BIG TEN MATCH UPS & ODDS FOR THIS WEEKEND
WISCONSIN @ OHIO STATE (-14)
INDIANA @ NEBRASKA (-1)
ILLINOIS @ PURDUE (-7.5)
PENN STATE (-6) @ MICHIGAN STATE
IOWA (-10) @ NORTHWESTERN
MARYLAND @ MINNESOTA (-17)
NOTRE DAME @ MICHIGAN (-1.5)
WISCONSIN @ OHIO STATE (-14)
This game has been billed for weeks as a battle of Big 10 unbeatens but Wisconsin failed to hold up their end of the bargain last week. They went to Illinois as 30-point favorites and walked out with a 24-23 loss. The Badgers outgained Illinois by over 100 yards and had more than a 2 to 1 time of possession edge but a few key turnovers determined the outcome. Wisconsin turned the ball over on each of their final two possessions including Jonathan Taylor fumbling at the Illini 25-yard line with 7:00 remaining up 23-14. If they score there, that would have most likely salted the game away. Instead, after the fumble, Illinois went 75-yards in 4 plays and scored a TD that cut the lead to 23-21. The Badgers still had a chance to run out the clock for the win however QB Coan threw an interception near midfield with just over 2:00 remaining. That set up Illinois for a short drive and the game winning FG as time expired. Wisconsin looked nothing like the team that stomped Michigan State 38-0 a week earlier, however a letdown or flat performance of some sort was to be expected. The Badgers hadn’t played a road game since late August, were off a huge home win, and had their game of the year coming up @ Ohio State the following week. Illinois held UW to just 156 yards rushing after allowing nearly 700 yards on the ground in the first 2 Big Ten games vs Minnesota and Michigan. After allowing 29 points all season, the Badger defense gave up 24 points to a struggling Illinois offense. They also allowed 315 total yards which was the most they’ve given up this season. Just an overall flat performance from Wisconsin. It will be interesting to see how they bounce back with @ OSU after their undefeated season came to an end last Saturday.
What else can we say each week about OSU? They look like the best team in the country to us. No weaknesses whatsoever. They, like Wisconsin, had a dangerous road game and a potential flat spot on a Friday night laying 28 points @ Northwestern. Unlike the Badgers, they did not roll their helmets onto the field thinking it was an automatic win. They blasted Northwestern 52-3 outgaining the Cats 480 to 199 and their current margin of victory is +40.5 which is tops in the FBS. That moves Ohio State to 7-0 SU & 6-1 ATS the spread on the year covering their wins by 134 points (average cover on wins is by 22 points). They led 31-3 at half in this game meaning they have covered every first half line this year and have led by at least 17 points at the break in every game. In Big 10 play only the Buckeyes are outscoring their opponents 46-7 and outgaining their foes 527 to 243. They have scored 23 TD’s on conference play while allowing 3. Defensively OSU has allowed 70 yards or LESS passing in 3 of their last 4 games. Offensively they continue to run the ball at an incredibly efficient pace as RB Dobbins ranks 2nd in the Big Ten in rushing and his backup Teague ranks 5th in rushing and both average more than 7.0 YPC! Unstoppable force meeting immovable object on Saturday as the OSU running game facing a Wisconsin defense that ranks #1 in the nation at stopping the run.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The preliminary line on this last week before Wisconsin lost @ Illinois was OSU -11. After the Badgers loss and OSU’s dominating win @ Northwestern the line opened -14. These two have not met since the Big 10 Championship game in 2017 when the Buckeyes (-3) topped the Badgers 27-21 in Indianapolis. It’s not often the Badgers are underdog of 10 points or more. In fact, over the last 30 seasons (since 1990) they have been a double digit dog 27 times and they are 20-6-1 ATS in those games. OSU has won 9 of the last 10 in this series (7-3 ATS) but 5 of the last 6 have come by a TD or less.
INDIANA @ NEBRASKA (-1)
After beating Maryland 34-28 on the road last week, the Hoosiers are just one win away from locking up a bowl spot (currently 5-2 record). Their only losses this year were to Ohio State and Michigan State. The OSU loss was a blowout (who doesn’t OSU blowout?) and their loss @ MSU was a tie game with less than 10 seconds remaining. IU dominated the stat sheet last week with 520 total yards while holding Maryland to 383 but had to hold on for dear life at the end of the game. The Terps turned the ball over in each of their last 2 possessions and Indiana held on to win by 6 points. Oft injured starting QB Michael Penix left the game in the 2nd quarter and did not return. His back up Peyton Ramsey is one of the more experienced 2nd stringers in college football as he started for IU last year and has thrown for 843 yards this season in relief of Penix. He came in with Indiana up 14-7 and played very well with 193 yards passing completing 74% of his passes. If Penix cannot play, the Hoosiers are in good hands with Ramsey at the helm. Indiana now takes the road for the 2nd straight weekend heading to Lincoln for the first time since Nebraska joined the Big 10 back in 2014.
The Huskers were able to take a few weeks to lick their wounds after getting doused at Minnesota 34-7 two weeks ago. The Gophers gashed the Husker defense for 322 yards rushing making it the 2nd time in their last 3 games Nebraska allowed 300+ yards on the ground. They played that game without starting QB Martinez and it’s quite obvious there is a huge drop off offensively with him on the sidelines. His back up Noah Vedral has been under center for 14 offensive possessions since Martinez went out and they have scored just one TD under his guidance. So the big question heading into Saturday’s home game vs Indiana is will Martinez play? As of this writing he is questionable and will probably remain that way throughout the week. Last year Martinez had this offense humming in the 2nd half of the season scoring 28 points or more in 6 of their last 7 games. This year they are down in most major offensive categories ranking 77th in total offense (25th last year), 80th in offensive YPP (20th last year), 90th in PPG scored (58th last year) and 74th in rushing offense (16th last season). Since putting up 42 points on Illinois in their conference opener, the Cornhuskers have scored just 27 points combined their last 3 games. They really need Martinez back in the line up on Saturday and it’s something we’ll keep a close eye on.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – These two have only met one time and that was back in 2016 when Nebraska (-3.5) topped IU on the road 27-22. This will be the first time Indiana has ever played @ Nebraska. The Huskers have covered only 1 game this season and that was vs Northern Illinois. Their 6 spread losses have come by 84.5 points or by 12 PPG vs the number. Nebraska has been a money burner at home with a spread record of 5-17-1 (22%) over their last 23 @ Memorial Stadium. The Hoosiers are 2-0 ATS on the road in the Big 10 this year, however entering this season they were just 8-19 ATS in conference road games dating back to 2012.
ILLINOIS @ PURDUE (-7.5)
Illinois is entering this game off their biggest win in over a decade as they topped Wisconsin 24-23 as a 30-point underdog. They came to play on both sides on Saturday. Defensively they held the Badgers to just over 150 yards rushing after allowing nearly 700 yards their previous 2 games. They held All American RB Jonathan Taylor, who was averaging 6.4 YPC entering the game, to just 4.7 YPC. Offensively they tallied 315 total yards and while that may not seem like anything to write home about, it was the most yardage the Wisconsin defense has allowed this season. Starting QB Brandon Peters came back after missing more than half of the Minnesota game two weeks ago and all of the Michigan game last week. While he only completed 9 passes, he averaged 19 yards per completion and threw for 2 TD’s. The Illini looked like a big play offense facing the nation’s top defense with TD’s of 48, 43, and 29 yards. They averaged more yards per rush (4.0) than Wisconsin (3.6) which looked simply impossible entering the game. Now with a 3-4 record there is chatter in Champaign about winning 3 of the next 5 to become bowl eligible. That didn’t seem possible before their win last week. They do have 3 winnable games remaining at home vs Rutgers and Northwestern and the game this Saturday @ Purdue. Winning @ Iowa or @ MSU might be a stretch but win this weekend and who knows?
Purdue gave Iowa all they could handle last weekend in a 26-20 loss in Iowa City. The Boilers had the 17-point spread covered the entire game as Iowa’s largest lead was 13. Purdue did score a TD with just 24 seconds remaining to make it a bit closer than it probably should have been but it was a one score game from the start until midway through the 3rd quarter. The yardage was basically dead even, however Purdue did take 83 offensive snaps to just 66 for the Hawkeyes. The Boilermakers continue to have no running game whatsoever (33 yards rushing on 1.8 YPC) but they may have found a gem in freshman QB Jack Plummer. The freshman signal caller stepped in for injured starter Elijah Sindelar a few weeks ago and has been very good. Plummer has thrown for 750 yards and 5 TD’s his last two games vs Maryland & Iowa. As a team, the Boilers have just 135 rush attempts on the year compared to 301 pass attempts. You can bet they will continue to lean heavily on their passing game from this point on. Speaking of their passing game, they were hoping to get star WR Rondale Moore back from injury last week but that did not happen. In fact, Moore, who hasn’t played since late September, is listed as doubtful for this weekend.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Last year Purdue was favored by 10.5 on the road in this series and blew out the Illini 46-7. The Boilers had over 600 yards in that game and held Illinois to 250. That was the 5th time in the last 6 meetings that Purdue covered the number in this series. To say Illinois has struggled on the road would be an understatement. Dating back to 2008, they are 9-42 SU their last 51 away from home (19-32 ATS).
PENN STATE (-6) @ MICHIGAN STATE
Can Penn State head to Michigan State and play at the top of their game again after their huge home win last week vs Michigan? That was a huge game for the Nittany Lions and a revenge spot they had been pointing to since losing @ Michigan 42-7 last year. Last week was a tale of two halves in their game vs the Wolverines. PSU went off as 9-point favorites last week and jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead midway through the 2nd quarter. They led 21-7 at half and had over 200 yards (7.0 YPP) at that point. In the 2nd half the Lions were completely shut down with 7 points and just 72 yards of total offense (1.9 YPP in the 2nd half) with 53 coming on one play! They ran 4 or fewer plays on 8 of their 13 offensive possessions. For the game, PSU had 12 fewer first downs, they were outgained by 134 yards and had a 15 minute time of possession disadvantage. They ran only 54 offensive plays while Michigan ran 82. The defense gave up a season high 417 yards to a Michigan offense that had been struggling when they faced a defense with a pulse. If you simply looked at the stat sheet there is no way you could envision PSU winning this game by a TD but they did. Michigan had their chance to tie the game late but a dropped pass in the endzone on 4th down with 2:00 minutes remaining ended their final possession. PSU head on the road for just the 3rd time this season and they are 2-0 SU & ATS in those games beating Maryland 59-0 and Iowa 17-12.
We would expect the Spartans to come out with a huge chip on their shoulders this week. After getting embarrassed by Wisconsin 38-0 two weeks ago, they had a bye week to correct some issues and get some rest. After winning 4 of their first 5 games with their only loss coming by 3 points vs Arizona State, the Spartans hit a brutal stretch of their schedule playing road games @ Ohio State and @ Wisconsin on back to back weeks. They were outscored 72-10 in those two games and outgained by a combined 497 yards in those 2 contests. Their stout run defense allowed OSU to roll up 323 yards on the ground and Wisconsin gained 222 rushing. That was after allowing just 279 rushing yards through their first 5 games (55 YPG). On offense they need to figure out how to put points on the board vs good defenses. In their 4 wins this year MSU is averaging 37.5 PPG as compared to only 5.6 PPG in their 3 losses. They haven’t been able to run the ball consistently (110th nationally in rush offense) putting a lot of pressure on QB Lewerke to shoulder the load. Another potential concern is MSU has had 6 players enter the transfer portal since the season started, 3 over the last 10 days or so. Many of those players were getting game reps. Could there be some internal issues going on in East Lansing?
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Last season MSU went into Happy Valley as a 13.5 point underdog and topped Penn State 21-17. The Spartans scored on a 25-yards Brian Lewerke TD pass with just 19 seconds remaining in the game to pull the upset. That win gave Michigan State a 5-1 SU & ATS record their last 6 vs the Nittany Lions. Since 1993, Sparty has been a home underdog vs Penn State 7 times and they’ve covered 5 of those games. Long term, MSU has been a nice money maker as a home dog covering 60% of their games in that role since 1980 (38-25 ATS).
IOWA (-10) @ NORTHWESTERN
The Hawkeyes (-17) had a battle on their hands last weekend topping Purdue 26-20 in a tight game. Iowa missed the cover dropping them to just 2-5 ATS on the year and the game stayed under the total (47.5) which is the norm for the Hawkeyes as only one of their games this season has gone over. The Iowa offense continued to look fairly pedestrian scoring only 2 TD’s vs a Purdue defense that had allowed 34 points or more in 3 of their previous 4 games. If you throw out their game vs Rutgers as everyone puts up big numbers on the Knights, the Hawkeyes have scored just 3 offensive TD’s in their other 3 Big 10 games vs Michigan, Penn State, and Purdue. The Hawks were hoping to get their running game back on track vs a Boiler defense that was allowing 167 YPG on the ground coming into the contest. Iowa, who was averaging just 1.2 YPC their previous 2 games, struggled again with only 102 yards on 33 carries. QB Nate Stanley will most likely be shorthanded this weekend as his best WR Brandon Smith, who had over 100 yards receiving last week, will most likely have to sit after injuring his leg late in the game. The Iowa defense completely shut down Purdue running game but struggled vs the pass with the Boiler’s freshman QB shredding them for 327 yards. They should have to worry much about the passing game this week as Northwestern ranks 126th nationally averaging only 124 YPG through the air.
Northwestern gets an extra day to prepare for their showdown with Iowa after getting walloped by Ohio State last Friday night 52-3. The Cats ran the ball OK with 157 yards on the ground, their aerial attack continued to stay grounded with only 6 completed passes for 42 yards which was their lowest passing total since 2003. Current starting QB Aidan Smith is completing only 44% of his passes on the year for just 315 yards with 1 TD and 5 interceptions. We wouldn’t be surprised to see NW go back to Hunter Johnson at QB very soon if things don’t turn around. How bad is it? They have scored a grand total of 7 offensive TD’s this year in 6 games and are averaging 3.7 YPP which is dead last in the NCAA (130th). They are also last in the nation in yards per pass attempt at 4.1. If you take only their games vs Power 5 opponents this season, the Wildcats are averaging 8 PPG. All is not lost though as their defense, minus their game vs Ohio State, has been quite good. If you subtract their game vs the Buckeyes, the defense is allowing just 15.6 PPG and had allowed only 9 offensive TD’s in their first 5 games. They held a very good Wisconsin offense to just 1 offensive TD a few weeks ago in their 24-15 loss in Madison. With this total set at 37.5, the oddsmakers aren’t expecting either offense to break out of their doldrums here.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Northwestern was +10 @ Iowa in this match up last year and now they are getting the same number at home. The Cats upset the Hawkeyes in last year’s meeting 14-10. Since 1990, Iowa has been a favorite of 10 points or more @ Northwestern just 3 times. They are 0-3 ATS in those games. Since 2003, Iowa is just 3-11 ATS as a road dog of 10 points or more vs any opponent. Dating back to last season, the underdog in Northwestern games is 16-5 ATS over the last 21 contests. The Wildcats are 24-11 ATS as an underdog dating back to December of 2014.
MARYLAND @ MINNESOTA (-17)
The Terps have faded quickly after an exciting 2-0 start to the season. Maryland is just 1-4 since their 2-0 start with their only win over that stretch coming against Rutgers who is getting destroyed by everyone. Last week they had a few chances late but fell at home to Indiana 34-28. They turned the ball over on each of their last 2 possessions including throwing an interception in IU territory with 1:20 remaining in the game. Back up QB Pigrome remained under center for Maryland with starter Josh Jackson still on the mend (Jackson looks like he will be able to return this weekend). Pigrome is not a great passer completing under 60% of his throws for 3 TD’s and 3 interceptions on the season. He can be a dangerous runner (100 + yards rushing vs Purdue this season) but only carried the ball 9 times for 6 yards vs the Hoosiers. Maryland was outgained in the game by 140 yards and their defense allowed Indiana to gain 7.1 YPP and 8.1 yards per pass attempt. After numerous injuries in the defensive backfield this year, the Terps have been unable to slow down any decent passing game. Last week they allowed IU to hit 334 yards through the air a week after Purdue lit them up for 420 yards passing. They have now dropped to dead last in the Big 10 at defending the pass and 118th nationally. Maryland sits at 3-4 and still needs 3 wins to make them bowl eligible. That looks like it will be tough with road games @ Minnesota, @ Ohio State, and @ Michigan State (they will be double digit dogs in all of those) and home games vs Michigan & Nebraska.
Minnesota is knocked nationally for their ridiculously easy schedule, but they are doing what they need to do and that is keep winning no matter who the opponent is. They kept their perfect record in tact last week with a 42-7 win over Rutgers. The Gophers got off to a slow start in their win over the Scarlet Knights leading just 14-0 at half. However, what looked like a fairly close game at the break by Rutgers standards really wasn’t. Despite holding just a 14 point lead, Minnesota held a 259 to 39 yardage advantage in the first half. They had really been running the ball well over their last few games but struggled a bit here averaging only 4.4 YPC vs a bad Rutgers defense. QB Tanner Morgan picked up the slack completing just 15 passes but for 245 yards (16 yards per completion). Now at 7-0, the Minnesota schedule gets tougher soon with games on the horizon vs Penn State, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Speaking of their easy schedule, the Gophers have yet to face an opponent’s starting QB in Big 10 play. Their 4 Big 10 opponents (Purdue, Nebraska, Illinois, and Rutgers) have all played against Minnesota with their back up QB under center. Going back to the last 2 games of last season, they have now won 9 straight games which is their longest streak since 1942.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Maryland was a 2.5 point favorite at home vs Minnesota last year and they thumped the Gophers 42-13. Since October 1st of 2004 the Gophers have been a home favorite of more than 14 points vs a conference opponent just 6 times (1-5 ATS). Since the 1986 season, Maryland is a terrible 29-45-4 ATS (39%) as an underdog of 14 points or more.
NOTRE DAME @ MICHIGAN (-1.5)
We normally don’t preview Big 10 non-conference games once the teams get into league play. However, this is a big one so we’ll touch on it. The Irish come in rested off a bye week. Two weeks ago they played host to USC and held on for the 30-27 win. The Trojans scored a TD with just over 1:00 minute remaining to cut the lead to 3 and pick up the cover. Notre Dame had covered 4 straight before that spread loss. At 5-1 SU, their only outright loss this season was @ Georgia and that was tight with the Bulldogs winning 23-17. In that game ND had the ball inside the Georgia 40 yard line with under 1:00 minute left in the game so that loss was absolutely played to the wire. For the season the Irish have outgained every opponent with the exception of Georgia (-20 yards in that game) and have a YPP margin of +1.9 (6.9 YPP on offense & 5.0 YPP defensively). This will be only the 2nd road game this season for Notre Dame.
Michigan, as we stated above in the PSU preview, outplayed the Nittany Lions drastically on the stat sheet in last week’s 28-21 loss in Happy Valley. After PSU jumped out to a 21-0 lead with 7:22 remaining in the first half, the Michigan defense completely shut them down from that point on. After that TD, Penn State had just 103 yards over the final 2.5 quarters and over 50 of that came on one play. Speaking of the Wolverine defense, since their debacle @ Wisconsin, they not allowed anyone to reach 300 total yards and they are holding those opponents to 3.9 YPP. On offense, Michigan looked as good as they have all season last week. They put up 417 yards on a top 10 defense and QB Patterson looked confident and played his best game of the year in our opinion. They looked like what we thought Michigan would look like this year after returning many of their key players from last year’s team that averaged 35 PPG and 420 YPG last season.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Last year Michigan was favored at Notre Dame by 2.5 points and now one year later they are laying a lower number at home. ND won the game last season 24-17. The favorite is 3-1 ATS the last 4 in this series however before that the team getting points was a huge money maker with the dog covering 14 of the 16 meetings between 1992 and 2011. Michigan has covered 5 of the last 6 games in this series played in Ann Arbor.