MICHIGAN STATE (-2.5) @ NEBRASKA – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
MICHIGAN STATE – Sparty is heading into this game off a 26-6 home loss to Ohio State. The game was much closer than the 20-point margin however as the Buckeyes scored a TD on a fumble and recorded a safety. OSU was able to capitalize on 3 MSU turnovers which they turned into 17 of their 26 points. The Bucks led just 9-6 entering the fourth quarter and outscored the Spartans 17-0 in the final frame. Ohio State was +74 in total yardage, however they also ran 84 offensive plays to just 66 for Sparty. Thus, on a YPP basis this game was almost dead even. OSU led 7-3 at halftime but pinned the Spartan offense deep on nearly every possession in the 2nd half. Michigan State had 8 offensive possession in the 2nd half and those drives started at their own 5, 6, 3, 1, 2, 25, 25, 13, & 7 yard lines. Head coach Mark Dantonio in an effort to try and spark his offense decided to use two QB’s as Brian Lewerke and Rocky Lombardi split time under center. Neither was effective as they combined to complete just 18 passes on 48 attempts with 0 TD’s. MSU has now topped 24 points only once in conference play and that was their Big Ten opener way back on September 22nd when they put up 35 on Indiana. They may get a reprieve this weekend vs a Nebraska defense that everyone seems to score on.
NEBRASKA – The Husker offense just keeps rolling up huge numbers. They outscored Illinois last week 54-35 and put up a massive 606 yards in the process. It was the 7th consecutive game Nebraska has gained at least 450 yards. After losing their first 6 games of the season, the Cornhuskers have won 3 of their last 4 and are averaging 45 PPG in those 4 games. Their lone loss during that stretch was a 36-31 setback @ Ohio State, a game they led at halftime. The Illini were in a giving mood last week in Lincoln as they turned the ball over 5 times which led to 24 Husker points. The obvious problem remains Nebraska’s defense or lack thereof. It’s a good thing their offense is humming or this team would be in huge trouble. Last week they allowed Illinois shred them for 509 yards (almost 7 YPP) including 383 on the ground. The defense now ranks 107th nationally allowing 450 YPG & 103rd in scoring defense giving up 34 PPG. At 3-7, Nebraska cannot get to bowl eligible this year and this Saturday marks their home finale.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two haven’t met since 2015. They have met 8 times since 1994 with the Huskers 6-2 SU & 7-1 ATS. The Huskers began the season 0-4 ATS in their first 4 games. Since then they are 4-0-1 ATS. Nebraska is 7-1 to the OVER in Big Ten play with their only UNDER coming at Ohio State (36-31 final – Total was set at 76). On the other sideline, MSU has gone UNDER the total in 5 straight games and they are a perfect 3-0 SU on the road in Big Ten play (wins @ Indiana, @ Penn St, @ Maryland).
OHIO STATE (-14.5) @ MARYLAND – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
OHIO STATE – A win on Saturday @ Maryland and the Buckeyes will set up a winner take all in the Big Ten East meeting with Michigan in the regular season finale. After struggling mightily the last 2 games, the Buckeye defense was locked in last Saturday holding MSU to just barely over 4 YPP and keeping Sparty out of the endzone in their 26-6 win. The offense was far from perfect as they only averaged just over 4 YPP and were held to 2.7 YPC on the ground. They got some help from MSU as the Spartans gave the Bucks a TD on a fumble recovery and added 2 more on a safety. The once red hot QB Dwayne Haskins who completed over 70% of his passes in 5 of his first 7 games, hit on just 61% on Saturday after completing just 56% vs Nebraska a week earlier. Special teams played a huge roll on Saturday as punter Drue Chrisman pinned MSU inside their own 6-yard line 5 times. That was after Chrisman shanked his first punt for just 4-yards setting up the Spartans as the Buckeye 35-yard line which MSU was unable to take advantage of an actually had to punt 4 plays later. Ohio State (-4) covered the spread for the first time since September 22nd. They had lost 5 straight to the number entering their game in East Lansing. This number opened -17 and has dropped nearly 3 points.
MARYLAND – Maryland’s quest to become bowl eligible was put on hold with their 34-32 loss @ Indiana. This line opened with IU favored by 3 and dropped all the way to 1 by game time meaning the Hoosiers covered for those who played the game late. The loss dropped the Terps to 5-5 on the season meaning they’ll either need to beat Ohio State this weekend at home or win @ Penn State the following week to qualify for the post-season. If you didn’t know the score but happened to glance at the stat sheet, you would have sworn Maryland won the game. They put up 542 yards to just 374 for IU. The Terps also outrushed the Hoosiers by a whopping 222 yards and had a 2 to 1 time of possession edge. The Maryland defense held Indiana scoreless in the first quarter but the Hoosiers exploded for 21 points in a 4:30 minute span early in the 2nd quarter to take a 21-6 lead. Two of those TD’s came directly after Maryland turnovers and 20 of the IU 34 points were scored as a direct result of Terp giveaways (4 turnovers). Maryland had some key injuries in the loss as starting QB Kasim Hill appeared to injure his leg the in 2nd quarter and did not play in the 2nd half. Top RB Ty Johnson also left in the first half with an undisclosed injury and did not come back.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – OSU was a 30-point home favorite in this match up last year and routed the Terps 62-14 outgaining them 584 to 66. Yes you read that correctly. The Buckeyes have dominated all 4 match ups since Maryland joined the Big Ten winning by a combined score of 225-69 (or an average score of 56-17). All 4 of those Buckeye wins have come by at least 21 points. Going all the way back to 1980, OSU is a money making 33-23 ATS as a road favorite of 2 TD’s or more.
NORTHWESTERN (-2) @ MINNESOTA – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
NORTHWESTERN – The Cats led the Big Ten West heading into last week’s game vs Iowa and could potentially wrap that half of the conference up with a win. Despite leading the league they received very little respect from the oddsmakers as they were tabbed an 11 point dog @ Iowa. Northwestern took care of business winning 14-10 which clinched their spot in the Big Ten Championship game vs the winner of the Big Ten East, most likely Michigan or Ohio State. While the offense struggled to score the bright spot on that side of the ball would be their running game which has been non-existent for much of the year. The Wildcats rushed for 184 yards against a staunch Iowa defense. It was the 2nd straight Big Ten game where Northwestern topped 180 yards on the ground. While it may not sound like much, this is a team that top 100 yards rushing twice in their other eight games. That helps take some pressure off starting QB Clayton Thorson who was asked to pass way too much earlier in the season. The question with this game and moving forward is, how does this team respond now that they’ve locked up a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game? It’s conceivable if this team loses their final two games this week and at home vs rival Illinois next week, we could be looking at a 6-6 team in the conference championship as the Cats were 0-3 in the non-conference portion of their schedule.
MINNESOTA – What a difference a week makes. Minnesota hit a season low two weeks ago getting crushed 55-31 @ Illinois. They allowed 646 total yards and 383 on the ground vs the Illini. Fast forward one week and this team looked like a completely different defensive unit. Head coach PJ Fleck fired defensive coordinator Robb Smith early last week and apparently that was the spark they needed on that side of the ball. The Gophs pulled off a huge upset beating Purdue 41-10 as a 10.5 point dog. The defense shut down one of the most potent offensive attacks in the league holding the Boilermakers to 233 yards and just 88 on the ground, nearly a full 300 rushing yards less than they gave up just a week earlier. Hard to believe from a team that was allowing 43 PPG and over 500 YPG coming into last Saturday. Offensively they relied heavily on the run with 41 attempts for 265 yards. The Gophs only completed 11 passes in the game and stuck with Tanner Morgan under center even though previous starter Zack Annexstad was supposedly available. Now what looked like a lost season a few weeks ago for Minnesota can be extended to a bowl game with one more win either at home this week vs Northwestern or @ Wisconsin next Saturday.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The home team has won the last 4 meetings in this series including last year when the Wildcats shutout the Gophers 39-0 as a 7-point favorite. This is just the 2nd time this season the Cats have been a road favorite. The first was an 18-15 win (no cover) as a 20-point favorite @ Rutgers. Minnesota has been a poor road team this year but at home they are 5-1 SU including wins over Fresno State, Indiana, and Purdue. The Gophers are 2-1 ATS as home dogs this year with outright wins over Indiana & Purdue. That makes Minnesota 10-3 ATS the last 13 times they’ve been getting points at home.
PENN STATE (-28) @ RUTGERS – Saturday at 12:00 PM ET
PENN STATE – The Nittany Lions bounced back after being routed @ Michigan a week earlier by controlling Wisconsin 22-10 in Happy Valley last Saturday. Despite the win, PSU’s offense continues to look nothing like it did earlier in the season. After scoring 45, 51, 63, and 63 points their first four games, they have averaged just 22 PPG over their last 6 games. The level of defense they have faced has risen dramatically during the conference season as they have squared off against Michigan, OSU, Michigan State, and Iowa just to name a few. On top of that, their leader and QB Trace McSorely has not been 100% since the Iowa game on October 27th. They have been outgained in 4 of their last 5 games and are now laying a huge number on the road. The defense was solid last week vs a Wisconsin team that has been struggling offensively as well. The Badgers were forced to go with back up QB Jack Coan with Hornibrook in concussion protocol. PSU held them to just 60 yards passing and 4 of 17 on 3rd & 4th down. One continuing concern defensive was the rush defense. Despite the fact that the UW offense was basically one-dimensional, they still ran for over 200 yards in 5.6 YPC. They now rank 10th in the Big Ten (conference games) allowing 188 YPG on the ground.
RUTGERS – We’ve said this before but one thing we’ve noticed about this Rutgers team, is despite being 1-9, they haven’t quit. Last week they played Michigan toe to toe in the first quarter exiting the quarter with a 7-7 tie. They “only” trailed 21-7 at half which may not sound promising but let’s remember they were a 40 point underdog. The Knights gained nearly 140 yards in the first half alone which again may not seem like a big deal however, this Michigan defense had allowed 202 yards or fewer in 4 of their 6 conference games entering last week. The defense, which had been playing fairly well allowing 24 PPG their previous 6, simply ran out of gas in the 2nd half as the Wolverines pounded them with 40 rushing attempts. The problem continues to be an offense that simply can’t score. They have now been held to 17 points or less in all 9 games since their season opener when they put up 35 on Texas State. While they are just playing out the stretch, this is their home finale so we expect them to put up a fight before heading to Michigan State to close out the season.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Penn State won 35-6 at home last year but did not cover the 31-point spread. PSU has won all 4 games in this series since Rutgers entered the league with 3 of those wins coming by at least 25 points (the other was a 13-10 Nittany Lion win). The Lions have been a road favorite of -28 or more just 5 times since 1980 (3-2 ATS) with their most recent coming back in 2008. The UNDER has been a money maker in this series covering all 4 times with none of those 4 games coming within 2 TD’s of the posted total.
IOWA (-14.5) @ ILLINOIS – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
IOWA – The Hawkeyes have now lost 3 straight after Saturday’s 14-10 setback versus Northwestern. The Cats entered as a double digit underdog and a chance to clinch the Big Ten West with a win. Neither team was able to accomplish anything offensively in the 1st half with Iowa finally cracking the scoreboard on a 46-yard field goal with just 56 seconds remaining in the half. Iowa had a chance to crack the scoreboard earlier in the half but they were shut out on downs at the Northwestern 34-yard line. The Cats offense crossed midfield only once in the first half and never really threatened. The Wildcats were able to put 2 TD’s on the board in the 2nd half and held on for the win as Iowa turned the ball over on each of their final 2 drives. While the Iowa offense struggled putting up only 333 yards, the defense got back on track after allowing 68 point in their last 2 games, they locked down the Northwestern offense to just 306 yards on 76 plays (4 YPP). Now officially out of the Big Ten West race after the loss, the Hawkeyes travel to Illinois on Saturday before hosting Nebraska on Thanksgiving weekend.
ILLINOIS – The Illini continue to run the heck out of the ball each and every weekend. After last Saturday’s 383 yard effort on the ground Illinois now ranks 8th nationally in rushing at 263 YPG. RB Reggie Corbin became the first Illinois RB to top 1,000 yards in a season since 2010. It may have come at a cost however as Corbin injured his foot in the first half and did not return. The offense has definitely held up its end of the bargain this season. The defense not so much. In their 7 Big Ten games they have allowed at least 40 points 5 times and have given up 60+ twice! The only conference teams not to score at least 40 on the Illini are Rutgers & Minnesota. They now rank 127th nationally in total defense and 120th in scoring defense. Even with the loss last weekend the Illini still have a lot to play for. A win here and next week @ Northwestern would make this team bowl eligible.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Iowa was a 16-point favorite at home last year and won this match up 45-16. However the Hawkeyes were actually outgained by 4 yards in that game. Iowa has dominated this series since the mid 90’s winning 12 of the last 15 meetings outright (9-6 ATS). Since 1980, the Hawkeyes have been a favorite of more than 10 points @ Illinois just 3 times. They are 0-3 ATS in those games. However, Iowa has been a fantastic road favorite as of late going 2-0 ATS in that role this year and 15-3 ATS in that spot dating back to 2011.
WISCONSIN @ PURDUE (-4.5) – Saturday at 3:30 PM ET
WISCONSIN – This was a year we expected the Badger offense to carry or at least help out the defense. The defense has carried the load for years but they lost a bunch of contributors on that side of the ball. Now with some injuries piling up including starting NT Sagapolu done for the season, they really needed the offense to help them by putting points on the board. The offense had a ton of experience and production back from last year but has been a huge disappointment this year. They were held to just 10 points last week at Penn State in a 22-10 loss. They have done fine against the bad Big Ten defenses (Nebraska, Rutgers, and Illinois) but against Michigan, Penn State, and Northwestern they have put up just 13, 10, and 17 points respectively. Back up QB Jack Coan got his 2nd start last week for a concussion prone Alex Hornibrook and he struggled big time. He threw for just 60 yards with 2 interceptions. While the inexperienced Coan might be the answer at QB someday, Hornibrook, despite his faults, gives UW the best chance to win right now. He remains in concussion protocol and is questionable for Saturday’s game @ Purdue. They Wisconsin defense remains very young on the back end with a number of freshman playing key roles in the defensive backfield. The real problem has been their run defense which has been stellar for years. They are allowing 162 YPG (63rd nationally) after finishing in the top 5 nationally each of the last 3 years not allowing 100 YPG in any of those 3 seasons. The defense will have their hands full this weekend with a potent Purdue offense.
PURDUE – The Boilers continued their on again, off again play last weekend. After winning a huge home game vs Iowa a week earlier, Purdue completely laid an egg last week @ Minnesota. They were destroyed in Minneapolis last week 41-10 and outgained by 182 yards. That’s the same Minnesota team that lost @ Illinois 55-31 just a week earlier. Purdue has pulled this up & down situation numerous times this year including each of the last 4 Saturdays. They beat OSU at home scoring 49 points then lost @ Michigan State scoring only 13. They beat Iowa at home rolling up 38 points and then lost @ Minnesota scoring just 10. While they are improving, they obviously have not yet learned how to deal with short term success. The offense was held to season lows in scoring (10 points) and yardage (233 yards) vs a Minnesota defense that allowed 646 yards a week earlier @ Illinois. The Boilermaker pass defense is one of the worst in the Big Ten but their run defense has been improving drastically. That was until last Saturday when the Gophs lit them up for 265 yards on the ground. At 5-5, this becomes a huge home game for Purdue who still needs one win to get to bowl eligible. They would rather not have to head to arch rival Indiana having to win to keep their season going.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The Badgers were favored by 17 at home last year and Purdue battled them tough with Wisky winning 17-9. That marked the 12th straight time that Wisconsin has beating Purdue outright (10-2 ATS). This is the first time since 2004 the Boilermakers have been tabbed a favorite in this series. Coming into this season Wisconsin was an incredible 20-2 SU their last 22 road games (17-5 ATS). However this season they are 1-3 both SU & ATS on the road.
INDIANA @ MICHIGAN (-28.5) – Saturday at 3:00 PM ET
INDIANA – Last week’s 34-32 home win over Maryland was huge for the IU team. A loss there and their bowl aspirations become almost impossible. Now at 5-5, they need one more win either this weekend vs Michigan or in the season finale versus arch rival Purdue. Despite the win the Hoosier were outplayed rather drastically getting outgained by 168 yards along with a time of possession of only 20:00 minutes (Maryland held it for 40:00). Indiana has now been outgained by at least 97 yards in 4 of their last 5 games. If it weren’t for 4 Terp turnovers leading to half of IU’s points (17) we aren’t talking about the Hoosiers potential bowl opportunities in front of them. The defense continued to struggle allowing 30+ points for the 6th time in 7 Big Ten games. They are now allowing 453 YPG on 6.3 YPP which ranks them ahead of only Illinois, Nebraska, and Minnesota in conference play. Offensively IU has now scored 28 or more in 3 straight but they’ll be hard pressed to get anywhere near that against a Wolverine defense has allowed 21 total points in their last 3 games combined.
MICHIGAN – The Wolverines are now one win away from setting up their all or nothing game vs Ohio State on Thanksgiving weekend. This team continues to dominate this league with an easy and expected 42-7 win over Rutgers. They didn’t cover the inflated number (-40) and despite their huge win the looked a little flat which was to be expected. Rutgers actually kept it close early as the score was tied 7-7 at the end of the first quarter. The Knights tallied 282 total yards which was actually nearly 100 yards more than Michigan was allowing in Big Ten play heading into the game. It was the second highest yardage total the Wolverine defense has allowed this conference season with only Wisconsin gaining more by a single yard (283). A bit of a head scratcher as Rutgers ranks dead last in the league in total offense a by a long ways (83 yards behind MSU who ranks 13th in total offense). For as much publicity as the Michigan defense gets, the offense has scored more than 40 points in 6 of their 10 games this season. The Wolverines point differential in Big Ten play is +179 which is nearly a full 100 points better than OSU who ranks 2nd in point differential at +85.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Michigan was favored by just 7 points last year @ Indiana and they are now laying more than 4 TD’s just one year later. In that game last season the Wolverines won and pushed the number winning by a final score of 27-20 in OT. Michigan is 29-1 SU in this series with the Hoosiers lone win during that span coming way back in 1987. Since 2000, there has been one game in this series decided by more than this number (4 TD’s) and that was a Michigan 34-3 win in 2006. Since 1983 IU has been an underdog of +28 or more 14 times and they are 10-4 ATS in those games.