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Big 10 Report

   by ASA - 10/03/2017

MICHIGAN STATE @ MICHIGAN (-13.5) – Saturday at 7:30 PM ET

Sparty bounced back nicely last week and topped Iowa in their Big Ten opener after getting whipped on the scoreboard by Notre Dame a week earlier. MSU topped the Hawkeyes 17-10 scoring all 17 of their points in the first half. That included two TD’s in the first quarter and 121 of the Spartans 300 total yardage came in that first quarter. MSU had only 4 second half possessions and those included a missed FG, getting shut out on downs at the Iowa 30 yard line, and a punt from the Iowa 40 yard line. So they did have chances to extend the margin and put points on the board in the 2nd half but didn’t take advantage of them. The Spartan offense continues to struggle however putting up just 35 points over their last 2 games. They’ve put up only 4 offensive TD’s in their games vs Notre Dame & Iowa. Defensively they are playing very well. They held the Hawkeyes to just 3.9 YPP and held a very potent Notre Dame offense semi in check with just 355 total yards. Their efforts through the first 4 games has the MSU defense ranked 5th nationally in total defense allowing 248 YPG. Now facing a Michigan offense that simply hasn’t been playing all that well, the Spartan defense will have a chance to shine again this Saturday. Believe it or not, this win gave Michigan State a 3-1 record on the season which actually matches their win total for all of last season.

Michigan had a bye last week giving them extra time to get ready for this huge rivalry game. The Wolverines will be without starting QB Wilton Speight for at least a few weeks so John O’Korn will handle the duties under center this Saturday. O’Korn is a senior who played the 2013 & 2014 seasons at Houston where he had nearly 700 pass attempts, obviously has plenty of experienced. He also stepped in two weeks ago vs Purdue when Speight was injured in the first quarter. O’Korn was 18 for 26 with 270 yards through the air and a TD in that game. Perhaps he can pump some life into a Michigan offense that has been subpar at best. Versus Purdue the Wolverines were 3 for 3 scoring TD’s in the redzone with O’Korn at the helm after going just 1 for 10 in that stat in their previous 3 games. The defense isn’t a problem. They continue to play outstanding. Two weeks ago they held the Boilers to 10 points including keeping them off the board completely over the final 36 minutes of the game. They lead the Big Ten in total defense allowing 203 YPG on just 3.5 YPP. They are one of just 7 teams nationally allowing less than 4.0 YPP. They have allowed a grand total of 4 offensive TD’s in 4 games.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Michigan has won 7 of the last 9 meeting outright, however MSU has covered ALL 9 of those games. Going all the way back to 1982, the Spartans are 22-12-2 ATS vs their in-state rival Wolverines. The last four times Michigan has played host in this series, they’ve lost 3 of those 4 games outright. Since November of 2006, Michigan State is 31-18-1 ATS in road games. This is their first road game this season.

WISCONSIN (-11.5) @ NEBRASKA – Saturday at 8:00 PM ET

With the exception of their game @ BYU, the Badgers continue to get off to slow starts. Last week was no exception as they played host to Northwestern and trailed 10-7 at half. In earlier games vs inferior opponents they led Florida Atlantic just 21-14 with only a few seconds remaining in the first half and they were tied at 10 with Utah State at half. Despite struggling in the first half vs Northwester, Wisconsin then came out in the 2nd half and scored 24 consecutive points to pull ahead 31-10. NW scored on a few late drives to make things interesting but the Badgers came away with the 33-24 win. They outgained the Wildcats 306 to 244 despite running 22 fewer offensive plays. They played the game without one of their top receiving targets as TE Fumagalli who was out with a hamstring injury. He hopes to be back for this game. Despite their first half problems, the Badgers have dominated this year in the 2nd half outscoring their opponents 98-14. The Badgers are one of three remaining Big Ten unbeaten teams along with Penn State and Michigan. They are 2nd in the league in YPG differential at +212 (Ohio State is first at +229). They are also 2nd in the Big Ten in per game point differential at +27 (PSU is first at +33).

The Huskers have had an extra day to get ready for this huge night game after winning @ Illinois last Friday night. They rolled over the Illini 28-6 holding them to just 199 yards on 53 plays. In the Nebraska defense has allowed just 1 offensive TD in their two Big Ten games. Going back even further, they have given up only 2 offensive TD’s in their last three games. However, some perspective might be needed here as their two Big Ten games were against Rutgers & Illinois who rank 13th & 14th respectively in the conference in scoring (non-conference games included). Offensively they looked much better partly because they didn’t give the ball away. QB Tanner Lee had thrown 9 interceptions this season coming into their game vs the Illini. He didn’t have a turnover against Illinois and threw 3 TD’s. With their win last Friday the Huskers sit alone in first place in the Big Ten West at 2-0. However, the Badgers have owned Nebraska and the Big Ten West as of late. In fact, these two have met 6 times since the Huskers joined the Big Ten and Wisky has won 5 of those meetings. The only Nebraska win in this series was here in 2012 by just 3 points.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Nebraska is 46-5 all time at home in night games including 20 consecutive wins. Wisconsin is 17-5 ATS their last 22 road games. The Huskers have been a home underdog of 10 or more just TWICE since 1980! They are 0-2 SU & ATS in those games vs USC & Missouri. The Badgers have been a road favorite of 10 or more 23 times since the start of the 1999 season. They are 8-15 ATS in those contests.

PENN STATE (-15) @ NORTHWESTERN – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET

Northwestern played a great first half last week @ Wisconsin and took a 10-7 lead to the break. The Badgers scored the next 24 points to pull away but the Cats didn’t quit. They scored two TD’s in a 2:00 minute span late in the 4th quarter to make a game of it before coming up short 33-24. The Cats really struggled to run the ball gaining only 25 yards on 34 carries. Part of that was due to the fact that star RB Justin Jackson was injured. He played in the game (only 9 carries) but didn’t practice much during the week. This isn’t a new problem as they have been held to less than 26 yards rushing in 2 of their 4 games this season. They rank 13th in the Big Ten running the ball (126 YPG) and that includes their huge 303 yard rushing performance against a terrible Bowling Green defense that ranks 117th nationally in rush defense. NW will have to find a way to score points here. Against the two solid defenses they’ve faced, the offense has struggled to put the ball in the endzone. Against Duke they scored 17 points and last week it was 24 points, however 14 of those came very late in the 4th quarter when the game looked out of reach. Against a PSU team that is 2nd in the Big Ten in scoring at 41 PPG, points are a must

A win here would put Penn State at 6-0 for the first time since 2008. The Nittany Lions didn’t wait long last week to jump on Indiana outscoring them 28-0 in the first quarter including returning the opening kickoff for a TD and a fumble return for a TD. IU hung tough in the 2nd quarter and actually went into half down just 28-14 after trailing 28-0 after one quarter. The Nits defense held the Hoosiers scoreless in the 2nd half and won going away 45-14 getting the easy cover. In the surprising stat of the day, PSU had only 39 yards rushing on 37 attempts and that’s with the nation’s top RB Barkley lining up in the backfield. Barkley averaged only 2.8 YPC in the game which was the 3rd lowest YPC total of his career. Interestingly enough, this Hoosier defense held Barkley to 1.8 YPC in last year’s meeting which was the 2nd lowest total of his career. For the game, IU outrushed Penn State 177 to 39. If you would have shown us those numbers before the game started, you can bet we would have had a very large play on Indiana. Keep an eye on TE Gesicki this week as he was injured in last week’s game and is one of QB McSorely’s favorite targets.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – PSU continued on their pointspread roll covering again. They are now 12-1-1 ATS their last 14 games. The Lions are 13-5 SU in this series but Northwestern has won the last 2 meetings in 2014 & 2015. The Cats have been an underdog in 17 of the 18 games in this series with the exception being their game in 2001. The last time NW pulled an outright upset as a home dog of 14 or more was way back in 1991 when they topped Illinois 17-11 as a 21-point dog.

ILLINOIS @ IOWA (-18) – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET

The Illini offense continues to look flat out bad. They scored just 6 points last Friday night vs Nebraska (28-6 loss) and they rank dead last in the Big Ten in scoring offense (17 PPG) and total offense (267 YPG). Not only are they last in total offense, they are last in rushing AND last in passing in the Big Ten. Nothing is working on that side of the ball for Illinois. QB Chayce Crouch has thrown only 1 TD pass the entire season and has been held to 145 passing or less in all four games, including throwing for less than 100 yards twice. Because of those struggles, head coach Lovie Smith has decided to make a switch at the all important QB position. Jeff George Jr will get the starting on Saturday @ Iowa. George has played in just one game this season and looked OK throwing for 211 yards and a TD in the 2nd half vs USF. On the other side of the ball it isn’t much better. In fact, Illinois ranks dead last in the Big Ten in total defense as well. They’ve done a decent job, despite giving up a ton of yards, at keeping teams out of the endzone. Three of their four opponents have been “held” to 28 points or less which isn’t terrible when you’re allowing nearly 430 YPG.

Iowa has had back to back grueling losses. Two weeks ago they played host to PSU and the Nittany Lions drove the length of the field and scored a TD as time expired to beat the Hawks 21-19. Last week they traveled to Michigan State and were upended 17-10. Down 17-7 at half, the Hawkeyes had a few shots on the second half but coughed up a fumble at the MSU 5-yard line and the MSU 38-yard line and settled for a FG on another drive. It was an ugly offensive game with the two teams combining for just 526 total yards on 4.2 yards per play. Iowa’s defense has been very solid, however their offense continues to be as inconsistent as they come. They are now 0-2 in the Big Ten with the offense scoring 19 & 10 points and they haven’t topped 275 yards in either of those two games. They have a grand total of 22 first downs in their two Big Ten games. Iowa’s rushing attack, which was supposed to be a strength with an experienced offensive line along with RB Wadley who had 1,100 yards rushing last year. It hasn’t been as Wadley had 17 carries for just 30 yards last week vs MSU. A week earlier he had 18 carries for 80 yards vs PSU however 35 of those yards came on one carry with just over 1:00 minute remaining in the game. With an inexperienced QB who isn’t a great passer, Iowa better figure out their running game quickly.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Last year Iowa traveled to Champaign as an 8-point favorite and crushed Illinois 28-0 holding them to less than 200 yards of total offense. This has been a low scoring series with each of the last 10 meetings ending with a final point total of 51 or less. This total is set at 43.5 as of Tuesday. Illinois has covered only 8 of their last 25 road games dating back to the 2011 season. The last time the Illini won in Iowa City was back in 1999. Since 1990, Iowa has been a favorite of 14 or more four times in this series and they are 3-1 ATS in those games.

MARYLAND @ OHIO STATE (-31) – Saturday at 4:00 PM ET

The Terps aren’t getting much respect here coming off a big upset win over the previously undefeated Minnesota Gophers. After beating Minny 31-24 on the road, Maryland is now tabbed as a whopping 31-point dog @ Ohio State this Saturday. The Terps come in with a 3-1 record including an impressive 10-point win @ Texas to open the season. That win looks even better as we progress through the season as the Longhorns are looking like a very solid team. Maryland’s lone loss was to a very good UCF team and the Terps just happened to lose their then starting QB Hill in the first quarter of that game. Hill was in because the QB who was under center to begin the season, Tyrell Pigrome, was injured late in the Texas game and lost for the season. Now with Hill also out for the season it’s up to 3rd stringer Max Bortenschlager. If last week is any indication, the Terrapins look like they are in decent hands. Bortenschlager had 2 passing TD’s, 1 rushing TD, and didn’t turn the ball over in their win vs Minnesota. He also has a very solid running game to support him as they are 3rd in the Big Ten averaging 233 YPG on the ground. Last week they put up 262 yards on the ground vs a Minnesota defense that came into the game ranked #1 in the NATION in rush defense. On the flip side, the Maryland defense held Minnesota to just 80 yards on the ground. It was Maryland’s 2nd outright win this year as a double digit underdog (@ Texas was the other). They were just 1-26 SU their previous 27 games as a double digit dog entering the season.

Just like clockwork, the Buckeyes continue to destroy Rutgers on the football field each and every season. Entering last week’s game vs the Scarlet Knights, the Buckeyes had won all 3 games (since Rutgers joined the Big Ten) in blowout fashion outscoring them by a combined 163-24! OSU walloped Rutgers again 56-0 last week so you can now make that combined score 219-24 over the last 4 seasons! Not much to see here. The Bucks obviously dominated rolling up 628 yards to just 209 for Rutgers. If you subtract OSU’s final possession of the game where they simply took a knee, the Buckeyes scored on 8 of their 13 possessions and were shut out on downs deep in Rutgers territory on another. The Knights, on the other hand, punted on 9 of their 13 possessions and threw interceptions on 2 others. With that win the Buckeyes have now won 42 of their last 45 Big Ten games.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two have met 3 times since Maryland joined the league and OSU has won all three by an average score of 44-18. Last year’s meeting was a whitewashing as OSU won 62-3 @ Maryland. OSU is just 5-14 ATS their last 19 home games. Buckeyes are only 1-7 ATS the last 8 times they’ve been tabbed a favorite of 30 or more.

MINNESOTA @ PURDUE (-3) – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET

Minnesota, under the direction of new head coach PJ Fleck, came into last week’s game at home vs Maryland with a perfect 3-0 record. Now granted, those three wins vs Buffalo, Oregon St, and MTSU, were against teams that currently have a combined 4-9 record vs other FBS teams. Last week in their Big Ten opener the Gophs were stomped by Maryland and lost 31-24 as a double digit favorite. The game wasn’t as close as the final score and Minnesota, who came into the game with the best rush defense in the nation, couldn’t stop the Terps on the ground. Maryland RB Ty Johnson averaged 7.7 YPC in the game and the Terps hit Minny for 262 yards rushing. Not bad against a team that had been allowing only 59 YPG rushing. The Minnesota offense is hard to get a great read on. They haven’t been great by any means. Their rushing attack has been up and down and their QB Rhoda is just OK. They rank 11th in the Big Ten in total offense (367 YPG) yet they haven’t faced a defense currently ranked higher than 47th nationally in total defense.

The Boilers had an extra week to stew over their home loss to Michigan two weeks ago. It was a game in which they hung around for a while and actually led 10-7 at half. The Wolverines wore the Boilers down in the 2nd half en route to a 28-10 win. Despite their week off, Purdue is fairly banged up heading into this game. Their starting QB David Blough has a bad shoulder and hasn’t yet been cleared for this game. Leading rusher Tario Fuller is a longshot to play this weekend with an ankle injury. RB Markell Jones, who was going to be the starter this year, has been out all season but does have a shot to play in this one. They will also be without starting linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley and starting safety Jacob Thieneman for the first half against the Gophers. They were each ejected for targeting in the 2nd half of the Michigan game. The Boilermakers are obviously improved under new head coach Jeff Brohm coming in with a 2-2 record. Their losses came at the hands of Louisville and Michigan, two of the better teams in the country.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Minnesota is and impressive 15-5-3 ATS in their last 23 road games and 20-9-3 ATS in their last 32 Big Ten roadies. The favorite in this Big Ten series is 11-4-1 ATS the last 15 meetings. This has been a high scoring series with just 4 of the last 21 meetings falling below 50 combined points. Only 7 of those 21 games have fallen under 60 points. Saturday’s opening total was set at 49.

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