BIG TEN MATCH UPS & ODDS FOR THIS WEEKEND – November 2nd
NEBRASKA (-3) @ PURDUE
MICHIGAN (-21) @ MARYLAND
NORTHWESTERN @ INDIANA (-12)
RUTGERS @ ILLINOIS (-20.5)
NEBRASKA (-3) @ PURDUE
The Huskers free fall continues losing at home 38-31 to Indiana last Saturday. They have now lost 3 of their last 4 games to drop to 4-4 on the season. They were hoping to get starting QB Adrian Martinez back under center last week but his knee is still not quite ready so he sat for the 2nd consecutive game. That meant that Noah Vedral would get another start for the Huskers and attempt to win his first game this year under center. As far as throwing the ball, Vedral played his best game of the season completing 14 of his 16 passes for 201 yards. However, he left late in the first half with an undisclosed injury and was replaced by 3rd string QB Freshman Luke McCaffrey. NU led 21-16 heading into halftime but with McCaffrey’s inexperience at QB, they went conservative in the 2nd half. Nebraska went run heavy for most of the 2nd half with 25 rush attempts and just 6 pass attempts when McCaffrey was calling signals. With Nebraska down 38-31, Vedral did return for the final offensive drive of the game but came up short in his attempt to tie the game with the Huskers getting shut out on downs in IU territory. The Cornhuskers had more than a 2 to 1 rushing advantage but their defense couldn’t stop Indiana back up QB Peyton Ramsey who torched them for 351 yards passing. We’ll have to keep a close eye on the QB situation for Nebraska this week. Martinez suited up last week and went through warm ups but didn’t play. If he can’t go this weekend and Vedral is still banged up, McCaffrey may get his first collegiate start.
Purdue looked like they had some momentum heading into last week’s home game vs Illinois. They roasted Maryland two weeks ago 40-14 and then took Iowa to the limit on the road losing 26-20. They entered last week’s game as a 10-point favorite vs the Illinois and lost 24-6. It was a sloppy game played in a down pour with Illinois jumping out to a 24-0 lead at the end of the 3rd quarter. The Boilers finally got on the board with under 6:00 minutes remaining in the game to avoid their first shutout since 2013. Freshman QB Jack Plummer came into the game on a red hot run throwing for 750 yards and 5 TD’s in his previous 2 games. On Saturday he struggled throwing a pick 6 to give Illinois a 10-0 lead in the first half. Plummer was benched for a few series after that in favor of Aidan O’Connell, who had attempted 1 pass this year prior to Saturday. Head coach Jeff Brohm gave Plummer another chance in the 2nd half and he proceeded to turn the ball over again, this time with a fumble. Brohm then sent O’Connell back in to finish the game and he led Purdue to their only TD of the game. Neither QB did much of anything in the poor weather conditions as they combined to complete only 45% of their passes for just 135 yards. With both QB’s struggling, Purdue was able to generate 135 yards rushing which may not seem like much but it was their highest rush total of the season.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Last year Purdue was favored by 3.5 points AT Nebraska and rolled up a 42-28 win. Both teams had over 500 yards of offense. Nebraska with another non-cover last week has dropped to 1-7 ATS this with their only pointspread win coming vs Northern Illinois. The Huskers are 0-2 ATS as a road favorite this year, however entering this year they were 24-15 ATS in that role since the start of the 2003 season. Since the start of last season, Purdue is 4-1 ATS as a home underdog (1-1 this season). However, prior to last season, they were a money burning 7-21 ATS as a home dog from November of 2011 through the 2017 season.
MICHIGAN (-21) @ MARYLAND
Well it looks like the Wolverines have finally turned the corner. Over the last 7 to 8 quarters their offense has looked like the explosive unit from last year and the one they expected to field this year. They roasted Notre Dame 45-14 and their offense put up 437 yards. In their last 2 games vs Penn State & Notre Dame, two very good defensive units, the Michigan offense has 854 total yards of offense. Last Saturday they completed only 8 passes but punished the Irish on the ground for 303 yards rushing. While they didn’t need to lean on him last week because of their running game, Michigan’s top WR Ronnie Bell was injured in the 2nd half vs Notre Dame and may not play this weekend. They were dominant in the trenches on both sides of the ball holding Notre Dame to 47 yards rushing and 180 yards of total offense. That was against an Irish offense that was averaging 454 YPG coming into last week with their lowest offensive output prior to last week being 321 yards @ Georgia. Since their embarrassing 35-14 loss @ Wisconsin, the Wolverine defense has not allowed any of their next 5 opponents to reach 300 yards of total offense. Michigan has outgained their last 5 opponents (since the Wisconsin game) by a combined 950 yards or 190 YPG. An interested side note to this game, Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis and Maryland head coach Mike Locksley were co-offensive coordinators last year at Alabama. Locksley tried to hire Gattis as the OC at Maryland but he chose Michigan and there has been some bad blood between the two ever since. They finally get to hash it out on the field on Saturday with each calling the offensive plays for their respective offense.
Maryland continued their downward trend losing their 6th game in their last 7 tries with Minnesota hammering the Terps 52-10. It was the 4th time in the last 5 games the Maryland defense has allowed at least 34 points and their opponents put up at least 40 in 3 of those games. Not a great recipe for success now having to face a surging Michigan offense. Maryland has been drastically outgained in 5 of their last 6 games with the only outlier being their win vs Rutgers. The QB position is in question right now with starter Josh Jackson still bothered by an ankle injury, his back up Tyrell Pigrome left last week’s game with an injury leaving 3rd stringer Tyler DeSue to finished out the game. DeSue, who had attempted just 3 career passes before Saturday, finished 4 of 12 for 88 yards. The Terps were hoping Jackson would be back to full strength and they gave him a shot in the first half. He came in for one series and didn’t come back after that signaling he was not physically ready to play. If Jackson, an Ann Arbor native, can’t go vs the Wolverines on Saturday, DeSue may make the first start of his career. The Turtle defense was shredded for 321 yards on the ground including 13 Minnesota runs of 10 yards or more. Now they face a Michigan running game that put up over 300 yards on Notre Dame last week. The Terrapins once promising season (they started 2-0) looks bleak now with a 3-5 record. They must win 3 of their final 4 games to assure themselves a bowl bid and with Michigan, @ Ohio State, Nebraska, and @ Michigan State on deck, that looks highly unlikely.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – This opened with Michigan favored by -17 and has shot up to -21 as of this writing. Since joining the Big Ten in 2014, Maryland has been an underdog in all 5 meetings with the Wolverines covering only one of those contests (Michigan 4-1 ATS in the series). The Wolverines have won 4 straight in this series with each of those wins coming by at least 21 points. Last season Michigan was favored by 17.5 points at home vs Maryland and squeaked out a cover 42-21. Since 2007, Michigan has been a road favorite of 17 points or more 7 times and they are 1-6 ATS in those games. The Terps are just 5-12 ATS their last 17 games as an underdog.
NORTHWESTERN @ INDIANA (-12)
The story with Northwestern continues to be an offense that simply cannot put points on the board. They were shutout last week 20-0 at home vs Iowa tallying just 202 yards and the Cats were held to 1.8 YPC on the ground. It was the 2nd straight game that the Wildcats failed to score a TD. How bad has it been for this offense? They have scored a grand total of ONE offensive TD in their last 40 offensive possessions dating back to the 4th quarter of their game @ Wisconsin on September 28th. That’s ONE offensive TD over their last 217 offensive snaps. They are converting just 32% of their 3rd downs on the season. The Wildcats have played 2 QB’s for the majority of the season with Aidan Smith starting the last 3 games and Hunter Johnson taking most of the snaps prior to that. Neither has been good as they both complete less than 50% of their passes and have combined for just 2, yes 2 TD passes this season with 10 interceptions. Their defense continues to play fairly well holding 4 of their 7 opponents to 20 points or less. The only teams to top 20 points on this stop unit were Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan State. With an offense that can’t produce, turnover margin becomes extremely important and Northwestern is -7 on the year in that category as well (12th in the Big Ten). Let’s not forget this team won the Big Ten West last year and now unless they run the table (current 1-6 record) they will not be going to a bowl game this season.
Unlike Northwestern, Indiana will be heading to a bowl this season as they picked up their 6th win last week @ Nebraska 38-31. The Hoosiers played with an extra edge on Saturday as Indiana felt disrespected by a few statements by Nebraska coach Scott Frost in the off-season. Allegedly Frost mentioned something to the tune of “I wish we played Indiana more often” when referencing his cross-division schedule with the Big Ten East. The Hoosiers players and coaches used that as motivation and picked up a big road win. After beating Maryland on the road a week earlier, it was the first time since 2015 that the Hoosiers won back to back conference road games. It was IU’s 3rd straight win overall and their 4th win in 5 games. Starting QB Michael Penix was out here but as we’ve stated in past editions, the Hoosiers really have 2 starters at that position as Peyton Ramsey started all last season and has started a number of games this year in relief of the injured Penix. Ramsey stepped up big time again last Saturday throwing for a career high 351 yards and completed 68% of his passes. For those following, IU is now ranked 2nd in the Big Ten and 31st nationally in total offense. They are averaging 312 YPG through the air ranking them 11th nationally. They’ve scored more than 30 points in every game this season with the exception of Ohio State. What often goes unnoticed about this team is their defense. They are allowing just 324 YPG which ranks them 26 in the nation! That’s a full 100 YPG less than they allowed last season. This team is pretty good and just starting to get noticed. They have only 2 losses this season, one vs Ohio State and the other @ Michigan State in a game that was tied with under 10 seconds remaining. They have a bye after this game followed by tough games @ PSU and home vs Michigan.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These 2 have not met since 2016 and Northwestern had won 5 straight in the series and they are 13-3 SU the last 16 meetings. This is the first time since the 2007 meeting that IU is favored in this series and the current spread of -11 is the highest IU has laid in this meeting since 1992. Since 1993, Indiana has been a double digit favorite in Big 10 play just 11 times (2-9 ATS). Northwestern has been a money maker when getting 10 or more points with a 16-7 ATS record their last 23 and they’ve won 10 of those games outright.
RUTGERS @ ILLINOIS (-20.5)
Rutgers has lost 17 straight games vs Big 10 foes so what did they do last week? They stepped outside the conference and beat Liberty 44-34 as a 7.5 point underdog. The previous sentence tells you all you need to know about how far the Rutgers program has fallen. While they did win, they were more than a TD underdog, at home, vs a team that moved their program to the FBS level just 2 years ago. After scoring a TOTAL of 30 points over their previous 6 games, the Rutgers offense exploded for 44 points on 463 yards of offense. The Rutgers new option based offense, implemented nearly a month ago by interim coach Nunzio Campanile, finally clicked with the Knights rushing for 271yards, their highest mark this season. It was the first time since October of 2017 that they rushed for more than 250 yards as a team. Starting freshman QB Johnny Langan became the first Rutgers QB since 1961 to rush for more than 100 yards. He also threw for 192 yards and completed 71% of his passes vs the Flames. Prior to last Saturday’s effort, Langan was completing just 47% of his passes for an average of 70 YPG through the air in his 3 starts this season. The announced attendance of 23,000 (about half that was actually in the stands) was the Knights lowest for a home game since 2005. Unfortunately for Rutgers, they move back into Big 10 play this week traveling to Illinois.
The Illini were in a prime letdown spot last week after upsetting Wisconsin on a last second FG the previous Saturday. Heading to West Lafayette to face a Purdue team that looked like they were starting to turn the corner set up for a potential bad spot for Illinois. Instead they moved to 4-4 on the season with an impressive 24-6 win over the Boilers. The Illini defense held Purdue to their lowest point total (6) since the Boilermakers were shut out vs Ohio State back in 2013. That was an Illinois defense that was allowing 37 PPG in Big 10 play this year and 39 PPG in conference play dating back to the start of the 2017 season. Part of their defensive success can be attributed to the weather which was windy and rainy throughout. Purdue was unable to establish any type of passing attack due in part to the poor weather conditions and they can’t run the ball (129th nationally) thus the poor offensive showing. On offense, Illinois stuck to the ground game throughout with starting QB Brandon Peters completing only 3 passes the entire game. They ran the ball 53 times for 242 yards. What was a season spiral downward just a few weeks ago, now has Illinois just 2 games from being bowl eligible. If they can pick up a home win vs Rutgers on Saturday, they would need just one win vs either Michigan State, Iowa, or Northwestern and they’d be bowling for the first time since 2014.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Illinois was a 4.5 point road favorite last year and topped Rutgers 38-17. As we stated above, Rutgers has now lost 17 consecutive Big 10 games. They have lost all but 3 of those 17 games by at least 13 points. The average score of those 17 losses was 33-7. Illinois has been a double digit underdog in all 5 of their Big 10 games this year and now they are laying 20 points! They have been a Big 10 favorite of 20 or more points and grand total of ONCE since 1992 (a SU loss to Minnesota as a 21 point favorite back in 2010). Illinois has been a home favorite 49 times since the start of the 2003 season. They have covered just 19 of those 49 games. They are 0-8 ATS the last 8 times they’ve been favored at home in conference play dating back to 2010.