on track against the Illini totaling 476 total yards including 301 yards on the ground. QB Drew Tate was very efficient completing 17 of his 22 passes for 175 yards and two scores while throwing one interception. Iowa’s offense also converted six of their nine third down conversions. When looking at the defensive side of the ball the scoreboard looked good as Iowa only gave up seven points. However, we were not very impressed with the Hawkeye defense as a whole. That allowed Illinois to move up and down the field in the first half but the Illini simply blew their chances to put points on the board. The score at the end of the first half was Iowa 14, Illinois 0 but the Illini miscues kept them from keeping this much closer in the first half. Illinois had two short field goals blocked, missed a 21-yard field goal and threw an interception at the 2-yard line all in the first half. Illinois field goal kicker Jason Reda who was 8 for 9 on field goals coming into the game looked like he had never attempted a field goal in his life. The Iowa defense looked much better in the second half, yet as whole, they are simply not nearly as good as they were last year. Their defensive line is a weak point. As a whole, the four new starters along the defensive front had a combined seven career tackles coming into this season. That is why they are allowing nearly 190 YPG on the ground this year and let a weak Illinois rushing offense gain 141 yards on the ground.

Speaking of struggling defenses, Purdue gave up more than 21 points for the fourth time this season losing to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish by a score of 49-28. The veteran defense for the Boilermakers once again had a problem defending the pass as the Fighting Irish jumped out to an astounding 28-0 halftime lead. The Irish totaled 621 yards of offense including 440 passing yards and three scores from their quarterback Brady Quinn. The Boilermaker defense is now giving up 347 YPG through the air. This is a stop unit that was one of the best in the country last year and returned all 11 starters. Things won’t get easier this week as they will be without one of their starting corners in Brian Hickman who suffered a dislocated elbow against Notre Dame. The Purdue offense moved the ball on the Irish totaling 514 yards of offense. However at halftime the offense only had a total of 143 yards so much of their yardage came after the Notre Dame had the game well in hand. Having to play catch up Purdue put up 28 points and 371 total yards of offense in the second half. Brandon Kirsch completed 29 of his 44 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns. The running game, which has been great this season (200 YPG) took a big hit when Jerod Void who is Purdue’s leading rusher, suffered a dislocated shoulder and will be out for two to four weeks. The Purdue seniors had a meeting after the ND loss and vowed to step up and be better leaders by showing more fire in practice, etc… We’ll see if that meeting works to motivate this team.

The Boilermakers and Hawkeye’s will be meeting up for the 77th time with the all time edge going to the Boilermakers with a SU record of 44-30-3. Purdue also holds the advantage in West Lafayette with a 26-13-1 SU record. The last time Iowa actually beat PU in West Lafayette was back in 1991. Since then, they tied in 1994, Purdue won by 12 points in 1998, by 9 points in 2001 and by 13 points in 2003. However, when looking at this series as a whole, the Hawkeyes have won 13 of the last 18 meetings SU. The last meeting between these two teams was a year ago in Iowa City and the Hawkeyes pulled out a 23-21 win. Iowa benefited from the turnover bug in that game as Purdue had four more turnovers than did the Hawkeyes. Another interesting stat is that the Hawkeye’s are 11-1 SU (9-3 ATS) since the 2002 season in the month of October. Purdue is coming off two consecutive SU losses and they have been solid the following game going 6-1 ATS in that situation since 1996.

Wisconsin -7 @ Northwestern

The Wisconsin Badgers took care of business as expected last Saturday beating the Indiana Hoosiers 41-24. The win however was not one of the best showings that the Badgers have had. They only outgained the Hoosiers by just eight total yards. On the other hand they did improve their record to 5-0 with some great play from the often questioned quarterback John Stocco. Northwestern had the week off after suffering a loss to the 5-0 Penn State Nittany Lions two weeks ago. The Wildcats however controlled the Nittany Lions until late in the 4th quarter before allowing a TD pass late in the game for the 34-29 loss.

The Wisconsin Badgers jumped out to a 31-17 lead at halftime and never looked back in their game against the Hoosiers. The Hoosiers defense seemed to take care of the Badger rushing attack limiting their leading rusher Brian Calhoun to only 101 yards on 26 carries. Expect that from more teams in the future as they stack the line vs. Wisconsin and force QB John Stocco and company to beat them through the air. That’s exactly what the Badgers did last week as completed 13 of his 24 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those touchdown passes were to Brandon Williams who caught six passes for 113 yards and two scores. Williams also added a 63 yard punt return for a touchdown. Badgers wide receiver Jonathon Orr also helped out the passing attack catching 4 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown. However, only gaining 103 yards on the ground was a sore spot for the UW coaches as Indiana has struggled mightily to stop the run this year (Division 1AA Nicholls State ran for over 400 yards on the Hoosiers).

Part of the problem (probably more than people think) was the fact that starting fullback Matt Bernstein who is possibly the best at his position in the country was out last week due to a sports hernia. He will not play again this Saturday at Northwestern. His backup, Chris Pressley, injured his ankle early in the Indiana game and did not return (he will be in the line up this weekend). Thus, Wisconsin had a third string, walk on fullback blocking for Calhoun last Saturday. Another very key injury for Wisconsin is tight end / h-back, Owen Daniels who had become Stocco’s favorite target. He injured his ankle on the first offensive series of the game against Indiana and did not return. His status for this game is up in the air. We’ll find out by Friday hopefully.

The Wildcats had the week off this last weekend after suffering a tough loss to Penn State by the score of 34-29 in a game that they let slip away. Northwestern took a 23-14 with them into halftime but were unable to hold on. Penn State scored 17 points in the 4th quarter including a 36 yard touchdown pass by QB Michael Robinson with 54 seconds left to put the Nittany Lions on top for good. Northwestern had no problem in the first half moving the ball against the Nittany Lions who absolutely shut down the Minnesota Gophers run game this last weekend. Northwestern was able to total 427 yards of offense against the Nittany Lions while rushing for 198 yards. This is the same defense that held to Gophers leading rusher Laurence Maroney to only 48 yards this past weekend. On the other hand the defense held up its history of poor play by allowing the Penn State offense to do whatever they pleased. Penn State ran the ball 27 times for 207 yards while also passing for another 271 yards. They did however force four turnovers including three interceptions. In the last three weeks the Wildcats have given up a total of 1,792 yards which is good for an average of 597 yards per game. This could create problems as the Badgers bring in one of the best running games in the Big Ten.

The Badgers have not had a lot of success ATS when playing the Wildcats lately. Northwestern is an impressive 7-1 ATS in their last 8 games against Wisconsin. NU was the dog in all of those games and actually won half of them (4) straight up. The home team also seems to have the advantage ATS when these two teams meet up. The home team has won 11 of the last 15 games ATS in this series. The Wildcats have been great as a home dog of a TD or more with a spread record of 15-5 in that situation dating back to 1996. The Badgers however haven’t been to bad ATS when having to go on the road in the Big Ten holding a 17-10 record in their last 27 Big Ten road games. But, the
Badgers have been a road chalk of seven points or more in the Big Ten just 20 times since 1980. They’ve lost three consecutive games both SU and ATS in that situation, however.

Minnesota @ Michigan -7.5

Both Minnesota and Michigan are coming off big games last weekend, but neither team has room for a letdown. The Gophers are coming off big loss to Penn State (44-14), while the Wolverines are coming off of a huge win beating Michigan State in overtime 34-31. Both teams are now 1-1 in the Big Ten.

Minnesota was a 2.5 point road favorite last week at Penn State. The Gophers obviously did not deserve to be favored in the game as they were blown out 44-14. While Minnesota is a solid team, they had played a fairly easy schedule to that point with only one really tough game vs. Purdue and that was at home. To be favored on the road against a pretty good Big Ten opponent as a mistake. Part of the problem was the Gophers were in prime form for a letdown. That is because they put a ton of emphasis on their Big Ten home opener vs. Purdue, a team they hadn’t beaten since 1991 (seven consecutive SU and ATS losses). They then had an emotional, come from behind, overtime win. Going on the road as a favorite after that can be tough. The Penn State defense frustrated a Minnesota offense holding them to only 287 total yards. What was more frustrating for the Gophers is that their star running back Laurence Maroney who led the nation in rushing going into the game was held to only 48 yards on the ground.

The defense however did not help the Gophers as they were unable to stop the Nittany Lions. The Nittany Lions got up by a score of 37-7 by the end the third quarter. That actually was a small part of why Minnesota’s running attack was so poor. The Gophs got behind and had to stray from their pound the ball ways. Minnesota is very good with the lead or in close games where they can use their fine offensive line and simply run the ball right at people. If they have to rely solely on the pass, they are in trouble. The Penn State offense held the ball for nearly 35 minutes compared to Minnesota’s 24 minutes. The Gophers had problems stopping PSU’s running game as the Lions amassed an amazing 364 rushing yards. Minnesota’s defense was just never able to make a big stop on third down as Penn State picked up a first down on 13 of their 19 (68%) 3rd down conversions. This is a big concern for the coaching staff as they see a healthy Michael Hart this week. This is a big game for Minnesota as they have a very tough schedule on deck. After this game they host Wisconsin and then host Ohio State.

The Wolverines regrouped after a tough loss to the Badgers two weeks ago beating the Michigan State Spartans 34-31 in overtime. It is probably pretty fair to say that the absence of Michael Hart played a big part in the struggling offense in the past two weeks. Hart returned to the lineup against the Spartans and ran for a season high 218 yards on 36 carries. Hart’s return also sparked the play of quarterback Chad Henne who completed 26 of his 35 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns. The Michigan defense gave up a bunch of yards but did what they had to do to win the game. MSU QB Drew Stanton completed 20 of 30 passes for 282 yards and but he had only one touchdown. That was quite an accomplishment for the Wolverine defense as Stanton has had at least three touchdown passes in each of his first four games. They key for Michigan is can they get back up to a peak level emotionally to face the Gophers? It may be tough after last week’s must win situation.

Michigan has definitely had Minny’s number. Since 1980, the Wolverines are an impressive 22-1 SU with the Gophers only win coming in 1986. Minnesota has kept the game very close as of late. These two met last year in Ann Arbor and Michigan won the game 27-24. Michigan quarterback Chad Henne found receiver Tyler Ecker with only two minutes left to go ahead 27-24. Minnesota led 24-17 with less than 12 minutes to go in the game but the Wolverines scored the final 10 points and got the win. In 2003, Minnesota again lost by three points, this time in Minneapolis. Michigan will be hosting Minnesota for what will be their homecoming. With one of the better Minnesota teams in the last 15 years we feel the Gophers should hang with the Wolverines in this one and keep it fairly tight. Look for them to perform much better after last Saturday’s embarrassment. If the Wolverines letdown at all after last week’s win, we’ll give Minnesota a shot at their second victory over Michigan in 24 attempts.

Illinois @ Indiana -6

Illinois and Indiana meet for the 63rd time and Illinois has dominated the series with a record of 41-18-3. It will also be the first meeting for the two head coaches with their respective teams as Ron Zook of Illinois will meet up with Terry Hoeppner’s Indiana Hoosiers. Both Illinois and Indiana are coming off of big road losses.

The Illinois Fighting Illini suffered their third loss of the year losing to the Iowa Hawkeyes 35-7. The Illini defense once again faltered for the second week in a row after getting creamed by Michigan State the previous game 61-14. The Illinois defense surrendered 476 total yards of offense which included giving up another 300 yards on the ground. This defense has now allowed almost 1,200 yards of total offense in their last two games. The Illini stop unit has allowed less than 30 points just one time this season and that was a win over a very weak San Jose State team. Take that game away and this Illini team has given up an average of 41 points per game. The offense though did show that they are able to move the ball against a solid defense. The Illini offense was able to move the ball up and down the field in the first half vs. Iowa, however their special teams were horrible. Illinois missed a 21-yard field goal and had two others blocked in the first half alone. Head coach Ron Zook needs to shore that portion of his team up quickly if they want to win some games in the Big Ten this year.

The Indiana Hoosiers saw a game much like that of the Fighting Illini. Indiana did suffer a 41-24 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers, but saw many things that they are able to build on as they will host Illini in what will be their home Big Ten opener. Indiana’s offense was able to move the ball somewhat after a slow start. Indiana quarterback Blake Powers started the game fairly slow but recovered to complete 20 of his 41 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns were to the highly talented red shirt freshman James Hardy who caught seven passes for 157 yards. However the offense turned the ball over four times aiding the Badgers and giving them very good field position for much of the game. The defense did play very well holding the normally dominant Badger rushing offense to only 103 yards. They did give up a few big pass plays downfield which was caused by the absence of the safeties who were up near the line trying to stop the run. Indiana played a good game but when playing a team like Wisconsin you can not turn the ball over four times and expect to win. This week they will be playing a team that is closer to their caliber in Illinois.

Illinois won the last meeting between these two teams beating the Hoosiers 26-22 in Champaign last season. Indiana however won the last meeting in Bloomington beating the Illini 17-14. Illinois has won four of the last five meetings between these two teams while holding a 13-6-2 record ATS since 1980 against the Hoosiers. The Hoosiers are not used to being a Big Ten favorite of this magnitude. Even though they are laying just six points, IU has not been a favorite of this number or higher in Big Ten play since 2000. This game which will feature the two newest coaches in the Big 10 should be a good game between two teams that are looking to redirect their programs. We give Indiana the edge here however we are not sure we’re quite ready to lay nearly a full TD with a below average team.

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