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Big 10 Football Preview - Week 9
by ASA - 10/25/2018
INDIANA (-2.5) @ MINNESOTA, Friday at 8:00 PM ET
INDIANA – After back to back poor performances vs Ohio State & Iowa, the Hoosiers played very well last week. They caught Penn State in a vulnerable spot as the Nittany Lions were coming off down to the wire home loss to both Ohio State and Michigan State. It showed as PSU looked sluggish at best but still came away with the 33-28 win. The Hoosiers, now 1-5 in conference play, scored with just 49 seconds remaining to make it a 33-28 deficit. They recovered the onside kick to give themselves a shot but never crossed midfield. IU dominated the stat sheet as they were +12 first downs, +137 yards, +50 rushing yards, and +8:00 minutes time of possession. Head coach Tom Allen went back to a QB rotation which he used in the non-conference slate. Starting QB Peyton Ramsey was replaced by freshman Michael Penix in the third series of the game. Penix, who had yet to play in the Big Ten season, was under center for 5 of Indiana’s 8 offensive possessions in the first half. However there will be no QB rotation moving forward as Penix injured his knee in the second half and is now out for the season. Indiana’s defense, which took a big step forward last year allowing just 340 YPG for the season, has taken a huge step back this year. They have now allowed 33 points or more in 4 of their 5 Big Ten contests with Rutgers being the only team that didn’t move up and down the field on them. This will be IU’s 3rd road game of the season which includes a 24-17 win @ Rutgers and a blowout loss @ OSU.
MINNESOTA – The Gophs dropped to 0-4 in the Big Ten losing @ Nebraska 53-28 giving the Huskers their first win of the season. Minnesota swept the non-conference portion of their season going 3-0. They have since dropped all 4 of their Big Ten games getting outscored 173-86 in the process. They have been outgained in all 4 conference games by a combined 562 yards or 140 YPG. Surprisingly, their closest Big Ten game this season was a 30-15 loss @ Ohio State. Nebraska’s offense came out on fire scoring 4 TD’s in the first half on their way to a 28-8 halftime lead. Minnesota’s lone TD in the first half came with just 52 seconds remaining in the half on 13-yard TD pass from freshman QB Zack Annexstad. Speaking of Annexstad, he was held out in the 2nd half due to what head coach PJ Fleck called an internal injury. His replacement Tanner Morgan came out and led Minnesota to back to back long TD drives to open the 2nd half. That cut the lead to 28-22 and Nebraska pulled away from there. However, with a young Annexstad, who is questionable this weekend, struggling much of the Big Ten season, we may have a QB controversy on our hands if he is cleared to play this weekend. The defense continued their conference struggles with Nebraska scoring on 8 of their 13 offensive possessions on their way to 53 points. Since the start of the Big Ten slate, this defense has allowed 42, 48, 30, and 53 points.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two Big Ten foes have not met since the 2013 season. Since 1997, these teams have met 11 times with Minnesota covering 8 of those games. The favorite has covered 10 of the last 15 meetings in this series. This has been a high scoring series as the two have combined for at least 60 points in 7 of the last 9 meetings. This is the first time since 1993 that IU has been a favorite @ Minnesota. The Gophers are 18-10 ATS the last 28 times they’ve been tabbed a home underdog.
IOWA @ PENN STATE (-6.5), Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
IOWA – Since losing @ home to Wisconsin back on September 22nd, the Hawkeyes have been on quite a roll winning 3 straight games all by at least 17 points. Last Saturday playing their first home game in nearly a month, Iowa shutout Maryland 23-0. The defense was phenomenal holding Maryland to just 7 first downs and 115 total yards. On a windy day in Iowa City, the running games were going to be key. The teams combined to complete only 17 passes (11 for Iowa, 6 for Maryland) and neither topped 90 yards through the air. The Terps came in averaging 251 YPG on the ground in Big Ten play with their lowest mark of the conference season coming @ Michigan where they rushed for 147 yards. That is until they entered Kinnick Stadium last week and exited with only 68 yards rushing on 23 carries. The defense also scored on a fumble return with just over 3:00 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter to put the Hawkeyes up 23-0. Those were the final points scored as neither team was able to crack the scoreboard in the 4th quarter. Iowa’s offense was nothing special on Saturday as they scored only one offensive TD, however they did rush for 224 yards dominating the line of scrimmage with a 40:00 to 20:00 time of possession edge. Because of that time of possession edge, Iowa was able to run 76 offensive plays while hold Maryland to just 39! It was just the 2nd time since the start of the 2010 season the Hawkeyes were able to pitch a shutout in Big Ten play.
PENN STATE – There is no way to sugarcoat it, PSU has not looked good since their 1-point home loss at the hands of the Buckeyes back on September 29th. That effort vs Ohio State is possibly not as impressive as we initially thought with OSU struggling since. After that loss the Nittany Lions had a bye, lost at home to Michigan State as a 13-point favorite, and beat Indiana last Saturday 33-28 despite being outplayed by the struggling Hoosiers. The PSU defense was absolutely shredded for 554 total yards the most they’ve allowed in two seasons. They couldn’t get off the field with the Hoosiers converting 12 of 26 on 3rd and 4th down. Because of that this Nittany Lion defense was on the field for a ridiculous 100 plays! For the game Penn State was -12 first downs and -137 total yards. Indiana definitely had their chances but mistakes derailed their effort as they fumbled at the PSU 26-yard line, fumbled a punt at their own 32-yard line and were shut out on downs at the Penn State 10-yard line. The Lions escaped with the win and now enter a very tough stretch that includes Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin the next I
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – It was a crazy game between these two last year with PSU scoring on a 7-yard TD pass with no time remaining the squeak out a 21-19 win in Iowa City. Despite the last second win, the Nittany Lions dominated the stat sheet with 579 to just 273 for Iowa. PSU has won each of the last 4 meetings outright (2 at home, 2 on the road) outgaining Iowa in each of those four games by a combined total of 2,077 yards to just 969 for Iowa (520 YPG to just 242). The dog is 10-5 ATS in this series since 1996. This has been a fairly low scoring series with none of the last 10 meetings topping 55 points and 7 of those 10 not getting above 40 points.
WISCONSIN (-6.5) @ NORTHWESTERN, Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
WISCONSIN – The Badgers bounced back after their loss @ Michigan and rolled over Illinois 49-20. As you would expect, they dominated the stat sheet as well as Wisconsin was +18 first downs, +245 yards, and +15:00 minutes in time of possession. They continued to dominate on the ground rushing for 357 yards with Jonathan Taylor leading the way with 157 yards and back up Taiwan Deal also hitting triple digits at 111 yards. UW now ranks 4th nationally in rushing averaging 280 with the only option teams ranking ahead of them (Georgia Tech, Army, and Navy). The Illini turned the ball over 5 times, including on 4 of their first 6 possessions, which led to Wisconsin running 76 offensive plays to just 57 for Illinois. Creating turnovers has been an emphasis as of late by Badger defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard as coming into Saturday they only had 9 takeaways in their first 6 games. They continue to struggle stopping the run however as the Illini put up 210 yards on the ground. UW has now allowed 530 yards rushing in their last two games after giving up 1,378 yards in 14 games all of last season! They are allowing almost 170 YPG on the ground this year after giving up less than 100 YPG rushing each of the last 3 seasons. They should improve on that this weekend facing Northwestern who comes in as the worst rushing team in the Big Ten although they may have to do it without their top defensive lineman Olive Sagapolu who is questionable with a leg injury. We’ve also been hearing that QB Alex Hornibrook is in concussion protocol and his status is up in the air. If he can’t go, Jack Coan, who has yet to take a snap this year would most likely get the start.
NORTHWESTERN – As we mentioned in last week’s report, the Cats were in a definite letdown spot last week coming off physical & emotional contests vs Michigan, Michigan State, & Nebraska as well as having this game on deck. They were facing a terrible Rutgers team so even with the situation, Northwestern should have been able to take care of business. Not so much. The Wildcats rallied from a 15-7 third quarter deficit to pull off an 18-15 win in Piscataway outgaining the Scarlet Knights by 90 yards. A win is a win but not an impressive effort vs a Rutgers team that lost their first 4 Big Ten games by an average score of 37-11 and was outgained by an average of 193 YPG. After kicking a field goal early in the 3rd quarter to go up 15-7, Northwestern held the Rutgers offense to only 10 total yards the rest of the way on 4 offensive possessions. The Cats now come home in 1st place in the Big Ten West with a 4-1 record facing the Badgers who sit in 2nd place at 3-1. This game will go a long way in determining who heads to Indianapolis to represent the West in the Big Ten Championship game as both control their own destiny. Win out and we’ll see you in Indy.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Wisconsin was a 16.5 point chalk at home last year and beat the Cats 33-24. The Badgers led 31-10 with under 5:00 minutes remaining the game and gave up two late TD’s while tacking on a safety for themselves. Wisconsin is favored on the road by 6 in this one and they have been the favorite in 31 of the last 32 meetings. The Badgers are only 2-9 ATS (4-7 SU) when favored at Northwestern dating back to 1990. Wisconsin is an amazing 22-3 SU (17-8 ATS) their last 25 road games.
PURDUE @ MICHIGAN STATE (-2.5), Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
PURDUE – Purdue is playing as well as anyone in the Big Ten right now but how does this team respond after last week’s program changing win over Ohio State? After last week’s dominating 49-20 win over the Buckeyes, the Boilers have now won 4 straight games for the first time in 11 seasons. The offense is rolling to say the least topping 40 points in three straight games. Last Saturday’s 49 point effort was the most points a Purdue team has scored vs Ohio State since 1967. They put up 539 yards on Ohio State’s defense and the big plays continued as Purdue scored on plays of 40, 41, 42, and 43 yards all coming in the 4th quarter. The Boilermakers led 21-6 entering the 4th quarter and while the defense did give up 546 yards, they didn’t allow the potent OSU attack to reach the endzone until 9:36 to go in the game. The run defense continued to impress holding the Buckeyes to just 76 yards on 25 carries which was just a week after they walled off the Illinois run game allowing only 69 yards. It will be interesting to watch how this team reacts to last week’s win now traveling to a Michigan State team that’s beaten them 7 straight times.
MICHIGAN STATE – Similar to Purdue, it will be interesting to see how this MSU team responds after losing to arch rival Michigan last Saturday. MSU had dominated their in-state rival as of late winning 8 of the previous 10 games outright and covering 10 straight. That all went out the window last week as the Wolverines dominated from start to finish in the 21-7 win. The final score wasn’t indicative of how easy this game was for Michigan. They held this struggling MSU offense to just 94 yards including only 15 yards rushing on 0.7 YPC! Starting QB Brian Lewerke was only able to complete 5 passes the entire game. Sparty ended the game with a 19:00 to 41:00 minute time of possession disadvantage. On top of that, Michigan State was 0 for 12 on third down conversions which helped lead to the offensive play disparity with Michigan running 78 and MSU only 51. The Spartans only points came on a 7-yard drive after a Wolverine fumble. They didn’t have an offensive possession that lasted more than 7 plays the entire game. Michigan State is also banged up after getting physically dominated last week. QB Lewerke has a shoulder injury that has kept him out of practice and his top WR Felton Davis is now out for the season after injuring his achilles tendon last Saturday vs Michigan. Lewerke was already missing his other starting WR Cody White who may also be done for the season. RB LJ Scott did finally return last week but was held to just 25 yards on the ground.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two last met in 2015. Purdue has been favored at MSU just 3 times with the most recent coming in 2002. The Boilers are 0-3 ATS in those 3 games. The Spartans are 0-4 ATS at home this year losing to the spread by a combined 61 point in those 4 games. The last 3 times MSU has played host to Purdue they were favored by 28, 23, and 21 points. Now they are favored by less than a field goal. MSU has won 7 straight in this series but they are just 2-4-1 ATS in those games. Purdue is 2-0 SU on the road this year (beat Nebraska & Illinois), however coming into this season they were 10-42 SU their previous 52 road games.
ILLINOIS @ MARYLAND (-18.5), Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
ILLINOIS – A 49-20 loss last Saturday at Wisconsin has dropped the Illini to 1-3 in the league. Their lone win was @ Rutgers and their three losses have come by an average score of 52-17. The one thing Illinois does to fairly well is run the ball and after a poor outing vs Purdue a week earlier, their rushing attack got back on track last week putting up 210 yards in Madison. Other than that, this team has very little to lean on. Their passing attack ranks 12th in the Big Ten and they played rotating QB’s with AJ Bush and MJ Rivers. Bush got the start and after the Illini turned the ball over on 3 of their first 4 possessions, he was replaced with Rivers who went the rest of the way. Neither QB is overall accurate (both at around 52% completion rate) and neither has passed for 200 yards in a game this season. That puts a lot of pressure on their running game. The defense isn’t helping. They continue to get torched each week and currently rank dead last in the Big Ten allowing 510 YPG. The Badgers ran over them for 357 yards last week and had two RB’s top 100 yards. It may not get any better this weekend as they face a Maryland team that is averaging 220 YPG on the ground.
MARYLAND – We’ve said it multiple times in this report but if you can stop, or at least slow down Maryland’s running game, their offense is in big trouble. That’s just what Iowa did last week limiting the Terps to 68 yards rushing in a 23-0 shutout win. The passing game put up only 47 yards and was of little help as usual. Maryland’s passing game ranks dead last in the Big Ten and 125th nationally averaging only 110 YPG. The only teams nationally that rank below Maryland are all options teams (Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern, Army, and Navy). Starting QB Kasim Hill completed only 6 passes with 1 interception. Hill has completed more than 10 passes only once the entire season and has thrown for less than 80 yards in 4 of the last 5 games. In last week’s loss in Iowa City Maryland crossed midfield ONCE the entire game and they only made it to the Iowa 47-yard line on that possession. In other words, they were never even close to field goal range the entire game. Not surprisingly Maryland’s Big Ten losses have come against Michigan & Iowa, teams that can stop the run, and their wins have come against Minnesota & Rutgers, teams that can’t. A positive for them is they face an Illinois defense this weekend that allows 222 YPG on the ground.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two have not faced each other since Maryland joined the Big Ten. Maryland is 2-0 at home in Big Ten play outscoring their opponents 76-20 and they are 0-2 on the road in Big Ten play getting outscored 65-21. Since joining the Big Ten in 2014 the Terps are 5-2 ATS as a home favorite in conference play (2-0 this year). However, they are just 17-29 ATS overall as a home favorite dating back to 2004. The Illini are just 5-29 SU their last 34 road games (1-1 this year). However, since 2006 Illinois is 8-3 ATS in their second of back to back road games.