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Big 10 Week 4 Preview
by ASA - 09/22/2018
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21
PENN STATE -28 @ ILLINOIS, Friday at 9:00 PM ET
PENN STATE - The Big Ten slate kicks off this week with a rare Friday night game in Champaign. Penn State comes in with a perfect 3-0 record and faces off against the Illini who are 2-1. The PSU offense is clicking early in the season having scored at least 45 points in each of their three wins. Last week they topped Kent State 63-10 on 643 yards averaging over 9 yards per play! On the season the Nittany Lions are averaging 53 PPG on 6.88 YPP. PSU was able to run out to a huge 49-10 lead last week after three quarters which allowed head coach James Franklin to rest his starters for a good portion of the 2nd half. That could be a benefit here on a short week as Franklin had his team practice on Monday which is normally their only day off. After struggling with an Appalachian State team that pushed Penn State to overtime in their season opener, the Nits have covered their last two games (vs Pitt & Kent State) by a combined 55 points.
ILLINOIS - The Illini are coming off their first loss of the season last week as South Florida topped them 25-19 @ Soldier Field in Chicago. Illinois covered as a 14-point dog but the score was quite misleading. USF dominated the game outgaining Illinois by 246 yards. The Bulls averaged 7.45 YPP while holding the Illini to just 4.81 YPP for the game. Amazingly, Illinois actually led 19-7 entering the fourth quarter before USF scored 17 straight points, including a 50-yard TD pass with just over 2:00 minutes remaining which gave them their first and only lead of the game. South Florida threw two interceptions, were called for 14 penalties for 124 yards, and missed 3 FG’s which gave the Illini a shot despite the stat sheet disparity. Starting QB AJ Bush sat out last week for the Illini after an injury sustained a week earlier vs Western Illinois. His replacement was true freshman AJ Rivers who saw the first game action of his career. Rivers was 20 of 29 for 168 yards. Bush is questionable heading into Friday so it’s something we’ll keep an eye on.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two haven’t met since 2015 which was a PSU 39-0 win at home as a 3.5 point favorite. The underdog has cashed in 10 of the last 13 times these two have faced off. Illinois has covered 8 of the last 12 in this series dating back to 2002. Penn State is favored by 28 in this one which is the second largest point spread ever in this Big Ten series. Illinois has been a home underdog of four TD’s or more only FOUR times since 1980, three of those were vs Ohio State. Since joining the Big Ten in 1990, the Lions have been a road favorite of 28 or more just ONE time in Big Ten play. That was @ Iowa in 1999 which was a 31-7 PSU win but a non-cover as a 28-point favorite.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22
MICHIGAN STATE -5 @ IOWA, Saturday at 7:30 PM ET
MICHIGAN STATE – The Spartans have had two full weeks to get ready for their Big Ten opener as they come off a bye week. They are also very anxious to get back on the field after losing @ Arizona State two weeks ago. Sparty blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead in that one as ASU came from behind late for the 16-13 win. That dropped Michigan State to 1-1 on the season, their one win a hard fought 38-31 final at home vs a solid and experienced Utah State team. It may not have been a bad close win for MSU as Utah State has gone onto win 60-13 and 73-12 since the loss (vs New Mexico State & Tennessee Tech). The Spartans have struggled to run the ball in their first two games averaging only 114 YPG on the ground. Their top RB LJ Scott may not play here due to an injury which won’t help. QB Brian Lewerke has been solid completing 69% of his attempts for 601 yards in two games
INDIANA – The Hoosiers enter their Big Ten opener with a 3-0 record for just the second time in a decade. Their wins have come over FIU, Virginia, and Ball State. After allowing 28 points in their season opener @ FIU (38-28 win), the Indiana defense has been fantastic the last two weeks allowing just 26 combined points to Virginia and Ball State. Last week they whipped Ball State 38-10 a week after the Cardinals took Notre Dame to the wire in a 24-16 loss. The offense has exactly 38 points in two of their three wins and they have done so with a balanced attack averaging 235 yards on the ground and 201 through the air. Starting QB Peyton Ramsey was solid (20 of 29 for 173 yards) and because of the blowout he only played the first half and one series into the 3rd quarter before future starter freshman Michael Penix Jr took over.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – MSU has dominated this series covering 11 of the last 14 meetings and 22 of the 33 meetings since 1980. The Spartans have also won 12 of the last 14 outright vs the Hoosiers. IU is 0-5 ATS the last 5 times they’ve been a home underdog. They also rarely pull an upset as a home dog as they are only 2-24 SU their last 26 times getting points at home. Last year’s meeting in East Lansing was a tight one as MSU trailed 9-3 with under 6:00 minutes remaining in the game. The Spartans (-6.5) scored two TD’s late and pulled out a 17-9 win at home.
MINNESOTA +3 @ MARYLAND, Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
MINNESOTA – The Gophers will leave the comforts of home for the first time this season as they travel to Maryland on Saturday. Minnesota is 3-0 both SU and ATS with wins over New Mexico State, Fresno State, and Miami (Oh). Last year the Gophs were in a similar spot sweeping their non-conference slate only to lose 5 of their first 6 Big Ten games. Last week’s 26-3 win over Miami (Oh) was one where both offenses struggled. Minnesota had just 295 total yards on 70 offensive snaps (Just 4.2 YPP) while the Redhawks didn’t even get to 200 total yards for the game. That has been a theme for Minnesota as they’ve struggled to move the ball each of the last two weeks after putting up big numbers in their opener vs New Mexico State, who ranks 112th in total defense. They are already without their top offensive player, RB Rodney Smith, who was injured a few weeks ago and is out indefinitely. Now starting QB Zack Annexstad is questionable for this game with an injured ankle.
MARYLAND – The Terps, who may have been the surprise of the Big Ten through the first two weeks, came crashing back down to earth last week. Maryland beat Texas in week 1 as a double digit underdog and followed that up with an easy win and cover @ Bowling Green. It looked like the Terps would enter their Big Ten slate with a perfect 3-0 record as they faced a Temple team that came into last week with an 0-2 record. Well it didn’t go as planned as the Terps (-15) were dominated by the Owls 35-14 and outgained by 234 yards! The Temple defense stacked the line of scrimmage and forced Maryland QB’s Kasim Hill and Tyrell Pigrome to beat them through the air. Not a bad strategy vs a Terp team that was averaging almost 300 YPG on the ground coming in. The Maryland QB’s threw for just 63 yards on only 8 completions the entire game. On top of that Temple’s defense held the Maryland running game to only 132 yards so look for other teams to employ this defensive strategy moving forward until the Terps prove they can throw the ball consistently.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two have met twice since Maryland joined the Big Ten with the road team winning both games outright as underdogs. The most recent meeting was last season when the Terps came to Minnesota as a 13.5 point underdog and walked away with a 31-24 win. The Gophers have now lost 6 straight Big Ten road games dating back to the 2016 season. Since they joined the Big Ten in 2014, the Terps have been a home favorite in conference play only 5 times (3-2 SU & ATS).
WISCONSIN -3 @ IOWA – Saturday at 8:30 PM ET
WISCONSIN – The Badgers threw up a clunker last week in their 24-21 loss at home to BYU. That dropped them to 2-1 on the season but they still have yet to cover the spread (0-3 ATS). If you simply took a look at the stat sheet, you’d most likely think Wisconsin won the game fairly easily. The yardage was 394 to 311, first downs 20 to 14, total offensive snaps 71 to 51 and time of possession 34:00 to 26:00 all in favor of UW. Despite their 120 yards passing, starting QB Tanner Mangum only threw for 89 yards. The other 31 yards threw the air came on a trick play with a WR completing a pass for a TD. Down 24-21 with around 4:00 minutes remaining the Badgers took over on offense and drove the ball 69 yards on 11 plays but were stopped on 3rd down inside the BYU 25-yard line. Senior kicker Rafael Gaglianone, who is one of the top kickers in UW history, missed a 42 yarder that would have sent the game to OT. One key injury for Wisconsin is OLB Andrew Van Ginkle. He is their top edge rusher and is questionable vs Iowa with a leg injury.
IOWA – The Hawkeyes moved to 3-0 with a home win last week over Northern Iowa. They dominated the FCS power (ranked 22nd in FCS poll despite their 0-2 record) leading 38-0 after 3 quarters en route to a 38-14 win. The Iowa defense was again dominant holding the Panthers to just 20 total yards in the first half and 228 for the game with much of that coming late. For the game, UNI rushed for just 6 yards on 21 attempts. The Hawks now rank 3rd nationally in rush defense allowing only 42 YPG on 1.54 YPC after their first 3 games. This week it will be strength on strength as Wisconsin brings in one of the top rushing offenses in the country (9th) so we’ll get a better idea of where both stand after this one. The offense looked much better this week after struggling to put up just 13 points vs Iowa State the previous Saturday. QB Nate Stanley, who had thrown for just a total of 274 yards in his first two games, broke out vs UNI with a big game. Stanley completed 23 of 28 for over 300 yards and 2 TD’s. Stanley is from Wisconsin so he may have a little extra incentive for this one after struggling last year in Iowa’s 38-14 loss in Madison.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Wisconsin has topped Iowa in this rivalry 5 of the last 6 years. Last year the Badgers dominated their way to a 38-14 win and Iowa’s only points came on two interceptions both returned for TD’s. The Hawkeyes are 15-7-2 ATS their last 24 games as a home underdog. They were home dogs twice last year vs PSU & OSU and covered both beating the Buckeyes outright 55-24. Wisconsin is 16-5 ATS their last 21 as a road favorite dating back to 2012.
NEBRASKA +19.5 @ MICHIGAN – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
NEBRASKA – Well the Scott Frost era in Lincoln has not started the way the Husker fans would have hoped. After losing a back and forth game at home to Colorado two weeks ago, the Huskers were upset 24-19 at home by Troy last week. So the Huskers have lost two games by a combined 10 points and outgained both opponents by a combined 280 yards in the process. Last week they outgained the Trojans by more than 100 yards but also had 3 turnovers, a missed field goal, and allowed Troy to score on a 58 yard punt return. Starting QB Martinez sat out with an injury and his back up, walk on Andrew Bunch, was actually Nebraska’s 4th string QB entering camp. However, once Martinez won the starting job their original back up transferred and another was ruled ineligible. That leaves Bunch as the default back up QB. He actually did OK throwing for 177 yards and 2 TD’s, however he doesn’t bring the running threat that Martinez does. Martinez has been practicing this week but is still considered a game time decisions. The Husker defense looks much improved to us. They were one of the worst in the nation last year and this year they rank 39th in YPG allowed and they are getting to the QB at a high rate. This team is better than most think.
MICHIGAN – The Wolverines won again at home last week dispatching a poor SMU team 45-20 but coming nowhere near covering as a 37-point favorite. The Mustangs had high hopes entering the season but they are 0-3 getting beat by 23, 30, and 25 points. The Wolverine offense started very slow in their win last week not getting on the board until 6:46 remaining in the half with a 1 yard TD run on 4th down. SMU came right back and tied the game at 7-7 with just under 3:00 minutes remaining in the half. However, Michigan tacked in 2 TD’s in the final 2:30 and led 21-7 at half including a 73-yard interception return as the first half ended which was the back breaker for SMU. The Wolves didn’t dominate quite as much as the final might indicated. This was just a 2 score game with 8:30 remaining in the game and Michigan didn’t really put away a much weaker opponent until late in the game. The Wolverines relied heavily on the run in the win with 41 rushing attempts and only 14 pass completions. The defense looked very good again holding SMU to just 4.9 YPP.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two have not met this the 2013 season. Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, they are 2-1 SU & ATS vs the Wolverines. Michigan is 11-5 ATS the last 15 times they’ve been a favorite of 14 or more in Big Ten play dating back to 2011. Since joining the Big Ten in 2011, the Huskers have been a conference underdog of 17 or more just 3 times, twice vs OSU and once vs PSU (1-2 both SU & ATS in those games)
TULANE +37 @ OHIO STATE, Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
TULANE – Tulane enters Columbus with a 1-2 record losing to Wake Forest in OT & UAB with their only win coming against Nicholls State. In their two FBS games, both losses, the Green Wave have been outgained by 206 combined yards. The defense has been on the field a lot as they have faced 248 snaps in just 3 games for an average of 83 per game. For comparison’s sake the Tulane offense has taken 202 snaps on the year for an average of 67 per game. Last week the Green Wave traveled to Birmingham AL to take on UAB as a road favorite of 3.5 points. The Blazers jumped out to a 14-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter and Tulane battled back to tie the game at 24-24 in the fourth quarter. UAB took a 31-24 lead with just under 3:00 minutes remaining but the Green Wave had two more possessions following that score and both ended in Blazer territory, one on a fumble and one with time expiring. Tulane’s defense allowed 449 yards to UAB which has to be a bit concerning entering game game vs the high octane OSU offense.
OHIO STATE – The Buckeyes had their first real test of the season last week when they traveled to Dallas to take on a very good TCU team. The Horned Frogs looked like they were in very good shape to potentially pull the upset when their TD with 10:43 to go in the 3rd quarter put them up 21-13. After getting down by 8, OSU rolled up 3 consecutive TD’s in the span of 7:30 minutes to turn a 21-13 deficit into a 33-21 lead with 3:00 still remaining in the third quarter. That sequence proved to be the difference as the Bucks went on to win 40-28 barely failing to cover the 13-point spread. The overall yardage and YPP stats were almost dead even for the game. Despite that the Buckeyes were able to pick up the double digit win with help from a fumble recovery for a TD, an interception for a TD, and a blocked punt that was turned into a TD just two plays later. OSU head coach Urban Meyer will be back on the sidelines this week after serving his 3 game suspension but he will be without All-American defensive end Nick Bosa who has been ruled out with an groin/abdominal injury sustained during last week’s game.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – This is the first meeting between these two teams on the gridiron. Since 2012 OSU has been a favorite of 35 or more 10 teams. As expected they are 10-0 SU in those games but just 3-7 ATS. In this history of Tulane’s football program, they have been an underdog of 35 or more only 5 times. They are 0-5 SU & 2-3 ATS losing by an average score of 47-7.
BOSTON COLLEGE -6.5 @ PURDUE – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
BOSTON COLLEGE – The Eagles have had some extra time to get ready for this game after beating Wake Forest on the road last Thursday night 41-34. The Wake defense stacked the line of scrimmage in an attempt to stop RB AJ Dillon and make someone else beat them. The problem is, Dillon still ran for 185 yards on 33 carries and because of Wake committing to stopping the run QB Anthony Brown also had a huge day completing 16 passes for 304 yards (19 yards per completion) and 5 TD’s. Big plays were obviously the team of the BC passing game last week as Brown completed TD passes of 27, 35, 29, 71, and 40 yards. The total yardage in the game was very close with both teams putting up over 500 yards. However, BC had a huge edge in yards per play as they run just 69 offense plays to Wake’s 105! The Eagles enter their game vs Purdue with a 3-0 record and they are now ranked in the top 25 for the first time in a decade.
PURDUE – The Boilers struggles continued last week as they fell in a down to the wire game for the third straight week. Mizzou was able to knock off Purdue 40-37 last week in West Lafayette. So the Boilers are now 0-3 losing their games by a combined 9 points despite outgaining all 3 of their opponents. Last Saturday was an offensive showdown vs Missouri as neither defense could slow down their opponent. Both teams had over 600 yards of total offense and the two teams combined for only four punts the entire game. Purdue came from 10 points down in the 4th quarter to tie the game late only to watch Missouri kick a FG at the buzzer to win by 3. It was the second straight weekend that Purdue lost on a field goal as time expired. We could be in for another high scoring affair this week as BC comes in averaging 52 PPG and this total is set at 68 as of this writing. After getting to a bowl game last year for the first time since 2012, this has now become a must win if they want to have a chance at the post season again this year. In order to keep those hopes alive and get a win this weekend, Purdue would have to beat a top 25 team for the first time since 2011.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – This is the first meeting between these two teams. Purdue covered last week as a home dog but that has been a rarity as of late. In fact entering this season, the Boilers had been a home dog 25 times since late November of 2011. They were just 4-21 ATS in those 25 match ups. If you’re looking for Purdue to possibly pull off an upset here, don’t count on it. They are just 1-25 SU the last 26 times they’ve been a home underdog.
BUFFALO -5.5 @ RUTGERS, Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
BUFFALO – The Bulls came into the season as one of the favorites to win the MAC and they haven’t disappointed with a perfect 3-0 mark. After cruising past Delaware State in their opener, Buffalo has gone to the wire in each of their last two games beating Temple by a TD and Eastern Michigan by a TD. They are led on offense by QB Tyree Jackson who is completing 65% of his passes and already had 12 TD passes on the season. Defensively the Bulls are allowing 422 YPG and 28.5 PPG in their two games vs FBS opponents this season.
RUTGERS – Oh Rutgers. After beating Texas State to kick off the 2018 season, the Scarlet Knights have lost their last two games by a combined score of 107-17! Getting whipped by Ohio State is one thing but losing last week 55-14 to Kansas is a whole different situation. The Jayhawks came into their game vs Rutgers having won only 4 of their previous 42 games. How bad was Rutgers defense? They allowed a bad Kansas offense to gain 544 total yards and score 50+ points for the first time since 2010. Three of the first four touchdowns in this game were scored by either the defense or special teams including two KU interception returns for TD and a Rutgers blocked punt for a TD. This one wasn’t a fluke either as Kansas dominated the game from the get go as the Jayhawks were +8 first downs, +270 in total yardage, and +10:00 minutes time of possession. Starting freshman QB Arthur Sitkowski threw 3 interceptions before being replaced by senior captain and backup QB Giovanni Rescigno. No word yet on who will start under center this weekend vs Buffalo.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Buffalo is 1-11 SU vs Big Ten teams since the start of the 1999 season. The Bulls have never been favored over a Big Ten team until now. Dating all the way back to 1980, Rutgers is just 45-59 ATS as a home underdog (43%).