ASA’s BIG TEN REPORT – For Games Sept 28th
BIG TEN MATCH UPS & ODDS FOR THIS WEEKEND
PENN STATE (-6.5) @ MARYLAND
NORTHWESTERN @ WISCONSIN (-24)
RUTGERS @ MICHIGAN (-27.5)
MINNESOTA @ PURDUE (-1)
INDIANA @ MICHIGAN STATE (-14.5)
OHIO STATE (-17.5) @ NEBRASKA
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE @ IOWA (-24)
PENN STATE (-6.5) @ MARYLAND – Friday Night
Both of these teams had last week off to get ready for their Big Ten opener. Two weeks ago Penn State (-17) played host to in-state rival Pitt in a game that went to the wire with the Nittany Lions winning 17-10. The game ended with the Panthers threatening to score on the PSU 26-yard line. Pitt outgained the Lions by 17 yards and it was actually the 2nd consecutive game that PSU has been outgained. Buffalo outgained them a week earlier despite getting beat 45-13. After scoring 124 points in their first 2 games Penn State was held to just 17 by the Panther defense. That close win, non-cover, isn’t looking all that bad for Penn State after Pittsburgh turned around last week and upset UCF ending the Knights 27-game regular season winning streak. Since beating Idaho 79-7 in their opener, PSU has been outgained by 87 yards, have 11 fewer first downs and have a 34:00 minute time of possession disadvantage their last 2 games combined, both wins. The offense has relied on big plays so far this season as they already have 9 TD’s of more than 20 yards. Speaking of big plays, QB Sean Clifford is averaging almost 18 yards per completion but needs to improve on his accuracy (58% completion rate).
To say Maryland got off to a fast start this season is an understatement. They outscored their first two opponents (Howard & Syracuse) 142-20. The oddsmakers made the Terps a road favorite two weeks ago and they were upset by Temple 20-17. After their up tempo offense averaged 636 YPG and 8.0 yards per play in their first two games, the Owls were able to limit Maryland’s offense to just 340 total yards and 4.0 yards per play. They had opportunities to put more points on the board but were stopped twice on downs at the Temple 1-yard line and also missed a short field goal attempt. One of those blown chance came with just over 4:00 minutes remaining in the game and the Terps down 20-17 at the Temple 4-yard line. They chose to hand the ball off to their standout RB Anthony McFarland all 4 times and he failed to get into the endzone getting stopped on 4th down at the 1-yard line as Temple held on for the 3 point win. The Owls then turned around last week and lost @ Buffalo as a 14-point favorite. Head coach Mike Locksley was not pleased with the performance of his offensive line as the Owls held Maryland to just 3.5 YPC and QB Josh Jackson was sacked 4 times. That offensive line lost their most experienced member in the loss as starting right guard Terrance Davis was injured and will be out 4 to 6 weeks.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Penn State has won the last 3 meetings by an average score of 47-7. Last year the Nittany Lions were 12-point favorites at home vs Maryland the crushed the Terps 38-3 and outgained them by 306 yards. Historically PSU is 15-1-1 SU (8-8-1 ATS) vs Maryland with their lone loss coming in 2014.
OHIO STATE (-17.5) @ NEBRASKA
Well there was no letdown from Ohio State after their Big Ten opening win two weeks ago @ Indiana. They played host to Miami (Oh) last Saturday and came away with a 76-5 win as a 39-point favorite! OSU QB Justin Fields, a Georgia transfer, accounted for 6 TD’s (4 passing & 2 rushing) and now has 19 TD’s in the first 4 games. The Buckeyes led just 7-5 at the end of the first quarter giving the Miami (Oh) bettors at +39 some hope. That hope exited in the 2nd quarter as Ohio State tallied 42 points and led 49-5 at half. After leading by just 2 points at the end of the first quarter, OSU scored TD’s on 10 of their final 12 possessions. One thing we do know is Ohio State has come out rolling in the first half. They have outscored their opponents 135-18 this year in the first half. They have had 32 first half offensive possessions and scored TD’s on 19 of those. That’s scoring TD’s on 60% of their first half possessions, not just points, we’re talking TD’s. Impressive. The defense will be the key for the Bucks this year. That was their weak spot last season as they allowed over 400 YPG which was the most yardage they allowed per game EVER! Or at least back to 1960 which is as far as our records go back. This year they have looked very good on that side of the ball allowing just 222 YPG which is 2nd nationally only behind Big 10 rival Wisconsin.
We felt the Huskers were overrated coming into the season as there was much talk about Nebraska being the best team in the Big 10 West. Well they’ve proven us correct so far struggling to beat a bad South Alabama team at home, losing a big revenge game in OT @ Colorado, and they had a problem with a lower tier Big 10 team Illinois on the road last week. They are 3-1 with their lone easy win vs Northern Illinois included but just 1-3 ATS. Now we must admit that despite their 42-38 close win @ Illinois last Saturday, the Huskers did dominate the stats and it looked like their offense is now humming scoring 86 points in their last 2 games. Nebraska was +18 first downs in that game and had nearly 700 yards of total offense with a very balanced attack (346 yards rushing / 327 yards passing). They ran a ridiculous 98 offensive plays to just 62 for the Illini. So how did this one stay close? Turnovers. Nebraska had 4 fumbles which directly led to 21 of the Illini’s 38 points while Illinois did not turn the ball over. Is this offense now heading in the right direction? Well they’ve played 4 teams thus far ranked 73rd or lower in total defense and now they play the #2 defense in the nation. I guess we’ll find out on Saturday.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – This line opened with OSU -14 and moved to -17.5 in less than 24 hours. Last season OSU was favored by basically this same number (-17) at home vs Nebraska and held on for a 36-31 win with the total yardage in the game being almost equal. The Husker have been a home underdog of 17 points or more just ONCE EVER. That was in 2017 vs this same OSU team. The Buckeyes were favored by -24 in that game and won 56-14. Ohio State has been a road favorite of 17 or more 46 times since 1980 and they are 28-18 ATS in those games.
NORTHWESTERN @ WISCONSIN (-24)
The Wildcat’s offense simply can’t get any traction early in the season. They are dead last in the Big Ten in scoring (15 PPG), total offense (305 YPG), and efficiency (4.2 YPP). They lost at home to Michigan State last Saturday 31-10 and their lone TD came when the game was out of reach with just over 2:00 minutes remaining. Their lone successful offensive performance was against a bad UNLV defense (ranked 92nd nationally) where they scored 30 points and had over 400 yards of offense. In their other 2 games vs Stanford and Michigan State they’ve scored a grand total of 2 offensive TD’s. While MSU’s defense is very good, the fact that Northwestern was only able to score 7 points vs a Stanford defense that has since allowed 111 points in 3 games (37 PPG) is concerning. QB play continues to be a problem as starter Hunter Johnson and back up Aidan Smith combined to complete just 17 passes but threw 4 interceptions. Johnson his now completing under 50% of his attempts on the year with just 1 TD and 4 interceptions. The offense doesn’t get a reprieve this week as they face a Wisconsin defense that has allowed just 14 points in 3 games and leads the nation in total defense giving up only 171 YPG which is a full 50 yards less than the 2nd best defense in the country (Ohio State).
Can’t say we saw that coming. Wisconsin entered Saturday’s big match up with Michigan as a 3 to 3.5 point favorite and dominated the Wolverines on their way to a 35-14 win. The game wasn’t really that close as the Badgers jumped out to a 35-0 lead before Michigan was able to score a few meaningless TD’s in the 2nd half. RB Jonathan Taylor ripped through the Wolverine defense for 203 rushing yards on 23 carries (8.8 YPC). Taylor did his damage while only playing about half of the game as he sat out much of the 2nd quarter with cramps and then watch most of the 4th quarter from the sidelines with the game out of reach. QB Jack Coan was an efficient 13 of 16 through the air as the offense scored TD’s on 4 of their 6 first half possessions. The defense remains #1 in the country in both scoring defense and total defense. They gave up their first points of the year but those didn’t come until the 2nd half with the Badgers already holding a huge lead. They held Michigan to 0 for 11 on 3rd down and now for the season, Wisconsin has limited their opponents to 4 of 39 on 3rd down! They will be short handed in the secondary for the first half on Saturday as both starting safeties (Pearson & Burrell) were ejected in the 2nd half on targeting calls. That means they miss the first half of this game and they already lost starting safety Scott Nelson for the season in their previous game. This could be a letdown spot for Wisconsin after their big win, however it may not matter facing a Northwestern offense that is struggling to say the least.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The Cats come into this game 0-3 ATS while the Badgers are 3-0 ATS. The underdog in Northwestern games is now 14-4 ATS dating back to last season. Wisconsin is just 10-19 ATS their last 29 meetings with Northwestern. These two Big 10 rivals have met 33 times since 1980 and Wisconsin has been the favorite in 32 of those games. Northwestern has upset the Badgers in 3 of the last 5 meetings including last year when Wisconsin was favored by 4.5 points and lost 31-17. Believe it or not, Northwestern had won 15 of their previous 16 Big Ten regular season games entering last week.
RUTGERS @ MICHIGAN (-27.5)
Rutgers just keeps being Rutgers. That means another loss this time at home to Boston College. The Eagles took to the road as a 7.5 point favorite and topped Rutgers 30-16. The Knights held the lead at 10-7 for about 5:00 minutes of game time and that was it. They trailed the rest of the game. They did cut the lead to 24-16 early in the 4th quarter but BC went on an 18 play TD drive on their next possession to put the game away. After opening the season with a win over UMass, Rutgers has since been outscored 60-16 in their last 2 games vs Iowa and BC. The running game has been non-existent the past 2 games with just 78 & 76 yards on the ground respectively. That puts enormous pressure on the Rutgers QB’s to play well which simply hasn’t happened very often over the last year plus as they sit with a record of 2-13 their last 15 games. However, last week they did get some solid production out of their signal caller. The starter for the first two games, McLane Carter, was out with a concussion so his back up Art Sitkowski got the start. Sitkowski is experienced as he started most of last season but had horrible numbers (49% completions, 4 TD’s, and 18 interceptions). On Saturday he played easily the best game of his career completing 21 of 31 for over 300 yards and a TD. Head coach Chris Ash has already said Sitkowski will get the start again on Saturday @ Michigan.
We’ll see what this Michigan team is made of after getting pushed all over the field last week @ Wisconsin. The Badgers won 35-14 and held advantages of +10 first downs, +188 total yards, +319 rushing yards, and +22:00 minutes in time of possession. Michigan loves to establish their ground game and it simply didn’t happen as they carried the ball just 15 times compared to 45 pass attempts. Part of that was because they quickly got behind and were staring at a 28-0 halftime deficit. The Wolverines were also banged up at RB including starting freshman Zach Charbonnet who carried the ball just twice after 41 carries in his first two games. The QB position is also now in question as starter Shea Patterson was banged around consistently and did not start the 2nd half as he was be evaluated for an injury. His back up Dylan McCaffrey came in and sustained a concussion and it looks like he will not be available on Saturday. We expect Patterson to start the game. As we’ve stated a few times in this column, new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis offense is not going well thus far. His fast paced scheme was only able to run 60 plays last week because they only had the ball for 19:00 minutes. Defensively they were pushed around up front allowing a ridiculous 359 yards rushing after allowing only one opponent to top 20o on the ground last year, which was Florida in their bowl game. Michigan has a chance to get back on track in a big way this weekend vs a bad Rutgers team. We’ll see when their emotional state is here after their disappointing start to the season.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – Rutgers topped Michigan 26-24 in 2014 their first year in the Big 10. Since then Michigan is 4-0 (2-2 ATS) beating the Knights by an average score of 51-9. Last year the Wolverines were a massive 36.5 point favorite @ Rutgers and won 42-7 (non-cover) outgained the Knights by 200 yards. The Wolverines are just 2-12 ATS the last 14 times they’ve been a favorite of 21 or more.
MINNESOTA @ PURDUE (-1)
Both of these teams had byes last week so no advantage on that end. Minnesota comes in with a shaky 3-0 record with their wins coming against South Dakota State, Fresno State, and Georgia Southern. They topped those 3 teams by a combined 13 points and didn’t cover any of those games. They trailed South Dakota State with under 6:00 minutes remaining in the game and were behind in the other two with less than 1:00 minute remaining yet they are still undefeated. In their most recent game two weeks ago the Gophers scored with 13 seconds remaining to top Georgia Southern 38-35. However they did dominate the stats outgaining the Eagles 382-198 but continued to struggle on the ground averaging just 1.9 YPC vs GSU. They are now 13th in the Big Ten averaging only 2.6 YPC on the season ahead of only Purdue (2.1 YPC), their opponent on Saturday. Cluster injuries at the RB position most likely have a lot to do with their lack of success as the Gophs were down to their 5th string tailback in the 4th quarter of their game two weeks ago. It looks like the week off helped their injury situation as 3 of their top 4 RB’s look like they will return including Rodney Smith, Mohamed Ibrahim, and Shannon Brooks, who has yet to play this season. Defensively Minnesota is allowing 29 PPG which ranks them 13th in the league. Who’s the worst scoring defense in the Big 10? Purdue who allows 30 PPG. We could be in for a high scoring game here.
Purdue steps into this game with just a 1-2 record losing to Nevada & TCU while topping Vanderbilt. Their most recent game two weeks ago they were dominated at home by TCU losing by 21 points and getting outgained by over 200 yards. We can put an asterisk by that loss as starting QB Elijah Sindelar was not able to play due to a concussion. His backup is freshman Jack Plummer who got the start and took the first snap of his career vs the Horned Frogs. It was a tough spot for Plummer making his first start for a team that relies so heavily on their QB. That’s because the Boilers run the ball less often than anyone in the Big 10 (24 carries per game) and do it less successfully than anyone on the conference (50 YPG on 2.1 YPC). Against TCU they rushed for only 25 yards on 23 carries and when you have an inexperienced freshman QB at the helm, that simply won’t get it done. As of this writing, Sindelar had not yet passed concussion protocol so his status remains up in the air for Saturday. Purdue’s defense has been underwhelming at best. They allow more points, more yards, and more yards per play than any other defense in the conference.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – The home team in this series has won 8 of the last 9 outright. The host is also 10-4-1 ATS the last 15 meetings. Last year Minnesota played host to Purdue last year as 10 point dogs and dominated the Boilers. The Gophs won 41-10 and outgained Purdue 415-233. Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm said this week that last year’s game and their poor performance has been brought up to the team as motivation for this game.
INDIANA @ MICHIGAN STATE (-14.5)
The Hoosiers got back on track last week after getting destroyed by Ohio State a week earlier. What better way to rebound from a 51-10 throttling at the hands of the Buckeyes than to face the hapless UConn Huskies. IU rolled up a 38-3 win last Saturday outgaining the Huskies by 285 yards. They did so without starting QB Michael Penix who sat out for the 2nd straight game with a hand injury. His replacement and last year’s starter, Peyton Ramsey, was a near perfect 23 of 27 for 247 yards and 3 TD’s. Indiana head coach Tom Allen has already said that who starts at QB will be a game time decision. One player who definitely won’t be playing on Saturday is starting LT Coy Cronk who was a 4 year starter for the Hoosiers. Cronk injured his knee last weekend and is now out for the season. That’s not an ideal development vs an MSU defense that is averaging almost 4 sacks per game (4th in the nation). Indiana comes into this game with a 3-1 record, however their 3 wins have come against teams that have a combined 2-9 record (Ball State, Eastern Illinois, & UConn).
MSU is off an impressive 31-10 win over Northwestern getting the easy cover as a 9-point favorite. As we’ve stated numerous times in this report, while their defense is one of the best in the nation, their offense is not. While they did score 31 points on Saturday, they did so while gaining just 337 total yards on only 4.8 yards per play. What Michigan State did do well was cash in when they were in the redzone. Their defense and special teams set them up to succeed last Saturday and the Spartans were a perfect 5 for 5 in the redzone with 4 TD’s and a field goal. The Wildcats did have some success on the ground vs this MSU defense putting up 139 yards rushing. While that may not seem like a big deal, it was the most rushing yards the Spartans have allowed since their game vs Michigan last October. Sparty is not going to change anytime soon. They’ll win games with their defense and their offense will never be special. Just don’t mess up and give the ball away offensively, and they’ll be tough to beat. This is a huge home game for MSU as they travel to Ohio State and to Wisconsin the following two weeks.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS – MSU has absolutely dominated this series since the mid 90’s. Since 1995, the Spartans are 17-3 SU and 15-5 ATS vs the Hoosiers. Sparty is 7-0 both SU & ATS the last 7 times they’ve played host to the Hoosiers. As a favorite of more than 14 points in this series, MSU is 8-0 SU & 7-1 ATS. Last year the Spartans won @ Indiana 35-21 as 5.5 point favorites
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE @ IOWA (-24)
The lone non-conference match this week is Middle Tennessee State heading to Iowa. The Hawkeyes are 3-0 and had last week off coming off their big 18-17 win @ arch rival Iowa State. It was a game in which the Hawkeyes trailed 14-6 late in the 3rd quarter and rallied for the 1 point win. Iowa was outgained by 105 yards in the game. While the Iowa offense has been OK (10th in the Big 10 in scoring) the defense has been very good allowing just 31 points in 3 games. On Saturday they will be facing a Middle Tennessee State defense that has given up 107 points in their 3 games this season. The Iowa defense has been very good at getting off the field on 3rd & 4th down with teams converting just 10 of their 37 opportunities (27%). The Blue Raider defense, on the other hand, has really had problems stopping teams on 3rd & 4th down allowing opponents to convert on 23 of their 48 opportunities this year (48%). Iowa has multiple injuries in their defensive backfield with 4 key members (2 starters) unable to play in their previous game vs ISU. They hope to have some of those players back for this game or next week @ Michigan. MTSU comes in with a 1-2 record beating Tennessee State with losses to Duke & Michigan by 23 and 19 points respectively. The Blue Raiders has last week off as well.