BIG TEN MATCH UPS & ODDS FOR THIS WEEKEND
PENN STATE (-3.5) @ IOWA
MICHIGAN STATE @ WISCONSIN (-10.5)
NEBRASKA @ MINNESOTA (-7.5)
RUTGERS @ INDIANA (-28)
MICHIGAN (-22.5) @ ILLINOIS
MARYLAND (-3.5) @ PURDUE
PENN STATE (-3.5) @ IOWA
After struggling with Pitt in their final non-conference game (17-10 win) the Nittany Lions have absolutely rolled over their first two Big Ten opponents (Purdue & Maryland) to remain a perfect 5-0. After beating Purdue 35-7 last week, they have now outscored their 2 Big Ten opponents 94-7 and outgained them by a whopping 850 yards! Their defense has been ridiculously good in those two games holding a fairly potent Maryland offense to 128 total yards and Purdue to 104 total yards. They have allowed only 4 offensive TD’s through 5 games. We felt that their new starting QB Sean Clifford, who may not have even been the starter had Tommy Stevens not transferred to Mississippi State, had some questions entering Big Ten play. He wasn’t completing a high percentage of his passes in non-conference play but had a number of big plays through the air. He has answered those questions thus far completing 46 of his 60 attempts for 6 TD’s in his 2 Big Ten games. This team ranks 2nd in the NCAA in scoring defense and 5th in scoring offense beating teams by an average of 38 points per game. Are they really that good? We’re not 100% sure as they have yet to play a ranked opponents (until this weekend) and their opponents cumulative record is 12 wins and 16 losses. They’ve also played only one road game so far this season. We’ll find out more on Saturday and in the next few weeks as they face Michigan & Michigan State following this game. If PSU goes into Iowa City and handles the Hawkeyes, they may just be as good as their stats say they are.
Iowa went into Michigan with a 4-0 record and walked out with their first loss of the season 10-3. Entering the game Iowa had committed just one turnover the entire season and they proceeded to cough up 4 turnovers last Saturday. They rely heavily on their running game to open up their passing attack, very similar to Wisconsin. That running game was a no go on Saturday as the Wolverines held them to just 1 yard rushing on 30 carries. That made them fairly one-dimensional offensively which allowed Michigan to tee off on QB Nate Stanley sacking him 8 times. The yardage was close with the Wolverines outgaining the Hawkeyes by 6 yards, however Iowa ran 13 more offensive plays in the game. The Iowa offense has been very inconsistent scoring 30 or more in 3 of their games vs lower level defenses, but struggling with 10 points @ Michigan and 18 points @ Iowa State. They did get all Big Ten LT Jackson back from injury so that should help moving forward. The defense has been great allowing 17 points or less in every game this season. They have allowed only 5 offensive TD’s in their 5 games this season. One could argue the defense might not be as impressive as their stats have played out as 4 of their 5 opponents rank 90th or lower in total offense. However, they did play one very good offense in Iowa State who ranks 15th in total offense and 21st in scoring offense and Iowa held them to only 17 points. ISU’s most recent game they dropped 49 on a TCU defense that had held 3 of their first 4 opponents to 14 points or fewer. We think Iowa’s defense is very solid. We’ll find out this weekend when they face a Penn State offense that has scored nearly 100 points in their first 2 Big Ten games.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Since October of 2000, Iowa has been a home underdog 20 times. They are 13-5-2 ATS in those games. Last year PSU was favored by 5.5 points last year at home. Now they are laying nearly the same number (-3.5 or -4) on the road. The host in this Big 10 series has covered 5 of the last 6. Since 1996 Iowa has been a home dog vs PSU three times – the Hawkeyes have covered all three of those games.
MICHIGAN STATE @ WISCONSIN (-10.5)
This is a tough scheduling spot for MSU who played a night game @ Ohio State last Saturday. Back to back road games vs top 10 teams who both have top 5 defenses is not ideal. The Spartans were the latest victim to fall to the OSU machine last Saturday losing 34-10 in Columbus as 20 point underdogs. The Spartan defense looked very good early holding Ohio State to just 16 yards in the first quarter which included zero yards on the ground. The Buckeye offense looked unstoppable from that point on ripping through a very good Michigan State defense for 513 yards including 323 yards rushing in the final 3 quarters. Heading into their game on Saturday @ OSU, the Spartan defense had allowed 279 total yards rushing on the year in their first 5 games on just 1.8 YPR. On Saturday they gave up 323 yards rushing, the 2nd most in the Mark Dantonio era, on 6.6 YPR to the Buckeyes. After allowing 34 points to the Bucks, this MSU defense has now given up 30+ points in back to back games for the first time since 2016. The offense seemed to find some rhythm at times in the passing game with QB Lewerke completing 20 passes for over 200 yards. The running game was non-existent averaging only 2.5 YPR vs the Buckeyes great run defense (9th nationally). They may have problems again on Saturday with the Wisconsin defense giving up only 45 YPG on the ground (2nd nationally). While the OSU offense was struggling in the first quarter on Saturday, the Spartan offense failed to take advantage and turned the ball over on 2 of their first 4 plays of the game. They had a chance to possibly put Ohio State on their heals for the first time this year but they were unable to as Sparty’s offense remains extremely inconsistent. This weekend they head to Madison for the first time since 2012 with hopes they can somehow find a running game (currently ranked 100th in rushing) and somehow slow down RB Jonathan Taylor. Keep an eye on the potential cold (low 40’s) and windy weather in Madison on Saturday.
Wisconsin comes into this game with a perfect 5-0 record with their only non-cover coming vs Northwestern. Last week they played host to Kent State and buried the Flashes 48-0 outgaining them by 396 yards. The Badgers got off to a quick start scoring a TD on their first drive of the game. They are the only FBS team to score a TD on every opening drive this season, all of the TD’s were scored by RB Jonathan Taylor. On Saturday the Badgers play host to Michigan State in their fifth consecutive home game. Wisconsin has played only one road game this season and that was @ USF back on late August. Offensively this team goes as Taylor goes. If someone finally slows him down, we’re not sure QB Jack Coan is equipped to carry an offense on his back. While Coan has been very efficient, much of that success has come as a result of their strong running game keeping opposing defenses off balance. MSU will be the best rush defense this team has faced this season and we’re pretty sure they’ll stack the line and try to make Coan beat them. Sparty’s run defense was stifling this season until last week when OSU ran all over them. The Wisconsin defense ranks #1 nationally in total defense, pass defense, 3rd down % defense, YPP allowed and #2 in rush defense. They are obviously very good. Are they as good as their rankings? The offenses teams played thus far rank 74th, 93rd, 108th, 111th, and 126th this season in total offense. We’re not sure we’ll get a better feel this weekend as MSU’s offense ranks 81st and isn’t dynamic on that side of the ball. We may not find out until Wisconsin plays @ Ohio State in 2 weeks.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – This is the first time since 2012 that MSU has visited Camp Randall Stadium. The last 10 times Sparty has been a Big 10 road underdog of 13 points or less, they are 8-2 ATS in that spot. The game following MSU’s last 10 regular season SU losses, they are 7-3 ATS. Going back to 1980, Michigan State has been an underdog 10 or more 61 times and they are 37-24 ATS is those games. Since 2004, the dog in his series is 8-1 ATS.
NEBRASKA @ MINNESOTA (-7.5)
The Huskers bounced back last week after their embarrassment on National TV vs Ohio State the week before. They topped Northwestern 13-10 on a FG as time expired by back up kicker Lane McCallum who actually came to Nebraska to play safety. He took over the kicking duties earlier this year when the Huskers actual kicker Isaac Armstrong was injured. Simply another close game between the Huskers & Wildcats as 7 of their 9 meetings have come by a single score. Nebraska picked up the win despite having two of their top offensive players on the sidelines for the 4th quarter. Starting QB Martinez was injured late in the 3rd quarter and did not return. His top WR Spielman also went out in the 3rd and did not return. Head coach Scott Frost said neither injury is serious and they will wait until Saturday to see if either or both can play. We know as of midweek Martinez had not practice and back up QB Vedral was taking snaps with the #1 offense. Frost said that Martinez has obviously had plenty of snaps in his career so his practice time this week isn’t vital. If he can go on Saturday, he’ll go. Vedral, who has some experience with 48 career pass attempts, came in and completed 2 passes in the 4th quarter for 41 yards. He’s not a great passer completing just 37% of his passes since the beginning of last year, but he can do some damage on the ground. He had 33 yards rushing in the 4th quarter last week. The defense looked much better last week after allowing 86 points in their first 2 Big Ten games. While the 10 points and 286 yards allowed last Saturday were impressive, keep in mind Northwestern currently ranks 126th in total offense and 129th (out of 130) in scoring offense. The fact is, Nebraska’s defense has been very poor for 2+ seasons now. Coming into last weeks game, NU had allowed a total of 733 points over their last 20 Big Ten games (36 PPG allowed) dating back to the start of the 2017 season.
The Gophers have been trying all season to getting their running game to at least look formidable. Head coach PJ Fleck felt that was one of their offensive strengths coming into the season and it simply hasn’t been even close to that. In their first 4 games Minnesota had rushed for a total of 463 yards on 176 carries for only 2.6 YPC. Last week the broke out for 332 yards on the ground in a 40-17 win over Illinois. It was against an Illini defense that has allowed nearly 700 yards on the ground in their 2 Big Ten games and ranks 98th nationally at stopping the run. Rodney Smith led the way with 211 yards rushing and Shannon Brooks, who returned 2 weeks ago from injury, has 111 on the ground. After an embarrassing loss last year @ Illinois where the Minnesota defense allowed a ridiculous 430 yards rushing, they were ready to atone for that performance last Saturday. They did just that allowing Illinois only 91 yards on 27 carries. Now facing a Nebraska defense that ranks 81st nationally in rush defense, it looks like Minnesota has a chance to make it back to back games with a successful running game. Weather will definitely be something to keep an eye in here. As of this writing, the forecast for Saturday night in Minneapolis calls for temps in the low 30’s with windy conditions and rain/snow possible.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Nebraska (-4.5) played host to Minnesota last year and rolled the Gophs 53-28 accumulating over 650 yards of offense. Three of the last four meetings between these teams have totaled at least 73 points. Since the start of the 2007 season, the Gophers are 10-24 ATS when favored by more than a TD. Since 1982 these teams have met 11 times with the favorite cashing in at a rate of 7-3-1 ATS.
RUTGERS @ INDIANA (-28)
Well so much for a spark after firing head coach Chris Ash. After their head coach was fired last week following their 52-0 loss vs Michigan, the Scarlet Knights continued their abysmal play losing at home to Maryland 48-7. They have now been outscored 130-7 in their 3 Big Ten games and outgained by 811 yards in those 3 conference losses. Interim head coach Nunzio Campanile implemented the option offense for this game with QB Johnny Langan, who made his first appearance in a collegiate game last Saturday, running the show. Campanile was forced to go with Langan under center when previous starter Art Sitkowski made the decision during the week to hang up his cleats for the season. Sitkowski now plans on redshirting which would not have been possible had he played on Saturday because it would have been his 5th game played this season. Word on whether he’ll transfer or stick with Rutgers is not yet known but with just 5 TD’s and 20 interceptions thus far in his career it may not be a huge loss if he does decide to move on. Rutgers backup tailback Raheem Blackshear also sat out the game and has decided to redshirt as this season continues to derail quickly. The Rutgers defense was shredded by big plays as Maryland scored TD’s on plays of 100, 80, 80, 42, and 23 yards. The Knights are now last in the conference (all games this season) in scoring offense (14.2 PPG) and last in scoring defense (36.2 PPG).
Indiana had last week off after losing @ Michigan State 40-31 a week earlier. The Hoosiers gave MSU all they could handle in that one scoring the 2nd most points and 2nd highest yardage mark the Spartans have allowed this year behind only Ohio State. It was a tie game with just 5 seconds remaining in the game and MSU kicked a FG and then scored a defensive TD as time expired to make the final margin 9 points. Starting QB Michael Penix returned from injury after missing 2 games to perform very well with 286 yards passing and 3 TD’s against the stout Spartan defense. Indiana is 3-0 in non-conference play but 0-2 in the Big 10 having played two of the best teams in the league, Ohio State & Michigan State. With Rutgers coming in running their new option offense, IU will have to be solid against the run. They have been just that for most of the season. If you take out their performance vs Ohio State where they gave up 306 yards rushing, in their other 4 games the Hoosiers have allowed just 86 YPG on 2.7 YPC. Indiana looks fairly healthy coming into this game off their bye week.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – If you take out their season opening win vs a terrible UMass team, Rutgers has been outscored 160-23. This spread is set at IU -28 which is nearly double the highest number so far in this series which was Indiana -14.5 last season. In that game the Hoosiers jumped out to a 24-7 halftime lead and held on to win 24-17. This is the first time EVER than Indiana has been favored by 28 or more vs an FBS opponent. Rutgers, on the other hand, have been dogs of 28 or more four times since the start of last season (3-1 ATS).
MICHIGAN (-22.5) @ ILLINOIS
While the Michigan offense was a no show last Saturday, the defense played their best game of the season vs an undefeated Iowa team. The Wolverine defense held the Hawkeyes to one FG and less than 270 yards of total offense in their 10-3 win. Iowa came into the game averaging 217 YPG on the ground and the Wolverines held them to ONE yard rushing on 30 carries! Even if you subtract the 8 Michigan sacks, Iowa still only had 66 yards on the ground. They also forced Iowa into 4 turnovers after the Hawkeyes came into the game with just 1 giveaway on the season. The Michigan offense was ugly. They scored a TD & kicked a field goal in the first quarter and then were shut out for the final 53:33 of the game. They averaged only 4.5 yards per play and QB Shea Patterson continued to struggle completing only 53% of his passes with 0 TD’s and 1 interception. After a very solid season in 2018 with a 65% completion percentage and 22 TD’s, Patterson has regressed this year hitting only 58% of his passes with 6 TD’s and 3 interceptions. He simply doesn’t look confident right now. One has to begin to question new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis hurry up system and play calling. The offensive numbers from last year are down across the board despite Michigan returning their starting QB, much of the offensive line, and a WR group that is among the most talented in the Big 10.
If Michigan can’t get it going against this Illinois defense they might be in trouble. The Illini are off a 40-17 loss @ Minnesota last Saturday. They are now 0-2 in the Big Ten having allowed 82 points and allowed 1,178 yards in those two conference games. The Gophers ran all over Illinois with 333 yards rushing after Nebraska lit them up for 363 yards on the ground in their Big Ten opener. Illinois was actually at least able to make it a game for the first half in Minneapolis trailing just 16-10 at the break. After halftime the Gophers took control scoring 3 TD’s on their first 3 possessions to put the game out of reach. The only two TD’s Illinois was able to put up were both scored by the defense on an interception and a fumble. The offense did next to nothing with 248 total yards on 63 snaps (3.9 YPP). They lost their starting QB Brandon Peters, a Michigan transfer, after a big hit early in the 2nd quarter and he did not return. His status is unknown as of this writing. He was replaced by redshirt freshman Matt Robinson who was 15 of 29 for 125 yards. If Peters cannot go on Saturday, the Illini better figure out a way to run the ball to take some pressure off their inexperienced QB.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – This line opened with Michigan -20.5 and had jumped to -22.5 crossing the key number of 21. The Wolverines are 23-5-2 SU the last 30 games in this series (15-15 ATS). Ten of the last eleven meetings in this series have been decided by double digits. Michigan has been favored in every game in this series since 1984. Since 1990, the Wolverines are 3-8 ATS (27%) as a road favorite of more than 21 points.
MARYLAND (-3.5) @ PURDUE
The Terps bounced back after consecutive losses to Temple & Penn State by winning easily @ Rutgers 48-7 as a 14-point favorite. The total in that game was set at 55.5 staying under by a half point. Maryland lost QB Josh Jackson to an ankle sprain late in the first half and he did not return. His status is up in the air for Saturday. His backup, Tyrell Pigrome, filled in with 111 yards passing and 22 yards on the ground in the 2nd half. If the Terrapins need to go with Pigrome on Saturday, he has plenty of experience as the junior has attempted 177 career passes and led Maryland to an upset win over Texas as the starter in 2017. Pigrome had actually been taking some first team reps in practice as of late due to Jackson’s recent struggles. The Terps came up with a number of big plays on Saturday including 3 TD’s of 80-yards or more. Their opening offensive play was an 80-yard TD pass from Jackson to Dontay Demis. After that play, the offense struggled their next 4 possessions which were all 3 and outs (4 punts) and totaled a -3 yards. At that point the score was 7-7 nearly midway into the 2nd quarter. After that Maryland scored on 6 of their next 8 possessions to break the game open. The offense has been playing without 3 starting offensive linemen due to injury and they may get 2 back this weekend with center Jordan and RT Minor possibly returning. After allowing 59 points and over 600 yards vs PSU in their previous game, the defense looked better holding Rutgers to just 4.3 YPP. That was to be expected vs a bad Rutgers offense down to their 3rd string QB who had never taken a collegiate snap before last Saturday. Maryland goes to Purdue this week as a favorite hoping to win back to back road games for the first time since September of 2014.
This looks like it could be a battle of back up QB’s. As we stated above Jackson’s status is questionable for Maryland but we know Purdue will be going with freshman Jack Plummer for the 2nd consecutive week after starter Elijah Sindelar broke his collarbone 2 weeks ago. Plummer looked like a freshman last week in the Boilermakers 35-7 loss @ Penn State. He completed only 13 passes for 113 yards. The problem with Purdue’s offense is they relied too heavily on Sindelar when he was healthy and were fairly one dimensional. Now if Plummer doesn’t have a big game, they don’t have a running game to fall back on. Last week Penn State held Purdue to minus 19 yards rushing on 28 carries. They are now averaging only 68 YPG rushing which ranks them 129th out of 130 NCAA teams. That puts a lot of pressure on Plummer to perform and perform very well especially with dynamic WR Rondale Moore still out with a leg injury. Last week they barely had 100 yards of total offense @ Penn State in a game that was more lopsided than the final score indicated. With Plummer barely completing 50% of his passes on the year we would be surprised if head coach Jeff Brohm gives 3rd stringer Aidan O’Connell, who has attempted 1 career pass, a shot on Saturday. A struggling offense added int with a Purdue defense that has allowed 34 points or more in every game but one this season and you can see why this team is just 1-4 on the season.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These 2 haven’t met since the 2016 season. The Terps won that game 50-7 as 11 point favorites and it was the only meeting between these two since Maryalnd joined the Big Ten in 2014. Maryland won last week @ Rutgers and they have not won back to back road games since 2014. The Terps are 2-12 ATS following a game in which they win by more than 20 points. Since the start of the 2012 season, the Boilers are just 7-20 ATS as a home underdog.