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Big 10 Report -- Week 7

   by ASA - 10/13/2011

Michigan State (-2.5) vs. Michigan – 11:00 AM ESPN

MSU: 4-1 SU, 3-2 ATS – Last week: BYE

MICH: 6-0 SU, 5-1 ATS – Last week: at Northwestern, W 42-24

Michigan State has won – and covered – three straight against its in-state rival for the first time since 1965-67. Last year was a very similar situation as both teams were undefeated. Michigan State got a lop-sided 34-17 victory, but the score could’ve been a lot closer as Michigan QB Robinson threw three interceptions, two of which on the goal-line as the Wolverines were about to put points on the board.

Michigan responded well to adversity after falling behind 24-14 at Northwestern last week and outscored the Wildcats 28-0 in the 2nd half to get a big victory on the road. Denard Robinson was a one-man wrecking crew with 450 yards (337 passing, 113 rushing) and four touchdowns (2 rush, 2 pass). He has this offense averaging 458 yards per game (26th nationally) and 38 points per game (21st) but they’ll face their stiffest challenge yet against this MSU defense.

MSU has the top ranked defense in all of college football and the 3rd best scoring defense, as the Spartans are allowing just 173 yards per game and 10.2 points per game. In their last game against Ohio State, the Spartans surrendered just 178 total yards (35 rush yards on 39 attempts) and 7 points.

This is right about the time of the year when Michigan has imploded after a fast start. In 2009 the Wolverines started 4-0 before a 1-7 finish and in 2010 they started 5-0 before a 2-6 finish. This year they are 6-0 and will try and avoid the same fate as years past.

Something to consider: Michigan State 8-17-1 ATS in its last 26 Big Ten home games. The Spartans have only been favored twice in home games against Michigan over the past 30 years (1-1 ATS & SU).

Illinois (-4) vs. Ohio State – 2:30 PM CST, ABC regional

ILL: 6-0 SU, 3-3 ATS – Last week: at Indiana, W 41-20

OSU: 3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS – Last week: at Nebraska, L 27-34

Illinois escaped its first road trip of the season unscathed with a big win over Indiana last week. The Illini are back home for the sixth time in seven games this season and this game should prove whether they belong in the upper-echelon of the Big Ten. Ohio State has dropped two straight conference games and is now desperate for a win especially considering that #4 Wisconsin looming next on the schedule. Illinois hasn’t been favored against Ohio State since 2001 until now.

OSU appeared to be on its way to a breakout win over Nebraska last week with a 27-6 lead midway through the 3rd quarter. But the Buckeyes had a devastating collapse in the final 1.5 quarters and left Lincoln demoralized with a 27-34 loss. The Buckeyes defense is strong enough to keep them in games (22nd in total yards allowed and 18th in points allowed). But this offense continues to be a work in progress as it ranks 105th in total yards and 86th in points per game.

Sophomore QB Scheelhaase has developed a nice rapport with WR Jenkins this season. Jenkins has been on the receiving end of 66% of Scheelhaase’s yards and 7 of 10 touchdown passes this season. However, it’s the Illini’s stop-unit that has lifted this team to a 6-0 mark. This unit ranks 15th in yards allowed and 17th in points allowed.

Something to consider: The Illini have dropped 11 of the last 14 meetings with the Buckeyes, but Ohio State is just 3-7 ATS in its last 10 meetings with Illinois and 1-4 ATS the last five trips to Champaign.

Iowa (-6.5) vs. Northwestern – 6:00 PM CST, Big Ten Network

IOWA: 3-2 SU, 2-3 ATS – Last week: at Penn State, L 3-13

NW: 2-3 SU, 2-3 ATS – Last week: vs. Michigan, L 24-42

This is a huge game for both teams as each is off of a loss and neither can afford another conference setback. Northwestern has had Iowa’s number in recent years, winning three straight and five of six overall – including a 3-0 mark in Iowa City. Interestingly enough, the Wildcats were underdogs in all five wins and favored in the only loss.

Quarterback James Vandenberg struggled mightily for the first time this season against Penn State last week. He completed just 17-of-34 passes for 169 yards and led his team to just 3 points (Iowa failed to score a touchdown for the first time in 48 games). Vandenberg threw two interceptions and was sacked five times, and received little help from his receiving corps.

QB Persa makes a difference on this Northwestern offense (72% with 4 touchdowns and an interception since returning from injury two weeks ago), but the Wildcats defense has given up big leads in each of the past two games. This stop unit ranks 106th against the pass, 100th in total defense, and has allowed 80 points combined to its last two opponents.

Something to consider: Northwestern is 2-8 ATS in their last 10 conference games but 12-2 ATS its last 14 as a road underdog. Iowa is 30-12-1 ATS following a loss.

Wisconsin (-40) vs. Indiana – 11:00 AM, Big Ten Network

WISC: 5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS – Last week: BYE

IND: 1-5 SU, 3-3 ATS – Last week: vs. Illinois, L 20-41

The Badgers destroyed the Hoosiers 83-20 last season (most points scored by UW since 1915) and while it will be difficult to score 83 again, this Badgers offense could come close. Wisconsin is averaging 523 yards (9th nationally) and 48.4 points (3rd) offensively. QB Wilson is the front-runner for the Heisman trophy and RB Ball is on pace to shatter the Big Ten record for touchdowns as he already has 14 scores through just five games. However, it’s Wisconsin’s defense that has been the surprise this season. The Badgers are only allowing 264 yards per game (7th) and 10.2 points per game (4th).

The Hoosier’s only win this season came against FCS South Carolina State. They’ve dropped their first two Big Ten games at home against Penn State and Illinois and now travel to hostile Madison to face the juggernaut that is the Wisconsin Badgers. Indiana ranks near the bottom of every major offensive and defensive category – 87th in total offense and 97th in total defense.

All signs point to another Wisconsin blowout in this one; however, there are a few things to be weary about with this 40-point spread (the largest point spread for any Big Ten conference game since 1997). Wisconsin is off of a bye after a huge win against Nebraska and it has a revenge game at Michigan State next week. The Badgers could be flat and play sloppy for a few quarters. Or they could call off the dogs once they get a big lead to keep key players healthy for next week.

Something to consider: Since 2002, there have been only 15 occasions when a Big Ten team has been favored by 25+ points against another Big Ten team. Those favored are 10-5 ATS.

Penn State (-12) vs. Purdue – 11:00 AM CST, Big Ten Network

PSU: 5-1 SU, 1-5 ATS – Last week: vs. Iowa, W 13-3

PU: 3-2 SU, 2-3 ATS – Last week: vs. Minnesota, W 45-17

These two last met in 2008, but Penn State has defeated Purdue four straight times by an average 13 points per game. The Nittany Lions have held the Boilermakers without an offensive touchdown in 11 straight quarters.

Penn State’s defense stepped up nicely against last week shutting down Iowa’s offense to the tune of 253 yards and 3 points (forced three turnovers). The Nittany Lions now boast the nation’s 4th best total defense and 5th best scoring defense. This stop-unit will need to continue to step-up because PSU’s offense is averaging just 17.6 points per game its last five games.

Purdue had a momentum building 45-17 victory over lowly Minnesota last week. Quarterbacks TerBush and Marve combined to complete 18-of-27 passes for 155 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and the Boilers had three rushing touchdowns. This team is still a work in progress and will have a much more difficult time against this Penn State defense that has allowed two touchdowns in its past four games.

Something to consider: Purdue is 3-16 in road games over the past 3+ seasons (lost its only other road game this season @Rice 22-24).

Nebraska - BYE

NEB: 5-1 SU, 1-5 ATS – Last week: vs. Ohio State, W 34-27

Nebraska heads into its off week with a sigh of relief after the comeback win over Ohio State. The Huskers scored 28 unanswered points to erase a 21-point deficit and notch their first conference win as a member of the Big Ten. The porous defense continues as the Blackshirts are allowing 27.2 points per game. Still, this is a dangerous offense and is a team to watch heading into the 2nd half of the season. Next up is a tune-up game at Minnesota before a home meeting with Michigan State.

Minnesota - BYE

MINN: 1-5 SU, 2-4 ATS – Last week: at Purdue, L 17-45

Things are really bad for Jerry Kill’s squad. The Gophers have dropped back-to-back Big Ten games by a combined score of 103-17. The bye week comes at a perfect time for Minnesota as the 2nd half schedule is ridiculously difficult (Nebraska, Iowa, @MSU, Wisconsin, @Northwestern, and Illinois). Barring a miraculous turnaround, Minnesota will be double-digit underdogs the rest of the way.

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