BIG TEN GAMES FOR NOVEMBER 23rd
PENN STATE @ OHIO STATE (-18)
MICHIGAN (-8.5) @ INDIANA
MINNESOTA (-13) @ NORTHWESTERN
PURDUE @ WISCONSIN (-22.5)
ILLINOIS @ IOWA (-14)
NEBRASKA (-4) @ MARYLAND
MICHIGAN STATE (-20) @ RUTGERS
PENN STATE @ OHIO STATE (-18)
Penn State kept their Big Ten East title hopes alive with a 34-27 win at home vs Indiana last Saturday. IU kicked a FG with 13 seconds remaining to cut the lead to a TD but were unable to recover their onside kick attempt. Despite the win, Penn State was outgained by 91 yards and have now been outgained in half their games this season (5). The PSU defense looks like they are trending in the wrong direction late in the season. They have allowed 400+ yards in 3 of their last 4 games and after allowing a total of 47 points through their first 5 Big 10 games, they have allowed 58 combined points the last 2 weeks. Their rush defense continues to look strong as they lead the Big 10 (conference games) allowing only 78 YPG. However, the PSU secondary has been shredded in 3 of their last 4 games allowing 371, 339, and 276 yards passing in those 3 contests. That effort has dropped them to 11th in pass defense in league games. Last week was a letdown spot for Penn State after coming in ranked in the top 4 in the initial BCS poll and then laying an egg in a loss @ Minnesota. Their win vs Indiana last Saturday means the Nittany Lions still control their own destiny in the Big 10 East. Win out and they head to Indianapolis for the Big 10 Championship game. Lose this weekend @ OSU and they are out.
OSU played a somewhat sloppy game last week and still won by 35 vs an inept Rutgers team. Their 56-21 win came nowhere near covering the historic 53 point road spread. A bad Rutgers offense scored 21 points vs the OSU defense. That may not seem like much but keep in mind they had scored just 24 points in all of their previous Big 10 games combined. Some sort of a letdown or “off” game by Ohio State had to be expected at some point and last week looked like that game. The fact is, the Buckeyes have still won every game this season by at least 24 points and they’ve outgained every opponent by at least 235 yards! Last Saturday was just their 2nd non-cover of the season and they led the nation in pointspread margin heading into last week’s game covering their games by an average of 17 points. OSU gets a big boost here defensively with Chase Young returning after a 2-game suspension. The opening line came out -19.5 and was a bit higher than we expected. For comparison’s sake, OSU was favored a few weeks ago by 14.5 vs a Wisconsin team we have rated almost identical to PSU. However, the Buckeyes just keep winning big giving the oddsmakers no choice but to make them huge favorites even against a team that is playing for a share of the division lead. A win over PSU on Saturday and the Buckeyes clinch the Big 10 East and a spot in Indianapolis for the conference championship game. A loss and they no longer control their own destiny in the Big 10 race.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The last 2 years this game has gone to the wire with OSU winning by a single point in both games (39-38 in 2017 and 27-26 last year). With OSU favored by 18 points, one might think this is the highest spread ever in this series. That is not the case as in 2015 the Buckeyes were favored by 18.5 and in 2010 they were favored by 20 (OSU won and covered both). This is just the 4th time since 1980 that PSU has been an underdog of 18 points or more – the 2 we discussed above vs OSU and the other was @ Wisconsin in 2013, a game Penn State won outright as a 25 point dog. Dating back to 1998, PSU has been a double digit dog 29 times and covered only 10 of those games.
MICHIGAN (-8.5) @ INDIANA
The Wolverines took in-state rival Michigan State to the woodshed last Saturday with an easy 44-10 and outgained the Spartans by 250 yards in the process. It was the Wolverines 6th win in their last 7 games. Their offense has come alive after struggling early in the year scoring at least 38 points in 5 of their last 7 games. The defense has come along for the ride as well holding 5 of their last 7 opponents to 14 points or less. Last week after MSU scored a TD on their 2nd possession of the game, the Michigan defense locked in only allowing Sparty to get inside the Wolverine 49-yard line only ONCE the remainder of the game. On offense QB Shea Patterson had his best game of his Michigan career passing for 384 yards and 4 TD’s. This is the ultimate letdown game for the Wolverines. Can they avoid it? They are coming off MSU and they have Ohio State next. They’ve also beaten Indiana 23 straight times so it’s not an ideal spot for this red hot Michigan team.
Indiana took Penn State to the wire last week only to come up 7 points short dropping their record to 7-3. The loss dropped the Hoosiers to 1-22 SU their last 23 games vs the Nittany Lions but they gave the host a run for their money. IU actually outgained PSU by nearly 100 yards and the Nits never had the 14.5 point spread covered at any point with their largest lead of the game being 13. QB Peyton Ramsey had a career high 371 yards passing completing 75% of his attempts vs a very good PSU defense. Can he pull it off again this week vs a Michigan defense that is 4th in the nation in pass defense allowing 155 YPG through the air? He’s probably going to have to if Indiana hopes to break their 23 game losing streak vs Michigan as the Hoosiers rank 101st nationally in rushing. This is Indiana’s home finale and they really don’t have a lot of pressure as a dog here because with 7 wins, this team is already going bowling.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – As we mentioned above Michigan has won an incredible 23 straight games in this series. The last time IU picked up a win in this series was in 1987 when the topped the Wolverines 14-10 as an 8.5 point underdog. Last season these two met in Ann Arbor and Michigan was a 28-point favorite but only win by 11 points (31-20 final). The Wolverines are just 4-8 ATS the last 12 seasons in their game prior to facing Ohio State. Dating back to October of 2016, the Hoosiers are just 1-9 ATS the last 10 times they’ve been an underdog at home.
MINNESOTA (-13) @ NORTHWESTERN
The Gophers dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten last week with a 23-19 loss @ Iowa. The Hawkeyes were favored by 3 and picked up the cover when Minnesota scored a TD but missed the XP late in the game. However, Iowa also missed an XP on their first TD so those two factors even out in the end. Last week was a tale of two halves for the Gophers. They only had the ball 4 times in the first half and kicked 2 FG’s, missed a FG, and were shut out on downs. In the 2nd half they had over 200 yards of offense, scored 2 TD’s and were shut out on downs at the Iowa 25-yard line on another possession. They outgained Iowa by 141 yards, punted just once the entire game, yet still only scored 19 points. Defensively Iowa rolled over them early scoring TD’s on their first 3 possessions of the game. After that the Gopher defense played very well holding the Hawkeye offense to 3 points on just 78 total yards forcing them to punt on 4 of their final 5 possessions. One we’ll keep a close eye on here is Minnesota QB Tanner Morgan who had another outstanding game (368 yards passing) but was crunched in the final minute of the game and will be in concussion protocol this week. It looks like the Wisconsin @ Minnesota game in the final week of the season will be for all the marbles in the Big 10 West. Even if Minnesota loses this game, that final game will still be the same winner take all situation.
Northwestern came into last week’s game having scored 100 points in their first 9 games of the season (11 PPG). Last week they put up nearly half that in one game topping a terrible UMass team 45-6. The win was just the 2nd of the season for Northwestern pushing their overall record to 2-8 both SU & ATS. They remain 0-7 in Big Ten play. While they did get the break out game they needed on offense, let’s now put too much stock in that performance as UMass came in allowing 55 PPG which was the worst mark in college football. To put Northwestern’s 45 point effort into perspective, take out their win vs a terrible Akron team and the UMass defense has allowed 45 points or more in every game this season but ONE! Florida International scored “just” 44 on this UMass defense. So if you subtract the Akron game, the Wildcats score the 2nd fewest points this season on the Minutemen. On top of that, one of their TD’s was on an 85-yard return after a blocked FG attempt so the offense really only scored 38 points. The Northwestern offense put up a solid 410 total yards on UMass which is great, right? Until you look and see that UMass had allowed more than 500 yards of offense to every opponent they’ve faced with the exception of Akron (who ranks 129th in total offense) and now Northwestern. We’re not talking about great offenses that were torching the UMass defense as Charlotte, Liberty, and Coastal Carolina all topped 500 yards vs this defense. Anyway, that tells us that Northwestern’s offense performance wasn’t very impressive. Their QB performance continue to be shaky as Smith completed only 7 passes but they were able to run the ball 52 times for 334 yards. The Cats, still looking for their first Big 10 win, host Minnesota and then travel to Illinois to close out the season.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The Wildcats were +3 @ Minnesota last season and pulled off a 24-14 upset win. This is the first time since 2005 that the Gophers have been a double digit favorite in a Big 10 road game. They’ve been a Big 10 road favorite of -10 or more just 9 times since 1980 (5-4 ATS). This is just the 2nd time this season that Northwestern has been an underdog of more than 10 points (1-1 ATS). The Cats were 10-3 ATS as a double digit dog entering this season.
PURDUE @ WISCONSIN (-24)
Purdue had last week off to at least try and heal some of their injured players and they have a lot of them. They are already down to their 3rd string QB Aidan O’Connell and their top offensive weapon, WR Rondale Moore, doesn’t look like he’s ready to return this week. They do have a few defensive players returning this week from injury so all is not lost. Two weeks ago the Boilers went to Northwestern and picked up a 24-22 win as a short underdog. Despite being outgained by nearly 100 yards and dropping into a 14-0 hole in the first quarter, the Boilers rallied and kicked a FG as time expired for the win. Despite being the 3rd string QB, O’Connell led Purdue on their final 11 play 58-yard game winning drive. It was the 2nd consecutive game he led them on a game winning drive doing the same vs Nebraska a week earlier in a 31-27 win. In their win over Northwestern, the Boilers yardage was almost all through the air as they tallied just 74 yards rushing. That continues to be a season long problem as they rank dead last in the Big 10 averaging only 76 YPG rushing, a full 48 YPG behind Michigan State who ranks 13th in the league. Sitting with a 4-6 record, Purdue needs to beat Wisconsin this week and then take care of Indiana next week in order to qualify for a bowl game.
Wisconsin picked up a win and cover last week @ Nebraska topping the Huskers 37-21 as 14.5 point favorites. As the saying goes, a win is a win, the Badger defense continued to look a little shaky. Nebraska put up nearly 500 yards of offense including 273 yards rushing on 7.4 YPC. They allowed the Huskers to gain 10 or more yards on 23 of their 60 offensive snaps. It was the 3rd time in the last 4 games Wisconsin has allowed at least 21 points, that after not allowing more than 15 points in any of their first 6 games this season. Over the last 4 games (2-2 record) the Badger defense has allowed a disturbing 6.4 yards per play. This from a defense that was ranked #1 in the nation in YPP allowed after their first 6 games. Part of Nebraska’s running success last week was due to Wisconsin missing their starting nose guard, Bryson Williams, who has been very good at plugging up the middle this year and prevent teams from gashing the Badgers up the middle. His replacement is a true freshman who play well at times and was pushed around at times opening up big holes for the Husker running backs. Williams will be out again this week with a leg injury. On offense, it was RB Jonathan Taylor again running the show with over 200 yards rushing for the 3rd straight year vs Nebraska. A win this week vs Purdue sets up a regular season finale @ Minnesota with the winner taking the Big 10 West crown.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Wisconsin was +3.5 @ Purdue last year and won 47-44 in OT. Now the Badgers are laying 22 points so a massive 25.5 point swing on the spread in one year on this game. Purdue has covered 5 of their last 6 games with their only non-cover when they were favored by 10 vs Illinois and lost outright. Their last 5 covers were all as an underdog. Wisconsin, on the other hand, covered 5 of their first 6 games this season and now they have failed to cash in 3 of their last 4. Purdue is 3-0 ATS on the road in Big Ten play this season and 12-4 ATS their last 16 conference road games.
ILLINOIS @ IOWA (-14)
Don’t look now but since losing at home to Michigan back on October 12th, the Illini have won 4 straight games. They’ve been a bit fortunate during this stretch as they were outgained in 3 of those 4 games and led Wisconsin and Michigan State for a combined 5 SECONDS and won BOTH games. They enter this game off a bye and their most recent win @ MSU two weeks ago qualified this team for a bowl game. In that game they trailed the Spartans 28-3 in the first half and 31-10 in the fourth quarter yet still pulled out a 37-34 win. Illinois was outrushed by 240 yards and outgained by 121 yards and still were able to get the road win. Similar to the Wisconsin game, they had a number of things break their way in order to get the win, but we have to give them credit for taking advantage of MSU’s mistakes. In the final 5:00 minutes alone the Illini scored a TD on a 76-yard interception return and then on a 5-yard TD pass with only a few seconds remaining to cap off the huge comeback. The Illini now sit at 6-4 overall and 4-3 in Big Ten play. Despite their above .500 record Illinois is getting outgained 302 to 448 YPG and 4.8 to 5.8 YPP in conference games.
Iowa put an end to Minnesota’s undefeated run last week with a 23-19 win at home. The Hawks jumped out to a 20-6 halftime lead and then went in the tank offensively. They scored 20 points on 212 yards on their first 3 offensive possessions. From that point on the Hawkeyes scored just 3 points and had only 78 yards. The defense gave up over 400 total yards for the 2nd straight game and the Hawks were outgained by 140 yards despite the win. That’s the 2nd straight game Iowa has been significantly outgained (Wisconsin outgained them by 178 yards) and both games went to the wire being decided by a total of 6 points. Aside from their first 3 possessions, Iowa’s offense continues to be a problem. They are averaging just 19 PPG in Big 10 play and they rank 9th in the conference in total offense averaging 329 YPG. Kirk Ferentz has been making some moves on offense to try and bring more explosiveness to that side of the ball including inserting true freshman RB Tyler Goodson into the starting line up. He performed well with 94 yards on 13 carries. They also receive a boost on offense this week with the return of starting WR Brandon Smith after a 3 game absence. Iowa has dominated this series as of late winning the last 3 games by a combined score of 126-16. With those numbers and coming in off a huge win they better make sure they don’t overlook this Illinois team or the could get clipped at home.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Might the Illini have a little extra motivation here? Last year Iowa was a 15 point road favorite and beat Illinois 63-0! Iowa is 2-2 ATS as a favorite of more than 14 points this season, however entering the year they were just 12-25 ATS in that role dating back to 2006. The Hawkeyes have won 13 of the last 16 meetings SU vs Illinois (10-6 ATS). The Illini enter this game having covered 5 in a row. However, entering this season Illinois had covered only 7 of their previous 21 Big Ten games.
NEBRASKA (-4) @ MARYLAND
The Huskers came off a bye two weeks ago and played one of their best offensive games of the season last week in their 37-21 loss to Wisconsin. QB Adrian Martinez started to look like his old self last week leading the Huskers to 493 yards on 8.2 yards per play. Those marks were both the most a very good Badger defense has allowed this season. Martinez threw for 220 yards and rushed for 89 yards in a game where he looked healthier than he has in a while. He played pretty well in the 2nd half of Nebraska’s game @ Purdue two weeks prior leading the Huskers to 17 points in their final 5 possessions so it looks to us that Martinez is finally on an upward trend. He’s hoping to get his top WR Wan’Dale Robinson back from injury this week after missing their game last Saturday. Robinson is questionable as of this writing. Defensively they continue to play poorly. Last week they gave up 482 total yards including 320 on the ground. That’s really nothing new for this defense that has now allowed at least 449 total yards in each of their last 4 games. Over that 4 game stretch the Nebraska defense has allowed 6.8 yards per play. To put that in perspective if the 6.8 YPP allowed was their defensive average for the full season, Nebraska would rank in the bottom 5 nationally in that category. It’s hard to believe Nebraska’s last bowl appearance was in 2016 and at 4-6 this season, they need to beat Maryland this week and Iowa next week to qualify for a bowl game.
While Nebraska is fighting to get to bowl eligible, Maryland post-season hopes went out the window two weeks ago in their 73-14 loss @ Ohio State. The Terps were outgained by a ridiculous 566 yards in that game and the loss put them at 3-7 with no further hopes of bowl eligibility. They did have last week off to rest and reflect on what has become a disastrous season under new head coach Mike Locksley. Since opening the season 2-0, the Terps have lost 7 of their last 8 games with their only win during that stretch coming vs Rutgers. Their offense has topped 17 points only twice during that 8 game stretch once vs Rutgers and the other vs Indiana. If you throw out their 48-7 win over Rutgers, the turtles have been outgained by 1,730 yards in their other 6 conference games (outgained by 288 YPG) and outscored 296 to 73 (49 to 12 average score). Maryland did get both of their top 2 QB’s back for their game vs Ohio State as starter Jackson returned from injury and his back up Pigrome also came back after a week on the shelf. Neither was effective vs Ohio State but now with 2 weeks off leading into this game, there might be some hope for the Maryland offense.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two have met only once since Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2014. That meeting was back in 2016. Nebraska won that game 28-7 at home as a 13 point favorite. For the season the Huskers are a dismal 1-9 ATS with their only cover coming vs Northern Illinois. Nebraska is just 1-6 ATS as a favorite this season and 12-23-1 ATS in their last 36 games in that role. Maryland is trending downward as well with only one cover in their last 5 games and that one cover came by a half point. The Terps are 1-2 ATS this year as a home dog and 5-12 ATS their last 17 in that situation.
MICHIGAN STATE (-20) @ RUTGERS
MSU has to be physically and more importantly, mentally shot. Two weeks ago they blew a 21 point fourth quarter lead at home vs Illinois in a game the Spartans had to have. Blowing that game looks like it had an effect last week when Sparty took on a surging Michigan team and were throttled 44-10. A once promising season that started with 4 wins in their first 5 games, has gone south quickly with 5 straight losses. Their lack of urgency last week vs a huge in-state rival (outgained by 250 yards vs Michigan) signals to us this team just might be done for the season. They have had a number of players enter the transfer portal at some point this season and questions about head coach Mark Dantonio’s return are swirling in East Lansing. Dantonio said he plans on being back next year but that decision may not be in his control. The good news is? They get to play Rutgers this week whose only wins this season have come against UMass & Liberty. MSU’s defense is definitely good enough (31st in the nation in total defense) to limit a bad Rutgers offense. The Spartan offense is much better than it has looked as of late after playing 4 top 20 defenses (3 in the top 5) over their last 5 games. However, what mindset can MSU be in right now is the key to handicapping this team. We’ll find out on Saturday.
Rutgers actually showed some fight last week. They scored 21 points on Ohio State which is the most the Buckeyes have allowed this season. Rutgers had scored just 24 total points in all of their other Big 10 games leading into last week’s game vs OSU who has the #1 defense in America allowing only 216 YPG. The Scarlet Knights had 231 yards vs OSU so put up more yardage than the Buckeyes give up on average. Not bad. We realize 14 of Rutgers points came when the game was well out of reach with OSU leading 49-7 and 56-14 when the Buckeyes defensive starters on the bench watching. But as bad as Rutgers has been, it looks like they are still battling at the very least. For interim head coach Nunzio Campanile to have his team playing with maximum effort at this point in the season with all the distractions at Rutgers is impressive. He’s dealing with a 4th string QB who is not a good passer a but is a decent runner. Because of that Campanile switched to a more option based offense on the fly mid season and the players bought in. Don’t get us wrong here, Rutgers is still easily the worst team in the Big 10 but we do expect them to come to play on Saturday in their home finale.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – MSU was a huge 24-point favorite @ Rutgers last year and barely pulled out a 14-10 win. It took a Sparty TD with under 4:00 minutes remaining in the game to pick up that tight win. These two teams are a combined 5-15 ATS this season (MSU is 2-8 & Rutgers is 3-7). This has been a low scoring series with only one of the last six meetings getting to 50 total points. MSU has lost 6 straight games vs the number – their last cover was on September 21st.