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Big 10 Conference Report

   by ASA - 11/02/2011

Iowa (+4.5) vs. Michigan – 11:00 AM CST, ESPN

IOWA: 5-3 SU, 3-5 ATS – Last week: at Minnesota, L 21-22

MICH: 7-1 SU, 6-2 ATS – Last week: vs. Purdue, W 36-14

Michigan got back on track after losing its first game of the season to Michigan State with a big 36-14 blowout of Purdue. The Wolverine offense exploded for 535 yards and 25 first downs. Surprisingly it wasn’t QB Robinson leading the charge. RB Fitzgerald Toussaint sparked the offense with a career high 170 rush yards with two touchdowns. The defense, which ranks 28th in total defense & 6th scoring defense, performed very well following the bye week as it held Purdue to 311 yards and 16 first downs.

Iowa will look to regroup after an embarrassing loss to Big Ten doormat Minnesota. Iowa had 269 rushing yards (252 by RB Coker), 21 first downs and 446 total yards. Yet the Hawkeyes couldn't beat one-win Minnesota. Iowa could still make a lot of noise in the Big Ten race as three of its final four games are against the top three teams in the Big Ten Legends division (Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska).

Iowa’s defense ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten in almost every category and this unit could struggle against Denard Robinson and this Wolverines offense. Iowa beat Michigan by 10 points last October, but was outgained by 134 yards and had eight fewer first downs (+4 turnover margin in the game). Robinson completed 13-of-18 passes with one touchdown and also rushed for 105 yards, despite missing time with an injury.

Something to consider: Iowa is now 0-3 on the road, losing all three games by a total of 14 points and scoring only 19 points per game. The good news for the Hawkeyes is they now return home to Kinnick Stadium where they are 5-0 this year and averaging 39 points per game.

Michigan State (-28) vs. Minnesota – 11:00 AM CST, Big Ten Network

MSU: 6-2 SU, 5-3 ATS – Last week: at Nebraska, L 3-24

MINN: 2-6 SU, 3-5 ATS – Last week: vs. Iowa, W 22-21

Michigan State nearly got through its brutal October schedule unscathed. The Spartans made it through Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin with a 3-0 record before falling to Nebraska last week. They couldn’t get anything going on offense. QB Cousins completed 11-of-27 passes for 86 yards with one interception and led this offense to just 187 yards and 3 points. Defensively MSU looked worn down from the difficult schedule, as this unit allowed 190 rush yards to Nebraska. The Spartans have the most advantageous November schedule of any Big Ten Legends contender, starting Saturday when they host Minnesota. Expect an inspired performance here from the Spartans as they try to get back on track.

Minnesota had the league’s most surprising win last week with a 22-21 win over Iowa last week as a 14.5 point underdog, ending a four-game skid. The Gophers received terrific performances from QB Gray (193 pass yards, 63 rush yards and two total touchdowns) and RB Bennett (101 rush yards with one score). They are technically still alive for a bowl bid, but it’s hard to expect Jerry Kill’s crew to match the intensity displayed at home last week against rival Iowa.

Something to consider: In 2010, Michigan State matched up with Minnesota at home a week after its first and only Big Ten loss (just like this year). The Spartans jumped ahead 21-0 at halftime and cruised in the 2nd half, winning by 23 points

Ohio State (-28) vs. Indiana – 11:00 AM CST, Big Ten Network

OSU: 5-3 SU, 5-3 ATS – Last week: vs. Wisconsin, W 33-29

IND: 1-8 SU, 4-5 ATS – Last week: vs. Northwestern, L 38-59

Ohio State handed Wisconsin its second straight defeat on a Hail Mary as QB Miller found WR Smith with 20 seconds left to get a four-point win. The freshman Miller had easily his best game as a starter, throwing for one touchdown and rushing for two more while committing zero turnovers. The Buckeyes are now in great position in the Big Ten Leaders division after most people wrote them off after an 0-2 start in conference play. Can OSU avoid a letdown performance and cover a huge spread after a monster revenge win last week?

Indiana lost its sixth straight game and fourth straight by 21+ points. This Hoosiers defense has now allowed 51 points per game over the previous four and ranks 112th nationally in total defense for the season. This unit allows over 230 rush yards per game, and will have an extremely difficult time slowing down this Buckeye backfield of Miller and Herron (259 combined rush yards against Wisconsin last week).

The Hoosiers had a nice contribution from QB Robinson and RB Houston, who combined for 272 rush yards and three touchdowns last week against Northwestern. However, don’t expect a repeat performance from those two here against this Buckeyes rush defense that allows 113 yards per game (26th nationally). They allowed just 89 rush yards to Wisconsin (UW averages over 230 rush yards per game).

Something to consider: Ohio State has won 10 straight games over Indian by an average score of 36-9. OSU has covered six straight meetings and eight of the last 10 overall (favored by double digits in all 10 games).

Wisconsin (-26) vs. Purdue – 2:30 PM CST, ABC/ESPN2

WISC: 6-2 SU, 5-3 ATS – Last week: at Ohio State, L 29-33

PUR: 4-4 SU, 4-4 ATS – Last week: at Michigan, L 14-36

Wisconsin finally returns home to Camp Randall Stadium after back-to-back heartbreaking road losses to Michigan State and Ohio State. In both games, Wisconsin scored two unanswered touchdowns in the final minutes to either tie/take a lead. And in both games, the opponent completed a Hail Mary touchdown in the final seconds. What was once a dream season has turned into a nightmare. Will the Badgers respond with an inspired performance here at home to get back on track?

The Badgers allowed 58 total points through its first six games before allowing 70 points the previous two. The Badgers also struggled offensively – by their standards – by only managing 342 yards and 29 points against the Buckeyes last week (came into that game averaging 500+ yards and 50+ points per game). QB Wilson (19 pass touchdowns) and RB Ball (21 touchdowns!) should have a big day against this Purdue defense that struggled against Michigan last week.

Purdue was thoroughly dominated by Michigan last week after a promising win over Illinois the week prior. The Boilers’ defense allowed 535 yards and after the offense scored less than two minutes into the game, failed to get much of anything accomplished the final 58 minutes of the game. This defense has to get better fast, as they travel to Madison to face an angry offense that averages over 50 points at home. The Boilers are 0-5 straight up and ATS against the Badgers over the last five meetings.

Something to consider: Wisconsin is 21-1 at home over the previous 22 games. The Badgers have covered seven of last eight home games home games average win margin of 41 points per game.

Nebraska (-17.5) vs. Northwestern – 2:30 PM CST, Big Ten Network

NEB: 7-1 SU, d3-5 ATS – Last week: vs. Michigan State, W 24-3

NW: 3-5 SU, 3-5 ATS – Last week: at Indiana, W 59-38

The Blackshirts are back after Nebraska’s defense held Michigan State to just 187 yards and 3 points in the big win last week. The Huskers will have to avoid a letdown performance here as they go against a strong Northwestern offense fresh off of a 59-point performance against Indiana.

Northwestern has a bit of momentum going now after its first Big Ten win of the season. The Wildcats gained 616 yards of total offense (317 rush yards & 299 pass yards) and 30 first downs. QB’s Persa and Colter combined to complete 18-of-23 passes with five touchdowns and no interceptions. Persa is completing 76% of his passes with nine touchdowns and just three interceptions since returning from injury. The Wildcats need to win three of its final four games to become Bowl eligible this season.

Northwestern will need a better defensive performance to keep pace with Nebraska. This Wildcat stop-unit ranks 99th nationally in yards allowed and 91st in points allowed. It has been holding them back the entire season and could get run over again by this Nebraska offense that comes in averaging 252 rush yards per game behind RB Burkhead and option QB Martinez.

Something to consider: Northwestern is 12-3 ATS in its last 15 games as a road underdog while the Huskers are just 1-10-1 ATS in their last 12 games as a double-digit home favorite.

Penn State – BYE

PSU: 8-1 SU, 2-7 ATS – Last week: vs. Illinois, W 10-7

Defense continues to win games for this Penn State squad. The Nittany Lions stop-unit allowed just seven points to Illinois last week in the 10-7 victory and is allowing just 12.4 points per game on the season (4th nationally). Penn State is 8-1 (just 2-7 ATS) and controls its own destiny as it stares ahead at a daunting November schedule (Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin).

Illinois – BYE

ILL: 6-3 SU, 4-5 ATS – Last week: at Penn State, L 7-10

Illinois has dropped three straight games after a 6-0 start. Last week they had a lead almost the entire game before allowing a touchdown with less than two minutes remaining. A missed field goal by kicker Dimke as time expired failed to tie the game against PSU. Illinois’ offense had been averaging 35 points per game during the 6-0 start, but has managed just 28 TOTAL points the previous three weeks. A bye comes at a good time before Illinois plays two tough home games against Michigan and Wisconsin.

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