BIG TEN GAMES FOR NOVEMBER 29th & 30th
IOWA (-5.5) @ NEBRASKA – Friday
WISCONSIN (-3) @ MINNESOTA
OHIO STATE (-9) @ MICHIGAN
INDIANA (-6.5) @ PURDUE
NORTHWESTERN @ ILLINOIS (-8.5)
MARYLAND @ MICHIGAN STATE (-22)
RUTGERS @ PENN STATE (-40.5)
IOWA (-5.5) @ NEBRASKA – Friday
While the Iowa offense remains quite pedestrian, the defense has been playing top notch for much of the season but especially as of late. Their 19-10 win over Illinois last week marked the Illini’s lowest scoring output of the season. It was the 2nd consecutive week that the Hawkeye defense held their opponent to a season low in scoring after limiting Minnesota to just 19 points 2 weeks ago. Even more impressive, they’ve held 8 of their 11 opponents this year to their season low in points. Now if they only had a more potent offense this team would be outstanding. They moved the ball OK on Saturday with 387 total yards they just struggle to finish with TD’s settling for FG’s way too often. The Iowa offense actually got inside the Illinois 40-yard line on 9 of their 13 offensive possessions and scored a grand total of ONE touchdown. They settled for 4 FG’s and actually missed 2 FG’s on top of that. For the season, in conference play, the Hawkeyes have made 20 FG’s while scoring only 11 TD’s. They are the ONLY team in the Big 10 that has more made FG’s than TD’s. They may have to step up their offensive game on Saturday facing a surging Nebraska team in their season finale.
The Huskers offense has come alive. It took nearly the entire season but they are now playing like many felt they would entering this year. Nebraska ended the 2018 season scoring an average of 36 PPG over their final 7 games and that included a 9 point performance vs Michigan State in a windy snowstorm. This year they were held to 10 points or less in 3 of their first 4 conference games but they look like they are now rounding into form. Last week they put up a season high 54 points on 531 yards. A week earlier they only scored 21 points vs a very good Wisconsin defense, however the Huskers had 493 yards which was the most allowed by the Badger defense this season. The defense did their part allowing just 3.9 YPP and registering 6 sacks which equaled their total from the previous 5 games combined. It was Nebraska’s first win since October 5th snapping a string of 4 consecutive losses. It was also just the 2nd time the Huskers have covered the spread this season. Now sitting at 5-6, a win at home over Iowa next Friday would put the Huskers into a bowl game for the first time since 2016. Windy conditions with potential rain & sleet for this game.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The Hawkeyes were favored by 7.5 at home last year and squeaked out a 31-28 win kicking a FG as time expired. Iowa has won 5 of the last 6 in this series and covered 6 of the last 9. Iowa is 2-0 SU and ATS as a road favorite in this series. Nebraska is just 2-9 ATS and they are 0-7 ATS their last 7 as a home underdog, 0-2 ATS this year in that situation. Hawkeyes are 1-0 ATS as a conference road favorite this year and 15-2 ATS in this situation dating back to 2011.
WISCONSIN (-3) @ MINNESOTA
This one is for all the marbles in the Big 10 West. The winner moves on to play Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship game on December 7th. The Badgers picked up a 45-24 win over Purdue in their home finale falling short of the 24.5 point spread. Wisconsin put up a huge 607 total yards including over 400 yards on the ground! That performance moves them into 2nd in the Big 10 in total offense averaging 441 YPG trailing only Ohio State. Unfortunately their defense which was once nearly impenetrable has shown some signs of regressing over the last few weeks. A Purdue team that can’t run (50 yards rushing in the game) and is down to their 3rd string QB put up 376 total yards. A week earlier Nebraska had nearly 500 total yards. The last 2 games combined Wisconsin’s defense has allowed 873 yards and 7.1 yards per play. After allowing a mere 5 PPG over their first 6 games, they have given up an average of 26 PPG their last 5 contests. It doesn’t get any easier this week as they face off against a Minnesota offense that ranks 2nd in the Big Ten in scoring (36 PPG).
Minnesota bounced back from their first loss of the season with a 38-22 win @ Northwestern. The Gophers were favored by 14 points for much of the week but once they announced starting QB Tanner Morgan passed concussion protocol and would be the starter the line jumped to 16 at some spots landing right on the number. The Minnesota offense continued to roll topping 30 points for the 7th time in 8 conference games. The only defense to hold this offense in check was Iowa limiting them to 19 points however the Gophs did have 431 yards in that game. That offense now is led by the top passer in the Big 10 with Morgan averaging 243 YPG through the air. They also have the top 2 receivers in the league with Bateman and Johnson both averaging 93 YPG receiving (1st and 2nd in the league), and a RB, Rodney Jones, that ranks 3rd in the league in rushing. The defense was not stellar allowing a Northwestern team that had scored a total of 64 points over their first 7 conference games, to put up 22 points. The Cats, who had 7 TD’s in conference play entering the game, had 3 in this one alone. Keep an eye on the weather in this one. The forecast early in the week calls for potential snow and windy conditions on Saturday.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Wisconsin won this battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe 14 consecutive years until last season when the Gophers rolled to a 37-15 win as a 12-point underdog. Going back even further the Badgers are 21-3 SU the last 24 in this series. The underdog has covered 9 of the last 12 in this Big 10 rivalry. Gophers are 12-3 ATS their last 15 games as a home underdog. Badgers are just 3-5 both SU and ATS that last 2 seasons on the road in Big 10 play. However, leading into last season they were 15-1 SU (12-4 ATS) their last 16 Big 10 road games. Surprisingly, this has been a fairly high scoring series with 15 of the last 19 going over the total.
OHIO STATE (-9) @ MICHIGAN
The Buckeyes clinched the Big 10 East with a tighter than expected 28-17 win over Penn State. OSU led 14-0 at half (we had first half play -10.5 for a winner) and could have been up 21-0 if not for a fumble on the 1-yard line by QB Justin Fields as he was diving into the endzone. At halftime the Buckeyes had rolled up 245 yards to just 64 yards for Penn State. OSU scored on their opening 2nd half possession and at 21-0 it looked like another breezy win for the Buckeyes. PSU responded with a TD and then Ohio State turned it over on each of their next 2 possessions and the Nittany Lions countered with 10 points off those turnovers to make it a 21-17 game. Despite the 11 point margin, Ohio State dominated the game with a 417-227 yard advantage and if not for the 3 turnovers, we might be talking about another runaway win. After covering 8 games in a row, the money train that is/was the Buckeyes has been tripped up a bit with back to back non-covers vs Rutgers and Penn State.
Michigan was in a tough spot last week but continued to play very well. They were coming off a rivalry win vs Michigan State and had Ohio State on deck. On top of that, the game was actually pretty much meaningless in the big scheme of things as Michigan was out of the picture as far as winning the Big 10 East. Despite that, they dominated a solid Indiana team 39-10. QB Shea Patterson continued his torrid pace throwing for 5 TD’s. In his last 2 games Patterson has thrown for a combined 750 yards and 9 TD’s. Michigan has now won 7 of their last 8 games with their last 4 all coming by at least 25 points. They held an IU offense that had scored at least 30 points in 8 of their first 10 games to just 2 TD’s and only 3.3 yards per play. After scoring TD’s on 2 of their first 3 offensive possessions, Indiana was completely stonewalled the rest of the way. After their 3rd possession, the Michigan defense held them scoreless on 182 total yards with 120 of those yard coming on their final 2 drives when the game was out of reach. The Wolverine defense has now allowed 14 points or less in 4 straight games. Are they now primed to end their 7 game losing streak at home vs OSU on Saturday? Rainy and windy conditions possible for this huge match up.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Michigan entered last year’s contest @ OSU with a 9-1 SU record and they were a -3.5 point favorite on the road. OSU proceeded to gain nearly 600 yards and blast the Wolverines 62-39. That was the Buckeyes 14th win over Michigan in the last 15 seasons. Since 2000, Ohio State has been a road favorite 6 times in this series. They are 6-0 SU & 4-2 ATS in those games. The Wolverines have been a home underdog of 7 or more just 5 times since 1980 (all games) and they are 4-1 ATS in those games – 4 of those 5 were vs the Buckeyes (3-1 ATS).
INDIANA (-6.5) @ PURDUE
Indiana was in a great spot to get a home upset last week facing a Michigan team that was coming in off a big win over MSU with Ohio State on deck. It didn’t happen as the Hoosiers were dominated 39-14 marking their 2nd lowest point total for Indiana this year. The 321 total yards put up by Indiana was their 2nd lowest output of the season as well. QB Peyton Ramsey was hit hard in the midsection in the first half and didn’t look the same after that. He continued to play but only completed 17 passes for just over 200 yards. He also threw an interception and did not throw a TD pass. IU played without their top WR Philyor and picked up a few more key injuries during the game as top RB Scott and starting LT Bedford left the game. After back to back big game losses to Penn State & Michigan, the Hoosiers travel to Purdue and they are already locked into a bowl bid with 7 wins. That’s a drastically different situation than the last 2 seasons when they entered this game having to win to get to bowl eligible. In order to make sure his team remains focused, head coach Tom Allen has posted signs all over the IU facilities saying “What have you done today to beat Purdue?” We’ll see if that helps get this team to put those losses behind them and focus on the Boilers.
Purdue will not be going to a bowl game this year as their 45-24 loss last week @ Wisconsin guaranteed they will have a losing record this year. That is a change from the last 2 season when they entered this rivalry game with a 5-6 record and won both years to qualify for a bowl game and knocked IU out as they were also 5-6 entering this game. Last week the Boilermakers were off a bye entering their game @ Wisconsin and pulled out all the stops running a number of trick plays and using formations the Badgers had not seen. It worked for a half as Purdue trailed only 24-17 at the break and had a surprising 226 yards at that point. They were held to just 7 points and 150 total yards. As we’ve said before in this report, their running game has been horrible. They had only 50 yards rushing last week and that puts all kinds of pressure on QB O’Connell who started the season as their 3rd stringer. He played well with 289 yards passing and 2 TD’s but couldn’t overcome a Purdue defense that allowed over 600 yards on 8.0 yards per play. Even with a +3 turnover margin for the game, they were still beaten by 21 points. It will be interesting to see how Purdue responds with no bowl hopes in sight. 90% chance of rain at game time as of this posting.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – 4 of the last 5 games in this series have been one score games (8 points or less). Purdue won each of the last 2 seasons by 7 points including @ Indiana last year 28-21 as a 3-opint favorite. Indiana has been a road favorite in this series only ONCE since 1990 – win and cover in 2015. Dating back to October of 2016, IU has been a road favorite (all games) just 6 times and they are 0-6 ATS.
NORTHWESTERN @ ILLINOIS (-8.5)
Don’t look now but Northwestern may have found an offense. After averaging just 9 PPG through their first 7 Big 10 contests, the Cats broke out last Saturday with 22 points vs Minnesota. It wasn’t enough as their defense allowed 38 points to the Gophs but at least the offense looked semi efficient. We won’t go crazy here as the Wildcats still only had 223 total yards but they may get a boost from a new signal caller. Hunter Johnson, who hadn’t started a game since late September, stepped in as the starter here with Aidan Smith injured. Johnson exited last week with an injury after attempting only 2 passes so head coach Pat Fitzgerald was forced to call upon Andrew Marty, who was the 4th string QB at the beginning of the season. Marty stepped under center in the 2nd quarter down 21-0 and immediately led the Cats to their first TD of the game. He then proceeded to lead them on 3 TD drives in his 6 possessions which is pretty darn impressive for this offense. While his overall stats didn’t stand out, he did have 95 yards passing (80% completion rate) and he led the Wildcats with 56 yards rushing. After winning the Big 10 West crown last year, can the Cats finally pick up their FIRST conference win this season visiting their in-state rival on Saturday?
The roles in this series have taken a serious turn in just one year’s time. Last season, these two met with Northwestern playing to capture the Big 10 West title while Illinois was just finishing out the year with only 3 wins. This year it’s Northwestern looking for their first conference win while Illinois is already bowl eligible with a 6-5 record. The Illini had their 4 game winning streak stopped at Iowa last Saturday losing 19-10. While they did lose the game, they picked up another cover which was their 7th in the last 8 games. They sit at 4-4 in the Big 10 but as we’ve mentioned before, they have gotten a lot of breaks to get to that point. They had no reason beating Wisconsin or Michigan State as they were outplayed fairly drastically in both games. The Illini are averaging 306 YPG (4.8 YPP) and allowing 440 YPG (5.8 YPP). So at -134 YPG and -1.0 YPP in league play, to be sitting at 4-4 is quite fortunate. Now they sit in a situation they are not really used to. They have been a double digit underdog in 6 of their last 7 games and now they are laying more than a TD vs Northwestern on Saturday. A win here would put them above .500 in conference play for the first time since 2007. Rain & wind here as well.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Last season Northwestern was favored by 16 in this game and they are now +8 so a full 24-point swing from just one year ago. The Cats won 24-16 but did not cover last year and the Illini actually outgained them 435 to 371. Since 1980, these two rivals have met 39 times with Illinois covering just 15 times. Northwestern is 12-4 ATS the last 16 times they’ve faced Illinois as a dog of more than a TD. The Illini have covered 6 straight games entering this game while Northwestern has lost 6 in a row to the number.
MARYLAND @ MICHIGAN STATE (-22)
Maryland’s season continues to spiral downward and may have hit rock bottom last week when they were destroyed 54-7 by Nebraska at home. The Huskers came into the game having lost 5 of their last 6 games with their only win during that stretch coming by 3 points vs Northwestern who is winless in the Big 10. Despite that the Terps were dominated on their home field getting outgained by 325 yards and outrushed by 156 yards. It was the fourth straight game that Maryland failed to top 14 points. Since beating Rutgers in early October, the Terrapins have lost 6 consecutive games with only one cover during that stretch which was only by a half point. During that 6 game run, Maryland has been outgained by 1,561 yards (-260 YPG) and outscored by 211 points (-35 PPG). They are now dead last in the Big 10 (conference games) in total defense allowing 508 YPG and scoring defense allowing 44 PPG. If there was ever a team that looks like they are simply playing out the stretch run in hopes of getting to the end of the season, it’s this Maryland team. Rallying on the road in their season finale will be tough.
Michigan State’s 27-0 win @ Rutgers last week pulls their record up to 5-6 meaning this game will either move them to bowl eligible with a win or end their season with a loss. The Spartan offense continues to be a concern as they were only able to put up 27 points on a Rutgers defense that is allowing 41 PPG on conference play. Rutgers had allowed 35 points or more in every other Big 10 game this season before Saturday. MSU averaged only 5.1 YPP vs a defense that is allowing 6.6 YPP in league play. They led 17-0 at half but blew a few chances to be up by a larger margin including getting stopped at the 1-yard line on fourth and goal. The Michigan State defense was fantastic as most have been vs the inept Rutgers offense. They held the Knights to just 140 total yards and allowed only THREE plays of more than 10 yards the entire game. MSU forced Rutgers to a 3 and out on every first half possession (6 punts and the half ran out during their 7th possession). Sparty was favored by 22 in that game and picked up their first cover since September 21st. Now favored by that same number at home vs Maryland, can they pull it off on back to back weeks to become bowl eligible? Sleet and freezing rain expected for this game.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – All 5 games in this series have been decided by at least 10 points. Last year MSU went to Maryland as a 3-point favorite and dominated the game 28-3. The Terps had 100 yards of total offense in the game. Maryland is 1-7 SU (2-6 ATS) in Big 10 play and 6 of their 7 conference losses have come by at least 26 points. This spread with MSU -22 is tied for the largest of the season (they were -22 vs Tulsa in the season opener). The Spartans are 0-1 ATS this year as a favorite of -21 or more and 0-8 ATS their last 8 in that spot.
RUTGERS @ PENN STATE (-40.5)
The Rutgers offense has been beyond bad this season. With the Knights and Northwestern, the Big 10 has 2 of the 3 worst scoring offenses in the nation. Last week the Knights were shut out 27-0 at home vs Michigan State meaning they have been held scoreless in half of the conference games this year (4). They have now scored 6 TD’s and kicked 1 FG in 8 conference games this year. That’s it. They are averaging 5.6 PPG in Big 10 play. Last Saturday they had 7 first half possessions and their longest play was in the first 30 minutes was 7 yards. Rutgers now gains fewer yards per play (3.3) and allows more yards per play (6.6) than anyone else in the Big 10. On Saturday they face their 3rd top 30 defense in the last 3 weeks so don’t expect their offense to look any better this week as they try and avoid a winless conference season.
How does Penn State respond after last week’s gigantic game @ OSU? That game was basically for the Big 10 East title and PSU come up short 28-17. It looked like it was going to be another runaway win for Ohio State as they jumped out to a 21-0 lead very early in the 2nd half. PSU took advantage of back to back OSU turnovers scoring 17 points in the span of 4:00 minutes cutting the lead to 21-17. After kicking a FG with 3:12 left in the 3rd quarter, the Nittany Lions were only able to gain 48 yards from that point on. They were forced to go with their back up QB Will Levis for much of the 2nd half after starter Sean Clifford exited with an injury. Clifford is listed at the starter on this week’s depth chart so it looks like his will be good to go in the season finale. Despite the fairly tight final score last week, PSU (9-2 on the season) was outgained by 190 yards making in the 6th time in their 11 games they’ve had fewer yards than their opponent. They obviously shouldn’t have any problem with an overmatched Rutgers team this week but do they have enough left in the tank to cover this huge number? This is the only Big 10 game where weather doesn’t look like it will be a factor with temps in the upper 30’s light winds and no precipitation. Of course it’s Wednesday and that could change so keep an eye on this.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – PSU is 18-1 SU (10-9 ATS) in this series since 1980. The lone Rutgers win during that stretch was 21-16 back in 1988. The Nittany Lions have never been an underdog in this series, however they’ve never been favored by more than 31 until today. Penn State was a 28.5 point favorite last year on the road and topped Rutgers 20-7 (no cover). Rutgers is 1-7 ATS this season as an underdog of 14 points or more. With this spread set at or above -40, it’s the first time since 1999 that PSU has been a favorite of this magnitude.