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Big 10 Report
by ASA - 10/07/2015
NORTHWESTERN (5-0) @ MICHIGAN (4-1) – Current Line MICHIGAN (-7.5) – Opening Line (-8)
Before you look at this very low total (currently 35) and think about jumping on the OVER, let’s take a look at what these two teams have done the last 2 seasons when facing each other. Last year NW played host to Michigan as a 2-point underdog and the Wolverines came out on top 10-9. The two teams ran 143 combined plays and only averaged 3.6 YPP. In 2013 Michigan traveled to Northwestern as a 3-point dog and won the game 27-19. However, that game took 3 OT’s to decide and the score at the end of regulation was 9-9. The two teams combined for 687 yards (including OT) on 170 plays which was just 4 YPP. Obviously two games dominated by the defenses and we don’t see that changing this year. These two team are ranked #1 (Northwestern) and #2 (Michigan) nationally in scoring defense allowing 7.0 and 7.6 PPG respectively. They are both in the top 5 in the country in overall defense with Michigan allowing 184 YPG (2nd) and NW allowing 247 YPG (5th). Northwestern has allowed just 3 offensive TD’s in 5 games this year and only ONE of those TD drives was longer than 26 yards. The Wolverines have allowed just 4 offensive TD’s in 5 games. Both of these teams pitched shutouts last week with NW topping Minnesota 27-0 and Michigan rolling Maryland 28-0. Historically speaking Michigan has won 21 of the 25 meetings since 1980 including winning 9 of the last 10. Michigan lost starting LB and 3rd leading tackler Mario Ojemudia for the season in last week’s win @ Maryland. Both teams have drastically overachieved compared to where the market had them placed prior to the season. Coming into the year Northwestern was 500/1 to win the National Championship and they have since dropped to 200/1. Michigan came into the season at 60/1 to win it all and they are currently 22/1.
MINNESOTA (3-2) @ PURDUE (1-4) – Current Line MINNESOTA (-3) – Opening Line (-3)
The Gophers have been favored on the road in Big Ten play only twice in the last 5 seasons. Both of those contests were @ Illinois in 2012 & 2014. Minny won and covered @ Illinois in 2012 and lost outright a year ago. They have been favored @ Purdue only twice since 1980 winning & covering one of those games and losing the other outright. The Boilers have not had much of a home field advantage as of late winning just 3 of their last 16 games at Ross-Ade Stadium. This is a battle of the Big Ten’s worst scoring offense (Minnesota) against the league’s worst scoring defense (Purdue). The Gophers are averaging only 15 PPG on the season and have scored only 8 TD’s while everyone else in the Big Ten has scored at least 11. The Purdue defense is allowing 33 PPG and has allowed a Big Ten worst 21 TD’s on the season. The Boilers have been very close to picking up a win on a number of occasions this year. Last week was no different at they were down 24-21 @ Michigan State but driving late near midfield for a potential game winning (or at least game tying) score when they were shutout on downs ending the game. It was again turnovers that killed them as they were -3 for the game and now have 12 turnovers on the season. Two of their three turnovers last week led to MSU touchdowns. Minnesota did absolutely nothing against Northwestern’s defense last week gaining only 173 yards on barely over 3 YPP. Of their 13 offensive possessions, Minny crossed midfield just 3 times and never got inside the NW 30-yard line. While Minnesota is 3-2 on the year they are somewhat lucky to be In that spot as their 3 wins have come by a total of 9 points.
INDIANA (4-1) @ PENN STATE (4-1) – Current Line PENN STATE (No Line) – OPENING LINE (None)
After losing their season opener to Temple, the Nittany Lions have ripped of 4 straight wins. However, those wins have come against Buffalo, Rutgers, San Diego State & Army, none of whom have a winning record at this point in the season. All were at home as well. Last week’s 20-14 win over Army was not impressive. They were outgained by Army and PSU had a +3 turnover margin in the game. The 3 Cadet turnovers led to half of the PSU points (10). Even with that, a poor Army team, had the ball in Penn State territory on their final drive of the game with a chance to win. This was against an Army team that had lost to Fordham, Wake Forest, and Connecticut already this season. The Nits offense continues to struggle as they rank dead last in the Big Ten averaging only 328 YPG. Even with a highly ranked QB at the helm (Hackenberg) they are putting up only 171 YPG through the air. Their defense will have to keep them in games and they have done so thus far allowing only 4.4 YPP. Indiana gave Ohio State a run last week despite getting outgained by 115 yards. IU lost their top RB Howard and QB Sudfeld both are questionable for this one. If those two are healthy, the Hoosiers can move the ball and put points on the board. They are the #1 offense in the Big Ten averaging 498 YPG. The problem is, they are the worst defense in the conference allowing 502 YPG. Their physical & emotional state here will be a big factor in this game. How do they respond after their huge home game with Ohio State? Penn State has dominated this series winning 17 of the 18 meetings since 1980. The Nits have been favored in all 18 of those games and will be again on Saturday. IU’s lone win in this series was just 2 years ago where they dominated PSU 44-24. Last year was a tight game with Penn State squeaking by 13-7 on the road.
ILLINOIS (4-1) @ IOWA (5-0) – Current Line IOWA (-11) – OPENING LINE (-11.5)
Not many people thought these two teams would be sitting at a combined 9-1 record when they meet this Saturday. Both are off huge wins last week. Iowa went to Wisconsin and outlasted the Badgers 10-6. UW outgained Iowa by 100 yards in the game but had 4 turnovers. Iowa’s 10 points came after Wisconsin turnovers and resulted in scoring drives of 30 yards (TD) and 1 yard (FG). The Badgers also fumbled on the Iowa 1-yard line going to take the lead in the 4th quarter and got to the Iowa 16-yard line on their final drive but were shut out on downs. Illinois trailed 13-0 at home vs Nebraska entering the 4th quarter but pulled out the 14-13 win. The Illini scored the game winning TD with 10 seconds left in the game and were given that opportunity because of some terrible clock management by Nebraska with under 1:00 minute remaining. The Illini lost starting RB Ferguson (381 yards rushing) early in the game to a shoulder injury and he will not play vs Iowa on Saturday. Iowa has controlled this series as of late winning 6 of the last 7. Illinois has had trouble putting points on the board as they have topped 14 points only once in the last 7 meetings. Between 2000 and 2013 these teams met 7 times with the home team covering all 7. That changed last year when Iowa went to Illinois as a 3.5 point favored and rolled the Illini 30-14. It was a fluke as the Hawks had advantages of 26 to 12 in first downs and 587 to 235 in total yardage. The oddsmakers have tabbed Iowa an 11-point favorite in this game. The Hawks have been a black hole in that situation going just 2-13 ATS their last 15 as a double digit favorite vs a Big Ten opponent.
MARYLAND (2-3) @ OHIO STATE (5-0) – Current Line OHIO STATE (-33) – Opening Line (-32.5)
Ohio State had another close call last week @ Indiana. They held off the Hoosiers to win 35-28 but that didn’t help their money backers as OSU was a 22-point favorite in the game. QB Cardale Jones struggled again missing a number of opportunities to put points on the board with poor throws. Despite having what many consider the top 2 QB’s in the conference on the same team (Jones & Barrett), the Bucks rank 78th nationally in passing efficiency. In the Big Ten, Rutgers, Michigan St, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, & Nebraska all rank higher in that category. Jones ranks 10th in the conference in passing yards per game (173) and 84th nationally in completion percentage. Despite their “struggles” OSU has by far the best YPP differential (offensive YPP minus defensive YPP) in the Big Ten at +3.0 (Michigan is next at +2.4). Urban Meyer said this week that his team is “very close” to being very good with turnovers (-4 on the season) and red zone production (12th in the Big Ten) holding them back right now. One big injury for the Bucks in last week’s game was WR Corey Brown who was lost for the season with a broken leg. After starting the season 2-1, Maryland has lost their last two games (West Virginia & Michigan) by a combined score of 73-6. Inexplicably, head coach Edsall chose to stick with turnover machine Caleb Rowe as the starter. Rowe did what he has done all year and that is throw picks. He threw 3 more last week vs Michigan giving him a whopping 12 for the season. Rowe has now thrown 12 interceptions in 101 pass attempts meaning one pick for every 8.4 pass attempts. Edsall did bring Daxx Garman in late and while he was just 2 of 9, at least he didn’t turn the ball over. In last week’s home loss to Michigan, the Terps put up a total of 105 yards on 61 plays or only 1.7 YPP. OSU was favored by just 7-points @ Maryland last year and crushed the Terps 52-24.
MICHIGAN STATE (5-0) @ RUTGERS (2-2) – Current Line MICHIGAN STATE (-14) – Opening Line (-16)
This line dropped quickly from its opener at MSU -16. Sparty continues to skirt by in games they should be dominating. Their 24-21 win last week vs Purdue pushed their record to 5-0 but they have yet to cover the spread (0-5 ATS). Not only are the winless vs the number they haven’t been close losing to the spread by more than 40 points on the season. The Spartans have been outgained in 3 of their 5 games and are only +11 total yards on the season. In their last two games they led Central Michigan by just 7 points in the 4th quarter and Purdue had the ball in MSU territory on their final drive with a chance to win. MSU has been banged up on the offensive line with both starting tackles (Conklin & Kieler) out last week. It got so bad last week that MSU’s All American center, Jack Allen, had to be moved to left tackle. It may get better for Sparty this week as Conklin & Kieler are both listed on the depth chart and may play. Despite their ATS struggles this year, MSU has been great in this “large road favorite” role as of late. Since 2007, Sparty has been a road chalk of -14 or more 15 times covering 13 of those games. Rutgers had last week off to get ready for this game. The Rutgers players have been mentioning “revenge” with frequency this week after last year’s embarrassing performance. The Spartans won last year’s match up 45-3 outgained the Knights by almost 300 yards. Rutgers comes in at 2-2 with their two wins coming against Norfolk State & Kansas with losses to Washington St & Penn St. Their two wins are far from impressive as the opponents (Norfolk & Kansas) are a combined 0-6 vs FBS opponents getting outscored by a total of 252-80. In their lone Big Ten game this year, Rutgers was whipped 28-3 @ Penn State and allowed the Nittany Lions to gain 471 yards. That was PSU’s largest offensive output of the season.
WISCONSIN (3-2) @ NEBRASKA (2-3) – Current Line NEBRASKA (-1.5) – Opening Line (-2.5)
The Huskers have had a season’s worth of disappointment already this season. Last week they lost @ Illinois 14-13 with the Illini scoring the winning TD with just 10 seconds remaining. The Huskers had the ball and a 13-7 lead with under 1:00 minute remaining but botched their clock management giving Illinois a chance to win. Nebraska’s 3 losses this year have come on a hail mary to BYU, in OT @ Miami, in the final 10 seconds @ Illinois. Head coach Mike Riley admitted in his news conference this week that his team’s hurdles this week are not only physical, but also mental because of the way they have lost. Wisconsin may also have a tough time getting back up off the matt. The Badgers outplayed Iowa last week (+100 yards) and had a number of chances to pick up the win but turnovers killed them in the 10-6 home loss. It was only Wisconsin’s 8th home loss in their last 77 home games. This week Wisconsin will be without starting TE Traylor who was injured last week and possibly their top WR Erickson who left the Iowa game with a concussion. There is also chance the Badgers will be without one of their top defensive players as OLB Vince Biegel has an undisclosed injury. Nebraska is very thin on the D Line right now as they lost another player last weekend. DT Kevin Maurice will be out for at least a month after fracturing his foot @ Illinois. Another DT Kevin Williams has been ruled out for Saturday’s game and yet another, Vincent Valentine, hasn’t played since week 2 and might not again this week. The Huskers have had to move a few defensive ends inside to tackle to compensate for the injuries. Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, the Badgers have dominated the series with wins of 48-17, 70-31, and 59-24 (last year). The lone Nebraska win was here at Memorial Stadium by a score of 30-27.