Big 10 Football Report - Week 7

by ASA, Inc.

Friday, Dec 04, 2020
INDIANA @ WISCONSIN (OPEN -11 to CURRENT -14) – Saturday, December 5th
INDIANA – The Hoosiers were in a tough spot on Saturday taking on Maryland at home just a week after their biggest game of the season @ Ohio State.  They came out lethargic as was expected and led Maryland 7-3 at half.  The Hoosiers punted on 6 of their 7 first half possessions which was the same number of punts they had the entire game vs Ohio State.  They regrouped and played much better in the 2nd half with 209 of their 349 total yards and 20 of their 27 points coming after the break.  The 27-11 win and cover moved the Hoosiers to 5-1 SU on the season and a perfect 6-0 ATS and they have covered those 6 games by an average of 11.5 points per game.  The big news here is IU QB Penix injury last week.  He left late in the 3rd quarter with a leg injury and it has since been determined he tore his ACL and is out for the season.  Huge loss for IU who have very little experience behind him.  That is why this line jumped from -11 to -14 after the announcement he was out.  His back up is Jack Tuttle who has attempted 16 passes in his career, 5 of those coming last week in relief of Penix.  Offensively HC Tom Allen made an interesting move and decided to lean on his running game and he may have to continue with that.  It had been non-existent coming into the game (76 YPG rushing before last week).  After rushing for just 380 total yards in their first 5 games, Indiana put up 234 yards on 48 carries Saturday.  They only attempted 24 passes just one week after Penix threw for a career high vs OSU.  On defense they picked up 3 more takeaways and now rank 5th nationally with 18.  IU’s turnover margin on the season is +9 which is leads the Big 10 and is 2nd nationally.
INDIANA NEXT UP – Home vs Purdue
WISCONSIN – Wisconsin’s home game vs Minnesota last week was cancelled due to Covid issues in the Gopher program.  That means the Badgers have now had 3 games cancelled and they no longer qualify for the Big 10 Championship game as they will only play a maximum of 5 regular season games if all are played (need 6 to qualify).  The Badgers went into their most recent game @ Northwestern really short handed at the WR position.  Both starters (Davis & Pryor) were out so Wisconsin relied on a true freshman and 2 walk on seniors for most of the game at the WR position.  Northwestern is not the defense you want to face if your offense is not at full strength.  UW really struggled to throw the ball and freshman QB Mertz was not in synch with his new receivers.  He barely completed 50% of his passes and was under constant pressure from the NW defense.  Mertz threw 3 interceptions and had a fumble accounting for 4 of Wisconsin’s 5 turnovers.  The Badgers actually did outgain Northwestern by nearly 100 yards but were only able to find the endzone one time.  The 7 points scored was just the 2nd time since October of 2016 that the Badgers were held to single digits on the scoreboard.  The defense was outstanding once again limiting the Wildcats to less than 4.0 YPP and only 1.0 YPC on the ground.  Trailing 14-7 at half, the UW defense forced the Cats to 5 straight 3 & outs to start the 2nd half but the Badger offense could not take advantage.  After 3 games the defense now ranks #1 nationally in total defense, #3 in scoring defense, rush defense, and pass defense.  
MOST RECENT MEETING – These 2 have only met twice since the end of the 2012 season.  The most recent meeting was back in 2017 when the Badgers rolled over Indiana 45-17 as 10.5 point favorites.
POINTSPREAD NUGGET – These 2 haven’t faced off many times recently (just twice since 2012) but when they have, Wisconsin has dominated.  The Badgers have won 10 in a row vs IU with 9 of those wins coming by at least 17 points.  Wisconsin is also 8-1 ATS their last 9 meetings with the Hoosiers.  

PENN STATE (-9.5 OPEN to -11 CURRENT) @ RUTGERS – Saturday, December 5th
PENN STATE – We thought last Saturday might definitely be a flat spot for PSU.  They were coming off a 20-point home loss vs Iowa and we felt after starting 0-5 if they were ever going to rally and pick up a win it would be home.  We stayed off the game completely but they proved our initial thoughts wrong with a 27-17 win @ Michigan.  The Nittany Lions dominated the stat sheet and never trailed in the game.  So what was the difference for PSU this week?  No turnovers!  We mentioned in last week’s report that if they could avoid the giveaways they have a chance to be a decent team.  They had been outgaining their opponents on the year but entered their game vs Michigan with 13 turnovers already this season.  That changed on Saturday and they picked up their first win.  They also had a huge edge on 3rd down converting 50% of the time to just 33% for Michigan and that allowed PSU to run 24 more offensive snaps in the game.  The defense was helped out by Michigan QB McNamara injuring his shoulder early in the game (he continued to play) but was solid holding the Wolverines to 286 total yards.  Despite their 1-5 record, the Nittany Lions rank 3rd in the Big 10 in total offense and 4th in total defense.
PENN STATE NEXT UP – Home vs Michigan State
RUTGERS – We were on Purdue last week at home vs Rutgers and felt it was a fantastic spot to play on the Boilers at home and against the Knights coming off a 3 OT loss a week earlier.  There were a number of other factors involved in our decision as well and it looked great at halftime with Purdue (-11) up 23-13.  The turning point in the 2nd half was after Purdue scored a TD to go up 30-20 and Rutgers then proceeded to return the kickoff 100 yards for a TD to cut the lead to 3.  There was still over 9:00 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter at that point and Rutgers dominated from that point on winning 37-30.  After the big kickoff return, Rutgers outscored Purdue 10-0 and outgained them 123 to 50 and outrushed them 117 to 12 (minus kneel downs at end of game) to close out the game.  HC Schiano had a great offensive game plan coming in.  Starting QB Vedral did not play (we heard he was banged up but felt he’d play) and that final decision was made in warm ups.  Schiano then decided to rotate his back up QB’s with Sitkowski (the better passer) and Langan (the better runner) keeping Purdue’s defense off balance for much of the 2nd half.  The Rutgers defense struggled in the first half allowing 23 points on 290 yards to the Boilermakers.  They came out with much better energy in the 2nd half limiting Purdue to just 1 TD on 122 total yards.  One thing we know is this team has no quit.  If they were going to have a letdown, this was the spot and battling back from 10 points down at half speaks volumes about what Schiano has done with this program in a very short time.  
RUTGERS NEXT UP – @ Maryland
MOST RECENT MEETING – Another huge point spread swing.  Last year PSU was a 38.5 point favorite at home vs Rutgers and now they are only -11 on the road.  Penn State won last year’s game 27-6 but they were actually outgained by 50 yards by a bad Rutgers offense.
POINTSPREAD NUGGET – PSU is 6-0 SU in this series but Rutgers has covered 4 of those games.  The Nittany Lions are 14-7-1 ATS as a road favorite of more than 7 points dating back to October of 1999.
IOWA (-12 OPEN to -13.5 CURRENT) @ ILLINOIS – Saturday, December 5th
IOWA – We felt Iowa might have been a bit overvalued coming into last week’s match up with Nebraska.  They had won 3 straight games in blowout fashion, however the offense wasn’t putting up impressive yardage.  The Hawkeyes were +7 in TO margin in those 3 wins which was a big reason they were winning comfortably.  Last Friday they had another so-so game offensive as far as yardage goes (322 total yards) and nipped Nebraska 26-20.  With the game tied 13-13 at half the Huskers (+13) used an up tempo offense and scored a TD on their opening drive of the 2nd half to take a 20-13 lead.  It was the first Iowa deficit in this game and just the 2nd time in the last 4 games (including this match up) the Hawkeyes had been behind on the scoreboard.  In fact, the previous 3 games prior to Saturday Iowa had trailed for a grand total of 2 minutes and 50 seconds.  The Iowa defense was playing very well coming in allowing only 35 total points in their previous 3 games and they came up big late in this one.  With Iowa leading 26-20 and Nebraska driving in Iowa territory with 2:00 minutes remaining, the defense came up with a big sack, fumble recovery on Nebraska QB Martinez to solidify the win.  After the game Nebraska HC Frost called out the Iowa sidelines for clapping during the game which he felt threw off his offense at the line of scrimmage.  Iowa HC Kirk Ferentz shot back basically saying it was a ridiculous claim.  Something to remember when these 2 face off next season.    
IOWA NEXT UP – Home vs Wisconsin
ILLINOIS – The Illini, as have many other Big 10 team this season, had an unscheduled bye last week when their home game vs OSU was cancelled due to a covid outbreak with the Buckeyes.  The week prior to that Illinois pulled a big upset topping Nebraska 41-23 as a 17-point underdog.  The Illini finally got starting QB Peters back in that game after he had missed 3 straight games due to Covid.  He stepped in and didn’t miss a beat throwing for 205 yards while rushing for another 36 in Illinois’ upset win at Nebraska.  It was the 3rd time already this year that a Big 10 underdog of 17 points or more won the game outright!  It was the 2nd huge upset for the Illini in the span of year as they beat Wisconsin last season as a 29-point dog.  Prior to last year’s win over Wisconsin and this year’s win over Nebraska, the Illini had been an underdog of 17 points or more 55 times since 1980 winning just TWO of those games outright.  Illinois has some momentum entering this game with 2 straight wins after starting the season 0-3.  They’ve outgained each of their last 2 opponents and they’ve really started to lean on their running game with 623 yards on the ground the last 2 weeks, including gashing the Huskers for 385 rushing.  They may have to look toward the passing game a bit more here facing an Iowa defense that allows only 2.8 YPC, the best mark in the Big 10.  
ILLINOIS NEXT UP – @ Northwestern
MOST RECENT MEETING – Last year Iowa was a 15 point home favorite in this rivalry and won 19-10.  The yardage was close to even in the game that featured only 2 TD’s and 5 FG’s.  
POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Iowa has dominated this series winning 11 of the last 12 meetings (7-4 ATS).  This is the 4th time already this season Iowa has been tabbed a road favorite (2-1 ATS).  They are now 19-5 ATS the last 24 times they’ve been favored on the road dating back to late 2011.  
NEBRASKA @ PURDUE (-1 OPEN to -2 CURRENT) – Saturday, December 5th
NEBRASKA – The Huskers have been a tough team to predict this season.  They’ve been up and down to say the least.  Three weeks ago they were up, playing Northwestern to the wire (21-13 loss) and outgaining the Cats by 125 yards.  Two weeks ago they were down, getting rolled 41-23 by Illinois as a 17 point favorite.  Last week, they were up again despite their 26-20 loss @ Iowa.  The offense outgained Iowa by 16 yards despite running 12 fewer plays.  However, as the old football cliché goes, if you have 2 QB’s you have no QB, may apply here.  HC Scott Frost went back to Adrian Martinez under center this week to start the game after Luke McCaffrey started the prior week vs Illinois.  While Martinez got the start and played pretty well completing 18 of his 20 passes, Frost also rotated McCaffrey in for 18 snaps, 5 of which were designed QB runs.  He had 42 yards rushing on those 5 attempts.  Even though not a great passer, Martinez gives them the much better throwing option while being able to run as well.  We would anticipate Martinez to be the starter while sprinkling in McCaffrey from time to time.  One thing we do know is, the RB’s for Nebraska have been almost non-existent.  Starting RB Mills has been out the last few games which hasn’t helped.  As a whole the RB’s have carried the ball 65 times for 205 yards (3.1 YPC) this season.  Meanwhile the QB’s have combined for 583 rushing yards on 101 carries (5.7 YPC).  They need to get more production out of their RB’s to take some pressure off the QB’s.  
NEBRASKA NEXT UP – Home vs Minnesota
PURDUE – Purdue was in a great spot at halftime last week leading Rutgers 23-13 but proceeded to get outscored 24-7 in the second half in their 37-30 home loss.  It was a disappointing loss for us as well as we backed Purdue as an 11-point favorite.  Thought it was a great spot for them and we were wrong.  We overestimated the Boilers and definitely underestimated Rutgers.  Purdue came in with a decent run defense but not a great pass defense which we felt matched up well in this game.  However, in the 2nd half Rutgers made a decision to pound the ball on the ground and Purdue couldn’t stop them.  The Knights ran the ball 28 times after halftime while attempting only 8 passes.  Back up QB Langan basically ran the read option the entire time he was in and even though everyone knew what was coming, Purdue allowed him to rush for 95 yards.  On their final possession, Rutgers took over with 5:26 remaining in the game and ran out the entire clock not passing the ball once.  The Purdue defense couldn’t get off the field allowing Rutgers to convert on 11 of their 20 third/fourth downs in the game (55%).  Rutgers entered the game converting only 36% of their third/fourth down attempts on the season.  Because of the dominance on the ground for Rutgers, the Purdue offense only ran 23 plays the entire 2nd half after running 45 snaps in the first half.  Thus, the Boilermaker offense that looked very good in the first half just didn’t have many opportunities to eventually pull away in this game when they did have the 10 point lead.
NOTE – After this was written, Purdue had some players opt out for the rest of the season.  That happened on Thursday of this week.  Not a great sign.  Need to find out who they are.  
PURDUE NEXT UP - @ Indiana
MOST RECENT MEETING – Purdue was a 4 point underdog at home in this game last year and pulled off the 31-27 upset.  The Boilers were -2 on the TO margin in that game but still were able to win outgaining Nebraska by 75 yards.
POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Purdue has covered 5 of the last 6 in this Big 10 series.  The Huskers are 0-1 ATS this year and 2-7 ATS since 2011 in the 2nd game of back to back road contests.  Since 1985, Nebraska has been an underdog of 3 points or less 23 times.  They are 7-15-1 ATS in those games.

OHIO STATE (-23 OPEN to -23.5 CURRENT) @ MICHIGAN STATE – Saturday, December 5th
OHIO STATE – The Buckeyes have played just 1 game since November 7th with last week’s contest @ Illinois getting cancelled due to a covid outbreak at OSU.  This game was in doubt earlier in the week as the Buckeyes were waiting on more testing and conducting contact tracing.  Head coach Ryan Day will not be at this game as he hasn’t been cleared after contracting covid.  Not much room for error any more for the Bucks as they can’t miss another game and remain eligible for a spot in the Big 10 Championship.  Although, the Big 10 AD’s have now been mentioning tweaking their original rules (must play at least 6 games) so that the Buckeyes wouldn’t be left out of the Final 4 if they run the table.  There will be a number of players out for this game as they are still involved in the 21 day waiting period implemented by the Big 10.  Finding out who they are is always difficult as the teams are not required to release that information.  The OSU offense is obviously fantastic.  They’ve score at least 38 points in every game and they are averaging 45 PPG (7th nationally).  The defense is down this year.  Especially vs the pass.  In their most recent game IU QB Penix, who is now out for the year with an ACL injury, threw for nearly 500 yards which was the 4th highest total in history vs the Buckeye defense.   The OSU pass defense now ranks dead last in the Big 10 and 117th nationally allowing 291 YPG.  Maybe not a big deal as they close out the season vs MSU & Michigan who don’t have top notch QB’s, but something to watch when the competition ramps up if OSU makes the College Football Playoff.
OHIO STATE NEXT UP – Home vs Michigan
MICHIGAN STATE – This MSU team has been all over the map this season.  They lost at home vs Rutgers to open the season partly due to 7 Sparty turnovers in that one.  The beat rival Michigan on the road the following week, got smoked by Iowa & Indiana in back to back weeks, then beat undefeated Northwestern last week as a 13 point underdog last Saturday.  We were on the Spartan on the first half line (+7) as we felt Northwestern would come out flat after their big win over Wisconsin and MSU would be energized following a bye.  Sparty jumped out to a 17-0 lead and easily covered the first half on their way to a 29-20 win.  The Cats played by far their worst game of the season with just 63 yards rushing and 4 turnovers which led to 16 of MSU’s 29 points.  Speaking of running the ball, Michigan State entered the game averaging just 73 YPG on the ground and HC Tucker had a game plan to try and run the ball against one of the top defensive teams in the nation.  They did just that with 195 yards on 47 carries.  QB Lombardi attempted just 27 passes which was a significant drop from his first 3 starts where he put the ball in the air an average of 37 times (he was benched in game 4).  Lombardi threw just 1 pick last Saturday after throwing 8 prior to last week.  Northwestern finally took their first lead of the game 20-17 just 1:00 minute into the 4th quarter.  MSU didn’t fold, which they could have at that point, with the defense really stepping up limiting NW to just 13 offensive snaps over their final 5 possessions while creating 3 turnovers during that stretch setting the offense up to win the game.   
MOST RECENT MEETING – OSU was favored by 20.5 at home last year and pulled out a cover winning 34-10.  The score was 27-10 at the break and the Buckeyes held MSU scoreless from that point on.
POINTSPREAD NUGGET – This is just the 2nd time in series history that OSU has been favored by more than 21 points.  The first was in 1998 when the Buckeyes were favored by 27.5 points and LOST OUTRIGHT 28-24.  Beyond that loss, OSU has been very successful on the road as a large chalk.  When favored by 21 or more away from home, the Buckeyes are 21-12 ATS dating back to 1980.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

© 2024 Al McMordie's All Rights Reserved.