WISCONSIN @ MICHIGAN (-8), Saturday at 7:30 PM ET
WISCONSIN – The Badgers opened as 21.5 point favorites last week vs Nebraska however the line dropped throughout the week settling in at -17 to -18 at most spots. The game landed right in that range with Wisconsin winning 41-24. The Badgers dominated the ground game rolling up 370 yards on 48 carries (7.7 YPC). That was 260 yards more than the Huskers could muster on the ground and Jonathan Taylor had 221 yards on 9.2 YPC. However, UW had a very tough time slowing down Nebraska’s passing attack. The Huskers threw for 405 yards with a few big plays in the passing game but many coming on throws to the flat with Wisconsin DB’s playing well off the receivers. The 518 total yards Nebraska tallied were the most on a Wisconsin defense since the 2014 season. The Badger defense continues to struggle putting pressure on the opposing QB as Nebraska freshman signal caller Adrian Martinez often had all day to throw. The only 2 sacks they had came from LB TJ Edwards on the blitz as they young defensive line is not getting much push. We’ll keep an eye on a number of injuries in the defensive backfield for Wisconsin this week as they ended the game last week with 3 back ups in the game, including 2 freshman corners. Starting free safety Scott Nelson will also have to sit the first half here after getting ejected for targeting last Saturday. On top of that, their top DE, Isaiah Lowdermilk, was on crutches at the end of the game which would really hurt an already thin defensive line.
MICHIGAN – The Wolverines (-17.5) got off a slow start last week and trailed Maryland 7-3 at home after the 1st quarter. They then ripped off 24 consecutive points en route to a 42-21 win. It really could have been worse as Michigan was forced to punt only once the entire game and that was on their opening possession. The defense continued to dominate holding Maryland to just 220 total yards and only two offensive TD’s. After rushing for 315 yards in their previous game vs Minnesota, the Terps were held to just 147 on the ground last Saturday. Michigan’s rush defense is now allowing only 96 YPG on 2.6 YPC and will be one of the key match ups of this game vs a Wisconsin team that loves to run the ball. After struggling in their season opener vs Notre Dame, the Michigan offense is peaking scoring 42+ in 4 of their last 5 games. In those 5 games the Wolverines have tallied 2,217 total yards for an average of 443 YPG. In last week’s win they put up 465 yards on 6.8 YPP. Michigan ran some plays from the pistol formation for the first time this season and when asked after the game how much of the playbook has been used thus far this season, QB Shea Patterson said he thought about a quarter was pretty accurate. More new wrinkles are expected this Saturday night at home vs the Badgers.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Wisconsin played host and won last year’s game 24-10 outgaining Michigan by nearly 100 yards. The Badgers have dominated the cash in this series with a 12-3-1 ATS record since 1992. UW is also 5-3 SU in this series since 2004. Badgers are also 17-8 ATS the last 25 times they’ve been an underdog going back to the 2008 season. Barry Alvarez turned this program around in the early 90’s and since 1990 they have been fantastic as a dog of more than a TD going 30-9-1 ATS! Michigan is 6-2-1 ATS their last 9 home meetings vs Wisconsin.
MINNESOTA @ OHIO STATE (-29.5), Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
MINNESOTA – The Gophers come into this game with a 3-2 record but 4 of those 5 games have been played at home. Their lone road game this year was @ Maryland in a game Minnesota was throttled 42-13. Last Saturday they returned home and lost 48-31 to Iowa as a 7-point underdog. So after allowing just 27 total points in their first 3 games, the Gopher defense has been shredded for 90 points in their 2 Big Ten contests. Now they face an OSU offense that ranks 6th in the nation averaging 49 PPG. There was a positive take on the defense last week and that was they controlled Iowa’s running game holding them to just 106 yards on 40 carries. It was something the Minnesota stop unit focused on during their bye week after allowing Maryland to rush for 315 yards in their most recent game. They did, however, help make Iowa QB Nate Stanley look like Tom Brady with 314 yards passing and 4 TD’s. Losing top safety Antoine Winfield Jr for the season has had a big effect. While they stopped the run on Saturday, running the ball well themselves has been an issue. Losing top RB Rodney Smith was a huge loss now averaging just 90 YPG on the ground in Big Ten play (13th ahead of only Northwestern). Not being able to run the ball is a huge problem for a team starting a freshman walk-on at QB.
OHIO STATE – The Buckeyes were expectedly a little flat last weekend coming off their huge 27-26 win @ Penn State the previous Saturday. They were facing an Indiana team that had played them very tough as of late covering 6 of the last 7 meetings. Make that 7 of 8 as IU hung tough covering the 27-point spread in a 49-26 loss. It was a 35-26 game entering the 4th quarter when OSU shut the door with 2 TD’s to close it out. QB Dwayne Haskins Jr threw for a career high 455 yards and 6 TD’s. He now has 25 TD’s and just 4 interceptions this year. After the game Haskins stated that his team was tired after their win @ PSU and during their week of practice they had a lower energy level than normal. Must be nice to have a week like that and still win by 23 points. If there is one chink in this team’s armor it might be their pass defense. They have allowed 286 and 322 yards through the air in their last 2 Big Ten games. After the game Urban Meyer was a bit concerned. “We’ve been fine against the run, but the pass has been killing us and that’s going to bite us, something we’ve got to get fixed,” Meyer said. Their pass defense may get healthy this week facing a Minnesota team that averages just 187 YPG (105th nationally).
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two have not met since 2015. Since PJ Fleck took over this Minnesota program last year, the Gophs are only 2-9 ATS vs Big Ten opponents. Fleck has played 5 conference road games since taking over and his Minnesota team is 0-5 SU & 0-4-1 ATS in those games getting outscored by 112 points in those 5 games (average loss of 22 PPG). Buckeyes look a bit overvalued as they have lost 3 of their last 4 to the spread with their only money maker during that stretch coming by just 6 points vs Tulane.
IOWA (-5.5) @ INDIANA, Saturday 12:00 PM ET
IOWA – The Hawkeyes bounced back nicely after their tough home loss to Wisconsin with a 48-31 road win @ Minnesota. That win gave Iowa 14 wins in their last 20 meetings with the Gophers. While they struggled to run the ball (just 2.7 YPC), QB Nate Stanley continued his impressive play throwing for 300+ yards and 4 TD’s. In his last 3 games Stanley has thrown for 880 yards and 8 TD’s as Iowa has relied more heavily on their passing game. The Hawks outgained the Gophers by 100 yards but were also helped out by 4 Minnesota interceptions, 3 of those coming on their final 4 possessions. The 17-point margin could have been much worse had Iowa taken better advantage of the turnovers as they led to just 3 points for the Hawkeyes. On the other hand, Iowa’s two turnovers turned into 14 points for the Gophers. While Iowa did have 4 interceptions, they also allowed freshman walk-on QB Zack Annexstad to throw for 218 yards and 3 TD’s. It was the first time he had thrown for over 200 yards since their opener vs New Mexico State. Iowa was forced to start to freshman corners, Jarius Brents & Riley Moss, as their two regular starters were both injured. Starting CB’s Matt Hankins and Michael Ojemudia have both been cleared to practice and may return to the line up on Saturday.
INDIANA – Indiana (+27) gave a valiant effort in their 2nd of back to back road games last week but come up short 49-26 @ Ohio State. The Buckeyes came in flat off their PSU win and the Hoosiers actually held a 17-14 lead midway through the 2nd quarter. From that point on the Buckeyes outscored IU 35-9 and pulled away for the win. QB Peyton Ramsey threw for a career high 322 yards hitting 9 different receivers for over 12 yards per pass attempt. Their running game, however, has been lacking at best as they are averaging only 92 YPG and 2.9 YPC in their 3 Big Ten games. It may improve quickly if they get last year’s leading rusher Morgan Ellison back in the line up at some point. He was indefinitely suspended before the season began but has been cleared by head coach Tom Allen to start practicing with the team. No word on when Allen will let him get back into game action. This is the 2nd straight season the Hoosiers have looked very good during the non-conference slate only to struggle when the Big Ten season opens. They were 4-0 this year only to lose 2 of their first 3 conference games with their only win coming by a TD @ Rutgers. Last year Indiana was also undefeated during the non-conference slate but lost their first 6 Big Ten games.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two have not met since 2015. Since 1980, the Hawkeyes are 20-9 SU & 17-12 ATS vs Indiana. Iowa has been a big time money maker as a road favorite covering 14 of their last 17 in that spot dating back to 2011 (including last week @ Minnesota). Indiana has failed to cover the last 6 times they’ve been a Big Ten home underdog (including at home vs MSU this year). The Hoosiers are also 0-6 ATS their last 6 games following a SU loss.
NEBRASKA @ NORTHWESTERN (-4), Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
NEBRASKA – The Huskers (+17.5) fell for the 9th straight time dating back to last season losing @ Wisconsin 41-24. The line on this game opened with Wisconsin north of 21 and dropped to 17.5 (some 18’s) giving Nebraska a tight cover. The defense continued to struggle allowing 40+ points for their 6th straight Big Ten contest dating back to last season. The Badgers dominated the ground game cruising to 370 yards on the ground on nearly 8 YPC. The offense played very well moving the ball consistently through the air vs a banged up Wisconsin secondary. Adrian Martinez threw for almost 400 yards and 2 TD’s. The freshman QB, however, continues to be turnover prone as he fumbled in Badger territory and while he didn’t throw an interception the UW secondary dropped a number of potential picks including 2 on one drive. This team is much better than their 0-5 record but mistakes have taken away whatever opportunities they’ve had to come away with a win. They had 10 penalties for 100 yards at Wisconsin which means the Cornhuskers have been penalized at least 10 times in EVERY GAME this season. With a team like Nebraska who currently has a small margin for error, those mistakes are killers. If they ever eliminate a majority of those mistakes, they will pull an upset. When will that be is the question.
NORTHWESTERN – The Cats come home after pulling off a big upset last week @ Michigan State. Northwestern was a 10.5 point dog and won the game by double digits 29-19. The game was scoreless with under 2:00 minutes to go in the first quarter and the MSU & NW combined for 17 points in a 3:00 minute time frame spanning late first quarter into the second quarter. The Cats led 14-3 just 2:00 minutes into the 2nd quarter and they were up 14-6 at half. The game was still in doubt late when Michigan State, down 22-19, opted to go for it on 4th and 1 from their own 11 yard line with 3:59 remaining in the game. The Cats took over on downs after holding MSU short of the first down and then scored a TD 3 plays later to extend the margin to 29-19 and basically end the game. Northwestern continues to produce almost zero running game but QB Clayton Thorson is rounding into form the last few weeks making this a pass first and sometimes pass only offense. The Cats had just 8 yards on the ground on 20 carries vs MSU. Thorson had 47 pass attempts for 373 yards and 3 TD’s. It was the 2nd time in the last 3 games that Thorson had 47+ pass attempts and threw for 370+ yards. Northwestern now sits 2-1 in the Big Ten and with Nebraska and @ Rutgers on deck, they look to make a move toward the top of the West Division.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Northwestern won this match in OT last year beating Nebraska 31-24 in Lincoln as a 2.5 point favorite. Now the Cats are at home basically laying the same number (currently -3.5 or -4). The road team has won 6 of the 7 meetings outright since the Huskers joined the Big Ten in 2011. The Wildcats have covered 70% of the time when favored coming off an outright win as a dog dating back to 2011 (7-3 ATS). Last week was Nebraska’s first cover of the year and they did so by just a half point (+17.5 @ Wisconsin).
MICHIGAN STATE @ PENN STATE (-13.5), Monday at 3:30 PM ET
MICHIGAN STATE – The Spartans continue their disappointing season this weekend in Happy Valley. They’ve been favored in every game this year but are just 3-2 on the season and just 1-4 ATS. MSU is banged up on offense right now with their top RB out, top WR out, and a few injuries along the offensive line. It shows as this team is struggling offensively. They couldn’t get their running game going as their two RB’s combined for just 27 yards on 11 carries. Their leading rusher was WR Felton Davis who tallied 50 yards on two end arounds. Because of their lack of a running game, QB Brian Lewerke is having to carry much of the load. He attempted 51 passes last Saturday vs the Wildcats. The defense remains stellar against the run as they held Northwestern to just 8 yards on the ground. Sparty has now allowed only 71 yards on the ground the entire season and they’ve held 8 straight opponents to less than 100 yards. They have been a bit vulnerable to the pass ranking dead last in the Big Ten in pass defense allowing over 300 YPG. After the 2015 season when MSU made the College Playoff they were on a run of 36-5 from 2013 – 2015 and looked like they might be close to breaking into college football’s elite. However, they are just 16-14 since and have obviously taken a step back as a program.
PENN STATE – The Nittany Lions have had two full weeks to try and recover from their disappointing 27-26 home loss to the Buckeyes. It was a game PSU should have won as they dominated the Buckeyes statistically with more first downs, a time of possession edge, and outgaining OSU by 103 yards. The offense was impressive putting up almost 500 yards on the Buckeyes with a great mix of run & pass. The defense was impressive for most of the game as they allowed OSU to gain only 219 yards and score just 14 points on their first 15 offensive possessions. The defensive problems started at that point as OSU gained 171 yards and scored 14 points on their final 2 possessions including the game winning TD with 2:03 remaining in the game. The Lions look pretty healthy heading into this match up and if they can put OSU behind them they should be motivated here after losing at MSU as a 9.5 point favorite last year.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – MSU was +9.5 at home last year in this match up and pulled the 27-24 upset. The favorite in this series has covered 6 of the last 7 with the lone outlier being last year Spartan upset. PSU has covered 6 of the last 8 times they’ve been coming off a bye. This line opened -14.5 and dropped to -13.5. If this number goes back to 14 or higher, the Spartans are 21-13 ATS as a dog of two TD’s or more since 1980. Surprisingly, the Nittany Lions are just 1-7 ATS at home coming off a SU home loss.
PURDUE (-10.5) @ ILLINOIS, Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
PURDUE – Purdue comes off a bye after their big win @ Nebraska two weeks ago. The Boilers picked up the 42-28 win in Lincoln despite being outgained for the first time this season. The efense had trouble slowing down Nebraska as the Huskers tallied 536 total yards. The bend but don’t break defensive game for Purdue worked well when it needed to as the shut out Nebraska on downs 3 times in Boilermaker territory. They have struggled as a whole on that side of the ball all season long ranking 13th in the Big Ten in total defense allowing 447 YPG. Offensively Purdue has been on a nice run since head coach Jeff Brohm decided to stick with QB David Blough and ditch the rotating QB system. In their last 3 games in which Blough has played from start to finish, the Boilers are 2-1 with their lone loss coming by 3-points to Mizzou. They have scored 37, 30, and 42 points in those games and Blough has thrown for 1,196 yards 398 YPG average) and 7 TD’s. Purdue is just 2-3 on the season but they have gained 6.9 YPP while allowing 5.9 YPP for a +1.0 YPP differential.
ILLINOIS – The Illini were a rare road favorite last week @ Rutgers and they took care of business rolling over the Scarlet Knights 38-17. It was the Illini’s first road win since October of 2016 when the beat this same Rutgers team. It also ended a 13 game Big Ten losing streak. Starting QB AJ Bush returned to the line up after missing the previous two games and he made an impact. Bush threw for only 89 yards but ran for 116 yards and 2 TD’s. Illinois only completed 10 passes the entire game but they really didn’t need to do much more through the air as they rushed for 330 yards. This is becoming a very solid running team as they are 3rd in the Big Ten in rushing (260 YPG) and they have topped 200 yards on the ground in every game this season. Defensively the Illini rank in the bottom 3 of the Big Ten in both rush & pass defense and they allowed Rutgers freshman QB Artur Sitkowski to complete 29 passes for 267 yards which was easily the best game of his young career.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Purdue rolled up an easy 29-10 home win vs Illinois last year outgaining the Illini by 185 yards. The Boilers have not been a double digit road favorite since 2007. They are 2-7 ATS their last 9 in that role dating back to 1999. The Illini are just 10-19 ATS their last 29 conference games played at home. The Illini are just 6-17 SU their last 23 games coming off an outright win.
RUTGERS @ MARYLAND (-25.5), Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
RUTGERS – The Scarlet Knights had to look at last week’s home game vs Illinois as their best remaining shot at a win. Rutgers mistake prone football again on Saturday shot down that hope once again. The Knights had 3 turnovers which led to 10 of Illinois’ 38 points. They also had 10 penalties for over 100 yards and missed a field goal. Freshman QB Artur Sitkowski threw for a career high 267 yards but also threw 3 interceptions. They are huge underdogs this Saturday @ Maryland, the Terps then host Northwestern before the gauntlet of Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State to end the season. This team is destined for a winless Big Ten season and head coach Chris Ash will firmly be on the hot seat after his 3rd season. Ash currently has a record of 7-23 since taking over at Rutgers. The Knights are currently last in the Big Ten in scoring offense, total offense, rush defense, pass efficiency offense, pass efficiency defense, and 3rd down conversion defense. Simply a season to forget in New Brunswick.
MARYLAND – The Terps looked like they might have a shot @ Michigan last week leading 7-3 at the end of the first quarter. The Wolverines quickly shot down those hopes scoring an easy 42-21 win. Maryland relies as heavily on their running game as any team in the Big Ten. Their QB’s are not adept passers as Maryland ranks 123rd nationally at just 127 YPG through the air. They’ve only attempted 98 passes in 5 games this season which is ahead of only Army, Air Force, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, Navy, and Coastal Carolina – all option based teams. They did OK last week vs Michigan running for 147 yards but with just 73 yards passing that wasn’t enough to get it done or even stay close. Stop Maryland’s running game and they are in big trouble. It doesn’t look like their opponent this week can do that as Rutgers allowed Illinois to rush for 330 yards last week and the Scarlet Knights rank 119th nationally at stopping the run. Maryland had 10 penalties vs Michigan and as with many of the Big Ten teams, that’s been a big problem this year. The Terps are the 4th most penalized team in the nation this year averaging just under 10 per game.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Rutgers pulled off a 31-24 home win last year over Maryland as a 4.5 point underdog. The dog has covered 5 of the 6 meetings in this series. Rutgers has played 2 road games this season and been outscored by a combined 107-17 in those games (@ Ohio State & @ Kansas). The Terps have not been a favorite of this magnitude (-24 or more) since 2006 (vs FBS foes). Maryland’s largest spot as a Big Ten favorite before this game was in 2016 at home vs this same Rutgers team. The Terps were laying 15.5 in that game.