ASA’s BIG TEN FOOTBALL REPORT – Week 2 – Oct 31st

MINNESOTA (-19 OPEN to -19.5 CURRENT) @ MARYLAND – Friday, Oct 30th

MINNESOTA – The Gophs played host to Michigan last Saturday as 3-point home dogs and got trounced 49-24 which was surprising to us.  Minnesota had what could be a fantastic offense returning with 10 starters back from a team that averaged 34 PPG in 2019.  They weren’t great on Saturday to say the least.  They put up just 326 total yards on 4.5 YPP.  This from an offense that averaged 432 YPG on 6.4 YPP last season.  They were held 10 points below last year’s scoring average and one of their TD’s came on a 17 yard drive following a blocked punt.  Two of their starting offensive linemen were pronounced out just before kickoff which didn’t help matters.  Our main worry with Minnesota was their defense.  Lots of new faces on the field this year.  Our concern was proven fact on Saturday as Michigan gashed them for 256 yards on the ground at 8.3 YPC.  New starting QB Milton averaged 10.2 yards per pass attempt and led the Wolverine offense, that had plenty of question marks coming into the season, to nearly 500 total yards of offense.  The Wolverines had 9 offensive possessions and only had to punt once.  On 8 of their possessions Michigan either scored a TD, missed a FG (3 misses), or were shut out on downs.   

MINNESOTA NEXT UP – @ Illinois

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MARYLAND – And we thought Minnesota’s defense was bad last week.  Maryland took it to another level.  They allowed a Northwestern offense that scored a total of 196 points in Big Ten play last year to put up 43.  That was almost 25% of the Wildcats total points put up on conference play last year and they did it in one game!  Now we expect the Northwestern offense to be much better this year but allowing them to rush for 325 yards and put up 537 total yards was not something we envisioned.  The Terp defense finished dead last in the conference in total defense last year and it looks like they are headed back to the bottom in 2020.  Offensively there was some buzz around new starting QB Taulia Tagovailoa who transferred from Alabama and is the younger brother of now starting Miami Dolphin QB Tua Tagovailoa.  He looked solid on his first drive leading Maryland to a FG but after that opening possession Tagovailoa completed just 8 of his remaining 18 passes and threw 3 interceptions.  They had just 207 yards of total offense and ran only 49 plays (Northwestern ran 83 plays) partly due to their -4 turnover ratio for the game.

MARYLAND NEXT UP – @ Penn State

MOST RECENT MEETING – Minnesota played host to Maryland last year as a 14 point favorite which is interesting to note because the Gophs are -20 plus on the road just one year later.  In last year’s game Minny rolled over the Terps 52-10 rushing for 321 yards while holding Maryland to just 79 on the ground.

POINTSPREAD NUGGET – The Gophers are currently favored by 20.5 in this contest as we write this report.  If it stays above -20, it will be just the 4th time in Minnesota history they have been a -20 or more road favorite in conference play.  The others came in 1982 (@ Northwestern), 1999 (@ Iowa) and last year (@ Rutgers).  They were 1-2 ATS in those games.

MICHIGAN STATE @ MICHIGAN (-25 OPEN to -24.5 CURRENT) – Saturday, Oct 31st

MICHIGAN STATE – We knew MSU was in rebuilding mode under new head coach Mel Tucker but they just might be in worse shape than we thought.  We never want to overreact to one game, however a double digit home loss to a Rutgers team that had lost 21 straight Big 10 games can’t help matters.  Sparty actually had more first downs and outgained Rutgers by nearly 100 yards in the 38-27 loss but turned the ball over a ridiculous 7 times!  MSU’s first 6 offensive possessions went like this – fumble, fumble, shut out on downs, TD, interception, and fumble.  The defense was actually quite solid despite being put in a number of bad positions due to the turnovers.  While it may have looked like the Rutgers offense went off with their 38 points, they actually only gained 276 total yards on 3.9 YPP.  The Scarlet Knights scored 5 TD’s in the game but 3 of those game on drives of 1-yard, 23-yards, and 26-yards following Michigan State turnovers.  On offense the Spartans hoped to drastically improve their rushing attack (13th in the Big 10 last year) to take some pressure off inexperience QB Lombardi.  Well that didn’t happen as they averaged just 1.3 YPC on 39 attempts vs a Rutgers defense that finished dead last in the conference in rush defense a season ago.

MICHIGAN STATE NEXT UP – @ Iowa

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MICHIGAN – We were interested to see how Michigan’s fairly inexperienced offense would perform @ Minnesota last week.  They had to replace their QB, most of their offensive line, and 2 top WR’s from a year ago.  They passed their first test with flying colors rolling up 49 points on 478 yards.  QB Milton looked very solid in his first start with 225 yards passing and 52 yards rushing.  The Wolverines ran only 56 offensive plays which made the performance even more impressive (8.5 YPP).  Now is Michigan’s offense that much better than we thought they might be early in the year or is Minnesota’s defense just that bad?  We’ll find that out in the next few weeks.  On defense we knew Michigan would be solid as always and they were holding a very good Minnesota offense to just 4.5 YPP.  To put that defensive effort into perspective, the Gophers worst offensive performance in their 9 game Big 10 schedule last year was 5.3 YPP.  One potential blow to the defense was safety Daxton Hill, one of Michigan’s top defensive players, left in the first half with an injury and did not return.

MICHIGAN NEXT UP – @ Indiana

MOST RECENT MEETING – Michigan was a 13.5 point home favorite in this game last year and sent the Spartans home with a 44-10 loss.  The Wolverines outgained MSU by 250 yards in that game.  Interesting that Michigan is now laying nearly 2 full TD’s more than they were last year to their in-state rival.

POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Michigan has covered the last 2 games in this rivalry, however prior to that the Spartans had covered 10 straight.  If this line holds at -25, it would be the 2nd highest pointspread EVER in this series.  Back in 1992 Michigan was a 27.5 point favorite in this game (won by 25) and this massive spread is next in line.

INDIANA (-13 OPEN to -10.5 CURRENT) @ RUTGERS– Saturday, Oct 31st

INDIANA – The Hoosiers are on cloud nine after their first win over a top 10 team in 34 years.  The game went to OT and after PSU scored a TD to take a 7-point lead, IU did the same on their possession but opted to go for 2-points and the win.  QB Penix rolled out on the 2-point conversion and dove for the pylon in what was the closest call you could ever see.  It was ruled successful giving Indiana the 36-35 win.  A win is a win but the fact is, IU was dominated for much of the game.  They had a grand total of 100 yards through the first 3 quarters and tallied only 211 for the game + OT on just 3.4 YPP.  Indiana was outgained 488 to 211 including 250 to 41 on the ground.  Over 35% of the Hoosiers entire yardage for the entire game (75 yards) came on their last drive in regulation which took only 1:20 and ended in a game tying TD with just 22 seconds remaining to send the game to OT.  Prior to that game tying drive, IU coach Tom Allen instructed his defense to let PSU score a TD on a 14-yard run to take a 28-20 lead and at least give his team a chance.  It was a brilliant move that resulted in a huge win for Indiana.  All in all what wasn’t a great performance on either side of the ball for the Hoosiers turned into one of the biggest wins in school history.   

INDIANA NEXT UP – Home vs Michigan

RUTGERS – Rutgers went 0-9 in Big Ten play last year losing every game by at least 21 points.  They averaged less than 6 PPG in conference play last year.  They scored a TOTAL of 51 points in conference play in 2019.  Last week in their big win @ Michigan State the Knights pushed close to that total in one game scoring 38 points in their 11 point win.   It was the most points they’ve scored in a conference game since 2015 and their FIRST conference win since 2017!  Nebraska transfer Noah Vedral won the QB battle for the Knights and was far from dynamic throwing for only 169 yards, 1 TD, and 1 interception.  Despite the win they weren’t much better on the ground barely topping 100 yards and averaged only 2.6 YPC.  Similar to Indiana’s win over PSU, simply looking at the stats you wouldn’t have thought Rutgers won the game.  They were outgained by nearly 100 yards but benefited from 7 MSU turnovers.  Defensively they were great against the run allowing MSU to pick up only 50 yards on the ground.  However, they did allow Spartan QB Lombardi, who came in having completed just 42% of his career passes, throw for over 300 yards and complete over 72% of his pass attempts.     

RUTGERS NEXT UP – @ Ohio State

MOST RECENT MEETING – Last season the Hoosiers played host to Rutgers as a 4 TD favorite.  Indiana won the game 35-0 holding the Scarlet Knights to just 75 yards or total offense.   Rutgers crossed midfield just ONCE the entire game.

POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Indiana has been a double digit road favorite in conference play just 7 times since October of 1992.  They are just 1-6 ATS in those games.  One of those contest was 2 years ago @ Rutgers where IU was a 2 TD favorite and won 24-17 (no cover).

OHIO STATE (-10.5 OPEN to -11.5 CURRENT) @ PENN STATE – Saturday, Oct 31st

OHIO STATE – While it was never in doubt late in the game that OSU (-28) was going to beat Nebraska handily, the spread winner was in doubt.  That is until 18 seconds remaining in the game.  That’s because, rather than take a knee at the Nebraska 2-yard line which would have ended the game, OSU head coach Ryan Day kept his fans and alumni happy by scoring a TD to pick up a very late cover in the Buckeyes 52-17 win.  The game was actually tied 14-14 late in the first half and the Bucks went on to outscore the Huskers 38-3 the rest of the way.  QB Fields may have pushed to the front of the Heisman race after just one game with his 20 of 21 passing performance with 350 total yards (passing & rushing).  The only real chink in the Buckeye armor last Saturday was their inability to slow down Nebraska’s running QB’s.  The Huskers rushed for over 200 yards on 5.8 YPC with 175 of those yards coming from the QB’s.  They need to shape that up this week as PSU QB Clifford ran for over 100 yards last week @ Indiana.  This will be their lowest spread the rest of the way for Ohio State as they should be favored by at least 2 TD’s at home vs Michigan and by 21+ in every other game.      

OHIO STATE NEXT UP – Home vs Rutgers

PENN STATE – The Nittany Lions made plenty of mistakes last Saturday which led to their OT loss @ Indiana.  Three turnovers, two missed field goals, one shut out on downs at the IU 25-yard line, and a huge mental mistake at the end of regulation cost PSU a win last Saturday.  Speaking of their mental mistake, with Penn State leading 21-20 and just 1:45 remaining in the game, the Nits took over on downs at the Indiana 14-yard line.  IU had just one timeout remaining and the Hoosiers purposely allowed PSU to score on a 14-yard TD run pushing their lead to 8.  Great move by IU coach Tom Allen, dumb move by Penn State who could have run the clock out if RB Ford would have dropped inside the 5 short of the goal line.  Instead he scored, Indiana went on a 75 yard TD drive in just over 1:00 minute, converted the 2-point conversion to send the game to OT when Penn State lost 36-35.  The stats were great.  The Lions rolled up almost 500 yards and held Indiana to barely over 200.  They also had a +11 first down edge and held a 40:00 to 20:00 minute time of possession edge in regulation.  Can they bounce back from the brutal loss?  They’ve played OSU as well as anyone in the Big 10 as of late with 5 of the last 6 meetings being decided by 11 points or less and with half of those meetings (3) being decided by a field goal or less.   

PENN STATE NEXT UP – Home vs Maryland

MOST RECENT MEETING – OSU was a 20-home chalk when these 2 met last season.  The Buckeyes jumped out to a 21-0 lead but the PSU made a comeback and entered the 4th quarter down just 21-17.  OSU won the game 28-17 and outgained the Nittany Lions by 190 yards

POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Penn State has covered 5 of the last 6 in this series.  If you throw out the lone lopsided result during that stretch (OSU 38-10 win in 2015), the average score over the last 6 meetings has been 29-26 in favor of the Buckeyes.   

PURDUE (-4 OPEN to -7 CURRENT) @ ILLINOIS – Saturday, Oct 31st

PURDUE – Purdue was able to pull the home upset last week with a 24-20 win over Iowa (-3) with head coach Jeff Brohm not in attendance.  He was out with COVID last weekend and expects to be back at practice on Wednesday of this week.  They won the game with their best offensive player sitting on the sidelines.  WR Rondale Moore, who missed much of last season with an injury, was ruled out shortly before the game and nobody knows why.  It was for the infamous “undisclosed reasons” and when pressed on the issue this week Brohm said, “He was just out.  Whenever he is ready to play he will play.”  They had 2 accomplished QB’s from last season but decided to go with Aidan O’Connell and he put it up 50 times completing 32 of those passes.  They weren’t great defensive with Iowa rolling up 460 yards with an inexperienced QB at the helm.  The theme of the week in the Big 10 continues here as Purdue was outgained both on a YPG and YPP basis but pulled out the win.  Brohm mentioned this week that his Boilers were embarrassed, outplayed, and outcoached by Illinois last year so they should be mentally ready for this one.   

PURDUE NEXT UP – @ WISCONSIN

ILLINOIS – The Illini were dominated in every way possible last Friday night at Wisconsin.  They lost 45-7 and their only TD came from the defense on a fumble recovery.  They put up just 87 yards passing and their running game was led by QB Peters who had 7 carries for 75 yards.  If you subtract Peters rushing yardage, the RB’s for Illinois had only 52 yards on the ground.  On the other side of the ball they were unable to slow down Wisconsin’s passing game as the Badgers had ONE incomplete pass on the evening and that one was dropped by a RB.  The one bright spot for the Illini, if we had to pick one, was their rush defense which was quite good despite entering this season with an entirely new defensive line.  Wisconsin did have 182 yards on the ground but it took them 54 carries to get there which is an average of less than 4 YPC.  Not bad for a defense that was on the field A LOT as the Badgers had a 44:00 to 16:00 minute time of possession edge.  Wisconsin ran 75 offensive plays to just 47 for Illinois.   

ILLINOIS NEXT UP – Home vs Minnesota

MOST RECENT MEETING – Illinois entered their game @ Purdue last year as 10 point underdogs and cruised to a 24-6 upset win.  The Illini only completed 3 passes the entire game but didn’t really have to throw the ball as they ran for 242 yards on 53 carries.

POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Despite last year’s Illinois win, Purdue has won 11 of the last 15 meetings SU in this series.   Since the end of the 2010 season, the Boilermakers have been a road favorite a total of 12 times.  They are 4-8 ATS in those games and they’ve lost half of those games (6) outright.

GAME CANCELLED – WISCONSIN (-10.5 OPEN) @ NEBRASKA – Saturday, Oct 31st

This game has since been cancelled after we wrote about it so we’ll still share our thoughts…

WISCONSIN – Well that didn’t last long.  Wisconsinites were very eager to see how their highest rated QB in school history would perform in the first start of his career last Friday Night.  Graham Mertz didn’t disappoint and exceed expectations completing 21 of his 22 passes with 5 TD’s.  Mertz is now out, reportedly for 3 games, with a positive COVID test.  Under Big 10 rules, he must sit out for at least 21 days which means he would miss this weekend @ Nebraska, home vs Purdue, and @ Michigan.  Not good as starter Jack Coan is already out with a broken foot.  To make matters worse 3rd stringer Chase Wolf tested positive as well and will miss 21 days.  That leaves the Badgers with 4th string former walk on Danny Vanden Boom as the starter.  If something happens to him they might be forced to use starting RB Groshek, who was a QB in high school, under center.  A bad situation for Wisconsin that is bound to happen at other schools as well.  As for last week’s game, the defense looked great as we expected.  The only concern was allowing Illinois QB Peters to rush for 10 YPC.  That will have to be cleaned up this week facing 2 mobile QB’s for the Huskers.  On offense, who knows?  Their running game wasn’t great last week averaging 3.9 YPC but the Illini stacked the box regularly which allowed Mertz shred them through the air.  You can bet Nebraska will do the same facing the Badgers 4th string QB.  Vanden Boom has played in ONE career series back in 2018 and he attempted one pass.  The line obviously moved in a big way when the situation was announced and the total dropped from 55 to 48.  We would expect Wisconsin to be conservative if they can and lean on their very good defense in this game.   

WISCONSIN NEXT UP – Home vs Purdue

NEBRASKA – The Huskers hung with OSU for nearly a full half last week before the wheels fell off.  Their rush defense has been terrible over the past 3 years and it was something they focused on improving this season.  It wasn’t bad last Saturday.  If not for OSU’s QB Fields having a solid day on the ground, the Buckeye RB’s really didn’t do much as Sermon & Teague (Buckeye starting RB’s) had 89 yards on 23 carries (3.8 YPC).  Nebraska has struggled big time stopping Wisconsin’s running game as of late.  In fact the last 3 seasons the Husker defense has allowed the Badgers to rush for 320, 370, and 353 yards!  On a similar note, Husker RB’s did very little last week on the ground but QB’s Martinez and McCaffrey (Christian McCaffrey’s brother) combined for 165 yards rushing.  The Badgers weren’t great last week at slowing down a QB who isn’t usually a big running threat so that is something to keep an eye on here.  One key note defensively for the Huskers is they will be without 2 of their top DB’s in the first half on Saturday.  Starting CB Taylor-Britt and starting safety Williams will have to sit the first half after both receiving targeting penalties in the 2nd half of last week’s game.    

NEBRASKA NEXT UP – Home vs Minnesota

MOST RECENT MEETING – Wisconsin was favored by 14.5 here in Lincoln last year and won 37-21.  The Huskers actually outgained the Badgers but were shut out on downs 3 times inside Wisconsin territory and missed a FG. 

POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Since joining the Big 10 in 2011, the Huskers are just 1-8 SU vs Wisconsin & 3-6 ATS.  The average score of those 9 meetings was Wisconsin 41, Nebraska 22.  Huskers is just 7-13 ATS the last 20 times they’ve been tabbed an underdog dating back to the 2016 season.

NORTHWESTERN @ IOWA (-3.5 OPEN to -2.5 CURRENT) – Saturday, Oct 31st

NORTHWESTERN – Northwestern’s offense needed to improve drastically this season.  Last year they scored a grand total of 41 points through their first 6 Big Ten games.  Last week they eclipsed that beating Maryland 43-3, their largest margin of victory since 1970.  After averaging just 297 YPG last year, they rolled up 537 yards last week.  We knew they would be improved with former Indiana starter, Peyton Ramsey at QB.  However, we felt that new OC Bajakian, who came over from Boston College, might be the biggest addition of any coaching staff in the Big 10.  He’s a run heavy guy but also likes to play more up tempo that Northwestern is used to.  Bajakian stuck to both of those principals on Saturday as the Cats ran 53 times for 325 yards and their pace allowed them to run 83 offensive snaps after averaging 70 last season.  Ramsey was also solid with 212 yards through the air and a 77% completion rate.  Defensively this team has always been solid.  As we mentioned last week they held 8 of their 12 opponents last year to 24 points or less.  Last week, after Maryland’s opening drive which led to a FG, the Wildcat defense held the Terps to just 151 yards on their final 10 offensive possessions.

NORTHWESTERN NEXT UP – Home vs Nebraska

IOWA – Iowa has some question marks on offense heading into last week’s game @ Purdue.  Mainly at QB where Spencer Petras was taking over for 3-year starter Nate Stanley.  Petras was solid throwing for 265 yards but Iowa was only able to get in the endzone twice in their 24-20 loss despite racking up 460 total yards.  That’s just 1 point for every 23 yards gained which is extremely inefficient.  To put that in perspective, last year’s Iowa offense averaged 1 point for every 14.2 yards gained which would have given them 32 points last week.  Two fumbles at the Purdue 17-yard line and 41-yard line didn’t help matters.  Iowa outgained Purdue but more than 1.0 YPP but simply couldn’t covert their drives into points.  They pushed out to at least their own 44-yard line (so close to midfield) on 10 of their 13 offensive possessions.  The defense was solid as usual holding Purdue to just 5.0 YPP.  The Hawkeyes held Purdue to just 6 of 16 on third downs but on the Boilers final drive of the game which resulted in the game winning TD, they converted 3 third down attempts.  They did force Purdue to 3 and outs on almost half of their possessions on Saturday (5 of 12).        

IOWA NEXT UP – Home vs Michigan State

MOST RECENT MEETING – Interesting that Iowa was a 7.5 point favorite @ Northwestern last year and they are now just -2.5 at home one year later.  In last year’s game Iowa cruised to a 20-0 win limiting the Wildcats to just 202 total yards on 67 offensive snaps.   

POINTSPREAD NUGGET – The road team has won 4 of the last 5 games outright in this Big 10 series.  Since 2013, the Hawkeyes have been a home favorite of -3 or less 6 times and they are 5-1 ATS in those games.  This has been a low scoring series with 11 of the last 15 playing to the UNDER.  The last 3 meetings have resulted in final scores of 27 total points or less.