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Big 10 Conference Report
by ASA - 10/04/2018
IOWA (-7) @ MINNESOTA, Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
IOWA – The Hawkeyes come off a bye after losing at home 28-17 to Wisconsin two weeks ago. The game was played almost dead even stat wise with each team picking up 19 first downs and Wisconsin outgaining Iowa by just 11 yards. Iowa actually led the game 17-14 with under 1:00 minute remaining in the game but the Badgers scored a TD with 57 seconds remaining and another with 22 seconds remaining (after an Iowa interception) for the 11 point margin. The Hawkeyes had their chances in the first half as they were shut out on downs at the UW 5-yard line on their opening drive, made it to the Wisconsin 42 yard line on drive number two, scored a TD on their third possession, and fumbled a punt on their next opportunity. That sent them to half tied at 7-7 but with 216 total yards at the break the Hawkeyes should have had more than one TD on the board. QB Nathan Stanley was averaging just 137 YPG through the air and barely 50% completions after his first two games. He has since stepped up his game big time throwing for 565 yards while completing over 72% of his passes his last two games. Defensively after allowing an average of 209 YPG over their first three games the Hawks gave up nearly double that to the Badgers who had 415 total yards.
MINNESOTA – The Gophs are also off a bye and looking to regroup after a 42-13 blowout loss @ Maryland two Saturdays ago. It was Minnesota’s first road game and they caught the Terps at a bad time coming off an embarrassing loss to Temple as a double digit favorite. The Minnesota defense came into their game @ Maryland having completely shut down their opponents running game over the first three games allowing just 72 YPG. That changed in a big way with Maryland rushing for 315 yards on 8.5 yards per carry. The Terps scored 42 points and only attempted 14 passes the entire game. The Gopher defense gave up big plays all day long as Maryland scored TD’s on plays of 26, 81, 54, 64, and 21 yards. The Minnesota offense also had it’s problems scoring just one TD with freshman QB Zach Annexstad completing only 43% of his passes. This young Gopher team, with over 50% of their roster being freshman, showed they weren’t ready to go on the road and be competitive. We’ll see how they respond back at home after a week off.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Iowa has won 5 of the last 6 meetings in this series and they’ve outgained the Gophers in 6 of the last 7 match ups. Going back further the Hawkeyes are 13-4 SU the last 17 meetings. Going back to 1993, the Gophers are just 8-16-1 ATS their last 25 games vs Iowa. Since 2012, the Hawkeyes have been a road favorite of more than 4 points 8 times. They are 7-1 ATS in those games. Since 2007, the Gophers have been a home dog in Big Ten play 27 times. They are 17-10 ATS in those games.
MARYLAND @ MICHIGAN (-17.5), Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
MARYLAND – The Terps were one of the surprise teams in the Big Ten after their first two games which were both wins including an impressive 34-29 win over Texas as a 13-point underdog. They were then brought back down to earth in a big way losing 35-14 to a Temple team that was 0-2 at the time. Maryland was favored by 15 in that game and the Owls dominated from start to finish. Two weeks ago they played host to Minnesota in their Big Ten opener and rolled over the undefeated Gophers winning 42-13 outgaining them by 170 yards. Last week the Terrapins had a bye giving them two full weeks to get ready for their trip to Ann Arbor. This will be an interesting match up of opposing strengths as Maryland ranks 3rd in the Big Ten in rushing averaging 258 YPG while the Michigan defense allows just 86 YPG on the ground. If they can’t establish the run vs Michigan the Terps might be in trouble as their freshman QB Kasim Hill has only completed 42 passes through 4 games and is completing barely 50% of his attempts. Maryland ranks 121st nationally in passing offense averaging only 141 YPG through the air.
MICHIGAN – After coasting through 3 easy opponents at home, the Wolverines were finally back on the road last week and they were taken to the wire by Northwestern. The Cats scored on their first 3 possessions jumping out to a quick 17-0 lead. NW gained 145 yards on those first 3 possessions but were held scoreless after that. Once Michigan settled down defensively they were able to limit the Wildcats to only 57 yards after those first 3 drives. The Cats were without their top RB Jeremy Larkin who retired earlier in the week and it showed as Michigan completely walled off that portion of Northwestern’s offense holding them to 28 yards on 34 carries. The Wildcats were forced to punt on all of their 2nd half possessions and never crossed mid-field. Michigan took their first lead of the game 20-17 with just 4:06 remaining in the game after a clutch 11-play 67-yard drive ended in a TD. The Wolves continue to have a problem with the laundry as they had 11 penalties for over 100 yards. They are the 12th most penalized team in the nation averaging 85 YPG in penalties.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The Wolverines are a perfect 3-0 SU & ATS vs Maryland the last 3 years winning by an average score of 41-4 and covering those games by an average of 16 PPG. In those three games (2015-2017) Maryland has scored a total of 13 points. The Terps have been an underdog of 17 or more 6 times since the start of the 2016 season. They are 1-5 ATS in those games. Going back to 1980 Maryland is 18-28-2 ATS (4-44 SU) as a dog of 17 or more. Michigan is 9-4 ATS as a home favorite of 2 TD’s or more vs Big Ten teams dating back to 2007.
NEBRASKA @ WISCONSIN (-17), Saturday at 7:30 PM ET
NEBRASKA – The excitement for Nebraska football coming into the season was through the roof with new head coach Scott Frost injecting new life into a dormant program. That excitement, at least for this season, has now been tempered with the Huskers starting 0-4. They showed some life in their season opener nearly beating Colorado as they arguably outplayed the Buffs in the loss. It’s been downhill since and last week’s home loss to Purdue. The 42-28 setback set two school records notching their 8th straight loss overall and 7th straight home loss. Not the records they wanted to set for sure. The Huskers continue to hurt themselves with mistakes game in and game out. On Saturday they rolled up 30 first downs and 536 yards outgaining the Boilermakers. Nebraska has actually outgained 3 of their 4 opponents on the season. So what’s the deal? They’ve turned the ball over 9 times this year and rank 127th nationally in turnover margin at -1.5 per game. On top of their turnover problems, the Cornhuskers were shut out on downs THREE times in Purdue territory, they missed a FG, and had 136 yards in penalties. If they ever decide to cut back on the mistakes, they could have the makings of a semi-dangerous team.
WISCONSIN – The Badgers had last week off after topping Iowa on the road 28-17 a week earlier. Their win at Iowa put Wisconsin in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten West as they push for their 4th division title in the last 5 seasons. The Badgers are 3-1 with their lone loss coming at home to BYU. They still have all of their season goals in front of them, however this team has some definite flaws. They are young and fairly thin defensively, especially on the defensive line. They are allowing 135 YPG on the ground on 4.4 YPC. Compare that to last season when they allowed 98 YPG on the ground on 3.2 YPC and you can see the drop off. It’s also not as if they’ve played a bunch of great running teams either. They are just thin and young up front. Offensively they came into the season with the anticipation they would have one of their best offenses in team history. They’ve been good but not great. After rolling up numbers on the first two overmatched team they played (Western KY & New Mexico) they averaged just 24.5 PPG over their last 2 games. They have the talent to put up big numbers but they haven’t fully clicked on that side of the ball quite yet. Perhaps it comes this Saturday night vs a Nebraska defense that has allowed 98 points in their last 2 games alone. Wisconsin might be without 2 defensive starters at OLB Andrew Van Ginkel (their top pass rusher) and CB Faion Hicks are working through injuries.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – This line opened Wisconsin -22 and has dropped all the way to -17 as of this writing. Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, they are just 1-6 SU (2-5 ATS) vs the Badgers. Last year Wisconsin (-12.5) won 38-17 in Lincoln. Wisconsin is 10-2 ATS their last 12 games with at least a week of rest. The Badgers, however, are just 9-17 ATS the last 26 times they’ve been a double digit home favorite (0-3 ATS this year). Since 1980, the Huskers have been a double digit road dog just 14 times. They are 1-13 SU and 7-7 ATS in that spot.
ILLINOIS (-5.5) @ RUTGERS, Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
ILLINOIS – We’re now into October and the Illini finally play a true road game for the first time this Saturday. They come into this one off a bye which gives them an advantage over a Rutgers team that is playing for the 6th consecutive Saturday. Illinois is 2-2 and their most recent game was a 63-24 loss at home to Penn State. For those that did not watch the game, it was much closer than that final score would indicate. PSU led 28-24 entering the fourth quarter and the proceeded to score TD’s on their final 5 offensive possessions. The Illinois offense actually looked fairly decent gaining over 400 yards in the game including 245 on the ground. Their problem on offense has been their inability to generate a consistent passing game. They have thrown for just 5.4 yards per pass attempt over their last two games averaging just 167 yards through the air. Freshman MJ Rivers has been the starter the last two games but the Illini hope to have AJ Bush under center this weekend (hamstring injury) as they look for their first Big Ten win in 23 months!
RUTGERS – The Scarlet Knights finally had a close game, however the outcome was the same and that was another loss. Indiana came into Rutgers as a 17-point favorite and walked away with a tight 24-17 win. It was a game that IU led comfortably 24-7 at half and then decided not to show up after the break. Rutgers kicked a FG with just under 5:00 remaining to cut the lead to 24-17 but never got the ball back as IU ate up the remainder of the clock. The Knights were outgained by 160 yards in the game and they have now been outgained by a combined 1,036 yards in their last four games. The one thing we have noticed is it doesn’t look like this team is giving up just quite yet. They fought hard in the 2nd half despite being down by a large margin at half and made a game of it. The Knights have to look at this as a decent shot at a win. Probably their best remaining shot this season. Wisconsin is 10-2 ATS their last 12 games with at least a week of rest. The Badgers, however, are just 9-17 ATS the last 26 times they’ve been a double digit home favorite (0-3 ATS this year).
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Illinois favored on the road? The Illini have been favored on the road just 17 times since 2002 covering only 6 of those games. Rutgers was favored at Illinois by -1.5 last year and won the game 35-24. A year later they are a dog at home. The road team has been favored each of the last 2 seasons in this match up and they’ve won and covered each. Illinois has won only 8 (outright wins) of their last 46 road games. Rutgers has covered just 43% of the time as a home dog dating back to 1980 (45-59 ATS).
NORTHWESTERN @ MICHIGAN STATE (-10), Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
NORTHWESTERN – The Cats gave a valiant effort coming off their bye last week but fell just short of a huge upset vs Michigan. After the first 3 offensive possessions for each team, Northwestern was ahead 17-0 and had outgained Michigan 145 to 21. From that point on, the Wolverines dominated outscoring the Cats 20-0 and outgaining them 355 to 57 leading to the 20-17 win. The problem with Northwestern’s offense this year is they can’t run the ball. Last week they were held to a paltry 28 yards on 34 attempts. They’ve only topped 100 yards rushing as a team in one game this season vs Purdue. They rank dead last in the Big Ten and 122nd nationally in rushing offense averaging only 95 YPG. On top of that they lost their top RB Larkin last week when he retired due to a medical issue. This is putting big time pressure on QB Clayton Thorson, who’s coming off an ACL injury, to be perfect in order for the Wildcats to put points on the board. Now they face an MSU defense that ranks #1 nationally in rush defense and has allowed just 161 yards rushing the entire season! Thorson will have to be very good here to give Northwestern a shot at the upset.
MICHIGAN STATE – After beating Indiana two weeks ago to open up the Big Ten season, Sparty had a bit of a letdown spot last week hosting Central Michigan before getting back into their Big Ten slate. The Spartans (-28) jumped out to a 31-3 lead after 3 quarters and then held on for a 31-20 win. The Michigan State defense continued to shine holding CMU to just 245 yards with 170 of those coming on their final 3 offensive possessions when the game was out of reach. Prior to those final 3 drives the Chippewas were averaging only 3 yards per play on 32 snaps. MSU allowed just 63 yards on the ground which was actually the most they’ve allowed this season! They rank #1 in the nation allowing only 40 YPG on the ground. Dating back to last season they have now held 7 consecutive opponents to less than 100 yards on the ground. Offensively the Spartans have a few injuries heading into their game vs Northwestern. Their top WR Cody White is out with a broken hand and will be for awhile. MSU starting RB LJ Scott missed his 2nd straight game due to a hamstring injury and is questionable again this week.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Surprisingly the road team has won 5 of the last 6 meetings outright. The lone home win in this series since 2009 was last year when Northwestern topped MSU 39-31 in OT. That game was tied 17-17 at the end of regulation. The Cats have covered the last 7 times they’ve visited East Lansing and the road team is 12-2 ATS the last 14 meetings. Northwestern is 13-5 ATS the last 18 times they’ve been tabbed a double digit underdog (1-0 ATS this year). This is the 33rd time these two have met since 1980 and MSU has been favored in all but one of those games.
INDIANA @ OHIO STATE (-25), Saturday at 4:00 PM ET
INDIANA – The Hoosiers come into this game having already played two Big Ten games (1-1 record). They were beaten up two weeks ago at home vs MSU and then bounced back last week and picked up a 24-17 road win @ Rutgers. IU jumped out to a 24-7 halftime lead and their 3 TD’s in the opening stanza were on long drives of 88, 75, and 68 yards. After relying mainly on their running game the first three games, the Hoosiers QB Peyton Ramsey has attempted 46 & 40 passes in his two Big Ten games. He’s thrown for 550+ yards in those two games combined with 3 TD’s but also 3 interceptions. The offense was able to gain nearly 300 yards on over 6 YPP in the first half vs Rutgers. However, after halftime they went scoreless on just 150 yards and committed two big turnovers. The defense was decent holding Rutgers to less than 300 yards but that was sort of expected vs a Knights offense that ranks dead last in the Big Ten in total offense & scoring offense.
OHIO STATE – OSU was involved in the best game the Big Ten had to offer last week as they came from behind to top Penn State 27-26 in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 13-0 lead and still held a 26-14 lead with less than 8:00 minutes remaining in the game. Down 26-21 with just 4:30 remaining in the game and starting at their own 4-yard line, OSU executed their most impressive drive of the season. It was an 8-play, 96-yard TD drive that game the Bucks a 27-26 lead with just over 2:00 minutes remaining in the game. The defense then held PSU on 4th and 5 from the Buckeye 43-yard line to clinch the huge road win. That gives the Buckeyes two 2nd half come from behind wins away from home this season (TCU & PSU). This game was much different than the previous two meetings where each team won a game but OSU dominated the stat sheet. The Buckeyes were a bit fortunate to win this one as Penn State dominated the numbers gaining 492 yards on 66 plays (7.4 YPP) to OSU’s 389 yards on 76 plays (5.1). Nearly half of OSU’s yardage in the game (44% to be exact) came on their final 2 drives. It was just the 2nd time in the last 10 games (dating back to last season) that OSU was outgained in a game.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The Hoosiers have played the Buckeyes very tough over the last 7 seasons. They are 6-1 ATS in those games with OSU only cover coming last year in a 49-21 win as a 21-point favorite. However previous to that run by Indiana, they were 0-9 ATS vs OSU between 1998 – 2010. Since 2000, IU is just 3-18 SU and 8-13 ATS in their 2nd of back to back road games. Surprisingly, the Buckeyes are 18-6-1 ATS the game following their match up with Penn State. The Bucks are 3-0 ATS at home this year as favorites of more than 3 TD’s. However, coming into this season, they were just 5-11 ATS in that role dating back to 2014.