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Big 10 Preview, Week 2
by ASA - 09/05/2018
DUKE +3 @ NORTHWESTERN, Saturday at 12 PM ET
DUKE – The Blue Devils had an impressive revenge win last weekend beating Army 34-14. After the Cadets topped Duke 21-16 last year, the Devils put a heavy emphasis on this game and played well. Most impressive was their rush defense as they held Army to just 168 yards rushing on 47 carries (just 3.6 YPC). What made the defensive effort even more imposing was the fact that Army led the nation in rushing last year averaging 362 YPG. Duke pushed ahead 17-0 by halftime forcing a non-passing team in Army to throw the ball a whopping 21 times. To put that in context, the Cadets attempted 65 passes the entire year in 2017! Army did throw for almost 200 yards which has to be a bit concerning as they do not emphasize the passing game yet looked good throwing against the Devils. Duke QB Daniel Jones led a balanced attack (197 passing & 184 rushing) throwing for just under 200 yards and rushing for 43.
NORTHWESTERN – The Wildcats were outplayed in the stat sheet last week @ Purdue but came away with the 31-27 win. They were outgained by 70+ yards but benefitted from 3 Boiler QB interceptions which directly led to 21 points for Northwestern. Starting QB Clayton Thorson was returning from ACL surgery and split time with junior TJ Green. Thorson looked great on his first 2 drives leading the Cats to TD’s in each. He took 50 snaps under center while Green took 29. After listening to head coach Pat Fitzgerald after the game it sounds like he’ll continue the 2 QB system at least in the immediate future saying he wants to keep Thorson on a “series count” because he is returning from a serious injury. The Cats may have also found a replacement for all time leading rusher Justin Jackson who is now with the Chargers. Sophomore Jeremy Larkin ran for 143 yards on 26 carries in the first start of his career. The run defense, however, looks like it might be a concern as they allowed Purdue to rush for over 200 yards on 8.1 YPC.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The Cats were destroyed @ Duke last year 41-17. The score could have been worse as the Devils gashed Northwestern for 538 yards while holding the Cats to just 191. These two have met 13 times since the start of the 1996 season with Northwestern winning 10 of those meetings (7-6 ATS). The underdog in this series has covered 6 of the last 7 meetings.
WESTERN MICHIGAN +28 @ MICHIGAN, Saturday at 12 PM ET
WESTERN MICHIGAN – The Broncos opened the season as a 5-point underdog at home vs Syracuse. WMU hadn’t played host to a Power 5 team since 2015 so it was a great opportunity for their program to start the season with a huge win. The Broncos fell behind 34-7 at half as Syracuse scored on 6 of their first 7 possessions. Western come out after halftime and scored TD’s on 4 of their first 5 possessions to cut the lead to 41-35 late in the 3rd quarter. The Orange pulled away a bit in the 4th quarter en route to a 55-42 win. WMU actually outgained the Cuse 621 yards to 560 as neither defense could slow down the opposing offense. What was even more impressive about WMU’s offensive performance is the fact they ran 27 fewer plays than Syracuse. The Broncos ran the ball extremely well against their Power 5 opponent rolling up 242 yards on a whopping 8.6 yards per carry. The problem was, the Western defense couldn’t stop the Orange on the ground as they racked up 334 yards rushing with QB Eric Dungey leading the way with 200 yards.
MICHIGAN – It will be interesting to see how the Wolverines respond after losing at Notre Dame 24-17 last Saturday night. After the line bounced around during the week with each side favored by 1 to 1.5 points at different times, Michigan went off as a 3-point favorite at many places. There were months of hype leading into their game vs the Irish and the loss could linger into this week’s contest against a team that played very well offensively last week. Speaking of offense, that was Michigan’s weakness last season and looks like it might be again this year. While they did average 25 PPG a year ago, against the top teams in the Big Ten (OSU, PSU, Wisconsin, and Michigan State) the Wolverines only put up 13 PPG. The struggles continued against the Irish last Saturday with Michigan averaging only 4.4 yards per play (307 total yards) and scored only one offensive TD. New QB Shea Patterson, a transfer from Ole Miss, had a non-descript opener passing for 227 yards, no TD’s and 1 interception. His offensive line struggled to keep him clean in the pocket as the Irish had 3 sacks and 6 QB hurries. The Michigan defense was as advertised holding Notre Dame to just 302 total yards. The Wolverines really locked down in the 2nd half limiting the Irish to only 69 total yards and just 3 points.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS - Michigan is a perfect 4-0 both SU & ATS (since 2000) in this in-state series winning by an average margin of 24 PPG. These two last met in 2011 with Michigan winning that game 34-10. Since 1987, the Wolverines are just 2-11 ATS when coming off a loss and favored by 21 points or more. Since 1999, WMU is 10-4-1 ATS when tabbed an underdog of 24 or more.
EASTERN MICHIGAN +16.5 @ PURDUE, Saturday at 12 PM ET
EASTERN MICHIGAN – The Eagles had an impressive opener jumping out to a 30-3 halftime lead before finishing off Monmouth 51-17. While a win over an FCS opponent may not move the needle for most, Monmouth was a solid 9-3 a year ago and made the FCS playoffs so it was a decent win. EMU’s offense looked solid scoring 4 TD’s on their first 6 possessions and had 473 total yards on 7.1 yards per play. The Eagle defense was solid early holding Monmouth to just 73 total yards on their first 5 possessions. The Hawks did end up with 386 total yards but much of that came late with the game already out of hand. Eastern Michigan played one Big Ten foe last year upsetting Rutgers on the road 16-13 and will try to do the same on Saturday.
PURDUE – The Boilers opened at home vs Northwestern in one of their more anticipated home games in years. Northwestern rolled up 31 points by halftime and led 31-17. However, 21 of their 31 points were the direct result of 3 Purdue interceptions. After a shoddy first half, the Purdue didn’t have a turnover in the 2nd half and the defense held the Wildcats scoreless. It was to little too late as Purdue, who went off as a 1-point favorite, came up 4 points short. There were some definite positives as the Boiler running game shredded a Northwestern defense for over 200 yards on 8.1 yards per carry. That was against a Wildcat defense that allowed just 96 YPG rushing in conference games last season. Elijah Sindelar and David Blough split time at QB, just as they did last year, and combined for 270 yards through the air. Purdue outgained Northwestern by 71 total yards despite running 8 fewer plays. The Boilers played last Thursday so they did have a few extra days to recover from their tough home loss to the Wildcats.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two have met just twice with Purdue winning both by a combined score of 103-19. Their most recent meeting was in 2012 with the Boilers rolling over EMU 54-16. Surprisingly, the Boilers are just 5-5 SU their last 10 meetings vs MAC opponents.
NEW MEXICO +35 @ WISCONSIN, Saturday at 12 PM ET
NEW MEXICO – After beating Incarnate Word last week 62-30, the Lobos and head coach Bob Davie take a huge step up in competition this week facing #4 Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium. The Lobos has relied very heavily on their running game over the last few seasons and it looks like they will again this year under new offensive coordinator Calvin Magee (came from Arizona). Last Saturday they ran the ball 66 times for 319 yards. We’ll see how they fare against a Wisconsin defense that finished 3rd nationally last year in rush defense allowing only 98 YPG and gave up just 25 yards on 25 carries to Western Kentucky last Friday. New Mexico looked good in their new run-based spread offense putting up 680 total yards. Defensively they were poor at best. They allowed Incarnate Word, an FCS team that was 1-10 a year ago, to put up 566 yards on a ridiculous 7.7 yards per play. For comparison, Incarnate Word played only one FBS team last year vs Fresno State and they lost that game 66-0.
WISCONSIN – The Badgers opened the season rolling over Western Kentucky 34-3 on Friday Night. They missed the cover by a few points as Wisconsin went off as a 36 point chalk. The offense was extremely balanced with 257 yards passing and 234 yards rushing. QB Alex Hornibrook was an efficient 17 of 29 with 7 different receivers catching a pass. All American RB Jonathan Taylor had 145 yards on 18 carries. The defense, which ranked 2nd nationally last year allowing just 262 YPG, allowed WKU to top 300 yards (305). That may not seem like much but this UW defense allowed only 4 of their 14 opponents last year to top 300 total yards. They are replacing both defensive ends and their two corners are both very inexperienced. That being said, they did hold WKU scoreless on just 58 total yards in the first half. The Hilltoppers did move the ball in the 2nd half but the game was already out of reach with Wisconsin up 24-0 at the break. The Badgers put their 40 game home non-conference winning streak on the line again this Saturday. The last time they lost a non-conference game at home was back in 2003.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – This is the first time these two schools have faced off on the football field. Since Barry Alvarez’s 2nd season in Madison (1991) the Badgers are an impressive 92-73 ATS at Camp Randall Stadium. However, since 2014 the Badgers are just 1-6 ATS when favored by 28 or more at home.
RUTGERS +35 @ OHIO STATE, Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
RUTGERS – The Scarlet Knights rolled over Texas State last week 35-7 outgaining the Bobcats by 247 yards. It actually could have been worse as Rutgers turned the ball over 4 times. One was one a pick 6 which was turned into the points Texas State was able to score and another an interception in the endzone going in to score. Both were thrown true freshman QB Arthur Sitkowski who threw for 205 yards but also threw 3 interceptions in his collegiate debut. The Knights also ran for over 200 yards keeping their offense very balanced in game one. Defensively they held Texas State to just 123 total yards on 55 offensive plays. While it was an impressive opener for Rutgers, keep in mind Texas State was 2-10 last year and ranked 107th in total offense.
OHIO STATE – The Buckeyes were extremely impressive in their season opener crushing Oregon State 77-31. With head coach Urban Meyer serving the first of his three game suspension, the offense looked unstoppable scoring TD’s on 11 of their 13 offensive possessions. The Bucks only non-scoring drives ended in a punt and a fumble. They gashed the Beavers for 721 yards and new starting QB Dwayne Haskins looked very good throwing for 313 yards and 5 TD’s. OSU does look like they may have some concerns on the defensive side of the ball. They allowed Oregon State, a team that averaged just 20 PPG a year ago, to post 31 points on nearly 400 yards. The Beavers were able to hit some big gains against the Buckeye defense with 7 plays of 20 or more yards. Oregon State did much of their offensive damage with their back up QB Colin Blount as starter Jake Luton went out just 6 plays into the game with a potential concussion.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Ohio State is a perfect 4-0 both SU & ATS vs Rutgers since the Knights joined the Big Ten in 2014. The average margin of victory for OSU in those 4 meetings is 46 points and they’ve held Rutgers scoreless in each of the last 2 meetings. The Buckeyes have scored at least 49 points in all four meetings vs the Scarlet Knight while Rutgers has scored just 24 points combined in their four match ups.
COLORADO +4.5 @ NEBRASKA, Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
COLORADO – The Buffs offense looked in mid-season form last weekend racking up almost 600 yards and 45 points vs in-state rival Colorado State (45-13 win). However, while CU’s offense, led by QB Steven Montez, could be very good this year, we’ll take a wait and see approach. That’s because CSU’s defense has looked horrendous over their first two outings (vs Colorado & Hawaii) allowing a combined 88 points on over 1,200 yards. Montez, who now has 16 career starts under his belt, had a near flawless performance completing his first 12 passes of the game en route to a 22 for 25 and 4 TD outing. Defensively the Buffalos held a good CSU offense, which had 653 yards a week earlier vs Hawaii, to just 284 yards in 3.8 yards per play.
NEBRASKA – While Colorado comes in with an experienced QB, the Huskers are working with a true freshman under center. New head coach Scott Frost was hoping to get new QB Adrian Gonzalez some much needed experience last week vs Akron, it wasn’t meant to be as the game was cancelled due to weather. They tried to reschedule the game for Sunday but Akron was unable to accommodate the request and flew home late Saturday night. The schools have discussed the possibility of making up the game in week 14 of the season should either team need the game to become bowl eligible. Thus the Huskers will open their season this Saturday vs Colorado.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two, once rivals in the Big 12, have not met since the Huskers left for the Big Ten in 2011. When they were both in the Big 12, Nebraska covered 11 of the last 15 meetings between 1996 – 2010. The Huskers have been favored in 26 of the last 31 meetings vs Colorado dating back to the 1980 season.
IOWA STATE +4 @ IOWA, Saturday at 5:00 PM ET
IOWA STATE – The Cyclones are coming off one of their most successful seasons in decades going 8-5 including two wins over top 5 teams (Oklahoma & TCU) and winning their bowl game. Last week’s home game vs South Dakota State got off to a fast start with ISU scoring a TD on their opening drive of the game. That’s where everything came to a screeching halt as the game was cancelled just four minutes in due to poor weather. So now ISU will officially open their season on the road at in-state rival Iowa this Saturday. It’s a game they’ve been pointing to after blowing a 38-31 lead late in the game last year and losing 44-41 in overtime.
IOWA – Iowa came away with what looked like a comfortable 33-7 win last Saturday vs Northern Illinois but it wasn’t as easy as the final score may have indicated. The Hawkeyes led just 3-0 at half but held NIU to -2 yards in the third quarter and pushed to a 17-0 lead after 3. The offense, despite scoring 33 points, wasn’t overly impressive gaining 352 total yards on 73 plays (just 4.8 YPP). QB Nate Stanley threw for only 108 yards on 11 completions. Defensively this team looks like they’ll be very solid especially up front. The Huskies came in with high hopes offensively after averaging 29 PPG last year and returning most of their starters on that side of the ball including QB Marcus Childers. The Hawkeye defense held them to just 211 total yards and the Huskies were just 3 of 14 on 3rd & 4th down. Their only score came on a TD with just over 2:00 remaining in the game. NIU was only able to cross midfield once in the 2nd half as Iowa pulled away.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Iowa was favored by 3.5 points last year @ Iowa State in their 44-41 win in OT. They are laying basically that same number this Saturday but are now playing in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes have been a double digit favorite vs ISU in 6 of the last 7 meetings in Iowa City. The Cyclones are 11-4 ATS their last 15 visits to Iowa City.
MARYLAND -16 @ BOWLING GREEN, Saturday at 6:00 PM ET
MARYLAND – The Terps pulled off a huge upset last week vs revenge minded Texas winning 34-29 as 13.5 point underdog. Not only were they nearly a 2 TD underdog, there is also the major distraction of having their head coach DJ Durkin suspended indefinitely shortly before the season began. On top of that, the man that is now leading this team in the interim, Matt Canada, wasn’t even with the team last year as he was the offensive coordinator at LSU. Despite all of that, Maryland jumped out to a 24-7 lead early in the 2nd quarter. Even when it looked like Maryland had a chance to fold under pressure after the Horns came back and took a 29-24 lead late in the 3rd quarter, this team responded with what ended up being the game winning TD drive on their next possession. While the yardage was nearly dead even both passing and rushing, Maryland was +3 in turnovers as Texas gave it away on each of their final 3 possessions. Now after the emotion of winning their first game under touch circumstances we’ll see how they respond in their first road game.
BOWLING GREEN – The Falcons traveled west last Saturday and were blasted 58-24 by the Oregon Ducks. The offense looked solid putting up almost 400 yards and returning starting QB Jarret Doege threw for 252 yards and 3 TD’s. He also threw a pick 6 which contributed to the Ducks 58 points. While the offense looked decent, the defense did not. New defensive coordinator Carl Pelini stated before the season it would probably take a full season for his team to fully grasp all of his schemes and it looks like he was correct. Oregon put over 500 yards on the stat sheet while only having to complete 11 passes the entire game. Those 11 completions did go for almost 300 yards which was the theme for this BG defense. Too many big plays allowed including TD’s of 83, 48, 40, and 33 yards. Now the Falcons come home to host a Big Ten team for the first time since 2014.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two have met just one time since 1980 – that was a 48-27 road win by Bowling Green win in 2015. The Terps have been road favorites of more than 2 TD’s just 9 times since the start of the 1980 season (9-0 SU & 5-4 ATS). However, Maryland is only 16-24 ATS as a road favorite since 1987.
VIRGINIA +7 @ INDIANA – Saturday at 7:30 PM ET
VIRGINIA – Last Saturday UVA fell in a 7-0 hole early vs FCS foe Richmond after new QB Bryce Perkins threw a 72-yard pick 6 midway through the first quarter. From that point on the Cavs outscored Richmond 42-6 the rest of the way for an easy 42-13 win. Both teams threw for the exact same 191 yards but the Cavaliers dominated the ground game with 301 rushing yards to just 34 for the Spiders. Minus his pick 6, Perkins was very good for Virginia throwing for 185 yards while rushing for 108. The junior college transfer became the first Cav QB to rush for over 100 since 2009. While Virginia looked good against an FCS opponent, we’ll see how this young roster, 11 players made their collegiate debut last week, does on the road where they are 4-26 SU their last 30 away from home.
INDIANA – IU opened the season on the road and pulled off a solid 38-28 win at Florida International. The Hoosiers dominated the stat sheet and were very balanced on offense with 252 yards passing and 213 rushing. There was a QB battle heading into the fall and veteran Peyton Ramsey won out getting the start. However, highly touted freshman QB Michael Penix Jr got some time as well and performed well completing 8 of his 10 passes for 96 yards and a TD. The was OK but showed some vulnerability vs the run as FIU rushed for 170 yards. That could be problem this week vs a UVA team that looks like it can run the ball well and has a dual threat QB. The defense is young with only 3 starters back and we’ll have a better read on that side of the ball after this weekend.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two met in Virginia last year and the Hoosiers pulled off the big 34-17 win as a 3.5 point favorite. Despite the 17-point margin, the yardage was almost dead even in the game. UVA has a 3-24 SU record over their last 27 road games. All but 5 of those 24 losses have come by at least a TD.
FRESNO STATE +2.5 @ MINNESOTA, Saturday at 7:30 PM ET
FRESNO STATE – The Bulldogs have high expectations this year bringing 15 starters back from a team that went 10-4 last year and topped a solid Houston team in their bowl game. They started the 2018 season with a huge 79-13 win over Idaho. While Fresno was impressive and they did obviously dominate the game, the score was a bit deceiving. That’s because 21 of their 79 points came on a 74-yard blocked FG return, a 71-yard blocked FG return and a 39-yard interception return. Idaho had 7 turnovers in the game while the Bulldogs 0 giveaways. Fresno “only” outgained Idaho by 179 total yards despite the 66-point win. This team isn’t afraid to go on the road and test themselves as they played both Alabama & Washington on the road last year (losing to both by wide margins).
MINNESOTA – The Gophs started slow last week and were tied 7-7 with New Mexico State after one quarter. Minnesota then scored on every 2nd quarter possession to take a 35-7 lead into half in their 48-10 win. After gaining just 54 yards on their first 5 possessions, the Gopher offense kicked it into gear and accumulated 468 yards and 41 points over the final 3 quarters. They outgained the Aggies 522 to 271. They went with true freshman Zack Annexstad and he played well throwing for over 220 yards and did not commit a turnover. The defense held NMSU to only 38 yards on the ground on 20 carries. We will temper our enthusiasm however as New Mexico State lost 29-7 at Wyoming a week earlier and only gained 135 total yards in that game. They take a big step up in competition this week vs a solid Fresno State team.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – This is the first meeting between these two schools. Minnesota is 17-1 SU their last 18 at home vs non-conference opponents. Fresno is 8-1-1 ATS their last 10 road games. However the Bulldogs are just 7-20 SU their last 27 away from home.
PENN STATE -8.5 @ PITTSBURGH, Saturday at 8:00 PM ET
PENN STATE – The Nittany Lions got a serious scare last week squeaking by Appalachian State in OT as a 23 point favorite. App State actually had a chance to win in regulation but missed a 56 yard FG with 15 seconds remaining. The Mountaineers played PSU toe to toe the entire game and actually outgained the Nits 451 to 434. While we had a good idea the PSU offense would again be very solid despite the loss of Saquon Barkley, we have some solid contacts in Happy Valley that told us the defense is a big time work in progress. They lost 8 of their 11 defensive starters and 7 of their 8 top tacklers from a year ago. The defensive work in progress definitely looks to be the case after App State averaged almost 6 YPP. To put that in perspective, only Washington, Nebraska, Ohio State, and Iowa averaged 6 YPP or more vs PSU last year.
PITTSBURGH – Pitt got the 2018 season started with a bang as they returned the opening kick for a TD last Saturday vs Albany. The Panthers never looked back and rolled up an easy 33-7 win. The game could have been much worse as Pitt scored TD’s on their first 5 possessions (including kick return to open the game) and led 33-7 at half. They took their foot off the pedal and went fairly conservative in the 2nd half running the ball 19 times with just 10 pass attempts. The offense and new QB Kenny Pickett looked very good in the first half racking up 270 total yards and 33 points. However, they did lose a number of key players on that side of the ball including 3/5 of their offensive line. Dominating an FCS team that was 4-7 last year was expected. The defense should be the strength of this team with 8 of their top 9 tacklers back from last year.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – PSU cashed Pitt in Happy Valley last year but just barely. The Nittany Lions were favored by 18.5 in the game and won 33-14 getting the half point cover. Looking at the offensive plays run, it’s amazing that PSU won the game at all much less by 19 points. Pitt ran 86 offensive plays to just 52 for the Lions. The favorite is just 2-7 ATS the last 9 meetings in this PA rivalry.
MICHIGAN STATE -7 @ ARIZONA STATE, Saturday at 10:45 PM ET
MICHIGAN STATE – MSU rolled into last week’s home game vs Utah State as a 23.5 point favorite and they were pushed to the limit in the 38-31 win. It took a come from behind Spartan TD and 2-point conversion with only 2:00 minutes remaining to pull out the win. MSU’s defense looked very similar to last season when they dominated vs the run (USU had just 25 yards rushing) and struggled at times vs the pass (USU had 319 yards passing). One concern offensive is MSU is a run first team which sets up their QB Brian Lewerke to have success in the pass game. They were only able to run for 3.9 yards per carry on Saturday vs a Utah State team that allowed 217 YPG rushing a year ago. The offensive line needs to get better in order for this team to play up to their #11 pre-season rankings.
ARIZONA STATE – The Sun Devils opened the Herm Edwards era with a resounding 49-7 win over UT San Antonio. ASU jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead and led 49-0 before UTSA scored late in the game for their only points. Third year starting QB Manny Wilkins, whose thrown for over 5,500 yards in his career, was solid with 237 yards passing, 4 TD’s and no turnovers. He should be able to do some damage against an MSU defense that at times struggles vs the pass as we stated above. Defensively Edwards had implemented a new 3-3-5 swarming scheme that looked very good in week one. They held the Roadrunners to just 220 yards and had 9 sacks. The offense should again be solid as it has been for years (7 straight years averaging 30+ points). If Edwards can turn around the defense which allowed a whopping 450 YPG last season, ASU will be a formidable team in 2018. Could the late start (10:45 PM ET) and heat be an advantage for the Devils?
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – MSU is an impressive 31-18 SU in road games over the last decade. They are 17-11 ATS as a road favorite during that stretch. Dating back to 2005, Arizona State is 12-5 ATS as a home underdog winning 6 of those games outright. Since the start of the 1997 season, ASU has been a non-conference home dog of 7 or more only one time. That was vs Georgia in 2008 a game the Devils lost 27-10 as an 8-point dog.