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Big 10 Report

   by ASA - 10/28/2005

Ohio St (-4) @ Minnesota

This game will prove to be the biggest Big Ten game of the week as Ohio State will meet up with Minnesota. This will be OSU’s second consecutive road game. Ohio State took care of business as expected last weekend beating the Indiana Hoosiers 41-10. The Gophers on the other hand are coming off of a bye week in which they had to get over a disappointing 38-34 loss to the Badgers. This game pits the nation’s best rushing offense (Minnesota) against the nation’s best rushing defense (OSU). With Ohio State having one loss and the Gophers already having two this is a huge game for both teams.

The Minnesota Gophers will look to get back on track as they entertain the Buckeyes this weekend in the Metrodome. Minnesota’s last game was two weeks ago and resulted in a rough 38-34 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers. The Gophers led 34-24 with less than 4 minutes left in the game until the Badgers drove 71 yards to score a touchdown to cut the lead to 34-31. The Badgers then stalled the Gophers for the first time all half and ended up blocking a punt and jumping on it in the end zone to secure a 38-34 victory. The Gophers ground game however once again dominated as they racked up 411 rushing yards on 63 carries (Badgers had just 131 rushing). The defense also held the Badgers in check throughout the game until the last 20 minutes of play where UW put up 21 points on 3 drives that went for a combined 183 yards. However the much needed bye week will give the Gophers a chance to get their starting quarterback Bryan Cupito back in the starting line up. Cupito missed the Gophers last game thanks to a shoulder injury suffered in their previous game at Michigan. Cupito will play on Saturday. This week the running game will get a much stiffer test facing an OSU stop unit that gives up just 63 YPG on the ground which is the best in the nation.

Ohio State’s defense once again showed why they are the Big Ten’s best. The Buckeyes halted Indiana’s offense and held them to only 137 total yards of offense. They also held the Hoosiers to only 42 yards on the ground on 26 carries (just 1.6 YPC). This week however will be a bigger test for the Buckeye defense as they will be up against the #1 rushing team in the nation in Minnesota (300 YPG on the ground). The Buckeye’s offense struggled at times but once again showed glimpses of big plays. However against a better team like the Minnesota Golden Gophers the Buckeyes are going to have to show more consistency. The Buckeyes were only 3 of 13 on third down conversions. They also struggled to get things going until they were able to wear down Indiana’s defense. Ohio State did not take this game over until midway through the 3rd quarter when they scored 24 unanswered points to secure the 41-10 victory. With about 10 minutes left in the 3rd quarter the Indiana Hoosiers had cut Ohio States lead to only 17-10. Thus, the game was actually closer than the final score indicated.

The Buckeyes and Gophers will meet up for the first time since 2002 where the Buckeyes handled the Gophers quite easily beating them 34-3 in Columbus. Ohio State has dominated the all time series with a record of 37-7, which includes an eight game winning streak against the Gophers in Minnesota. The Gophers haven’t beaten the Buckeyes in Minnesota since 1981. The last Gopher victory over OSU came in 2000 where the Gophers beat the Buckeyes 29-17 in Columbus. That win ended a 16 game losing streak against Ohio State. The Gophs have not been a money maker as a home dog which was kind of surprising to us. Dating back to 1994, Minnesota is just 4-21 SU and 9-15-1 ATS when getting points at home. The Buckeyes, however, are no guaranteed on the road. After last week’s road cover, OSU is still only 4-12 ATS their last 16 games on the road dating back to 2002. This one is a tough call.

Michigan (-3) @ Northwestern

Both Michigan and Northwestern are two teams that are coming off of huge Big Ten road victories. Michigan took care of the Hawkeye’s 23-20 in overtime, while the Wildcats easily handled Michigan State in East Lansing by a score of 49-14. Believe it or not, Michigan is playing catch up here as they are currently in 5th place in the Big Ten at 3-2 while NU is in 3rd place at 3-1.

The Michigan Wolverines entered Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium last weekend in a must win situation. The Wolverines who already have two losses in the Big Ten needed to somehow come out of Iowa with a win. A win is exactly what they got snapping Iowa’s 22 game winning streak in Kinnick Stadium. The key play for Michigan was a 52 yard touchdown pass from Chad Henne to Steve Breaston with just eight minutes left in the game. That was the first lead of the game for the Wolverines. Iowa then tied the game with a 32 yard Kyle Schlicher field goal with no time remaining on the clock. Iowa then got the first offensive possession in overtime settling for a 28 yard Schlicher field goal. Michigan then countered with a one yard Jerome Jackson touchdown for the 23-20 win. This maybe wasn’t the prettiest victory for the Wolverines but after what they went through they will take it. Iowa actually outgained Michigan 427 to 342 and ran 14 more offensive plays than the Wolverines. Michigan overcame an ankle injury to their star running back Michael Hart. He only carried the ball five times prior to the injury. Hart is most likely going to play this Saturday. Wide receiver Jason Avant also seems to be coming alive as he caught 7 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Quarterback Chad Henne also showed a lot of poise completing 14 of his 21 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns. The offense did just enough to win, however it was the story of the defense in the second half that helped lead the Wolverines to victory. After the first half it looked as if Drew Tate and the Iowa offense were going to be able to move up and down the field all game long. However after some adjustments the Wolverines defense stepped up and only allowed two field goals in the second half. The defense however will for sure have to play 60 minutes of football against a very good Northwestern offense that is one of the best in the country.

The Wildcats improved their Big Ten record to 3-1 after handling the Michigan State Spartans 49-14 in East Lansing. The Northwestern offense was at it once again piling up 533 total yards of offense. That was the third consecutive game that NU’s offense topped the 500 yard mark. Brett Basanez once again led the way for the Wildcats completing 24 of his 30 passes for 331 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for two more. During the Wildcat’s three game winning streak (all SU wins as underdogs), Basanez has been fabulous. He has completed 72% of his passes during those three wins for almost 1,200 yards and eight TD’s (0 interceptions). Not only does he have eight TD’s passing during the streak, he also has four TD’s rushing. RB Tyrell Sutton also helped out the fourth best offense in the country rushing for 109 yards and two touchdowns. The Wildcats defense played probably their best game of the season vs. MSU. However, they do still rank dead last in the nation in total defense. The Wildcats gave up a season low, yes that’s right, a season low of 480 yards of total offense. One key to the game was the Wildcats forcing four turnovers including intercepting three Drew Stanton passes. Stanton was only able to complete 20 of 38 passes while throwing only one touchdown. That one Stanton TD came on the third play of the game as MSU took a quick 7-0 lead however it was all down hill after that for the Spartans. The Wildcats will get another big test this weekend as they will entertain the Wolverines in a primetime, nationally televised game.

This meeting will be the 65th meeting between the Wildcats and Wolverines with the all time edge going to Michigan with a SU record of 49-14-2. Michigan is also 18-8 SU all time against the Wildcats in Evanston. While Michigan is favored by 3-points in this game, they were favored by 17 just two years ago at this same venue. The Wolverines won that game 41-10. Last year U of M was a two TD favorite at home and won 42-20. Taking it back even further, the Wildcats have been double digits dogs all but twice since 1980 in this series against Michigan. The Wolverines have also dominated the Wildcats on defense holding NU to 10 points or less ten times in their last 18 meetings. This however will be one of the most potent Northwestern offenses that Michigan has seen in the last 20 years. One interesting stat that we found was this; a team that has won three consecutive games SU as an underdog and is now getting points at home is 0-4 SU (2-2 ATS) in that situation. It’s only happened four times since 1980. The last time this situation took place was back in 1997.

Purdue @ Penn State (-15)

The Boilermakers dropped yet another Big Ten game to the Wisconsin Badgers by a score of 31-20. The Nittany Lions on the other hand got back on track after losing to the Michigan Wolverines two weeks ago by man handling the Fighting Illini 63-10.

Penn State showed why they are probably the best team in the Big Ten right now thumping 63-10 in a game that they scored 56 first half points. Penn State took their foot off the gas and sat their starters for most of the second half. Quarterback Michael Robinson led the massacre completing 11 of his 18 pass attempts for 194 yards and four touchdowns. Robinson also rushed the ball seven times for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson racked up 263 total yards of offense and six touchdowns and he didn’t even play a snap in the second half. The Nittany Lions obviously didn’t show a letdown after their last second loss to the Wolverines two weeks ago which was a bit of a surprise. With freshman wide receiver Derrick Williams out with a broken arm, teammate Deon Butler picked up some of the slack. Butler caught four passes for 95 yards and two scores. The defense also continued their dominance as they never allowed the Illinois offense to get anything going. Penn State held Illinois to only 244 total yards of offense and allowed the Illini to covert on only two of their 15 third down plays. The “Dâ€쳌 also produced two touchdowns thanks to an 18 yard fumble return and a 76 yard interception return. This week should be a bit tougher sledding for the Lions. Even though Purdue is winless in the Big Ten they have given some good teams a run for their money in Minnesota, Northwestern, and Wisconsin.

For the second consecutive week, Purdue must travel and face a team that is in first place in the Big Ten. Purdue took another loss at the hands of the Badgers losing 31-20 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. However the Boilermakers played the Badgers much closer than the final score indicated. Purdue actually led 13-10 with under five minutes to go in the third quarter. The Boilers were drove into Wisconsin territory and looked like they would take a 16-10 or even 20-10 lead on the Badgers. That’s when new QB Curtis Painter threw an interception that was returned 84 yards for a TD. That game UW a 17-13 lead and they never looked back. Painter, getting his first career start for the benched Brandon Kirsch, actually threw two interceptions that were returned for TD’s. Head coach Joe Tiller is again evaluating practice this week to see if Kirsch (who did not take a snap last week) or Painter will be the starter vs. PSU. The Badgers opened up the game with a seven play, 85 yard drive, but never seemed to be able to get anything going after that. The Boilermakers held the Badgers to only 280 yards of total offense while also holding the potent running attack to only 63 yards on the ground. Purdue was actually able to out gain Wisconsin 428-280 in total yardage for the game. If Purdue is unable to find a way to upset Penn State they can kiss their Bowl contention good bye. With one more loss the Boilermakers will be unable to become Bowl eligible for the first time under Joe Tiller. They have currently been to eight straight bowl games.

This game between the Boilermakers and Nittany Lions will be only the 10th overall meeting with Purdue taking the last two match ups. Penn State however leads the series with a record of 6-3-1 SU. The Nittany Lions are favored by 15 in this one which is the highest that any team has been favored since 1996 in this series. Purdue has lost 5 of their last 6 games against the spread when playing Penn State. Purdue is also only 3-30 straight up since 1982 when traveling on the road as a 14 point dog or higher. They have however covered in six of their last nine games as a 14 point dog or higher. But that has not happened recently as the last time PU was a dog of more than two TD’s was back in 1997 against Notre Dame. However all in all, the Boilers have really struggled as of late with just a 2-12 pointspread record over their last 14 games dating back to last season. Penn State also holds a solid 69-4 SU (35-36-1 ATS) record as home favorites of two touchdowns or more. Depending upon what team shows up for Purdue this game could be an interesting one. Things won’t be as easy for Penn State as they were against Illinois, but things could get interesting if Purdue doesn’t show up.

Indiana @ Michigan St. (-18.5)

Both Michigan State and Indiana sit near the bottom of the conference standings at both with a 1-3 record in the Big Ten. Michigan State suffered a devastating 49-14 loss to Northwestern while Indiana suffered 41-10 defeat at the hands of Ohio State. Since neither is now in the race for the Big Ten title, both will look to add to their overall records of 4-3 to push a bit closer to actually being bowl eligible.
Michigan State was looking to bounce back last Saturday after losing to the Ohio State Buckeyes two weeks ago in a game that they absolutely dominated. However, last weekend was a different case for the Spartans. Michigan State was handed not only a defeat but a big one losing to the Northwestern Wildcats 49-14. The Michigan State defense simply had no answers for the Northwestern offense that racked up 533 total yards. The good news is that not many people have been able to stop the Wildcats all year. The bad news is that Michigan State still has one of the worst defenses in the nation (95th) giving up over 420 yards of total offense per game. The MSU offense on the other hand looked as if they were on their way to another big number day as they drove 75 yards in three plays to take a 7-0 with 13:54 still remaining in the first quarter. However the Spartans offense stalled after that and they did not score again until the fourth quarter. The Spartans were able to move the ball on offense as they had 480 total yards of offense, but they found themselves hindered by turnovers. The ever so stellar Drew Stanton completed only 20 of his 38 passes and threw three interceptions. Two of Stanton’s interceptions were in the end zone as MSU was going in for a potential TD. Stanton also fumbled early in the second quarter after driving deep into Northwestern territory. That fumble resulted in an 86 yard touchdown return by Wildcat defensive lineman Demetrius Eaton. Thus, not only did Michigan State turn the ball over but they were big time, game changing mistakes. Also, MSU starting receivers Matt Trannon and Kyle Brown are both injured going into this game. Trannon has a bad ankle and may not play. Brown has an sore quad and will probably play, but how much is the question.

The Hoosiers suffered a 41-10 defeat at the hands of the Buckeyes last Saturday. Indiana’s offense was simply stymied by the Ohio State defense as they gained only 137 yards of total offense. Indiana was only able to gain 42 rushing yards on 26 carries which was good for a measly 1.6 yards per carry. The Buckeye defense also kept the sensational wide receiver James Hardy in check as he only caught two passes for 28 yards. In IU’s three conference games leading up to the OSU match up, Hardy was unstoppable catching 29 passes for a whopping 476 yards. The Hoosier defense did however play fairly well. The defense held Ohio State to only 3 of 13 on third down conversions which helped keep Indiana in the game through three quarters. The physical play of Ohio State just got to be too much for the Hoosiers late in the game as the Buckeyes were able to run off 24 unanswered points in the last 25 minutes of the game. This week the offense should once again be able to perform against a Michigan State defense that has a lot of question marks. The defense will have to play well against the Spartan offense that will be looking for a little vengeance after putting up only 14 points a week ago against Northwestern.

The Spartans and Hoosiers have met 22 times since 1982 with the Spartans winning 17 of those 22 meetings SU. They are also 14-8 ATS in those 22 games while covering 6 of their last 8 games against the Hoosiers. However in the last nine meetings the visitor has taken the cash seven times. The Hoosiers are an impressive 4-1-1 ATS this season and the Spartans are only 3-4. It’s interesting to note that the Spartans have lost three consecutive games SU and now are favored by more than 17 points. We went deep into our database to find out how many times this has happened and what the results were. Well, since 1987, 33 teams have lost three consecutive games outright and then been a heavy favorite of 17 or more in the following game. Those teams have a spread record of 20-13 (60%). The Hoosiers, as we’ve stated before in this report, have historically been a very poor road team. Dating back to 2000, IU is just 4-27 SU on the road and 7-22-2 ATS (24%). This game completely depends on which MSU team shows up. IU will play hard under coach Hoeppner. We’re not sure about the Spartans. If they come out and play hard and are focused, MSU can cover this number, if they don’t they won’t.

Wisconsin (-19.5) @ Illinois

Wisconsin will look to improve their Big Ten record to 5-1 while Illinois will be looking for their first Big Ten victory of the season. Wisconsin got a big win beating Purdue 31-20, while the Illini got trounced by the Nittany Lions by a score of 63-10. Wisconsin will look at this game as a tune up to get ready for Penn State, while Illinois will look at hindering Wisconsin’s chances at the Big Ten title.

Illinois was simply dominated in their 63-10 loss to the Nittany Lions. Illinois suffered there 3rd worst defeat ever at home and the 6th worst of all time. When looking back at the score it could have been much worse as the Nittany Lions took a 56-3 lead into halftime. The Nittany Lions only scored once in the second half which was thanks to a 76 yard interception return. Illinois simply had no answer for Penn State’s offense as they were just much more physical and much more athletic than Illinois defense. Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson accounted for six touchdowns in the first half. Robinson threw for four touchdowns and ran for another two in only 30 minutes of action. The Illini offense also looked horrible as they were never able to get anything going. The offense was only able to total 244 total yards of offense and had no one top 50 yards on the ground. Everything for the Illini was just downright awful last weekend against Penn State. This week the Illini will look to rebound against a Badger team that has struggled on defense as of late. They also could be in a “look aheadâ€쳌 situation as they go to Penn State next week in a game that could determine the Big Ten Champion. However in order to keep within reach of Wisconsin the Illini defense must show up and look like they want to play. They haven’t done that recently as Illinois has given up an average of 505 total yards per game in the four Big Ten contests.

Wisconsin once again stayed alive in the Big Ten title race beating the Purdue Boilermakers 31-20 in Madison. The Badgers offense however had troubles moving the ball on a struggling Purdue defense. The offense played poorly gaining only 280 yards of total offense, while rushing for only 63 yards. That was against a Boilermaker stop unit that had given up a total of 2,331 total yards their previous four games (an average of 582 YPG given up). The defense however won this game for the Badgers forcing five turnovers, two of which were returned for touchdowns. With the score at half tied 10-10 the Boilermakers came out of the locker room and kicked a 50 yard field goal to swing the momentum Purdue’s way. On Purdue’s ensuing drive defensive back Roderick Rodgers intercepted a Curtis Painter pass and returned it 84 yards for a touchdown. That touchdown seemed to ignite the Badgers and the crowd as the defense once again stopped the Boilermakers on defense to set up a 40 yard touchdown pass from quarterback John Stocco to running back Brian Calhoun. Painter then once again met up with another Badger defensive back throwing his third interception of the game. Jack Ikegwuono intercepted the pass and returned it 62 yards for the touchdown to secure the Badgers victory. The Badgers were once again out gained in total yardage 428-280, but they still found a way to win. The Badgers have been out gained in total yardage six of their eight games this season (outgaining only Temple and Indiana). Fullback Matt Bernstein remains out for Wisconsin with a sports hernia. However, the very thin defensive line received a boost last week when projected starter at DT Justin Ostrowski saw his first action of the year after injuring his knee before the season started. Let’s face it, this week the Badgers face a poor Illinois team. However they have to be careful not to look past this game to their big match up in Happy Valley the following Saturday.

The Badgers and Illini will meet for the 74th time with the all time series record leaning towards Illinois. Illinois leads the series with a 35-31-7 record, however the Badgers have won the last two meetings between the two schools. The Badgers have also been road favorites of 18 or more only six times since 1996. In those six meetings they are 5-1 SU and only 2-4 ATS. However, Illinois has struggled in this situation also as they have been home dogs of 18 or more only eight times since 1986. They have a SU record of 0-8 in those games while going only 2-6 ATS. In conference play however, the Badgers have been a road favorite of more than 17 points only two times since 1980. They won both of those games SU with a 1-1 spread record. Wisconsin has won six of their last eight games ATS against Illinois in Memorial Stadium. The favorite is also 8-2 ATS the last 10 games in this series. The way the Badger offense played against Purdue, Illinois should have a shot at covering this game. We actually wouldn’t be surprised to see Illinois cover as this is a tough spot for Wisconsin.

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