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Big 10 Report

   by ASA - 10/14/2005

Michigan State @ Ohio State (-6.5)

Both Michigan State and Ohio State will enter this meeting in Columbus with a 1-1 record in the Big Ten. Michigan State had this last weekend off but lost to Michigan their last time out 34-31 in overtime. The Buckeyes are also coming off a loss @ Penn State 17-10 last weekend. With Penn State remaining unbeaten this is a game that both teams are going to view as a must win.

Ohio State suffered a big loss at the hands of Penn State last weekend getting beat 17-10 in what was a very stellar defense performance by both teams. On the other hand if you were to say that your defense only allowed 195 total yards of offense, you would probably guess that you won the game. That was not the case last Saturday as the Ohio State defense allowed Penn State to gain only 117 yards on the ground while gaining only another 78 through the air. The Buckeye defense also held the Nittany Lions to only 3 of 13 on third down conversions. The Buckeyes defense was so outstanding that PSU was unable to gain a mere 10 yards on nine of their 12 possessions. Penn State had two drives over 40 yards which led to a touchdown and a field goal. They then got a big break from the defense on an intercepted pass that was returned to the Ohio State two yard line. That play led to a Michael Robinson touchdown run. However the Ohio State offense was nearly as inept as Penn States. Ohio State was only able to collect 230 yards of total offense, while only rushing for 91. Ohio State’s two play makers Ted Ginn Jr, and Santonio Holmes combined for only 7 catches for 81 yards. There is no question the Buckeyes defense is where it needs to be. However things will get a little harder this week against a Michigan State offense that is very explosive. On the other hand things should get easier this week for the offense as they will be up against a Michigan State defense that is simply not comparable to the Penn State defense they faced last week. MSU’s defense allows 405 total YPG while Penn State allows just 295.

Michigan State will look to bounce back from a tough overtime loss two weeks ago. MSU lost at home 34-31 to the Wolverines. The Spartans have the nation’s second ranked offense and once again looked pretty stellar piling up 455 total yards. The Spartans offense held a very balanced attack as usual as quarterback Drew Stanton completed 20 of his 30 passes for 282 yards while the rushing attack ran the ball 37 times for 173 yards. After a bye week you can be sure the Spartans potent offense has done everything they can do to prepare for a tough defense in Ohio State. The defense however has been the Achilles heel of the Spartans all year. In their game against Michigan, the Spartans defense surrendered 488 total yards of offense. The Spartans gave ups 232 yards rushing in that game. The Michigan State defense never had an answer to stopping Mike Hart as he ran for 218 yards. The Michigan State defense will have to step up to another challenge this weekend as the Ohio State Buckeyes have not only a good RB with Antonio Pittman but also a quarterback in Troy Smith that can make some noise on the ground.

Both teams will be coming off of a loss, however Michigan State has had an extra week to prepare for this game. The Buckeyes have been very good in this situation with a record of 23-8 SU at home coming off a SU loss. Now if OSU is at home off a SU loss and a favorite of seven points or less, they are 6-2 ATS in that scenario since 1988. For whatever reason, the Buckeyes are also an impressive 12-0 SU and 10-3 ATS after playing the Penn State Nittany Lions. The Spartans are only 2-6 SU in their last 8 games in Columbus against the Buckeyes, but in those eight games they are 7-1 ATS. Six of those eight games in Columbus saw OSU favored by 14 points or more. Overall (home and away), the Buckeyes have been a favorite of six points or more 12 times against Michigan State covering only four of those contests.

Penn State @ Michigan (-3)

These teams ended their games last Saturday and were on complete opposite ends of the “emotional spectrumâ€쳌. Penn State has won their sixth game of the year against Ohio State to remain undefeated while the Michigan Wolverines let another one slip away losing to Minnesota 23-20 on a last second field goal. With all the action that took place in the Big Ten last weekend Penn State finds themselves as the only unbeaten team in the conference. Michigan on the other is now 3-3 overall with a losing record of 1-2 in the conference which is good for ninth place.

The Penn State Nittany Lions are coming off of possibly their biggest victory since 1999. During that season, the Nittany Lions were able to knock off the 4th ranked Arizona Wildcats. 1999 was also the last time that PSU was actually ranked in the top 10. This week they vaulted to 8th in the nation after their big win last Saturday. Penn State knocked off the 6th ranked Buckeyes 17-10 in a game that was not the prettiest of wins. Penn State did all they had to do to win, playing tough defense and not turning the ball over. In recent weeks the Penn State offense was averaging around three turnovers per game. This was a big worry for the Penn State coaching staff as they were now up against one of the best defenses in the nation. The offense however did not allow the Ohio State defense to get one takeaway. That in itself was probably the biggest key to Penn State winning that game. The defense played so well that they held the Buckeyes to only 230 total yards and forced two turnovers including an interception return to the Buckeyes two yard line, which set up a big touchdown run by quarterback Michael Robinson. That play was the difference in the game. Robinson threw for only 78 yards but ran for 52 yards on the ground. While the PSU defense has been very good, they did struggle in their only road game so far this year @ Northwestern. In that game, the Wildcats had 427 yards of offense and led 23-14 at half. PSU came up with a TD drive in the final minute of the game to pull out a 34-29 come from behind victory.

The Michigan Wolverines surprisingly suffered their third loss of the season after falling to the Minnesota Golden Gophers by a score of 20-23. That loss makes this the worst start the Wolverines have had since 1990 when they also started 3-3. Michigan’s loss in the Big House was their second of the year after losing to Notre Dame in week two. The last time Michigan lost two games at home in one season was back in 1994. The worst part of last week’s loss for the Wolverines was the fact that Minnesota was simply trying to run out the clock near the end of the game and get to overtime. Their starting QB Bryan Cupito was on the sidelines with an injury and his back up, Tony Mortensen was called on to simply hand the ball off and get the team to OT. He did not attempt one pass in the game. With under two minutes to play in the game, Minnesota had the ball on their own 26-yard line when back up tailback Gary Russell took a hand off from Mortensen and rumbled 61 yards down the sideline to set up the game winning field goal. With two Big Ten losses, Michigan call ill afford to slip up the rest of the way if they want to remain in this race. The Wolverines however are going to have to shore up a few things before they entertain Penn State. For starters the Wolverines were horrible on offense amassing only 249 total yards against an average Minnesota defense. One of the main problems on offense is that QB Chad Henne has struggled this year after a great freshman season. He was just 14 of 29 for 155 yards last weekend. The lone offensive touchdown for the Wolverines was a one yard run by running back Mike Hart. You can also not expect to win a game when your offense can only convert on 21% (3-14) of your third down conversions. Michigan was killed on the ground in this game as they allowed the Gophers to tally 264 yards rushing to just 94 for the Wolverines.

We all know that Penn State seems to have turned the corner with their solid performances this season, however they have had their fair share of problems lately playing the Wolverines. Penn State is 0-6 SU the last six meetings with U of M. They are also just 1-5 SU in the Big House. Here is an interesting trend. Michigan has lost a home game SU and then followed that up with another home game only 11 times since 1980. The Wolverines are 10-1 SU in that situation with their only loss coming back in 1990 to Iowa, 24-23. The Nittany Lions have been very successful the week after playing Ohio State as they are 11-2 SU. However in those 13 games after playing the Buckeyes the Nittany Lions are only 3-10 ATS. As we stated, Michigan has dominated this series in the last 6 years actually Penn State 174-72 (average score of 29-12). The Michigan defense has also come up with two shut outs in the last six contest vs. PSU. If the Nittany Lions can come into Ann Arbor and steal a game away from a desperate Michigan team, they will prove to us they belong among the elite in 2005.

Northwestern @ Purdue (-7)

The Northwestern Wildcats are coming off of a huge victory beating the 5-0 Wisconsin Badgers, while the Purdue Boilermakers continue to fall slowly to the bottom of the standings in the Big Ten. The Wildcats 51-48 victory over the Badgers was their third win of the year and first Big Ten win. Purdue’s 34-17 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes was already their third of the season and they are still winless in the Big Ten.

The Wildcats simply came out hot in the second half of their upset over the Badgers. The Northwestern offense literally could not be stopped in the second half as they scored TD’s on every possession but one. If it weren’t for the fumble by running back Tyrell Sutton, the Cats may have scored on every possession in the second half. The Wildcats trailed at half by a score of 17-10 but came out blazing in the second half scoring TD’s on seven consecutive possessions. The offense was clicking on all cylinders scoring 41 second half points and totaling 674 yards of offense for the game. That was the most yardage given up by Wisconsin in the history of their program. Quarterback Brett Basanez completed 26 of his 36 passes for 361 yards and three scores. His running back Tyrell Sutton was equally successful running the ball for 244 yards on 26 carries. Sutton averaged 8.3 yards a carry and had a ton of yards after contact. Wisconsin simply had all kinds of trouble bringing him down. There is no question that the Northwestern offense was dominating, but when we look at the Northwestern defense it is obvious they are far from even average. Northwestern ranks 116th out of 117 Division 1-A college football teams giving up nearly 510 total yards of offense per game. This was once again the case against the Badgers as they gave up 515 total yards.

The Purdue Boilermakers have to be the disappointment of the Big Ten thus far. After losing their third consecutive game this season, the Boilermakers find themselves in a world of hurt. Purdue once again got handled at Rose-Ade-Stadium losing to the Iowa Hawkeye’s 34-17. Purdue once again had their problems on the defensive side of the ball giving up 535 total yards offense. Iowa was able to run the ball 50 times for 178 yards while passing for another 357. After getting by their first two games vs. Akron and Arizona, this defense has been torched. Their last three games vs. Minnesota, Notre Dame and Iowa, the Boilers have allowed 1,728 total yards (576 YPG). We understand that those are three very good offenses, however this is a defense that returned 11 starters and allowed just 345 total yards per game in 2004. PU now ranks 114th in the nation in total defense allowing 481 total yards per game (576 per game their last three games). Much of this can be credited to a very weak secondary that will again have it’s hands full this Saturday vs. Northwestern. Purdue gives up a dismal 348 passing yards a game which is second to last nationally with only Oregon State behind them. With the defense struggling, the Boilers have put their offense in the tough position of having to try and come from behind in all three games. Purdue puts up good numbers on offense. They totaled 445 yards against an Iowa defense that is better than average. But they were unable to run the ball (just 92 yards) with starting tailback Jerod Void out with an injury. Void will remained sidelined for at least a few more weeks. Purdue quarterback Brandon Kirsch completed 31 of his 50 passes for 353 yards and one touchdown against the Hawks. PU struggled on third down, however converting only 25% (3-12). The offense should be able to put up some good numbers against the Northwestern defense, however the defense will struggle again.

Purdue and Northwestern will meet for the 72nd time with the Boilermakers leading the all time series with a record of 47-24-1, while also holding a 21-8 SU record when playing at Ross-Ade-Stadium. Northwestern won the last meeting however by a score of 13-10 as the Cats scored a TD with just 38 seconds remaining to get the win. Purdue had won seven straight in the series prior to last year’s loss. Oh how Purdue has fallen. After starting the 2004 season 5-0 and vaulting themselves into the top 5 in the polls, Purdue lost to Wisconsin 20-17 on the now infamous Scott Starks fumble recovery and return for a TD. That one play has seemed to set the Boiler program back a bit. In fact, since starting last season at 5-0, the Boilers are 4-8 straight up and just 2-10 against the spread. The Boilermakers do have one thing going for them in this game, however. That is, when PU has lost three consecutive games SU, they are 9-3-1 ATS in their next game dating back to 1983. With two defenses that are unable to stop anyone this game should be very interesting and the total of 67 may be worth a look.

Indiana @ Iowa (-15)

This game matches the Indiana Hoosiers who are 4-1 (1-1 Big Ten), and the Iowa Hawkeyes who are 4-2 (2-1 Big Ten). Both teams are coming off of victories as the Hawkeyes handled the Boilermakers 34-17, while the Hoosiers whipped the Fighting Illini 36-13.

The Hoosiers took care of business as they hosted the Illinois Fighting Illini in their annual 2005 homecoming game. The Hoosiers offense looked pretty impressive in their 4th victory of the season totaling 403 total yards. Quarterback Blake Powers played extremely well completing 22 of his 35 passes for 198 yards and four touchdowns. He also found his favorite target James Hardy 10 times for 118 yards and two scores. Hardy who is a red shirt freshman wide receiver proved why he may just be one of best wide receivers in the Big Ten. The Indiana rushing attack also took advantage of a weak Illini rushing defense running the ball 47 times for 205 yards. The Hoosier offense once again proved that they are able to move the ball down the field. The Hoosier defense also stepped up as they played very well giving up only 343 total yards. They never really allowed the Illini offense to get in a rhythm. The defense was very disruptive intercepting two Tim Brasic passes while also recovering a fumble. Things will get a little bit more difficult this week as they travel to Iowa, but they should still be able to move the ball on offense. The Illini actually moved the ball quite well on Iowa two weeks ago totaling 371 yards.

The Iowa Hawkeyes came up with a big road victory @ Purdue last week. Even though the Boilermakers defense ranks among the nation’s worst, the Hawkeyes looked as if they were executing everything quite well. Drew Tate completed 19 of his 33 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore running back Albert Young also played extremely well carrying the ball 36 times for 165 yards in a game that the Hawkeyes’ offense line completely controlled. The Iowa offensive line never really allowed the Boilermakers to get any pressure on Tate as he was able to sit back in the pocket and complete the passes he needed to. Iowa played a very well managed game as they held the ball for 36 minutes. They were also played error free football with no turnovers and committing just two penalties for only 10 yards. They did suffer a key loss when WR Ed Hinkel (20 catches this season) sustained a broken arm. When looking at the other side of the ball the Iowa defense saw the good and the bad as their secondary did not look great but their run defense played well. Purdue was able to pass the ball for 353 yards which is a concern for Iowa seeing that the week before Illinois also moved the ball well through the air against the Hawkeyes. They may also be without starting CB Antwan Allen who sprained his ankle against Purdue. Allen, who has started 44 of Iowa’s last 45 games, is not listed on the depth chart this week. That would be a big blow if he is unable to play.

This will be the first meeting of the two teams since 2002 when the Hawkeyes beat the Hoosiers 24-8 in Bloomington. The Hawkeyes have won 13 of their last 19 games vs. the Hoosiers. The Hoosiers will also be coming into one of the hardest places to play in the Big Ten as Iowa has now won 22 straight games at home. They are also a phenomenal 19-3 ATS (86%) their last 22 lined home games. Indiana has been one of the worst road teams in college football. Since the 1995 season, the Hoosiers are 4-36 SU vs. Big Ten teams. They are also just 2-10 ATS their last 12 road games within the conference. Indiana however will be under new direction with Terry Hoeppner who will bring a much improved 4-1 Indiana team to Kinnick Stadium. Indiana will also bring along two very talented offensive player in sophomore quarterback Blake Powers and red shirt freshman James Hardy who will create problems for the Iowa defense.

Wisconsin @ Minnesota (no line)

Both the Badgers and the Gophers are going to be entering this game in the Metrodome with identical records both overall and in the Big Ten. They are each 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the conference. However the Badgers are coming off of a disappointing loss to the Northwestern Wildcats, while the Gophers survived a thriller in Michigan against the always tough Wolverines. That was the first time that Minnesota beat Michigan since the 1986 season. This week these two teams will be battling for the Paul Bunyan Axe.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers traveled the Big House last weekend as 7.5 point underdogs and came up with big 23-20 upset. This was a big victory for the Gophers after getting hammered by the Nittany Lions (44-14) the week prior. Minnesota’s offense once again called on the running game, but this time it wasn’t only Laurence Maroney. Maroney did run the ball 36 times for 129 yards and a touchdown, but his counterpart Gary Russell ran the ball 18 times for 128 yards. Maroney and Russell combined to average nearly five yards per carry. Quarterback Bryan Cupito once again did just what he had to do to lead the Gophers past the Wolverines. All Cupito is asked to do is be efficient and not turn the ball over and that is what he did completing 11 of his 23 passes for 139 yards and one touchdown. Cupito, however was injured in the game. He sat on the sidelines during the Gophers last drive with an injured shoulder and a slight concussion. He is expected to play this Saturday. Laurence Maroney, however is not a guarantee to play this Saturday. He has an injured ankle and an injury to his arm. That is the reason there is no line on this game. The Minnesota defense also played very well vs. the Wolverines allowing just 249 total yards. That was the lowest total yardage output this year against the Minnesota defense besides Florida Atlantic which had 246 yards. Quarterback Chad Henne was never able to get going as he completed 14 of his 29 passes for only 155 yards. Star running back Michael Hart was held in check running for only 109 yards on 28 carries. The Minnesota defense stepped up to the challenge and held the Wolverines to only 3 of 14 on third down conversions. This week the defense will once again have to be up for a big challenge facing a Wisconsin offense that ranks ninth in the country in scoring at 41 PPG.

The Badgers 51-48 loss to the Wildcats came as a shocker to some but not us. The Badgers simply have had problems controlling the NU offense ever since Randy Walker took over as head coach. The Badgers allowed 674 yards of total offense in the game which was the most in UW history. They also allowed the Wildcats to score TD’s on seven straight possessions in the second half. Head Coach Barry Alvarez addressed the media on Monday and credited a lot of the problems on defense to communication errors. Alvarez told the media that when Northwestern would change formations, linebackers and defensive backs were not always on the same page as to the defensive call and where they were supposed to be. He did however say that this is something that is very fixable, but it wasn’t something that could be done during the game because the Badger offense was scoring so quickly after the Northwestern offense would come off the field. It didn’t give the defensive coaches much time to make adjustments on the sidelines. The worst part about the defensive performance was the 313 yards they gave up on the ground. That could be a big problem as the Badgers face one of the nation’s top running attacks this weekend. On offense, the Badgers were also able to move up and down the field with ease in the second half as they ended up the day with 515 total yards. The Badgers have also developed a down field threat in Jonathon Orr who caught 5 passes for 87 yards and four touchdowns. RB Brian Calhoun continued his solid performances rushing for 122 yards on 23 carries while also catching 11 passes for 128 yards. That was the first time in school history that a player had over 100 yards both rushing and receiving.

This Saturday’s game between the Badger and the Gophers will be the 115th game in the series with the edge going to the Gophers with a record of 59-47-8. This rivalry has dated back to 1890 and is the longest ongoing rivalry in division 1-A college football. The Gophers will host the Badgers who currently hold Paul Bunyan’s axe, after beating the Gophers 38-14 last year at Camp Randall Stadium. However the Gophers hold a record of 37-17-2 SU against the Badgers when playing at home. The Badgers have won 8 of their last 10 meetings SU against the Gophers. The Badgers have also won 4 out of the last 5 games ATS against the Golden Gophers. The Badgers who will be up for a big test against Minnesota seeing that they will be playing against one of the best Gopher teams in years. Minnesota has historically fallen on their face following their game against Michigan. In fact, the Gophs are just 1-13 both SU and ATS (dating back to 1988) in their game following Michigan. However, those were ALL after SU losses to Michigan. We’ll see if they respond differently after actually beating the Wolverines. This should be a good one.

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