Big Ten Report: Week 1

by ASA, Inc.

ILLINOIS @ WISCONSIN (-18.5 OPEN to -19.5 CURRENT) – Friday, Oct 23rd
 
ILLINOIS LAST YEAR – The Illini finished with a 6-6 regular season record in 2019 (4-5 in the Big Ten) and went to their first bowl game since the 2014 season (8-5 ATS).  They did lose last year’s bowl game getting beat 35-20 by California in the Red Box Bowl.  They return 14 starters this season including 9 on offense.  QB Brandon Peters returns who threw for 1800 yards and 18 TD’s last year.  They do lose 75% of their rushing yards from last year with RB’s Corbin, Brown & Bonner all moving on.  On defense they finished in the middle of the pack in Big 10 play in both PPG allowed (26) and YPG allowed (408).  The Illini have some key players back on LB and in the defensive backfield but lost some contributors up front.  Their 4 projected starting defensive linemen for this season had only 20 tackles combined last year.      
 
ILLINOIS NEXT UP – Home vs Purdue
 
 
WISCONSIN LAST YEAR – The Badgers won the Big 10 West a year ago and lost 34-21 to Ohio State in the conference championship game.  Wisconsin then went on to lose to Oregon 28-27 in the Rose Bowl finishing with a 10-4 record overall (including bowl game) with a 7-2 regular season Big 10 mark.  They lose pretty much all of their key skill players offensively with starting QB Coan out with a broken foot, RB Taylor (now with the Colts), and WR Cephus (now with the Lions).  The new starting QB will be redshirt freshman Mertz who was one of the top rated QB’s in HS two years ago.  He played in 4 games last year and threw 10 passes.  Defensively Wisconsin should be very good again.  They finished 4th nationally in total defense and return 15 of their top 18 tacklers.
 
WISCONSIN NEXT UP – @ Nebraska
 
 
MOST RECENT MEETING – The Illini upset Wisconsin in Champaign last year as 30-point underdogs!  Illinois was 0-3 in league play entering the game and pulled the shocker winning 24-23 on a last second FG.  Wisconsin, however, outgained Illinois 420 to 315 in the loss but had 3 turnovers.
 
POINTSPREAD NUGGET – The Illini are 13-7 ATS (65%) the last 20 times they’ve been a dog of 20 or more dating back to 2006. 
 
 
PENN STATE (-7 OPEN to -6.5 CURRENT) @ INDIANA – Saturday, Oct 24th
 
PENN STATE LAST YEAR – The Nittany Lions finished with a very good 10-2 regular season record last year with their 2 setbacks coming @ Minnesota 31-26 and @ Ohio State 28-17.  That landed them in 2nd place in the Big 10 East and they went on to roll over Memphis 53-39 in the Cotton Bowl.  Starting QB Clifford is back under center after finishing 4th in the league in pass efficiency with 23 TDs and 7 interceptions.  He led an offense that averaged 36 PPG which was good for 2nd in the Big 10 and 15th nationally.  PSU also returns their top 3 RB’s who combined for over 1,600 yards on the ground (one of those players, RB Brown, now may miss the season).  WR Hamler is the biggest loss on offense (900 yards receiving).  They also will be working under a new OC who came over from Minnesota.  Defensively they allowed 16 PPG last year but lost their best player on that side of the ball LB Parsons who has opted out this season and is getting ready for the NFL draft.  The also lose their top 3 tacklers overall and 6 starters on defense have departed.        
 
PENN STATE NEXT UP – Home vs Ohio State
 
 
INDIANA LAST YEAR – The Hoosiers 8 wins last season (8-4 in the regular season) was their most since the 1993 season and it was their first winning record since 2007.  That record allowed them the opportunity to face Tennessee in the Gator Bowl, a 23-22 IU loss.  They return the 2nd most starters in the Big 10 with 17 regulars back.  QB Penix was the starter to begin the 2019 season and is back this season.  Injuries derailed his effectiveness last season and he wound up playing in only 6 games.  His replacement was Peyton Ramsey who transferred to Northwestern and is slated to start for the Wildcats.  The Hoosiers return their top rusher (Smith – 845 yards), top WR (Philyor – 1,002 yards), and most of their offensive line.  Much is expected of this unit that finished 3rd in the Big 10 in total offense.  Defensively they held opponents to 24.4 PPG which was their best effort since 1993.  They return 9 starters on that side of the ball.
 
INDIANA NEXT UP – @ Rutgers
 
 
MOST RECENT MEETING – Penn State topped IU 34-27 last season in Happy Valley.  The Nits failed to cover as 15-point favorites and the Hoosiers actually had more first downs, a time of possession edge, and outgained PSU by nearly 100 yards. 
 
POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Penn State is 20-12-1 ATS (62.5%) their last 33 games when tabbed a road favorite dating back to the start of the 2008 season.
 
 
RUTGERS @ MICHIGAN STATE (-15.5 OPEN to -13 CURRENT) – Saturday, Oct 24th
 
RUTGERS LAST YEAR – The good news is Rutgers returns 17 starters which is tied for the 2nd most in the Big Ten behind Northwestern.  The bad news is they stunk with those starters in the line up last season.  They were just 2-10 on the season with their only wins coming vs Liberty and UMass.  All of their 9 Big Ten losses (0-9 in conference play) came by at least 21 points.  QB Langan returns after starting the final 8 games last year and is not a good passer (50% completions with 4 TD’s and 9 interceptions) but brings a running threat to the position.  QB Sitkowski is also back and he started a few games last year and is the much better passer.  Noah Vedral, a grad transfer from Nebraska, will also get a shot to be the regular signal caller.  The Knights scored a TOTAL of 51 points in Big 10 play (5.6 PPG) with those 2 running the show last season.  Greg Schiano returns as the head coach after departing Rutgers back in 2012 to take his shot in the NFL as the head coach of Tampa Bay.  His final season at Rutgers in 2011 he led them to a 9-4 overall record.  They have had one winning season since Schiano left.
 
RUTGERS NEXT UP – Home vs Indiana
 
 
MICHIGAN STATE LAST YEAR – Long time head coach Mark Dantonio and MSU have parted ways despite his 114-57 record in his 13 years leading the Spartan program.  Melvin Tucker takes over after just one year as head coach @ Colorado where he finished with a 5-7 record.  He’s got some inexperience on his roster as MSU returns just 10 starters, the least in the Big 10.  QB is a big question as back up Rocky Lombardi returns but was ineffective when he did get a chance (33% completion rate with 0 TD’s and 2 interceptions).  The other 2 hopefuls at QB are freshman Thorne (never played in a college game) and sophomore Thorne (3 career pass attempts).  One would hope with severe inexperience at QB that MSU could take the pressure off by running the ball but they finished 13th in the Big 10 in that category last year.  The defense was always very good under Dantonio but they must replace most of their front 7 this season including 3 starters on the defensive line who all were regulars the last 3 seasons. 
 
MICHIGAN STATE NEXT UP – @ Michigan
 
 
MOST RECENT MEETING – The Spartans traveled to Rutgers last season and shut out the Knights 27-0 as 22-point favorites.  MSU’s defense held Rutgers to 83 yards rushing and 57 yards passing in the game. 
 
POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Since the beginning of the 2018 season, MSU has been a favorite of -14 or more 10 times.  They are 2-8 ATS in those games.
 
 
 
NEBRASKA @ OHIO STATE (-24 OPEN to -26.5 CURRENT) – Saturday, Oct 24th
 
NEBRASKA LAST YEAR – Believe it or not, the Huskers have had just ONE winning season since 2014.  That’s it.  Last year was not that winning season as they finished 5-7 and failed to make a bowl appearance.  Head coach Scott Frost was brought in from UCF to be this program’s savior and thus far he has a 9-15 record in 2 seasons.  His predecessor, Mike Riley, was fired after 3 seasons with a 19-19 record which doesn’t look so bad right now.  Adrian Martinez is back at QB for the third season.  After his freshman year there was talk about him being the next great QB at Nebraska.  Last year he took a step back with a lower completion percentage, fewer yards passing, fewer TD’s, and more interceptions when comparing it to his freshman year.  He returns with 10 starters on an offense that averaged 415 YPG last season but lost his top WR Spielman who transferred to TCU.  The Husker rush defense has been a major problem the last three seasons as they allowed 215, 195, and 188 YPG on the ground.  They lose 3 starting defensive lineman who have been starters and major contributors over the last few seasons.  The defensive backfield looks to be a strength with all upperclassmen in the starting line up.
 
NEBRASKA NEXT UP – Home vs Wisconsin
 
 
OHIO STATE LAST YEAR – OSU was a perfect 13-0 last season before losing to Clemson in the National Semi Final game.  A game they led 16-0 midway through the 2nd quarter.  The Buckeyes have the 2nd fewest starters returning in the Big 10 with 11 although that never seems to matter as they just reload with superior talent.  One player the does return is QB Fields who is currently one of the favorites to win the Heisman (+250 to +600 range) despite not playing a game this season.  Fields threw for over 3,000 yards last year with 41 TD’s and only 3 interceptions.  They lose all everything RB Dobbins, who had over 2,000 yards rushing last season, but they pick up Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon (over 2,000 yards rushing in 3 years with Sooners) and last year’s back up RB Teague had 800 yards on the ground.  The WR’s are young but 3 deep at each spot and the offensive line should be very good.  The defense, which led the nation in YPG and YPP allowed, will potentially start 10 upperclassmen including first round talent DB Wade who opted back in to play this season after opting out during the COVID uncertainty.       
 
OHIO STATE NEXT UP – @ Penn State
 
 
MOST RECENT MEETING – OSU blasted Nebraska in Lincoln last year as a 17.5 point favorite.  The 48-7 final score was no fluke as the Bucks outgained the Huskers by 350 yards and scored points in each of their first 8 possessions.  OSU has won 5 straight in this series by an average score of 53-19!
 
POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Nebraska has been an underdog of 24 points or more just 3 times in their HISTORY!  They are 2-1 ATS in those games.  Their only spread loss in that situation was against this OSU team in 2017 where the Buckeyes covered the 24 points spread by blasting the Huskers 56-14.
 
 
IOWA (-4 OPEN to -3.5 CURRENT) @ PURDUE – Saturday, Oct 24th
 
IOWA LAST YEAR – Iowa finished the 2019 season with a 10-3 record which included a blowout win over USC in the Holiday Bowl.  The Hawkeyes 3 losses to Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin came by a combined 10 points.  The offense returns their top RB (Goodson) and top WR (Smith-Marsette), however who will be running the show at QB is the biggest question mark.  Nate Stanley threw for over 8,000 yards and 68 TD’s as a 3-year starter for Iowa.  The Hawkeyes had a 25-11 record with Stanley as their starter.  Stepping in for Stanley will be sophomore QB Petras who was highly regarded coming out of HS but has attempted just 10 passes in his career.  On defense Iowa loses nearly everyone along the defensive line and their top LB Colbert, who was their 4th leading tackler last year, is opting out of this season due to COVID concerns.  The defense, which finished 12th nationally in YPG & 14th in YPP allowed last season, must replace more than half of their starters (6).
 
IOWA NEXT UP – Home vs Northwestern
 
 
PURDUE LAST YEAR – Head coach Jeff Brohm enters his 4th year as head coach at Purdue.  After raising the excitement level in West Lafayette his first 2 seasons, making a bowl game in each, his Boilers dropped back to 4-8 last year.  Word is that Brohm has tested positive for COVID and may not be on the sidelines for this game.  Although we know that can change (see Nick Saban!).  Many of their problems on offense last year stemmed from injuries at QB (they had 3 different starters throughout the season) and an injury to their top offensive threat WR Moore.  He had 344 yards receiving in their first 2 games alone but played in only 4 games total last year due to an injury.  Moore is back this year and will play after opting out a few months ago.  His QB will be either Plummer or O’Connell, both who played a lot last season and each had over 1,000 yards passing.  The defense was one of the worst in the league last year allowing 31 PPG (12th in the Big 10) and 436 YPG (13th in the conference).  The Boilers do have a lot of experience returning with 17 starters back from a year ago.  They closed out 2019 on a sour note allowing 40+ points to Wisconsin & Indiana – both losses. 
 
PURDUE NEXT UP – @ Illinois
 
 
MOST RECENT MEETING – These 2 met last season in Iowa City with Purdue as a 17.5 point underdog.  The Boilers hung tough and picked up the cover but lost 26-20.  Iowa held Purdue to just 33 yards rushing on 18 carries.  The Boilers were -3 turnovers in the game.
 
POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Since 2013, Iowa has been a road favorite 21 times.  They are in impressive 17-4 ATS in those games.
 
 
MICHIGAN (-3 OPEN & CURRENT) @ MINNESOTA – Saturday, October 24th
 
MICHIGAN LAST YEAR – The Wolverines finished last regular season with a 9-3 record with losses to Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Penn State.  They were then beaten badly by Alabama in the Citrus Bowl.  So when all was said and done, the Wolverines won the games they were supposed to win (won all games as a favorite) and lost the 4 games in which they were underdogs.  You’ll be seeing lots of new faces on the Michigan offensive side of the ball this year as they lost many key players, including QB Shea Patterson.  His replacement is still up in the air according to head coach Jim Harbaugh, however it looks like junior Joe Milton will get the nod as he’s been running with the #1’s in practice for the most part.  He’s attempted 11 passes in his career at Michigan.  He’ll be operating behind an offensive line that lost 4 of 5 starters and his top WR, Nico Collins (730 yards receiving last year), reportedly signed with an agent last month and is no longer no the team.  The offense will be a work in progress.  On defense they should be very good again this season.  They finished 11th in total defense nationally last season and held 6 of their 9 Big Ten opponents to 14 points or less.  Michigan does lose their top 3 tacklers from last season and has 2 new CB’s starting, but many of the other replacements have decent experience.  
 
MICHIGAN NEXT UP – Home vs Michigan State
 
 
MINNESOTA LAST YEAR – The Gophers ended last season ranked in the top 10 after winning 11 games for the first time since 1904.  Their only losses came at the hands of Wisconsin & Iowa and they topped Auburn in the Outback Bowl to complete a great season.  The offense should be very good in 2020.  Last year they averaged 34 PPG which was their best production since the 2005 season.  They return QB Morgan, who led the conference with 250 YPG through the air and was the 2nd most efficient signal caller in the league, and he will operate behind an offensive line that returns all 5 starters.  His top WR target, Bateman, opted out during the COVID uncertainty, but has now decided to play this season.  The Gophs did lose their offensive coordinator to Penn State but replaced him with Mike Sanford who has been the OC Notre Dame, Utah State, and head coach Western Kentucky.  Defensively this team was top notch last season ranking 10th nationally in total defense but they did lose 4 key players to the NFL.  They bring back just 4 starters on the defensive side of the ball and lost both LB’s and their top pass rushers up front.  This will be an inexperienced defense that we won’t know a lot about early in the season.
 
MINNESOTA NEXT UP – @ Maryland
 
 
MOST RECENT MEETING – These 2 haven’t met since the 2017 season.  Michigan played host to the Gophers that year and blasted them 33-10 as 16.5 point favorites.  The Wolverine defense held Minnesota to just 164 total yards on that day.
 
POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Since 2007 Minnesota has been a home underdog 36 times.  They are 23-13 ATS in those games.
 
 
MARYLAND @ NORTHWESTERN (-10.5 OPEN to -11 CURRENT) – Saturday, October 24th
 
MARYLAND LAST YEAR – The Terps started last year OK winning 3 of their first 5 games vs marginal competition.  However, they followed that up by losing their final 7 games to finish 3-9 on the season.  Their wins were against Howard, Syracuse & Rutgers who finished last season with a combined 9-27 record.  Head coach Mike Locksley, who took over prior to last season, has his work cut out for him with a program that has a 14-34 record since joining the Big 10.  The offense returns 7 starters but lost top RB McFarland who now plays for the Steelers.  There is some buzz on that side of the ball as Alabama transfer Tagovailoa (yes Tua’s brother) will be the starter at QB to begin the season.  Redshirt freshman Legendre, who saw action in 3 games last season, will also get a shot at QB.  On the other side of the ball Maryland finished dead last in the conference and 109th nationally in total defense.  They were also last in the conference and 116th nationally in pass defense.  They lost 3 key regulars from their defensive backfield, however their top DB Richardson returns after missing last year with an injury.     
 
MARYLAND NEXT UP – Home vs Minnesota
 
 
NORTHWESTERN LAST YEAR – Believe it or not, the Cats won the Big 10 West back in 2018 in the season with an 8-1 regular season conference record.  They reversed those numbers last season finishing 1-8 in Big 10 play and 3-9 overall.  There is hope for Northwestern this year as they return the most starters in the conference (19) and add a new QB and offensive coordinator in hopes of reviving their stagnant scoring numbers.  Last year they finished 13th in the league in total offense and scoring.  Through their first 6 Big 10 games last season, the Wildcats averaged only 6.8 PPG but improved late in the year.  Transfer QB Ramsey was the starter @ Indiana last year and should drastically improve their passing game.  New OC Bajakian come over from Boston College (was with Tampa Bay Bucs prior to BC) where the run heavy Eagles offense averaged 250 YPG rushing in 2019.  Defense held 8 of 12 opponents to 24 points or less and only won 3 games which tells you how bad their offense was.  They return most of the back 7 but have some holes to fill up front.  Top pass rusher Ernest Brown is back and healthy after an injury filled 2019.   
 
NORTHWESTERN NEXT UP – @ Iowa
 
 
MOST RECENT MEETING – These 2 haven’t met since the 2017 season when Northwestern went to Maryland as a 2.5 point road favorite and came away with a 37-21 win.  That’s the only meeting between these two programs since the Terps joined the Big 10 in 2014.
 
POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Northwestern has been a terrible double digit home favorite throughout the years with a 14-29 ATS record in that situation dating back to 1980.  More recently, they are 4-11 ATS in that spot since early 2013.

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