Big 10 Report - Week 13
November 23, 2011
This is the final week of Big Ten play and that means its rivalry week. Ohio State meets Michigan in "The Game" while Nebraska and Iowa play the first annual "Heroes Game." However, the biggest game on the schedule is not a rivalry matchup, it's a winner-take-all game in the Leaders division as Wisconsin meets Penn State with a trip to Indianapolis on the line. There aren't a lot of heavy favorites this week as Vegas is leaning towards close games in some heated rivalries. ASA takes a look at the inside scoop on every Big Ten matchup this weekend.
Nebraska (-9.5) vs. Iowa - 12:00 PM EST, ABC
NEB: 8-3 SU, 3-8 ATS - Last week: at Michigan, L 17-45
IOWA: 7-4 SU, 5-6 ATS - Last week: at Purdue, W 31-21
There's not a whole lot at stake in the first "Heroes Game," but this game will determine initial bragging rights moving forward in this new annual rivalry game. Iowa will play its second straight road game after finally notching its first road win of the season last week in a 10-point victory at Purdue. The Huskers need to protect their home turf to avoid finishing 8-4 in what would be a disappointing first season in the Big Ten.
Nebraska suffered its second humiliating road loss of the season last week in a 28-point defeat at the hands of Michigan. The Huskers had turnovers, special team's gaffes, and penalties in a miserable performance. They return home this week to try and save some face against Iowa in a game that should determine decent bowl position. QB Martinez is much better at home than he's been on the road this season. In six home games, he's averaging 175 pass yards per game (60%) with 8 touchdowns and 4 interceptions while also rushing for 562 yards and 7 touchdowns (152 YPG, 51%, 3 TD, 3 INT, 252 rush yards and 2 rush TD on the road).
Iowa's offense should be able to score in Lincoln behind QB Vandenberg (23 touchdowns, 5 interceptions), RB Coker (#2 B10 with 1,297 rush yards and 14 TD), and WR McNutt (74 receptions, 1,240 yards, 12 touchdowns). Nebraska's defense allowed 418 yards and 45 points against Michigan last week and has been vulnerable to strong offenses this season.
Something to consider: Nebraska has won six straight home finales by an average of 20 points per game. Iowa is 3-6 SU and 2-7 ATS in its last nine road games.
Wisconsin (-14.5) vs. Penn State - 3:30 PM EST, ESPN
WISC: 9-2 SU, 6-5 ATS - Last week: at Illinois, W 28-17
PSU: 9-2 SU, 4-7 ATS - Last week: at Ohio State, W 20-14
Wisconsin had its worst offensive output of the season last week in Illinois with just 285 total yards and 28 points. The Badgers were down 17-7 at halftime but held the Illini scoreless in the second half to set up a Leaders Division winner-take-all game here against Penn State. These two haven't met since 2008 but the favorite has covered six straight in the series (PSU has covered last two by 35 & 24 points, respectively).
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? We'll find out Saturday. Wisconsin's offense ranks 12th nationally in yards per game and 5th nationally in points per game and hasn't been held below 28 points this season. Penn State ranks 8th in yards allowed per game and 3rd in points allowed per game and hasn't allowed an opponent to score more than 27 points this season.
PSU is in a tough position, playing its third straight emotional game after head coach Joe Paterno was let go. The Nittany Lions had a close home loss to Nebraska, won at Ohio State, and now have a B10 Championship semifinal here at Wisconsin. It will be difficult for the Nittany Lions to match the output displayed the previous two weeks.
Something to consider: Penn State is 4-0 away from home this season, but Wisconsin is 49-4 straight up at home since 2004 (31-19-3 ATS). The Badgers are 14-4-2 ATS the last 20 home finales and are 8-2 ATS as a conference favorite the last three years.
Michigan (-8) vs. Ohio State - 12:00 PM EST, ABC
MICH: 9-2 SU, 8-3 ATS - Last week: vs. Nebraska, W 45-17
OSU: 6-5 SU, 5-6 ATS - Last week: vs. Penn State, L 14-20
For the first time in a long time, 'The Game' will have no impact on the Big Ten Champion. Neither team can win its division, but Michigan is still playing for a potential shot at a BCS at-large bid with only two losses. For the first time since 2004, the Wolverines are favored as they look to end a seven game skid to the Buckeyes (OSU is 5-2 ATS during the streak and has won three straight in Ann Arbor).
Michigan notched a signature win with a dominating performance Saturday against Nebraska. QB Robinson and RB Toussaint combined for 221 rush yards and six total touchdowns. Michigan's ever-improving defense recorded three key takeaways and held Nebraska to just 11 first downs.
After OSU's big home win over Wisconsin on October 29th, the Buckeyes have dropped two of three and play overwhelmingly weak football. Offensively they are averaging just 23 points per game and 328 yards per game in the last three (1-2 SU & 0-3 ATS). QB Miller is averaging just 76 pass YPG (49%) and defenses are stacking the box to stop the rush because they realize Miller is unlikely to hurt them through the air. The Wolverines should do the same as they are allowing just 113 rush yards per game in Big Ten play.
Something to consider: Ohio State hasn't been more than a seven point underdog since the 2009 Fiesta Bowl against Texas (+8 and covered, losing 21-24). The Buckeyes are now 7-1 ATS their last eight games as an underdog (3-1 ATS this season).
Northwestern (+6.5) vs. Michigan State - 12:00 PM EST, Big Ten Network
NW: 6-5 SU, 5-6 ATS - Last week: vs. Minnesota, W 28-13
MSU: 8-2 SU, 3-7 ATS - Last week: vs. Indiana, W 55-3
Michigan State assured itself a spot in the Big Ten Championship game with a definitive 55-3 beatdown of Indiana last week. The Spartans will try to avoid a letdown here as there aren't any stakes on this game considering they'll face either Wisconsin or Penn State next week in the B10 Championship. Northwestern, on the other hand, wants to enhance its Bowl profile with a big win here against MSU.
Credit Northwestern for bouncing back after a five-game losing streak put its season in jeopardy. The Wildcats have no reeled off four straight victories and are bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive year. This defense allowed over 35 points per game during the five game skid, but has allowed just 21 per game over the previous four.
Michigan State has now won three straight in this series. Last year, the Spartans fell behind 17-0 before outscoring the Wildcats 35-10 in the narrow eight point victory. MSU QB Cousins threw for 331 yards and 3 scores to lead the Spartans to victory. Northwestern is 5-2 ATS the last seven (but has only two straight up victories).
Something to consider: MSU is 7-1-1 ATS as an away favorite and Northwestern is 3-6 ATS as a Big Ten home underdog.
Indiana (+7.5) vs. Purdue - 3:30 PM EST, Big Ten Network
IND: 1-10 SU, 5-6 ATS - Last week: at Michigan State, L 3-55
PUR: 5-6 SU, 5-6 ATS - Last week: vs. Iowa, L 21-31
After last week's disappointing loss, Purdue has now followed all five of its wins with a loss this season. The Boilers committed four turnovers and racked up only 282 yards against Iowa and now must beat rival Indiana to get bowl eligible for the first time since 2007.
This season can't come to an end soon enough for the Hoosiers. They've now dropped eight straight games by an average margin of 18 points per game (42-18 average score). This defense ranks at or near the bottom of every major statistical category and hasn't held an opponent to under 34 points since October 1st. This is their final chance to record a win over an FBS opponent (only win came against FCS South Carolina State).
Purdue hasn't won on the road yet this season. They've dropped all four games by an average of 19 points per game. Last year the Boilers lost in overtime to the Hoosiers, just their second loss to Indiana in the past nine meetings. Purdue hasn't dropped back-to-back games to Indiana since 1993-94.
Something to consider: Indiana is 4-2 ATS as a conf home underdog last two years. Purdue is just 3-6 its last nine as a Big Ten road favorite, and this will mark the first occasion since 2009 (-3 at Indiana, W 38-21).
Minnesota (+10.5) vs. Illinois - 3:30 PM EST, Big Ten Network
MINN: 2-9 SU, 6-5 ATS - Last week: at Northwestern, L 13-28
ILL: 6-5 SU, 5-6 ATS - Last week: vs. Wisconsin, L 17-28
Illinois could go from a 6-0 start in the first half of the season to a 0-6 finish if it can't beat Minnesota on Saturday. Head coach Ron Zook likely needs a victory here to save his job, although a win here might not even do that. Minnesota has dropped three straight games after a promising win over Iowa in October 29th. Illinois is off of a grueling home loss to the Badgers (a game the Illini should have won) and it will be difficult to have a motivated performance here.
Minnesota allowed Northwestern to score three touchdowns on their first three possessions last week and were quickly disposed of by the Wildcats. Offensively this team is having difficulty developing any sort of consistency. The Gophers rank 110th in total offense and 113th in scoring offense. QB Gray leads the team in rushing, but struggles through the air, completing just 51% with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Something to consider: Minnesota beat Illinois, 38-34, as a 21-point underdog last season. The Gophers are now 6-1 ATS last seven meetings with Illinois.