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Big 10 Conference Report -- Week 2

   by ASA - 09/06/2012

Week one is in the books! Ten of the 12 Big Ten squads went home with wins, while two of the most prestigious programs (Penn State & Michigan) are still searching for win number one. Three squads make west coast trips this weekend (Nebraska @ UCLA, Wisconsin @ Oregon State, and Illinois @ Arizona State) and ASA has the inside scoop on all the hot matchups!

Nebraska (-5.5) at UCLA – 6:30 PM CST – Fox
Neb: Last week vs. Southern Miss: W 49-20
UCLA: Last week at Rice: W 49-24

Nebraska makes the Big Ten headline game of the week as they travel to the Rose Bowl for what they hope might be the first of two trips this season. The Huskers got off to a great start last weekend with a 49-20 blowout of Southern Miss. QB Taylor Martinez, often criticized for his passing inefficiency, completed 26-of-34 passes for 354 yards and five touchdowns. Defensively the Blackshirts held Southern Miss to just 260 yards and one offensive touchdown.

UCLA showed increased offensive firepower in an easy win at Rice in its opener. The Bruins exploded for 646 yards and 49 points against the Owls. Most impressive was the Bruins’ 343 rushing yards on a 9.3 YPC average. Redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley looks like a star in the making after completing 21-of-28 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns. Nebraska will have their hands full with this re-vamped offense.

UCLA is 12-2 SU & 10-4 ATS in its last 14 home openers including a 5-2 ATS mark against BCS foes. Nebraska is 11-4 SU & 10-5 ATS in their last 15 true road openers.

Injury update: Nebraska star RB Rex Burkhead sprained his MCL last week and will likely miss this game against UCLA.

Michigan (-21) vs. Air Force – 2:30 PM CST – ABC
UM: Last week vs. Alabama: L 14-41
AF: Last week vs. Idaho State: W 49-21

The Wolverines need to avoid a “hangover” and get over the Alabama loss quickly, as Air Force will present a tricky challenge with its triple-option attack. The Falcons’ Cody Getz ran for 218 yards on 17 carries in a win over Idaho State last week. Defensively the Wolverines allowed 232 rush yards (5.5 YPC) to the Tide last week and they’ll have to tighten up here. Michigan has strong athletes on a stout defense, but they can’t let Air Force build any momentum. Alabama makes a lot of teams look bad, and most of the nation would have difficulties hanging with the Tide. But that doesn’t make last week’s 41-14 loss any less upsetting.

Denard Robinson didn’t get his senior season started off on a high note against ‘Bama. He had two total touchdowns, but completed just 11-of-26 passes for 200 yards with two interceptions while rushing 10 times for just 27 yards. He and the rest of this offense should be able to tally more than 269 yards and 11 first downs against Air Force. The Falcons allowed 386 yards per game and 220 rush yards per game in 2011 and returned just three starters for 2012. Idaho State racked up 431 yards and 24 first downs against this Falcons “D” last week.

Since 1998, Air Force is 4-5 in true road games against BCS schools. The Falcons are13-3 in road openers and 3-3 against BCS schools with those three losses by just 4 points per game. Michigan is 11-0 at home over the last three years against non-conference opponents (average score of 40-17).

Injury update: Michigan lost starting cornerback Blake Countess to a season-ending ACL tear.

Wisconsin (-7.5) at Oregon State – 3:00 PM CST – FX
Wisc: Last week vs. FCS Northern Iowa: W 26-21
OSU: Last week: Cancelled (hurricane)

The Badgers head out to the West Coast after a close-call against Northern Iowa. It wasn’t a typical September Wisconsin blowout at Camp Randall. The Badgers nearly squandered a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter and looked shaky at times defending the pass late in the game. The good news: new starting QB Danny O'Brien played extremely efficient in his first start for the Badgers, completing 19-of-23 passes for 219 yards with 2 touchdowns and no INTs. This was not a confidence boosting win for Wisconsin and the Badgers will need a much better performance here in their first road game.

The Beavers had their season opener against Nicholls State cancelled because of Hurricane Isaac, so Wisconsin won't have any fresh film on Oregon State, but OSU may be a bit rusty out of the gates. Wisconsin shutout the Beavers in Madison last season, but OSU returns 15 starters, including promising sophomore QB Sean Mannion. The Beavers also return their top four rushers, top receiver, and six of the top seven defenders. They’ll be primed for the opportunity to avenge last year’s embarrassing loss.

OSU is on a 1-6 SU & 2-5 ATS run against non-conference foes. Wisconsin has won 10 straight road/neutral openers by an average of 13 points per game (4-0 vs. BCS foes).

Michigan State (-23.5) at Central Michigan – 2:30 PM CST – ESPNU
MSU: Last week vs. Boise State: W 17-13
CMU: Last week vs. FCS SE Missouri State: W 38-27

MSU will also have to avoid a “hangover” here, this of the winning kind. The Spartans had a huge opening game win over #24 Boise State. Defensively this unit lived up to the hype. MSU held the Broncos to just 206 yards (including 37 rush yards on 24 carries), 14 first downs, and they kept the BSU offense out of the end zone. Offensively the Spartans racked up 461 yards including 213 rushing yards (210 from RB Le’Veon Bell), but this unit was far from perfect. They turned the ball over four times, including three interceptions from new starting QB Andrew Maxwell.

CMU dominated the stats category against SE Missouri State, but still needed a late 4th quarter touchdown to pull away for the win. They tallied 324 yards (7.4 YPC) on the ground, including 282 and four touchdowns combined for RB’s Anthony Garland and Zurlon Tipton. They turned the ball over three times (two fumbles & one interception). CMU got dominated by MSU last season. MSU jumped out to a 31-0 halftime lead and won 45-7 (held CMU to just 112 total yards and eight first downs).

CMU is 3-5 all-time against Michigan State (last win was in 2009) and this is the first time hosting the Spartans. MSU has lost three of the last four true road openers including last year’s 13-31 loss at Notre Dame.

Ohio State (-17.5) vs. Central Florida – 11:00 AM CST – ESPN2
OSU: Last week vs. Miami OH: W 56-10
UCF: Last week at Akron: W 56-14

Both of these squads beat on up MAC opponents from Ohio in their openers last weekend. Ohio State got off to a really strong start under new head coach Urban Meyer. QB Braxton Miller was the star of the game. He passed for 207 yards and two scores while rushing for a game-high 161 yards and another score. He led this offense 538 yards, 56 points, and 27 first downs. Defensively the Buckeyes held Miami OH to -1 net rush yards on 20 carries and forced three Red Hawk turnovers. They’ll have a much more difficult time against UCF on Saturday.

UCF didn’t have eye-popping stats in their 56-14 win over Akron last week as they used four turnovers to create short scoring opportunities and build a 35-0 halftime lead. UCF returned eight starters on both offensive and defensive units from a year ago and there is a lot of talent on both sides, and it’ll take a huge effort to pull the upset in the Horseshoe this weekend.

UCF is 3-11 SU but 9-5 ATS in its last 14 true road openers (1-9 SU against BCS-foes). OSU is 10-2 ATS in its last 12 games when favored by 17 or more and 6-1 ATS when favored by 17 or more against non-conference opponents.

Injury update: OSU starting RB Jordan Hall will miss his 2nd straight game with a knee injury while starting linebacker Storm Klein will serve the final game of his suspension.

Purdue (+14) at Notre Dame – 2:30 PM CST – NBC
PU: Last week vs. FCS Eastern Kentucky: W 48-6
ND: Last week vs. Navy: W 50-10

You won’t find many wins as lop-sided as Purdue’s was over FCS Eastern Kentucky last week. Purdue had +357 yards and +23 first downs in the 48-6 win. Again, it was an FCS opponent so take those stats with a grain of salt. Still, it was a promising season opener for the Boilers. Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush was suspended for the opener, but sixth-year senior Robert Marve took over and excelled. He hit 30-of-38 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns. Head coach Danny Hope has named TerBush the starter for this weekend. Still, expect Marve to play—along with third-stringer Rob Henry

The Irish looked really good in their opener against Navy. Without top running back Cierre Wood suspended the Irish still racked up 293 rush yards (6.4 YPC) and four rushing touchdowns. Defensively they held Navy’s rushing attack to just 3.7 YPC and no rushing touchdowns. They could be vulnerable here as they’ll have to get over their jet lag from the trip back from Dublin.

Notre Dame had a huge advantage with +275 yards and +17 first downs in last year’s blowout 38-10 win over Purdue. Purdue is 1-14 SU & 5-10 ATS the last 15 trips to South Bend. Notre Dame has won six of the last seven overall against the Boilers including four straight wins by 15 points per game.

Illinois (+2) at Arizona State – 9:30 PM CST – ESPN
Ill: Last week vs. Western Michigan: W 24-7
ASU: Last week vs. FCS Northern Arizona: W 63-6

Both teams looked better than expected in their openers -- Illinois dispatched Western Michigan without much trouble, and Arizona State housed Northern Arizona 63-6. In Tim Beckman’s debut at Illinois, his defense limited Western Michigan to 259 yards with minus-six yards rushing on 19 attempts. The offense is still a work in progress as they totaled just 248 yards and 13 first downs. ASU doesn’t present an elite defense, but they’ll be better than Western Michigan.

Under first-year coach Todd Graham, the Sun Devils notched 554 yards of offense with 305 coming on the ground. The Sun Devils don't figure to run for 305 yards a second straight week with the Illini defense coming to Tempe. Sophomore QB Taylor Kelly had a strong debut, completing 15-of-19 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown. He won’t have as easy of a time here against a ferocious Illinois front-four.

Arizona State had +122 yards and +5 first downs in last year’s meeting in Champaign, but the Illini took the 17-14 victory. Illinois is 11-3 ATS in its last 14 true road openers.

Injury update: Illinois' QB Nathan Scheelhaase injured his ankle in the 3rd quarter and is questionable for Saturday night. If he can’t go, it will be sophomore Reilly O’Toole taking the snaps.

Iowa (-3.5) vs. Iowa State – 2:30 PM CST – Big Ten Network
Iowa: Last week vs. Northern Illinois: W 18-17
ISU: Last week vs. Tulsa: W 38-23

This has always been a well-balanced rivalry game, and this one figures to be a pretty good game. Iowa showed it has a lot of work to do after a nail-biting win against Northern Illinois. The Hawkeyes were held to just 270 yards and needed a late touchdown to take a one-point lead over the Wolfpack. A big positional question for the Hawks heading into the season was RB, so it was good to see Damon Bullock run for 150 yards on 30 carries. The defense won this game for Iowa as this unit held Northern Illinois to just 201 total yards and 12 first downs.

Iowa State fought off an early nine-point deficit to beat Tulsa 38-23. The Cyclones got a strong performance from senior quarterback Steele Jantz, who completed 32-of-45 passes for 281 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. RB’s Shontrelle Johnson and Jeff Woody combined to rush for 174 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. They’re sure to face a nastier defense in Iowa City this weekend though.

The Hawkeyes look to avenge last year's overtime loss in Ames in which Iowa State won in a shootout, 44-41. The Hawkeyes have won four of the last six outright, but Iowa State has covered 11 of the last 14 overall.

Northwestern (+3.5) vs. Vanderbilt – 7:00 PM CST – Big Ten Network
NU: Last week at Syracuse: W 42-41
Vandy: Last week vs. South Carolina: L 13-17

Northwestern won a shootout over Syracuse in week one. Sophomore QB Trevor Siemian led the Wildcats on a touchdown drive with just 44 seconds left to give Northwestern the one-point victory. Siemian and Kain Colter combined to complete 22-of-32 passes for 213 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Defensively the Wildcats have a lot of work to do. This unit allowed Syracuse to gain 596 total yards, and four touchdown passes from Orange QB Nassib.

Vanderbilt threw a big-scare into #9 South Carolina in its opener. Vandy’s stingy defense held South Carolina to just 272 total yards and 17 points. The offense was a major issue. Vandy managed just 276 yards, including 62 rush yards on 36 carries (1.7 YPC). Still, the Commodores showed a lot of improvement against USC and they’ll have to avoid a hangover in their first road game here.

Northwestern won at Vanderbilt in 2010, 23-21. The Wildcats never trailed in that game, but prevented a Vandy two-point conversion late in the game to seal the win. NU has won five straight home openers by an average of 27 points per game – but only one of those games was against a BCS opponent.

Penn State (+9.5) at Virginia – 11:00 AM CST – ABC
PSU: Last week vs. Ohio: L 14-24
Virg: Last week vs. FCS Richmond: W 43-19

It was a crushing loss to Ohio for Penn State last week. Penn State jumped out to a 14-3 lead at halftime against the Bobcats in front of a raucous crowd at State College. But PSU had lapses on both sides of the ball to give up the lead and the game. Defensively the Nittany Lions allowed 499 yards to Ohio, including 324 through the air. That defense will need to tighten up or it will get torched again against a competent Virginia offense here.

Virginia racked up +279 yards over Richmond and +12 first downs in the blowout win last Saturday. Virginia QB Michael Rocco completed an efficient 25-of-37 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown while three different running backs combined to score four rushing touchdowns.

The Cavaliers are 4-1 since 2004 in non-conference home games against BCS Schools. PSU is 1-6 since 2000 against non-conference BCS Schools on the road.

Minnesota (NL) vs. New Hampshire – 11:00 AM CST – Big Ten Network
Minn: Last week at UNLV: W 30-27

The Gophers have an excellent chance to improve to 2-0 with a win over FCS New Hampshire on Saturday. Minnesota found a way to leave Las Vegas with an overtime victory over UNLV last week. The defense and running backs shined in that game but QB MarQueis Gray will have to improve if Minnesota will contend going forward. The Gophers also must play more disciplined after being flagged 11 times in the opener. New Hampshire is a solid FCS program, and Minnesota can't take anyone lightly after falling at home to FCS North Dakota State by 13 points last season and to FCS South Dakota by three points in 2010.

Indiana (-14) at UMass – 2:30 PM CST – ESPN3
Ind: Last week vs. Indiana State: W 24-17
UMass: Last week at UConn: L 0-37

The Hoosiers got their first win in almost an entire year by beating Indiana State last Saturday. Now they look for their first win over an FBS team since 2010. Any win is valuable for the Hoosiers, who matched their victories total from 2011 on Saturday night, but they'll need to make significant strides going forward. IU has to shore up its rush defense after allowing Indiana State's Shakir Bell to rack up 192 yards Saturday night. QB Tre Roberson also put forward a strong performance. Indiana has been a double digit road favorite just twice since 1992. The Hoosiers are just 16-74 straight up on the road since 1995.

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