ASA’s BIG TEN REPORT – For Games November 16th
MICHIGAN STATE @ MICHIGAN (-14)
MINNESOTA @ IOWA (-3)
WISCONSIN (-14.5) @ NEBRASKA
INDIANA @ PENN STATE (-14.5)
OHIO STATE (-52) @ RUTGERS
UMASS @ NORTHWESTERN (-41)
MICHIGAN STATE @ MICHIGAN (14)
Michigan State enters their big rivalry game having lost 4 straight games. The first 3 were somewhat understandable as they were underdogs in each and facing some of the Big Ten’s best (Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State). Last week, however, they were coming off a bye and favored by more than 2 TD’s vs Illinois and lost 37-34. Not only did they lose, it was in devastating form. Sparty led 28-3 late in the 2nd half and 31-10 entering the 4th quarter where they had a win probability of 99% at that point in the game. Illinois scored TD’s on a 46-yard pass on the final play of the first half AND a 76-yard interception return with under 5:00 remaining in the game to cut the MSU lead to 1 point. The only time MSU trailed in the game was when the Illini scored with 5 seconds remaining for the 37-34 win. The Spartan offense that had scored only 17 points their previous 3 games combined had over 500 total yards and scored TD’s on 4 of their first 5 possessions. It looked like they had the game in hand but key mistakes with the big lead cost them. MSU QB Lewerke threw 3 interceptions and each was a huge momentum swing. The first was thrown in the endzone as they were going in to score and possibly make it 35-3. Another late in the first half with under 1:00 remaining led to an Illini 80 yard in 4 play TD drive with the score coming as time ran out in the first half. Lewerke’s final interception was the 76 yard pick 6 we mentioned above. Those were obviously game changing miscues. The Spartans once promising season has now gone sideways as they sit with a sub .500 record at 4-5. Their mental state has to be in question right now and we’ll see if playing the Wolverines can bring them back for one more all out effort.
While MSU was losing in unfathomable fashion last week, Michigan was resting on their off week. Their most recent game was 2 weeks ago @ Maryland. The Wolverines returned the opening kickoff for a TD in that game and never looked back on their way to a 38-7 win. Since their loss to Wisconsin back in late September, Michigan has win 5 of their next 6 games outgaining all 6 opponents. Their only loss was 28-21 @ Penn State and Michigan actually dominated the stat sheet in that one outgaining the Nittany Lions by 124 yards. Since allowing 35 points @ Wisconsin, the Wolverine defense has allowed a total of 77 points over their last 6 games (12.8 PPG). Offensively they have scored at least 38 points in 4 of those 6 contests. It’s safe to say they’ve gotten things back on track. The one exception might be their passing game. QB Shea Patterson is completing only 57% of his passes this year after completing 65% last year and he has topped 200 through the air only once in his last five games. If he can get in synch with his talent receiving corps, this team will be very good moving through the final month of the season.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Michigan leads this series all time 70-36-5 SU but they have lost each of the last 2 times they faced Sparty in Ann Arbor. The road team has actually won the last 4 meetings outright. Going back to 2008, MSU has owned this series with a 10-1 ATS record. Dating back to 1980, the Spartans are 24-14-1 ATS in this rivalry. The last 6 times Michigan has been favored at home vs MSU, the Wolverines have covered once.
MINNESOTA @ IOWA (-3)
The Gophers finally had their step up in competition game last week and came through with flying colors. PSU came to the Twin Cities as a 6-point favorite and the Gophers picked up a 31-26 win. The game ended with the Nittany Lions throwing an interception in the endzone as they were driving for the potential winning TD. This game was being billed as Minnesota’s biggest home game in a decade and they came out with an emotional first half. The Gopher dominated the first half leading 24-13 at the break rolling up 321 yards of offense in the first 30 minutes alone. After a high scoring first half, the two teams combined for just 20 points in the 2nd half (13-7 in favor of Penn St) and the script flipped with PSU piling on 223 yards in the final 30 minutes while holding Minnesota to 129 yards. The Gopher rushing attack really turned the corner about a month ago and coming into last Saturday they had topped 300 yards on the ground in 3 of their previous 4 games. That came to a screeching halt on Saturday as PSU defense shut them down with 121 yards on 40 carries. The way QB Tanner Morgan played, Minnesota definitely didn’t need to lean on their running game last Saturday. Morgan had just TWO incomplete passes in his 20 attempts, he threw for 340 yards and 3 TD’s with no interceptions. This isn’t the first time Morgan has proven he can carry the offense if the running game isn’t working. When they traveled to Purdue earlier this season, the Gophs ran for less than 100 yards but Morgan completed 21 of 22 passes for 396 yards. This is a diverse offense for sure. We’ll see how they respond on Saturday following their huge home game last Saturday. Their game vs PSU was their first big game of the season and one that Minnesota had been pointing to for quite some time. They have only played two road conference games this season @ Purdue and @ Rutgers. Going to Iowa on Saturday will be the most strenuous test of the season for this young team consisting mainly of freshmen and sophomores.
Iowa has been accustomed to tight losses this year and they went to the wire again last week and came up short losing 24-22 @ Wisconsin. It was the Hawkeyes 3rd loss of the season by a combined total of 14 points. It looked like they were in big trouble as they entered the 4th quarter down 21-6. At the time the Badgers scored late in the 3rd quarter to grab the 15 point lead, Iowa had just 144 total yards and 2 FG’s. From that point on (final few minutes of the 3rd quarter and the 4th quarter) Iowa rolled up 150 yards of offense and 17 points. With Wisconsin up 8 points and under 4:00 minutes remaining, Iowa scored on a 1-play 75-yard drive with QB Nate Stanley hitting Tyrone Tracy for the long TD. They had to go for 2 points and the tie but were unsuccessful and the Badgers were able to run out the final 3:12 of the game for the 2-point win. Iowa was without LB Christian Welch, their leading tackler, and it showed as UW RB Jonathan Taylor gashed them for 250 yards on the ground. It was definitely unchartered territory for this Iowa defense that had held 6 of their 8 opponents to less than 100 yards rushing and were allowing only 89 YPG rushing entering Saturday’s contest. The Iowa offense has long been conservative and that hasn’t changed this year. They have scored only 22 TD’s on the season (112th nationally) but they lead the nation in field goals made. In their four games vs their 4 best opponents this year (Wisconsin, Penn State, Iowa State, and Michigan) they have only 4 total TD’s and ALL of those game in the 4th quarter when the Hawkeyes were trying to make up a deficit. Last week’s game basically eliminated them from Big 10 West contention. How do they respond at home this week knowing they won’t be heading to Indianapolis for the Big 10 Championship game? It’s a big time rivalry game with the Gophs so we’d be surprised if Iowa doesn’t show up and play well.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Iowa has won 4 straight in this rivalry including taking down Minnesota 48-31 on the road last year as 7-point favorites. The Hawkeyes have dominated this rivalry with a 26-11 SU record since 1982. The last time the Gophers went to Iowa City and won outright was back in 1999. Our in depth database goes back to 1980 and this is the lowest spread the Hawkeyes have ever had at home vs Minnesota. In fact, Iowa has only been favored at home by less than a TD just 4 times in this series in the last 39 seasons (4-0 ATS). The Gophs are a perfect 6-0 ATS in Big 10 play this season. Heading into this year, they were 6-11-1 ATS in Big 10 play dating back to the start of the 2017 season.
WISCONSIN (-14.5) @ NEBRASKA
The Badgers were in a must win spot last Saturday if they hoped to stay in contention in the Big 10 West race. They played host to Iowa and squeaked out a 24-22 win. Wisconsin came in off a bye and off 2 straight road losses @ Illinois & @ Ohio State. Their running game wasn’t great in those 2 games (156 yards vs Illinois & 83 yards vs OSU) and they wanted to get back to dominating on the ground. They did just that rolling up a massive 300 yards on the ground vs an Iowa defense that was allowing less than 90 YPG rushing coming into last week’s game. It was an impressive rushing effort vs a Hawkeye defense that hadn’t allowed 300+ yards rushing since November of 2016. The final score was also probably closer than it should have been as Wisconsin dominated the stat sheet overall with 473 total yards while holding Iowa to 295. The Badgers led 21-6 entering the 4th quarter when Iowa started their run. The defense held Iowa short on a 2-point conversion after the Hawkeyes cut the lead to 24-22 with under 4:00 minutes remaining. The Wisconsin offense then went on a final drive of 8 plays and 62 yards to run out the clock closing the game on Iowa’s 11-yard line. With the win they still have a shot at the Big 10 West title. The Badgers need to win out and have Minnesota lose once before they meet to end the season. If that happens it will be a winner take all match up in Minneapolis. One key injury heading into their game in Lincoln on the defensive line where Nebraska native Bryson Willams, starter at noseguard, is out due to a leg injury. That means true freshman Keenu Benton starts in his place.
Nebraska has been disappointing to say the least. We felt they were drastically over rated entering the season with talk of them possibly being the top team in the Big 10. We were proven correct as they are in jeopardy of not making a bowl game period for the second straight season. With a 4-5 record, the Huskers will need to win 2 of their final 3 (Wisconsin, @ Maryland, Iowa) to get to bowl eligible and a .500 record. The Huskers come in rested here off a bye last week. Their most recent game was a road loss @ Purdue who was down to their 3rd string QB playing in the 2nd half. Nebraska led 20-17 when Purdue’s QB starter Plummer went out and they still lost 31-27. Starting QB Adrian Martinez returned from an injury to start @ Purdue and he was shaky at best. He’s definitely regressed this year after entering his sophomore year as potentially the top QB in the conference. Martinez has been inaccurate with many of his passes this year completing only 59% after a 65% effort last season. He’s already thrown 6 interceptions in just 185 pass attempts after throwing only 8 last year in in nearly twice as many attempts (347). The Huskers are getting outscored by 12 PPG in league play (average score of 33-21) and outgained 5.5 YPP to 6.0 YPP. Their only conference wins came @ Illinois by 4 points and at home vs Northwestern by 3 points. They are in a good situational spot here catching Wisconsin off a big win and the Badgers have dominated the Huskers winning 7 of the last 8 so a possible letdown game. Can the Big Ten’s 13th ranked rush defense (allowing 219 YPG in league play) slow down Wisconsin’s running game? That will probably be the key to giving them a shot at the upset.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Wisconsin has dominated this Big 10 West series winning 7 of the 8 meetings since Nebraska joined the conference back in 2011. Last year the Badgers topped Nebraska 41-24 in Camp Randall but the yardage was almost dead even for the game. Nebraska has covered just one game this year and that was back in September vs Northern Illinois. The Huskers have won only 6 of their last 22 Big Ten Games SU (2-4 SU this season / 0-6 ATS). The Badgers have been one of the top road teams in the Big Ten winning 23 of their las 30 road games SU. They are also 24-12 ATS their last 36 road games.
INDIANA @ PENN STATE (-14.5)
How many people realize that Indiana has only one more loss than PSU on the season and the Nittany Lions lost their first game of the year last week? How many know that this team is now ranked (24th and 25th in the two polls) for the first time since 1994! Talk about a team that hasn’t really been in the limelight despite their 7-2 record. The Hoosiers only 2 losses came at the hands of Ohio State and Michigan State, a game that wasn’t decided until the final few seconds. All four of their conference wins have been against lower tier Big 10 teams (Rutgers, Maryland, Northwestern, and Nebraska) who have combined for 10-27 record. If you throw in the Hoosiers non-conference wins vs Eastern Illinois, Ball State, and UConn, they have not beaten a single team with a current record at or above .500. Their offense has been very good with only one team holding them under 30 points and that was Ohio State. They come into this game off a bye but not fully healthy. Starting QB Michael Penix was injured two weeks ago vs Northwestern and will miss the remainder of the season. As we’ve stated before in this report, IU basically has 2 starting QB’s as far as we’re concerned. Peyton Ramsey started last year for Indiana and has played in 7 games this year, starting 3 times throwing for over 1300 yards and completing 72% of his passes. Indiana closes out the season with game @ PSU, home vs Michigan, and @ Purdue. If they can win one more game to get to 8 wins, it would be the first time they’ve reached that win total since 1993. If they can pick up two wins getting them to 9, the last time this team reached that number was 1967.
Penn State came into last week’s game @ Minnesota ranked 4th in the first BCS poll of the year. Their stay in the top 4 will be short lived after losing 31-26 @ Minnesota last week giving the Nittany Lions their first loss of the season. How do they respond coming off their first loss of the year? Well they still control their own destiny in the Big 10 East. Win out including a game @ Ohio State next week, and the Lions are in the Big 10 Championship game. They better make sure they are not peaking ahead to their date with the Buckeyes or they might just get knocked off by an Indiana team that can score points. Penn State had their chances last week @ Minnesota including their final drive of the game which ended with Sean Clifford throwing an interception in the endzone with just a few minutes remaining. While they outgained the Gophs by 58 yards, 3 Clifford interceptions killed them with 2 leading directly to 14 points for Minnesota and the last one thrown in the endzone on PSU’s final drive as we stated above. The 8-1 Nittany Lions have been treading on thin ice actually getting outgained in 4 of their 9 games with 3 of their wins (Pitt, Michigan, and Iowa) all coming down to the final possession. They are coming off 4 consecutive big games (Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, and Minnesota). Can they bring it again mentally and emotionally for a fifth straight week vs a solid Indiana team?
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Last year Penn State was favored by 14 @ Indiana and pulled out a tight 33-28 win but IU outgained the Nittany Lions 554 to 417. To say PSU has controlled this series would be a bit of an understatement. They are 21-1 SU vs IU since 1980 with the Hoosiers only win coming in 2013. Penn State has been favored in EVERY game between these two since 1980 (13-9 ATS). Indiana is 3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS on the road this year. However, coming into this season the Hoosiers had won just 11 of their last 101 road games SU and they were 29-50-2 ATS their last 81 away from home.
OHIO STATE (-52) @ RUTGERS
After OSU was favored at home by 43 points vs Maryland and won that game 73-14, we thought this line might open in the mid 50’s. It opened at -51 and we wouldn’t be shocked to see it move up before the week comes to an end. The total on this game is only 10 points higher than the spread at 61 which is crazy. Thus the projected final score on this tilt is 56-5. What else can be said about this Buckeye team. They are far and away the best team in the Big 10. Their average margin of victory in conference games only is +41. They are outgaining their Big 10 opponents by an average of 541 to 217 (7.2 YPP to 3.7 YPP). Last week they nearly had the 43-point spread covered by halftime sitting with a 42-0 lead over Maryland at the break. The Buckeyes had over 700 yards of offense outgaining the Terps by 321 yards on the ground AND by 245 yards through the air. They scored a TD on every first half possession and played most of their 2nd stringers the entire 2nd half. Maryland had a grand total of 2 offensive possessions that lasted more than 5 plays. Will OSU finally have a letdown game with Penn State & Michigan on deck? We won’t count on it.
Rutgers has actually shown a bit of offensive life the last few games. Albeit one of those games was against Liberty, but they’ve looked a little better on that side of the ball none the less. After scoring 48 points and beating a terrible UMass team to open the season, Rutgers went on to score just 30 total points over their next 6 games before meeting up with Liberty a few weeks ago. In that game they broke out for 44 points and then followed that up with 10 points @ Illinois which isn’t bad for this team that switched to the option offense when head coach Chris Ash was fired back in late September. The Knights had a bye last week and their 38-10 loss @ Illinois two weeks ago was actually a bit misleading. They were only outgained by 53 yards and 14 of the Illini’s 38 points were scored by their defense. Rutgers didn’t play that badly against an Illinois team that has now won 4 straight games. The problem here is QB Johnny Langan, starting now but was originally the 4th stringer, isn’t a good passer. In his 4 Big Ten starts he’s completed a total of 32 passes or an average of 8 completions per game. They need to be able to run the ball and OSU doesn’t allow that to happen giving up just 2.48 YPC. There is a chance Rutgers doesn’t score in this game but that still means OSU will have to potentially get to the mid 50’s depending on where this line falls at game time.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – As high as this number may seem, OSU won 52-3 last year in this match up which would have come very close to covering this year’s spread. The Buckeyes outgained Rutgers 580 to 134 in last year’s game. OSU is a near perfect 8-1 ATS this year with their only non-cover missing by just 3 points vs Florida Atlantic early in the season. Rutgers has covered just 2 games this season vs UMass and Liberty. The Knights have lost every Big 10 game this season by at least 28 points. OSU is favored by more than 50 on the road which is obviously a very rare situation. They have NEVER been favored by 50 or more on the road period. The last time a team in a Power 5 conference was favored by 50 on the road was in 1987 (Oklahoma @ Kansas). There have been just TWO times since 1980 where a road team was favored by -50 or more on the road vs any opponent. Both were in 1987 and the favorite each time was Oklahoma (@ Kansas & @ Kansas State).