ASA's BIG TEN FOOTBALL REPORT - Week 5

PURDUE (-1 OPEN to –2.5 CURRENT) @ MINNESOTA – Friday, November 20th

 

PURDUE – The Boilers entered last week’s home game with Northwestern at a perfect 2-0 with tight wins over Iowa and Illinois.  They were a bit fortunate to be 2-0 as they were outgained in each of their first 2 games.  On Saturday it caught up to them losing at home 27-20 to Northwestern.  Purdue never led in the game and were held to just 2 yards rushing on 17 carries.  They had ONE run the entire game of more than 5 yards.  Their rushing attack now has just 191 total yards through 3 games which is last in the conference.  The Boilers have to find a way to be more balanced on offense as only 75 of their 211 offensive snaps this year have been runs (35%).  Their run play percentage is 2nd lowest in college football ahead of only the Mike Leach air raid offense at Mississippi State.  On Friday night they play the Big Ten’s worst rush defense in Minnesota (238 YPG allowed) so something has to give.  We had heard that Purdue’s top offensive threat, WR Moore, was getting closer to playing but was held out again.  He hasn’t played yet this season and they could use him.  Top DE Karlaftis suited up but didn’t play and we would anticipate him getting back on the field this week.

 

PURDUE NEXT UP – Home vs Rutgers

 

MINNESOTA – The Gopher defense actually held Iowa to only 346 yards, which is 100 yards less than what Minnesota gives up on the season (447 YPG), and they still lost 35-7.  Minny continues to get run over every week allowing Iowa 235 yards on 6.7 YPC.  They rank dead last in college football allowing opponents to average 7.1 YPC.  While the defense had question marks entering the year, the offense was supposed to be very good returning 10 starters including QB Morgan who led the Big 10 in passing yards last year.  That hasn’t been the case so far this season.  When comparing the overall numbers this year to last year the Minnesota offense is -5.6 PPG, -42 YPG, and -0.8 YPP.  Tanner Morgan is completing just 57% of his passes for 192 YPG through the air after hitting 66% last season for 250 per game.  He’s thrown 4 interceptions through 4 games this year after getting picked just 7 times through 13 games last year.  Losing offensive coordinator Ciarrocca to Penn State has had a big impact on this offense although we’re guessing Nittany Lion fans would gladly give him back right about now.  One thing we’re sure about, if the offense doesn’t get better, this team is in big trouble the remainder of the season. 

 

MINNESOTA NEXT UP – @ Wisconsin

 

 

MOST RECENT MEETING – Last year Minnesota was a 2 point underdog @ Purdue and came away with a 38-31 win.  The Gophers led by 21 points with under 7:00 minutes remaining in the game before Purdue decided to make it interesting with 2 late TD’s.

 

POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Since 1992, Purdue is 14-2 SU & 11-5 ATS when favored in this series.  They opened as a 1-point favorite so something to keep an eye on here. 

 

 

INDIANA @ OHIO STATE (-20 OPEN to -20.5 CURRENT) – Saturday, November 21st

 

INDIANA – Well we didn’t envision IU and OSU playing for first place in the Big 10 East in week 5.  We knew IU would be improved but sitting at 4-0 and ranked in the top 10 was not what we expected.  They dominated Michigan State on the road last week in a situation where they could have had a letdown coming off a win over Michigan and a game @ OSU on deck.  QB Penix was very good again leading the offense to 433 yards including 320 through the air.  He is now 3rd in the conference averaging 267 YPG through the air.  The running game needs to improve as they are averaging just 95 YPG on 2.7 YPC (113 vs MSU).  Defensively they shutout MSU and held them to only 191 total yards.  IU ran 77 offensive snaps to only 51 for Michigan State.  We’ll be honest we’re still not sure how good IU is.  Three of their wins have come against Rutgers, Michigan, and Michigan State and the latter two would have been considered solid wins but maybe not anymore after watching the first 4 weeks play out.  Their other win was in OT vs an 0-4 Penn State team and Indiana was outgained by 277 yards in that game!  We’ll find out how good they are this weekend @ OSU.   

 

INDIANA NEXT UP – Home vs Maryland

 

OHIO STATE – The Buckeyes had an unscheduled bye week when their game @ Maryland was cancelled to due Covid issues for the Terps.  The week prior to that he Buckeyes were a huge 37.5 point favorite vs Rutgers and at half it looked like they might cruise to an easy won and cover.  OSU led 35-3 at the break scoring TD’s on 5 of their 6 possessions.  At halftime the Buckeyes had 357 total yards and held Rutgers to just 90.  The Knights actually outscored OSU 24-14 in the 2nd half and would up with an easy cover losing 49-27.  Head coach Ryan Day admitted the performance felt “flat” after the game and who could blame them with a 32 point halftime lead vs a team they had beaten by an average margin of 46 points.  It was another great performance by QB Fields who only had 4 incompletions in the game and now has just 11 incompletions the entire year.  Since he transferred to OSU for Georgia, Fields has thrown 52 TD’s and just 3 interceptions.  The offense was balanced and the RB’s were much better this week averaging over 6.0 YPC.  The defense held Rutgers to just 3.2 YPP in the first half but the 2nd half wasn’t great as the Knights were able to score 3 TD’s.  They shouldn’t be flat here as the winner of this game takes sole possession of first place in the Big 10 East.

 

OHIO STATE NEXT UP – @ Illinois

 

 

MOST RECENT MEETING – The Buckeyes were 17 point favorites @ Indiana last year and rolled the Hoosiers 51-10.  OSU led 30-10 at half and outscored IU 21-0 in the second half.

 

POINTSPREAD NUGGET – OSU has won 25 straight meetings with Indiana and they are 33-2-1 SU in this series since 1980.  However, Indiana has covered 7 of the last 9 meetings. 

 

 

WISCONSIN (-7 OPEN to -7 CURRENT) @ NORTHWESTERN – Saturday, November 21st

 

WISCONSIN – The Badgers showed no signs of rust after a 3 week layoff jumping all over Michigan 49-11.  Wisconsin intercepted Michigan’s first 2 passes of the game and turned both of those takeaways into TD’s for a quick 14-0 lead.  Starting QB Mertz was back off the 21 day Covid list and made the start.  After his terrific debut vs Illinois he threw for just 127 yards in this one.  He really didn’t need to have a huge game as the Badgers ran for 341 yards on 6.7 YPC.  They spread the wealth on the ground with 4 different players rushing for at least 65 yards with the leader being RB Berger with 87 yards.  It will be RB by committee for Wisconsin this year as they have a number of solid ball carriers but nobody that is head and shoulders above the rest as they usually do.  Their starting RB Groshek actually sat out as he is in covid protocol.  Because of that dominance on the ground UW had a huge time of possession edge (40:00 minutes to 20:00 minutes) and ran 71 offensive snaps to just 46 for the Wolverines.  For the game the Badgers were +16 first downs, +249 total yards, and +294 yards on the ground.  The defense held Michigan to only 47 yards rushing and after 2 games they lead the Big Ten in scoring defense, total defense, rush defense, and pass defense.  They had 10 players out in this game, including 3 defensive starters, and we anticipate some of them clearing the 21 day covid rule and playing this week. 

 

WISCONSIN NEXT UP – Home vs Minnesota

 

NORTHWESTERN – After finishing in last place in the Big Ten West with a 1-8 record, Northwestern is sitting atop the division this season with a perfect 4-0 record.  They topped Purdue 27-20 on the road last week to stay unbeaten.  The Cats defense continued to play outstanding holding Purdue to 265 total yards and only 2 yards on the ground.  The offense has been getting it done but it hasn’t been dominating that’s for sure.  Since crushing Maryland in their season opener, Northwestern has won their last 3 games all by a single score and the offense has not topped 317 total yards in any of those wins.  They continue to run the ball a lot with more carries this year (191) than any other team in the Big 10.  The problem is, they are only averaging 3.6 YPC which is 11th in the league.  In last Saturday’s win they carried the ball 40 times for just 80 yards.  The defense has been very good.  They rank just behind Wisconsin at #2 in the league in total defense, scoring defense, and rush defense.  Veteran defensive coordinator has been great at making halftime adjustments with his defense allowing only 10 second half points the entire season (all 10 coming last week vs Purdue).    

 

NORTHWESTERN NEXT UP – @ Michigan State

 

 

MOST RECENT MEETING – The Badgers were a huge 23 point favorite last year and squeaked by 24-15 giving NW an easy cover.  The yardage was basically even and Wisconsin had 2 non-offensive TD’s (one defensive and one special teams) which helped them to the win.

 

POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Northwestern has covered 5 of the last 6 games in this series.  They’ve easily covered the last 3 by a combined 39 points (13 points per game).  The Wildcats have been a huge money maker at home in this series covering 11 of the last 13 played in Evanston.

 

 

ILLINOIS @ NEBRASKA (-14.5 OPEN to -15.5 CURRENT) – Saturday, November 21st

 

ILLINOIS – The Illini were 0-3 entering last Saturday and they were actually tabbed as an underdog @ Rutgers, a team that had won just 1 of their last 35 conference games.  It looked like they may drop to 0-4 as Rutgers led throughout.  In fact, Illinois never led in the game until 3 seconds remaining when they nailed a 47 yard FG to pull the 23-20 upset (tough to say that when you’re playing Rutgers).  The offense was sputtering entering this contest scoring only 6 TD’s in their first 3 games.  A week earlier the scored just 14 points vs a Minnesota defense that has allowed 49, 45, and 35 points in their other 3 games.  Back up QB Williams returned for this game after the Illini had to go with 4th stringer Taylor in their previous 2 games.  The freshman signal caller was a sight for Illini fans sore eyes as he came through with 192 yards rushing and 104 yards passing.  Williams is not a great passer (38% completions last week with just 7 completions) but he obviously brings a huge running threat to the position.  He led an Illini attack that rushed for 338 yards on 59 carries.  With the game tied at 20-20, Illinois had 3 impressive drives to close out the game with 2 ending in missed FG’s before their final made FG with a few seconds remaining.  While the offense was sparked by the new QB, the defense remains one of the worst in the nation.  They allowed a Rutgers team that had been averaging 298 YPG to roll up 422 yards on Saturday.  It was actually the best defensive performance from Illinois this year (ranked 106th in total defense) which tells you how poor they’ve been this year.    

 

ILLINOIS NEXT UP – Home vs Ohio State

 

NEBRASKA – The Huskers picked up their first win of the season upsetting Penn State last week.  After losing a game where they dominated the stats the previous week @ Northwestern, the tables turned here as Nebraska fell short on the stat sheet but got the win.  In their 30-23 win over PSU, the Huskers were -13 first downs, -203 total yards, and -13 minutes time of possession.  After splitting time at QB with 2 year starter Adrian Martinez, redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey took the reins on Saturday playing the entire game.  He responded with 200+ total yards and was Nebraska’s leading rusher for the game with 67 yards.  The Huskers added a wrinkle to the offense using WR Robinson as a RB as well with starting tailback Mills banged up.  Robinson is one of Nebraska’s top playmakers and they were able to get him 21 touches as he split time at WR & RB.  He had only 10 touches on the season coming into this game.  While the defense gave up over 500 yards they came up big late stopping PSU on downs in their final 2 drives as the Nits were looking for a tie.  They stopped them at the 11 & 13 yard lines to preserve the win.  The defense also came through with a fumble recovery for a TD.  They were on the field A LOT on Saturday as PSU ran 91 plays so that could be a factor this week vs Illinois.

 

NEBRASKA NEXT UP – @ Iowa

 

 

MOST RECENT MEETING – The Huskers were 13 point road favorites vs Illinois last season.  The Huskers trailed 21-14 at half and rallied for a tight 42-38 win.  The Nebraska offense was unstopped rolling up almost 700 yards and outgaining the Illini by 386 yards.

 

POINTSPREAD NUGGET – The last 2 years, this series has been all about the offense.  In those 2 meetings the teams have combined for 169 total points and over 2,000 total yards!  The last time Nebraska has been favored by 14 or more just 10 times since joining the conference in 2011.  They are 4-6 ATS in those contests.  They are 8-1 SU and 6-3 ATS vs Illinois since joining the league.

 

 

IOWA (-2 OPEN to -2.5 CURRENT) @ PENN STATE – Saturday, November 21st

 

IOWA – After losing their first 2 games by a combined 5 points, Iowa has even their record at 2-2 outscoring their last 2 opponents by a combined 84-14.  Last Friday @ Minnesota the trounced the reeling Gophers 35-7.  While their offensive stats weren’t overwhelming with 346 total yards, they controlled the game from start to finish.  They led 35-0 and held Minnesota scoreless for 59 minutes and 46 seconds as the Gophs scored their only TD with 14 seconds remaining in the game.  The defense was outstanding holding Minny to 312 total yards with 75 of those coming on the final drive of the game when the outcome was already decided.  Minnesota only had 2 drives of more than 6 plays the entire game.  On offense nearly 70% of their yardage came on the ground last week.  If someone is able to stop Iowa’s running game that could be a problem in the future.  QB Petras is young and inexperienced and he’s been up and down this season.  He’s thrown more interception that TD’s (4 picks to 3 TD’s) and Iowa currently ranks 95th in YPG passing, 107th in completion percentage, 110th in yards per pass attempt, and 118th in passer rating (out of 123 qualifying teams).  If someone can force the Hawks to beat them through the air, the might be in trouble.

 

IOWA NEXT UP – Home vs Nebraska

 

PENN STATE – The Nittany Lions lost @ Nebraska last Saturday and dropped to 0-4 for the first time since the 2001 season.  Looking at the stat sheet you’d have no idea how PSU lost this game.  They outgained the Huskers 502 to 298 in the 30-23 loss.  That’s been a common theme for the Lions as they’ve outgained 3 of their 4 opponents this season yet remain winless.  The only team that beat them in the stats was Ohio State and that was only by 37 yards.  On the year they are averaging 437 YPG and allowing just 360 YPG yet their point differential is -37.  Starting QB Clifford was replaced by Will Levis after committing 2 turnovers on PSU’s first 3 possessions. Levis led the Nittany Lions to 17 points and was inside the Nebraska 15-yard line on each of their final 2 possessions of the game but came away with 0 points.  Our guess would be Levis will get the start this Saturday.  The defense has held 3 of their 4 opponents to 325 yards or less and kept the Husker offense in check holding them to 4.9 YPP.  Nebraska scored early on a defensive fumble return which turned out to be the difference in the game.  Penn State is talented.  They were a top 10 team to start the season.  They rank 3rd in the league in total offense and 6th in total defense yet they are 0-4.  Figuring out the mental state of this team will be really tough and unfortunately that will be the key to handicapping this game in our opinion.      

 

PENN STATE NEXT UP – @ Michigan

 

 

MOST RECENT MEETING – Penn State was favored by 3.5 @ Iowa last year and won a tight game 17-12.  Iowa outgained PSU by 62 yards but had 2 turnovers which led to 10 of Penn State’s 17 points.

 

POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Iowa has been a favorite @ PSU just once in their history way back in 1983.  They won that game 42-34 as a 2-point favorite.  Penn State is 6-0 SU & 5-1 ATS the last 6 meetings with Iowa.  However while the Hawkeyes are just 1-1 ATS as a road favorite this year, they were a fantastic 17-5 laying points on the road coming into this season (back to 2011).

 

 

MICHIGAN (-10 OPEN to -7.5 CURRENT) @ RUTGERS – Saturday, November 21st

 

MICHIGAN – Oh how the once mighty have fallen.  Michigan was trounced 49-11 at home vs Wisconsin and dropped to 1-3 on the season. It was Michigan’s largest home loss in 85 years!  Since beating a defenseless Minnesota team to open the season, Michigan has been outscored 114 to 56 and outgained 1,380 to 1,025 over their last 3 games vs MSU, Indiana, and Wisconsin.  The Wolverines entered last week’s game concerned about their pass defense which ranked 13th in the Big 10 and allowed the previous 2 QB’s they faced to throw for career highs.  Well you can add their rush defense as a concern with the Badgers rolling over Michigan for 341 yards on the ground on 6.7 YPC.  Saturday’s effort dropped the Wolverines to 79th nationally in total defense, this from a team that has landed in the top 11 in that category for the last 6 seasons.  The offense wasn’t any better.  The were held to just 219 total yards and starting QB Milton threw interceptions on his first 2 pass attempts which led to a quick 14-0 lead for the Badgers.  Milton led the Wolverines to just 4 first downs on 6 possessions in the first half with Wisconsin leading 28-0 at the break.  Sophomore QB McNamara took over in the 3rd quarter and led Michigan to their only TD of the game.  We wouldn’t be surprised of McNamara, who has attempted 10 passes in his career, got the nod this week.   

 

MICHIGAN NEXT UP – Home vs Penn State

 

RUTGERS – The Scarlet Knights stepped into last week’s game vs Illinois as a favorite for the first time in Big 10 play since 2015.  It looked for most of the game that Rutgers would get the win as they led for 43:03, the game was tied for 16:54 and Illinois led for 3 seconds.  That final 3 seconds was the back breaker as Illinois kicked a FG to win 23-20.  That game winning kick was set up by a Rutgers turnover with just 1:17 remaining in the game.  With the game tied at 20-20 and Rutgers driving for a potential win, QB Vedral threw a pick, his 3rd of the game, on a 1st and 10 situation with the ball on the Illini 37-yard line.  That turnover turned into the game winning FG for Illinois.  Despite the loss, the offense is drastically improved.  They’ve scored at least 20 points in all 4 games this season.  While that might not seem like a big deal, it is for this team.  In fact, coming into this year they had scored 20 or more points in just 5 of their previous 36 Big Ten games.  The 422 total yards they tallied was the most in a Big 10 game since November of 2015.  The defense is also headed in the right direction.  They are allowing 5.8 YPP on the year after giving up 6.3 YPP a year ago.  They are “only” allowing 34 PPG this season after giving up 39.5 PPG in conference play last year.  Baby steps.

 

RUTGERS NEXT UP – @ Purdue

 

 

MOST RECENT MEETING – The Wolverines were favored by 27.5 points at home vs Rutgers last year and shut out the Knights 52-0.  Just one year later and Michigan is laying barely a TD in this game.

 

POINTSPREAD NUGGET – Michigan has been favored by at least 22 points in each of the last 5 meetings with Rutgers.  The Wolverines have won all of those games SU (3-2 ATS) by an average score of 51-7.  Michigan hasn’t been great as a favorite of less than 10 points historically.  Dating back to 1980 they are 67-88-3 ATS in that role (43%). 

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