OHIO STATE (-3.5) @ MICHIGAN STATE – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
OHIO STATE – A quick commentary on the Buckeyes. There is something off with this team. They are nowhere near as good as recent Buckeye teams despite their 8-1 record. We’ve heard the team chemistry just isn’t a strength and it is starting to show on the field. There have been a few red flags over the last month with the most glaring coming in their 49-20 loss @ Purdue a few weeks ago. Last Saturday the Buckeyes were in a spot where they would normally come out and destroy a team. At home, off a bye, and off an embarrassing defeat in their previous game. Even with that this team struggled to put away a 2-win Nebraska team. OSU’s largest lead was just 12 points and that was late in the 4th quarter. They did finally get their struggling running game (averaging just 133 YPG in league play coming into the game) moving in the right direction with 229 yards on the ground. However, that may come to a halt this weekend vs the #1 rush defense in the nation @ MSU. Defensively OSU has allowed 80 points and nearly 1,000 yards in the last 2 games alone. They are allowing 402 YPG in conference play this season after giving up just 300 YPG in Big Ten play last year. Following this week’s game @ MSU they are @ Maryland and then close out the regular season with a gigantic game at home vs Michigan.
MICHIGAN STATE – While MSU’s offense has its moments where it struggles we can’t say the same for the Spartan defense. They are very good week in and week out. They lead the nation in rush defense allowing just 77 YPG and held a very good Maryland running game to just 26 yards last week in their 24-3 road win. They held the Terps to less than 2 YPP in the win and are now giving up just 4.8 YPP on the season. The offense is still a work in progress. They came into last week’s having relied heavily on the pass while averaging only 107 YPG on the ground. With starting QB Brian Lewerke returning from an injury, the Spartans leaned more on their running game than they had all season putting up 269 yards passes for 87 yards. He also welcomed back one of MSU’s top offensive weapons as starting WR Cody White was back on the lineup for the first time since September 29th. Sparty has now won 3 of their last 4 games including wins over Purdue & Penn State. Their only loss during that 4 game stretch was a 21-7 setback vs red hot Michigan.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – OSU rolled over MSU 48-3 last year at home as a 17.5 point favorite. That was the only time in the last 7 meetings that the favorite has covered (dog is 6-1 ATS in this series). Ohio State has been favored in 24 of the 28 meetings since 1980 & they are 12-2 SU (10-4 ATS) their last 14 trips to East Lansing. The Buckeyes are also 7-2 ATS as a favorite @ MSU dating back to 1980.
MARYLAND @ INDIANA (-1) – Saturday at 12:00PM ET
MARYLAND – It was definitely a rough week for Maryland leading into last week’s home tilt with MSU as their head coach DJ Durkin was reinstated after a suspension and then fired within the span of 48 hours. This team did not respond well getting trounced at home by the Spartans 24-3. We’ve mentioned it numerous times this year on these pages but if you can stop Maryland’s running game, they are in trouble. Last week was a bad match up for this offense as they were facing a Michigan State defense that leads the nation allowing just 77 YPG. They lived up to their defensive billing on Saturday holding the potent Maryland running game to 26 yards on 29 carries. The Terps put up just 100 total yards on 53 plays for less than 2 YPP. The Spartans dominated the stat sheet as they were +10 first downs, +248 yards rushing, and +13:00 minute time of possession. The passing game continued to be almost non-existent as QB Kasim Hill has thrown for less than 100 yards in 4 of the Terps last 5 games. Maryland drops to 5-4 overall and still needs one more win to become bowl eligible. This week @ Indiana is huge as they close out the season with two very tough games at home vs Ohio State and @ Penn State.
INDIANA – The Hoosiers had last week off after losing @ Minnesota 38-31 two weeks ago. IU was dominated for much of their game in Minneapolis with the Gophers leading 31-9 entering the 4th quarter before Indiana made their mini comeback. IU was outgained by 97 yards in the game and allowed the Gophs to rush for 180 yards. They’ll need to be much better defensively this weekend at home against a Maryland team that is 3rd in the Big Ten in rushing averaging 222 YPG. The Hoosiers have only 1 Big Ten win and that came by just 7 points vs Rutgers. Four of their five Big Ten losses have come by at least a TD with three of those coming by 14 or more. They have some serious work to do to get to bowl eligible as they need to win 2 of their final 3 games vs Indiana, @ Michigan, or vs Purdue. It’s been a disappointing season in Indiana after starting with a perfect 3-0 mark in the non-conference slate.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two have met 4 times since Maryland joined the Big Ten with each winning twice. Last year IU was favored by 6.5 @ Maryland but the Terps pulled off the 42-39 upset. Despite the loss the Hoosiers were +17 first downs & +138 yards in that game. Maryland is 3-0 ATS this year coming off a SU loss & 23-14 ATS their last 37 in that spot. IU is just 7-19 ATS coming off a bye dating back to 1993.
ILLINOIS @ NEBRASKA (-17) – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
ILLINOIS – The Illini pulled off quite the performance last week crushing Minnesota 55-31 as 9.5-point underdogs. They gashed the Minnesota defense for a ridiculous 430 yards rushing on 12.3 yards per carry! RB Reggie Corbin led the way with 213 yards on just 13 carries. He has now topped 100 yards rushing in 4 of his last 5 games. Corbin set the stage early running for a 72-yard TD on just the second play of the game. That was just the start for Corbin who had TD runs of 77, 72, and 72 yards. If there is one thing the Illini do well it is run the ball. They now rank 2nd in the Big Ten and 23rd nationally averaging 223 YPG on the ground. Head coach Lovie Smith took over the defense after the abrupt resignation of his defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson earlier in the week. Under Smith’s watch Illinois gave up “only” 31 points and 438 yards. While that may not seem good (it isn’t) it’s better than they have been performing on that side of the ball. A week earlier they allowed 63 points on 712 yards to a one-dimensional Maryland offense. Coming into last week Illinois had allowed at least 46 points in 4 of their 5 Big Ten games including giving up 60+ twice! Now they face a Nebraska offense that has played very well over the last month and a half.
NEBRASKA – The ever-improving Huskers took Ohio State to the wire last week in Columbus. Nebraska’s offense continued to play very well putting up 31 points on 450 total yards in the 36-31 loss. It was the 6th consecutive game the Huskers have had at least 450 yards of total offense. Nebraska led 21-16 at half but saw OSU take their biggest lead 36-24 with 4:57 to go in the game. They responded with a quick 75-yard TD drive to cut the lead to 36-31 with just under 3:00 minutes remaining. The Huskers were not able to get the ball back after that TD as the Buckeyes ran out the clock. While the offense has been playing at a high level, the defense continues to struggle. An Ohio State running game that has been very poor as of late rushed for 229 yards which was their highest number on the ground this Big Ten season. The only team they’ve held under 30 points in Big Ten play was Minnesota and the Gophers put up 28 points in that one. This loss pretty much took Nebraska out of bowl contention as they’d now have to sweep the board to finish with a 5-7 record. With games after this one vs Michigan State and @ Iowa that even seems unlikely. While they may finish with the same (4) or fewer wins than last year’s team, this Nebraska unit is much better in our opinion.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The Huskers dominated last year’s match up @ Illinois 28-6. Nebraska tallied 411 total yards while holding the Illini to just 199. These teams have met 7 times since 1980 and the Huskers have been favored in all 7 games. They are 6-1 SU & 5-2 ATS in those meetings. The Illini lone win in this series was 14-13 back in 2015. Illinois has played just 3 road games this year. They beat Rutgers as expected but their other two roadies have been blowout losses to Maryland (lost by 30) & Wisconsin (lost by 29).
WISCONSIN @ PENN STATE (-9) – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
WISCONSIN – The Badgers struggled a bit with Rutgers last week but came away with a 31-17 win. As expected they kept the ball on the ground for the most part rushing for 317 yards while holding Rutgers to 72 on the ground. They were led as per usual by Jonathan Taylor who had 208 yards and leading the nation in rushing. Starting QB Alex Hornibrook returned after missing the Northwestern game, however his status for this weekend’s game @ Penn State is in doubt. He is again in concussion protocol after getting hit late in the 1st half last week. He did not return to last week’s game and our word is they are preparing his back up Jack Coan to make his 2nd start of the season. We highly doubt Hornibrook will play this weekend. The Wisconsin defense has noticeably taken a step back from previous years due to inexperience and injuries. They allowed Rutgers to score 17 points on 333 total yards while that may not seem that bad this Scarlet Knight offense had scored just 2 TD’s in their previous 164 offensive snaps dating back to their October 6th game vs Illinois. It was also just the 2nd time since their season opener vs Texas State that Rutgers was able to put up over 300 total yards in a game. The Badgers did get two key defensive players back in the line up as starting safety D’Cota Dixon and DL Isaiah Loudermilk both returned from injuries. That should help them moving forward.
PENN STATE – Penn State ran into a buzz saw last week and to be honest we saw it coming. We had Michigan as our Top Play on Saturday and they didn’t disappoint destroying the Nittany Lions 42-7. PSU’s only points came on a TD with less than 2:00 minutes to play in the game. The Nits were held to just 186 total yards with 75 of those coming on their final drive of the game when the outcome had been long since decided. Trace McSorely completed only 5 passes the entire game and was noticeably restricted by his knee injury which he suffered a week earlier vs Iowa. Back up Tommy Stevens also got some time under center completing just 3 passes and may play a larger role this Saturday depending on the health of McSorely. The defense actually held up pretty well holding Michigan to just 14 points in the first half but they ran out of gas in the 2nd half as they were on the field for 69 plays which was 21 more plays than the Michigan defense was forced to face. This defense has been on the field A LOT and it looks like it’s starting to take a toll. Since their bye week after their home loss to OSU, the Penn State defense has been on the field for 346 plays or an average of 86.5 plays per game. They are 2-2 in those games with their wins both coming down to the wire vs Iowa (won by 6) and @ Indiana (won by 5).
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two last met in the Big Ten Championship game following the 2106 season. The Badgers were favored by 3 in that game but blew a 28-14 halftime lead losing 38-31. Since the start of the 2005, these two have met 8 times with PSU winning & covering 6 of those games. This is the 2nd time this season Wisconsin has been a dog of more than a TD. First game was a 38-17 loss @ Michigan as a 10-point dog. However, entering this season Wisconsin was 30-9-1 ATS when getting more than 7 points dating back to 1990. PSU is 0-8 ATS their last 8 home games coming off a SU loss (back to 2014).
MICHIGAN (-39) @ RUTGERS – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
MICHIGAN – As we mentioned in our Penn State recap, we had a feeling that Michigan was going to dominate the Nittany Lions last week and we released the Wolverines as our Top Play of the weekend. They did just that with a 42-7 win holding a potent offense scoreless for 58 minutes before PSU tacked on a meaningless late TD. They had been waiting for that rematch ever since last year’s embarrassing 42-13 loss in Happy Valley. The defense wanted redemption for their poor performance last year and they got it in a big way holding PSU to just 186 total yards. On offense they continue to lean heavily on their running game as they had 52 rushing attempts and just 17 pass attempts last Saturday. As good as the defense has been, the Michigan offense now leads the Big Ten in scoring at 36 PPG (conference games only). It was the third consecutive week of their “revenge tour” in which they faced Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State, all game they lost a year ago. In those 3 games the Michigan defense allowed 31 total points (10 PPG) and 563 total yards (187 YPG) all versus formidable opponents. They have one leg left on that revenge tour and that comes in a few weeks @ Ohio State. This week they face a Rutgers team that ranks dead last in the Big Ten in both total offense and scoring offense. Michigan is laying 39 points on the road in this one and the total is set at 49 so it’s obvious the oddsmakers don’t expect Rutgers to do much of anything offensively. The one semi-concern this week will be the Wolverines mind set. They are coming off three huge games that they labeled the revenge tour. Now playing Rutgers has to a be a huge letdown for this team. Will they potentially lose this game? No chance by covering 39 on the road in this spot might be a task.
RUTGERS – The Knights offense actually showed a bit of life in last week’s 31-17 loss @ Wisconsin. While 17 points on 333 total yards might not catch anyone’s attention, it was a solid performance for this Rutgers offense. This is an offense that had scored only 6 TD’s in their 5 Big Ten games prior to their visit to Madison. They actually had a chance to score more than 17 as they missed a FG and pushed the ball into Wisconsin territory on 6 of their 11 possessions. Despite the small improvement last week, they will most likely take an offensive step back this Saturday facing a Michigan defense that has been lights out. Rutgers is dead last in the Big Ten in scoring at 12 PPG which is a full 9 PPG less than Michigan State who ranks 13th at 21 PPG (conference games). They are also last in total offense averaging only 251 YPG which is 75 yards per game less than Maryland who is 13th in the league. Defensively this team has looked much better the last few weeks. Over the last 3 games (vs Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Maryland) the Knights are allowing just 24 PPG which is a big improvement over their first 6 games of the season where they gave up 40 PPG. They did allow Wisconsin to rush for 300+ yards last week and they are allowing 242 YPG rushing this year so expect a heavy dose of the Wolverine running game on Saturday. We’d be surprised if Michigan put the ball in the air much at all this weekend.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Rutgers won the first game in this series back in 2014 by a final score of 26-24. Since then Michigan is 3-0 winning each by at least 21 points. The combined score of those 3 games is Michigan 162, Rutgers 30. Since 1980, this is the highest road favorite Michigan has EVER been. They were favored by 38 in 1998 @ Hawaii. The Wolverines highest road number in Big Ten play was as a 34-point favorite @ Minnesota in 1983. Rutgers has been a home dog of more than 39 points only ONCE in their history when they were +40 vs Miami FL back on 2002.
NORTHWESTERN @ IOWA (-11) – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
NORTHWESTERN – Surprising to most, the Cats enter their game @ Iowa this week in first place in the Big Ten West with a 5-1 mark, one game ahead of Wisconsin and Purdue and two games ahead of this Iowa team. If they could pull the upset here, Northwestern would be in a great spot as they’ve already beaten both Wisconsin & Purdue and then would have a win over Iowa. That would make their lead in the Big Ten West with tiebreakers almost insurmountable. After upsetting Wisconsin two weeks ago, the Cats took a step outside of conference play last week and played host to Notre Dame. While the Irish dominated the stat sheet outgained Northwestern by 215 yards, the Wildcats had shot in this one. After falling down 24-7 early in the fourth quarter, Northwestern rallied to cut the lead to 24-21 midway through the fourth. After the Cats cut the lead to 3, Notre Dame went on an 89-yard game deciding drive then ended in a TD giving them the 31-21 win. The line in this one had the Irish favored by 10 or 10.5 so it fell right on the number. Northwestern now takes the road for the first time since October 20th with games @ Iowa and @ Minnesota the next two weeks. The road has been good to the Wildcats this year as they sit with a perfect 3-0 record away from home with wins @ Purdue, @ Michigan State, and @ Rutgers.
IOWA – The Hawkeyes left on their 2 game road trip to PSU & Purdue with a chance to come back to Iowa City in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten West. They left with a 3-1 mark and returned at 3-3 which is good for 4th in their division behind Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Purdue. With their hopes of a conference title now barely flickering, this becomes a must win for the Hawkeyes as the chase Northwestern. Last week @ Purdue, the Iowa defense, which had been very stout leading into the game, was shredded for 38 points and 434 total yards. The Hawks trailed for much of the game but were able to take their first lead after a 26-yard TD drive with 10:00 minutes remaining which came following a Purdue interception deep in their own territory. That gave Iowa a 36-35 lead until the Boilers kicked the game winning field goal giving them the 38-36 win as time expired. It was the second straight crushing loss for Iowa last second loss for Iowa as a week earlier they threw an interception at the 3-yard line late in their 30-24 loss @ PSU. Last week’s line hovered around Purdue -2 or -2.5 for much of the week. It did drop all the way to -1 on gameday giving many a win of they had the Boilermakers. The Hawkeyes look to get head coach Kirk Ferentz his 150th win this Saturday before traveling to Illinois the following week and then closing out the season at home vs Nebraska.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Last year’s match up was a grinder with Northwestern winning 17-10 at home in OT as a 3-point favorite. Defenses obviously dominated with Iowa averaging 4.7 YPP and Northwestern just 4.1. The favorite has covered 6 of the last 7 in this Big Ten series. Since 1993, the Wildcats have been a double digit underdog in this series 7 times. They have covered 6 of those 7 games and won 5 of those games outright. Since 2006 Iowa has been a home favorite of -10 or more in Big Ten play 13 times. They are 2-11 ATS in those games.
PURDUE (-12) @ MINNESOTA – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
PURDUE – The Boilers knocked off #16 Iowa last Saturday by a final score of 38-36. The win gives Purdue a 3-1 record this year vs ranked opponents. After starting the season 0-3, they have now won 5 of their las 6 games to move to within 1 game of bowl eligibility. While the defense has improved, it’s Jeff Brohm’s offense that is carrying this team. They have scored at least 38 points in 4 of their last 5 games. QB David Blough continues to make his bid as the top signal caller in the Big Ten throwing for 333 yards and 4 TD’s in their win over Iowa. Since taking over as the full time starter on September 16th, Blough has thrown for 17 TD’s in 7 games and has led Purdue to a 5-2 record. While the defense is improved over previous editions, there is one glaring weakness with this team and that is their pass defense. They allowed Hawkeye QB Nate Stanley to complete 66% of his passes for 275 yards. That was a week after allowing Michigan State first time starter Rocky Lombardi to throw for 318 yards. A week prior to that OSU QB Dwayne Haskins threw for almost 500 yards. You get the point. Purdue ranks dead last in the Big Ten and 127th nationally allowing 296 YPG through the air. The Boilers will have to focus on not coming out flat here after their huge home win over Iowa. They were put in a similar situation a few weeks ago coming off their home win over Ohio State and laid an egg @ Michigan State losing 23-13.
MINNESOTA – We’re still kicking ourselves for not taking Illinois +9 last week at home vs the Gophers. Our first comment when the line came out was, “Minnesota should not be favored by 9 over anyone on the road.” Well they proved that comment true as they were crushed @ Illinois 55-31. The Gopher rush defense which entered allowing 209 YPG on the ground in Big Ten play exited allowing almost 250 YPG after the Illini ran wild for 430 yards! They are now allowing almost 7 YPC in Big Ten play. The Gopher pass defense isn’t any better as they are now allowing a Big Ten worst 70% completion rate. The Illinois passing attack, which is far from potent, put up 216 yards which means Minnesota gave up 646 yards of offense. To Illinois! They are now allowing 507 YPG in conference play. This all led to head coach PJ Fleck to fire defensive coordinator Robb Smith earlier this week. Defensive line coach Joe Rossi, who was once the defensive coordinator at Rutgers, will step into Smith’s role. The offense may get a boost this week as starting QB Zack Annexstad looks like he may return after missing 2 straight games due to an upper body injury. However, his replacement Tanner Morgan, has actually performed very well with 560 yards passing and 5 TD’s in the last 2 games. Morgan isn’t the problem as he’s led the Gophers to 38 and 31 points the last two weeks. We’re not so sure Annexstad gets the start even if he is ready. The defense is obviously the weak spot on this team and they’re getting worse as the season moves along allowing 53, 31, and 55 points their last 3. After a positive 3-0 start to the season, Minnesota now must win 2 of their final 3 just to get to bowl eligible. That could be tough as they play Purdue, Northwestern, and Wisconsin to close out the year
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Purdue rolled to a 31-17 win at home last year as a 3.5 point favorite. So the Boilers were favored by 3.5 at HOME last year and now they are laying double digits on the road 365 days later. The last time Purdue visited Minnesota in 2016 they were 18.5 point underdogs. Thus a swing of more than 30 points in 2 years. Purdue has now been favored in each of their 4 road games this season. They are 2-1 ATS on the road thus far. The Gopher are 18-10 ATS their last 28 as a home underdog.