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Big 10 Report
by ASA - 11/16/2017
ASA’s BIG TEN REPORT – For Weekend of November 18th
**Odds listed are as of Wednesday, November 15th and are subject to change**
MICHIGAN @ WISCONSIN (-7.5) – Saturday at 12 PM ET
Since getting rocked by Penn State 42-13, the Wolverines have turned it around winning 3 straight. They were obviously expected to win playing lower tier Big Ten teams Rutgers, Minnesota, and Maryland and the Wolverines were favored by 14+ in each of those 3 games. Last week while the scoreboard said Michigan won going away 35-10 @ Maryland, the stat sheet told a different story. The Michigan offense was far from impressive putting up only 305 yards on a Maryland defense that ranks dead last in the Big Ten allowing 420 YPG. The Terps, with their 4th string QB under center, actually outgained the Wolverines in the game. New starting QB Brandon Peters, has sparked the offense in the 3 wins, however it’s hard to tell his impact as they’ve asked him to do very little versus 3 inferior opponents. Peters hasn’t completed more than 10 passes in any of the last 3 games while the Wolves have relied heavily on the run. He may have to do more against a Wisconsin defense that leads the Big Ten allowing 81 YPG rushing on 2.8 YPC. The Michigan defense has been very good against the run all year which is obviously what the Badgers want to do offensively. However, they showed some vulnerability last Saturday as Maryland put up 180 yards on the ground in 5.6 YPC. And remember the Terps were playing their 4th string QB in his first start of the year so the Wolverine defense was set up to stop the run last week.
Wisconsin clinched the Big Ten West and a spot in the Conference Championship game with one of the most dominating defensive performances we’ve seen this year last week vs Iowa. Just one week after the Hawkeyes put up 55 points and almost 500 yards on Ohio State, the Badgers completely shut down the Iowa offense. The Hawks did not score an offensive point as both TD’s were on interception returns. They tallied only 66 total yards on 59 offensive plays! Wisconsin’s defense forced ten 3 & outs in Iowa’s 13 offensive possessions. Iowa’s longest drive was 6 plays. On a negative note, Badger QB Alex Hornibrook continues to make mistakes which they’ve been able to overcome to this point. He threw 2 pick 6’s and he has been intercepted 11 times in Big Ten play which is 3 more than any other QB in the league. The defense and rushing attack, which averages 245 YPG, have been able to mask his mistakes to this point. The young receivers really stepped up and played well in the absence to top WR Cephus who is out for the season. Having watched Wisconsin football for 40+ years, we’d say this is as skilled and athletic WR group as they’ve had in some time. One key injury to keep an eye on is starting center Tyler Biadasz as he is questionable after a leg injury last Saturday. He is a very key cog in Wisconsin’s offensive front.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Last year Michigan topped the Badgers 14-7 in Ann Arbor as 11.5 favorites. Since November of 2009, Michigan has been a dog of 7 or more just 9 times. They are 0-9 SU & 2-7 ATS in those games including a blowout loss @ PSU this season. This is just the 4th time in the last 38 seasons Wisconsin is favored over Michigan. The other 3 times were in 2008, 2009, and 2010. They were not favored at all in this series between 1980 – 2007. Since 1993 Wisconsin is 11-3-1 ATS in this series. The host has won 8 of the last 10 outright in this series
MINNESOTA @ NORTHWESTERN (-7.5) – Saturday at 12 Noon ET
The Gophers put together their best Big Ten performance last Saturday in a 54-21 blowout win over Nebraska. The game started with Minnesota returning the opening kickoff 100 yards for a TD and thety didn’t let up from there. They dominated the Huskers in the trenches rushing for 409 yards on 45 carries (9.1 YPC) while holding Nebraska to just 69 yards on the ground. The Gophs nearly had THREE 100 yard rushers in the game with QB Demry Croft rolling up 183 yards (on just 10 carries), RB Smith with 134, and RB McCrary with 93. They outgained Nebraska in total by 134 yards and it was just the 2nd time in 7 Big Ten games where Minny ended the game with more yards than their opponent. Croft was asked to do very little through the air for the 3rd straight game as he completed just 9 passes. In his 4 starts Croft has completed 5, 9, 5, and 9 passes. The Gophers have obviously decided to rely heavily on their ground game. Minnesota only had to punt one time the entire game and scored points on 8 of their 9 offensive possessions. The win moved them to 5-5 on the season meaning they either need to win @ Northwestern this Saturday or beat Wisconsin at home to officially qualify for a bowl game. There is an outside chance they could get a bowl bid with a 5-7 record if other things fall into place but their goal is to earn their way in rather than back in.
Northwestern is officially hot. Their 23-13 win over Purdue last Saturday gave the Cats their 5th straight win AND cover. The good news for head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s stress level is they were able to win this one in regulation after going to OT their 3 previous games. The Purdue defense loaded the box vs the Wildcats in an attempt to stop RB Justin Jackson and force QB Clayton Thorson to beat them. The Boilers were successful in stopping Jackson holding him to 46 yards on 25 carries (1.8 YPC). However, Thorson came through with a big game throwing for nearly 300 yards and a TD and no interceptions on 46 pass attempts. That was the 4th time this season that Thorson has attempted 40+ passes. The Northwestern defense played a very solid game holding Purdue scoreless for nearly the first 3 quarters allowing the offense to build a 20-0 lead with very little time remaining in the 3rd quarter. They shut down Purdue’s running game to just 40 yards on 22 carries. That effort moved Northwestern to 2nd in the Big Ten in rush defense allowing just 109 YPG on 3.2 YPC (behind only Wisconsin). That should come in handy this Saturday vs a rush heavy Minnesota offense.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Minnesota (+1) topped Northwestern 29-12 at home last season. Dating back to 2013 the Cats are 4-9 ATS as a favorite of more than a TD. Since 1996 Northwestern is 8-14 ATS as a favorite of more than 7 in Big Ten play only. The underdog has covered 7 of the last 10 in this rivalry. The Gophers are a money making 16-3-1 their last 20 games as a dog of more than a TD.
NEBRASKA @ PENN STATE (-26) – Saturday at 4:00 PM ET
Has Nebraska closed up shop for the season? They currently sit at 4-6 for the season and now need to win both @ PSU and at home vs Iowa to officially qualify for a bowl game. If they don’t make it to college football’s post-season, it will be the first time since 2011 they aren’t playing in a bowl game. This proud program actually ranks 2nd in all time bowl appearances with 50, behind only Alabama so this is not a spot this team is used to being in. It sure looked like they quit last weekend. Minnesota rolled up over 400 yards rushing and dominated the trenches. Nebraska couldn’t stop them and we’re not sure by the 4th quarter they even wanted to stop them. Head coach Mike Riley will be on his way out in a few weeks as new AD Bill Moos said he’d stick until then but didn’t give him a ringing endorsement moving forward after the season. The players know that and it sure looks to us like this team is playing out the string. Others are most likely seeing the same this as this line opened PSU -23.5 and shot up to -26 fairly quickly. QB Tanner Lee didn’t play in the 2nd half of last week’s 54-21 loss @ Minnesota and he is currently in concussion protocol. This will be by far the Huskers toughest Big Ten road opponent this season. The two other top tier Big Ten teams they played were Wisconsin & Ohio State however both of those were at home and turned into 21 and 42 point losses respectively.
Penn State topped Rutgers here in Happy Valley last week by the final score of 35-6. However, they weren’t all that impressive offensively. The Scarlet Knights were able to slow the PSU offense to just 304 total yards and only 90 yards rushing on 2.9 YPC. Once considered the Heisman leader, RB Saquon Barkley was shut down again with just 35 yards on 14 carries. It was the 3rd straight game Barkley has been held to under 64 yards rushing and he’s been held to 75 yards rushing or less in 5 of his last 6 games. It’s surprising to us how little they actually let him run the ball. He’s had 16 or fewer carries in 5 of his last 6 games. For the season Barkley has carried the ball 16 times or fewer in 7 of Penn State’s 10 games. They obviously use him as a pass catcher out of the backfield as well but as far as turning and handing it to him, it seems he is underutilized. Defensively they continue to shut down teams not named Ohio State. The 6 points allowed to Rutgers was their lowest of the conference season. They have now held 5 of their 7 Big Ten foes to 19 points or less. Rutgers actually scored the first 6 points of the game hitting 2 FG’s in their first 3 offensive possessions. After that it was nada for the Knights as they only had one possession that lasted more than 4 plays.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two haven’t met since 2013 and Nebraska has won all 3 meetings since joining the Big Ten in 2011. This is just the 2nd time since 1980 that Nebraska has been an underdog of 24 or more to anyone. The Huskers have only been an underdog of 21 or more 3 times since 1980 with those games coming against Oklahoma (twice) and Ohio State (this year). Since joining the Big Ten in 1990, the Nittany Lions have been a favorite of 24 or more just 14 times (5-9 ATS).
PURDUE @ IOWA (-8) – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
Another tight loss for Purdue last week as they attempt to secure their first bowl eligible season since 2012. Their 23-13 loss @ Northwestern last Saturday was their 5th Big Ten loss however 4 of those setbacks have come by 10 points or less so they have been much more competitive this season. Compare that to last year when they lost 7 Big Ten games by 13 or more points and you can see that progress is being made in West Lafayette. The stat sheet actually showed that Purdue outgained Northwestern 438 to 390 but they simply couldn’t take advantage offensively when they had a chance. They were held stopped on downs 3 separate times inside NW territory and missed a FG on another trip. Starting QB David Blough was lost for the season a week earlier so Elijah Sindelar, who has seen plenty of action this season, got the start. Head coach Jeff Brohm didn’t mess around with Sindelar under center as he attempted a whopping 60 passes in the game completing 37 of them. Sindelar established career highs in pass attempts (60), pass completions (37), and passing yards (376). The Boiler defense continues to impress holding NW to 23 points. They now rank 4th in the Big Ten in scoring defense allowing only 19 PPG on the season. To put that in perspective, the last time Purdue allowed less than 30 PPG was back in 2011. The Boilermakers need to top Northwestern this week and then beat in-state rival Indiana next week in order to qualify for a bowl game.
What a difference a week can make. After piling up nearly 500 yards and 55 points at home vs Ohio State, the Hawkeyes went to Wisconsin last Saturday and ran into a brick wall. The 66 total yards the put up on offense was the lowest total of the coaching career of Kirk Ferentz. They were 0 for 13 on 3rd down and didn’t have a single offensive play gain more than 10 yards. The Hawkeyes two TD’s both came from their defense. Iowa crossed their own 35-yard line, not Wisconsin’s 35-yard line, just TWICE the entire game. The 38-14 loss was by far Iowa’s worst defeat of the season as their other losses came by 2 points (vs PSU), 7 points (vs Michigan St), and 7 points (vs Northwestern). The Badgers were able to shred the Iowa defense for 247 yards rushing which was just the second time this year the Hawkeyes allowed a team to top 200 yards on the ground (PSU was the other). On the bright side, DB Josh Jackson has had himself a fabulous two weeks of football. After tallying 3 interceptions vs Ohio State, Jackson had two more vs Wisconsin and he scored TD’s on both of them. In fact, Jackson’s two interceptions for TD’s last week totaled 95 yards which was 29 yards more than the Iowa offense gained as a whole. A win in their home finale this Saturday would most likely put the Hawkeyes alone in 3rd place in the Big Ten West barring a Nebraska miracle upset at Penn State.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Iowa has won 4 straight in this series by margins of 14, 20, 14, and 24 points. The Hawkeyes are just 13-28-1 ATS (31%) their last 42 games as a home favorite of a TD or more. The Boilers have won just ONCE in Iowa City since 1993 (1-7 SU record). Despite their non-cover last week @ Northwestern, Purdue has been a big time money maker on the road as of late covering 15 of their last 20 games away from home.
ILLINOIS @ OHIO STATE (-41) – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
The Illini lost at home 24-14 to Indiana last Saturday to drop to 0-7 in league play with a point differential of -114 in Big Ten games. The Illinois offense failed to top 17 points for the 6th time in 7 conference games. Head coach Lovie Smith continues to play musical chairs with his QB situation. After freshman Cam Thomas started the previous two games, Smith went with Jeff George Jr in this one. Thomas did not play a single snap in the game and we’re not 100% sure if he could have gone or not as he does have an ankle injury. George threw the ball well enough throwing for 261 yards but he continues to be a turnover machine. He had a fumble and two interceptions in the loss. He now has thrown 10 interceptions on the season despite appearing in only 7 games on the year. He has attempted just 181 passes on the season so George has thrown a pick every 18 pass attempts this season. The defense continues to do its part to at least give them a chance to win. They held Purdue to 24 points which was the 3rd time in the last 4 games they’ve given up exactly 24 points. That doesn’t do much good when the offense can’t score however. With the loss the Illini have now only won 3 of their last 23 conference games. They are 0-4 in road games this year losing by margins of 24, 31, 7, and 19 points.
We weren’t completely sure how the Buckeyes would respond last weekend. They of course laid their biggest egg in years a week earlier in a 55-24 loss @ Iowa. While that basically took them out of the College Playoff discussion, they still controlled their own destiny in the Big Ten East. Would that be enough to keep this team focused? The answer is yes as they destroyed Michigan State 48-3. After looking lost on offense a week earlier in Iowa City, the Buckeyes scored TD’s on 5 of their first 6 possessions vs a very good MSU defense in route to a 35-3 halftime lead. The Spartans entered the game with the Big Ten’s #1 rush defense allowing just 87 YPG on 2.9 YPG. They exited with the league’s 4th best rush defense allowing 112 YPG. That was of course after the Buckeyes rolled them for 335 yards on the ground on 42 carries for an average of 8 YPC. With the running game clicking, QB JT Barrett didn’t have to do much through the air completing only 14 passes in the game. After a rocky outing at Iowa, the defense also bounced back holding MSU to under 200 total yards on only 2.8 YPP. An OSU win over Illinois would clinch a spot in the Big Ten Championship game if Michigan loses @ Wisconsin as well.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – This is the 9th time in the last 38 seasons that OSU has been tabbed a favorite of 40 or more. Not surprisingly they are 9-0 SU in those games and they have covered 6 of those 9. The Illini, on the other hand, have been an underdog of 40 points or more just ONCE in the last 38 seasons and that was last year @ Michigan (-40) which was a 41-8 Illinois loss (but a cover). Since 1980, the Buckeyes are 23-11 SU in this series but just 13-21 ATS (38%).
MARYLAND @ MICHIGAN STATE (-16.5) – Saturday at 4:00 PM ET
There is not a team in the country that has had worse luck at the QB position than Maryland. After Max Bortenschlager was injured two weeks ago vs Rutgers, the Terps were forced to start their 4th string QB last week vs Michigan. Ryan Brand, a walk on transfer from Air Force, was forced under center last week and actually held his own. While he didn’t have great numbers completing 16 of his 35 passes, he did pose a threat on the ground with 31 yards which helped keep Michigan’s defense guessing at times. While he only led Maryland to 10 points the Terps actually outgained the Wolverines in the game despite the 35-10 loss. The Maryland defense, which ranks dead last in the Big Ten in total defense and 89th nationally, played very well holding Michigan to barely over 300 total yards. The 305 yards put up the Michigan’s offense was the lowest total of the season for this Maryland defense. The Terps now much win their final two games, both against ranked teams, to have a shot at a bowl game.
The Spartans entered last Saturday’s game @ Ohio State controlling their own destiny in the Big Ten East. The exited Columbus with an embarrassing 48-3 loss which basically put an end to their Big Ten Championship Game hopes. MSU had leaned heavily on their defense all season long but they couldn’t hold up in this game against a motivated OSU offense that put up 524 yards. After allowing 418 total rushing yards in their first 6 Big Ten games, the Buckeyes gashed them for 335 yards on the ground. Ohio State had 12 offensive possessions in the game, they scored points on 8 of those, threw 2 interceptions, and punted just twice. Offensively the Spartans looked like they had turned the corner as of late scoring at least 27 points in 3 of their previous 4 games. Last week’s 3 point effort was their lowest output in a Big Ten game since the 2011 season. The Spartans now battle PSU and Michigan for 2nd place in the Big Ten East and they have the tie breaker with each of those teams beating them both already this season.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two have met 3 times since Maryland joined the Big Ten with MSU winning all 3. This is the 2nd highest pointspread for MSU this year. They were favored by 17.5 to open the season vs Bowling Green. Sparty is 9-4 ATS their last 13 games as a favorite of more than 14 points. Maryland is now 1-5 ATS their last 6 games losing to the spread by a combined 52.5 points.
RUTGERS @ INDIANA (-11) – Saturday at 12 Noon ET
Rutgers gave up 35 points @ PSU last week but that doesn’t tell the entire defensive story. It was a 35-6 loss for the Knights and while their offense has struggled, their defense has been very solid. They held the potent Penn State offense to just 304 total yards. The only team that held PSU to less yardage this season was Ohio State. The loss dropped Rutgers to 3-4 in Big Ten play but based on the stats they are a bit fortunate to sit where they are on the standings. That’s because this team has been outgained in EVERY conference game this season. They are tied for last in the Big Ten in YPG differential with the same numbers as 0-7 Illinois (-100 YPG). Their offense continues to sputter putting up only 2 FG’s last week vs Penn State. After kicking their 2nd FG with just over 11:00 minutes remaining until halftime, Rutgers went scoreless on 103 yards of total off the rest of the way.
Indiana final got in the win column with a 24-14 victory @ Illinois. IU came into the game with an 0-6 conference mark but as we’ve mentioned in previous editions, they have played easily the toughest schedule in the league having losses to Wisconsin, PSU, MSU, Michigan, and OSU. QB Richard Lagow got his second consecutive start in place of injured Peyton Ramsey. Lagow was solid with 289 yards through the air leaving Illinois as the only still winless team in the Big Ten. Ramsey is listed as questionable with a knee injury again this week. We’ve mentioned on numerous occasions that IU’s defense is much better than it had been. They finally got back in form last Saturday allowing 14 points, albeit vs an Illinois team that ranks last in Big Ten scoring. The Hoosiers needed that type of performance after getting scalded for 87 combined points the previous 2 Saturdays vs Wisconsin & Maryland. Even with their 6 straight losses to open the Big Ten season, IU can go bowling if they win here and then beat Purdue on the road to end the season.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS - This has been a high scoring series with the 3 meetings totaling 60, 107, and 68 points. Rutgers is one of the top ATS teams in college football this year at 8-2 while Indiana is one of the worst at 2-7-1. Going all the way back to 1989, the Hoosiers have been a double digit Big Ten favorite only 18 times. They are 5-13 ATS in those games.