NCAAF-Week 6- Friday big ten preview

Purdue at No. 12 Penn State (ESPN, 12:00 p.m. ET)

Purdue was hoping starting QB Elijah Sindelar would clear concussion protocol and be ready to go last Saturday in their home game vs Minnesota. Well the Boilers had their wish granted as Sindelar was cleared and got the start on Saturday. However, he only lasted 11 offensive snaps before he left the game with a broken collarbone which will keep him out most if not all of the season. To make matters worse, the Boilermakers #1 offensive weapon, WR Rondale Moore, was injured on the same play. He was taken to the locker room with an apparent leg injury and after the game head coach Jeff Brohm said that Moore would likely miss an extended period of time and is definitely out on Saturday vs PSU. To rub salt in the wound, Purdue went on to lose 38-31 to the Gophers dropping their record to 1-3. Freshman Jack Plummer will now be called upon to lead an offense that has little to no running game to help him out. PU averages just 68 YPG rushing which ranks them dead last in the Big Ten and 129th out of 130 nationally. While the offense looks like they may have some problems now moving forward, the defense hasn’t done much to help out. They’ve allowed 34, 34, and 38 points in their 3 losses and they made Minnesota QB Tanner Morgan look like Peyton Manning on Saturday as he completed 21 of his 22 pass attempts. They now rank last in the Big Ten in total defense, pass defense, and pass efficiency defense.

Penn State simply hadn’t looked all that impressive their previous two games before heading to Maryland last Friday. They were outgained by both Buffalo and Pitt with a drastic time of possession disadvantage in those games – both wins. We had some concerns as they hit the road for the first time at Maryland. Well saying they put those concerns to rest is an understatement. The Nittany Lions absolutely destroyed the Terps 59-0 outgaining the Terps by a massive 494 yards! Unfortunately for Maryland, they had a rare sellout for their Big Ten opener and many of the 53,000 fans were long gone at halftime with PSU leading 38-0. PSU obviously cashed an easy cover as they were favored by 7 points, however the total was set at 59.5 so with Maryland going scoreless, the game stayed under by a half point! The Nits have been a big play offense and that continued last Friday night with 2 TD’s of 35+ yards and 13 plays of 15 yards or more. The defense did their part holding a Maryland offense that was averaging 537 YPG and 53 PPG to only 128 total yards and not a single point. The Terp offense only pushed inside the Penn State 48-yard line ONCE the entire game. Complete domination by the Nittany Lions who are now 40-2 all time vs Maryland

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: A big move on this game as well. It opened PSU -24 on Sunday afternoon and has climbed to -28 as of this writing. Much of that has to do with Purdue’s injuries as they are banged up in a number of key areas as we mentioned above. These two Big Ten programs have not faced each other since 2016. This is the highest spread ever in this series with the previous high being -21.5. Purdue has struggled vs the Nittany Lions with just a 3-10-1 ATS record dating back to 1997. PSU is 14-2-1 ATS the last 17 times the game after they score 40 or more points.

No. 14 Iowa at No. 19 Michigan (FOX, 12:00 p.m. ET)

The Hawkeyes remained perfect at 4-0 after an easy 48-3 win at home vs Middle Tennessee State last Saturday covering the lofty 24-point spread. The Iowa offense was zoned in on Saturday scoring points on 9 of their 10 possessions, rolling up 644 yards on 80 offensive snaps including 351 yards on the ground. The defense forced the Blue Raiders to punt on 8 of their 9 possessions and they have now allowed a total of 36 points on the year (in 4 games). We have an interesting comparison for Iowa in regards to their upcoming opponent, the Michigan Wolverines. That’s because both teams have now played MTSU & Rutgers this season. Michigan beat the Blue Raiders 40-21 and outgained them by 152 yards. The Hawkeyes outgained Middle Tennessee by 428 yards in their 45-point win. Versus Rutgers, Michigan won by 52 points and outgained the Knights by 322 yards. Iowa beat Rutgers by 30 points and outgained them by 318 yards. It looks like Iowa came out of Saturday’s game without any significant injuries so they should be healthy and rested after having a bye the week before hosting MTSU.

We have to admit we’re kicking ourselves for not using Michigan as a play last Saturday. We strongly considered it but just didn’t know if we could trust the Wolverines as a 4 TD favorite they way they had been playing. In hindsight, if there was ever a game they were going to completely destroy and team and not let up if given the opportunity, it was last week vs Rutgers. They did just that cruising to a 52-0 win which led to the Knights firing their head coach Chris Ash. After hearing all week they weren’t good enough, they weren’t tough enough, they weren’t well coached, after getting handled by Wisconsin the previous Saturday, the Wolverines came out with a chip on their shoulder. After struggling offensively for much of the season, head coach Jim Harbaugh pulled new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis out of the pressbox where he had been the first four games and moved him to the sidelines in hopes of a better connection with him and the offense. It seemed to work as the Wolverines played their best offensive game by far (476 total yards and 52 points), however it was also vs a Rutgers defense that has now allowed 112 points over their last 3 games. We’ll definitely find out if there is an improvement this weekend vs a very good Iowa defense. The Michigan front 7 on defense was under intense heat this week as well after allowing the Badgers to run all over them last week to the tune of 359 yards last week. They tightened that up dramatically this week holding the Knights to 46 yards rushing on 29 carries. Again, it was Rutgers so we’ll find out more about this Michigan team this weekend.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: These two Big Ten teams have not played since 2016. Since 1997, the underdog in this series is a money making 12-2-1 ATS. Dating back to 1980, the Hawkeyes are 17-9-2 ATS vs Michigan. During that same time frame, the Wolverines have covered only THREE times at home vs Iowa (3-9-1 ATS). Since 2002, Michigan has been a home favorite of a TD or less 22 times (all games) – they are 8-14 ATS in those games and have lost 9 of those games outright.

Maryland at Rutgers (Big Ten, 12:00 p.m. ET)

Here we have a battle of teams that both were blasted last week. These two combined to get outscored 111-0 in their Big Ten match ups Saturday. The Maryland hype after their 2-0 start has quickly ended after in their first big step up type game last Friday at home vs Penn State turned into a 59-0 laugher. The game started on a bad note with Terp QB Jackson throwing an interception on the 5th play from scrimmage that was returned to the Maryland 8-yard line. PSU scored one play later to go up 7-0 just a few minutes into the game. They then scored TD’s on their next 3 possessions to build a 28-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter basically putting an end to this one early. The Terp fans were full of hope after they outscored their first 2 opponents 133-20 and outgained them 1,273-468. That hope has been very much tempered with Maryland getting outscored 79-17 and outgained 1,046-468 in their last 2 contests. The new offense implemented by first year head coach Mike Locksley which looked unstoppable has hit a brick wall. QB Josh Jackson was 36 for 62 in his first two games with 540 yards through the air, 7 TD’s and 1 interception. His last two games he’s completed only 43% of his passes with 248 yard passing, 1 TD and 4 interceptions. It wasn’t just the offense obviously as the Maryland defense did its part allowing 38 first half points and 287 yards passing by PSU QB Clifford in the FIRST HALF which was a Penn State record. After that debacle, the Terps hit the road as nearly a 2 TD favorite.

Just when everyone thought Michigan was headed for a downward spiral they matched up against Rutgers who has a tendency to make teams get well in a hurry. The Wolverines dominated on their way to a 52-0 win holding the Rutgers offense to a paltry average of only 2.1 yards per play. The performance was the last straw for athletic director Pat Hobbs who fired head coach Chris Ash fired following the game. It was the 8th time in their last 30 Big Ten games where Rutgers failed to score a single point. They’ve now been outscored 82-0 in their two Big Ten games this season vs Michigan & Iowa. Ash ends his run 3+ year run at Rutgers with an 8-32 overall record and just a 3-26 mark in Big Ten games. Our word is that this clears the way for Rutgers to potentially hire Greg Schiano back to the school where he coached from 2001 to 2011 before getting hired as the Tampa Bay head coach in 2012. Schiano took over a downtrodden Rutgers program in 2001 and while his overall record was just 68-67, the Knights had winning seasons in 6 of his last 7 seasons in Piscataway. Since he left in 2012, the Scarlet Knights have a record of just 35-56. Tight ends coach Nunzio Campanile, who was coaching at Bergen Catholic HS in New Jersey in 2017, will serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of 2019.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Maryland was favored by 23.5 points at home in this match up last year and went on to an easy 34-7 win. This is the first time in this series that the road team is favored (7 games). Rutgers is 1-6 ATS the last 7 games coming off a game where they were shutout. Since 2005 Maryland has been shutout just 4 times. They are 3-1 ATS the game following going scoreless.

Illinois at Minnesota (Big Ten, 3:30 p.m. ET)

The Illini had last week off after taking Nebraska to the wire in a 42-38 loss two weeks ago. That game was much more lopsided in favor of the Huskers than the final score suggested. Despite the tight final score Illinois was outgained 673 to 299 in the game and had only 78 yards passing on just 9 completions. Nebraska let the Illini keep it close with 4 turnovers, 3 of which were turned into Illinois TD’s. The Illini are 2-2 on the season, however their 2 wins have come against Akron and UConn, two teams we have power rated in the bottom 5 nationally. Their losses, both at home, have come against Nebraska and Eastern Michigan by a combined 7 points. Despite playing two of the weakest teams in college football, Illinois still has a negative yardage differential averaging 381 YPG while allowing 411. Coming off the bye, Illinois looks relatively healthy heading into this game

Minnesota moved to 4-0 last week with a 38-31 win at Purdue. It was the Gophers 4th one score game (TD or less) this season – all wins. They caught some breaks in their win at Purdue, mainly of the Purdue injury fashion. The Boilers starting QB Sindelar and top WR Moore both left the game in the first quarter with injuries and did not return. Minnesota entered the 4th quarter with a 38-17 lead and held on for the 7 point win. It was the first time this season the Gophers did not trail in the 4th quarter. RB Rodney Jones returned from injury to rush for 115 yards and QB Tanner Morgan completed 95% of this passes, yes you read that correctly, with only one incompletion on the day. With that performance Morgan is now completing 73% of his passes on the season (tied for first in the Big 10) and he leads the conference in passing efficiency. This could be considered a revenge game of sorts for Minnesota after they went to Illinois last and were blown out 55-31 which led to the firing of defensive coordinator Robb Smith the following day.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Last year Minnesota was favored by 9.5 on the road in this match up and lost 55-31 allowing a struggling Illinois offense to rack up 646 total yards. That was the Illini’s only win over their final 7 games last year. Minnesota is 15-9 ATS the last 24 meetings with Illinois. The Gophs are just 6-13 ATS the last 19 times they’ve been favored by 14 points or more (all games).

Northwestern at Nebraska (4:00 p.m. ET)

The Cats waltzed into Camp Randall Stadium as 24-point underdogs and nearly pulled off the upset. If it weren’t for 2 defensive scores for Wisconsin, we’d most likely be talking about an upset. Truth be told, Northwestern actually outplayed Wisconsin despite the 24-15 loss. The Badgers looked flat as was to be expected after their big win over Michigan the previous Saturday. The Wildcats actually outgained the Badgers, were +8 first downs and held the potent Wisconsin running game to just 133 yards. Head coach Pat Fitzerald put together and fantastic defensive game plan forcing a Wisconsin team that had punted 10 times the entire season, to punt 9 times in the game. But as we’ve stated before, the problem with Northwestern isn’t their defense, it’s their offense. The 15 point output last Saturday was actually their 2nd highest output of the season and those points came versus a Badger defense that was rated #1 nationally coming into the game. They did almost all of their damage late in the game scoring 12 of their 15 points and putting up 183 of their 255 total yards in the 4th quarter. They did so with their 3rd string QB, Aidan Smith, at the helm as starter Hunter Johnson left the game early in the 4th quarter due to an apparent injury and former co-starter Green was lost for the season a few weeks ago. No update has been provided on his status as of this writing. It may not matter as Smith moved the team much more efficiently accounting for both of Northwestern’s TD’s and we’d have to think Fitzgerald will have to strongly consider going with him even if Johnson is OK to go.

It will be interesting to see how Nebraska responds after falling flat vs Ohio State in a home game that was talked about all offseason and much ballyhooed the week leading up to the contest. It actually was no contest. Ohio State blasted the Huskers 48-7 scoring on all of their first half possessions on the way to a 38-0 halftime lead. The Buckeye defense completely shut down a Nebraska offense that felt they were hitting their stride after scoring a combined 86 points on 1,200 yards in their previous two games. Nebraska’s QB Adrian Martinez, who many considered the top QB in the Big Ten entering the season, was held to just 47 passing yards on only 8 completions. He also threw 3 interceptions in the game. Most of Nebraska’s offense came on the final 2 drives of the game when the result was already decided. They put up 140 of their 231 total yards during those final 2 possessions. The Huskers also experimented a big offensively using the double-wing, triple option offense at times. Head coach Scott Frost said they’ve been spending quite a bit of time in practice on the offense and it’s something you can expect from the Huskers moving forward starting this Saturday when Northwestern comes to town.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: This has been a hotly contested series with 6 of the last 8 meetings being decided by 3 points or less. Each of the last 2 games have gone to overtime with Northwestern winning both. Last year Nebraska led by 10 at Northwestern with less than 2:30 remaining in the game and went onto lose the game 34-31 in OT. Since Nebraska joined the Big 10 in 2011, the road team is 6-1-1 ATS in this series.

No. 25 Michigan State at No. 4 Ohio State (ABC, 7:30 p.m. ET)

The Buckeyes simply continue to destroy their opponents each and every week. Last Saturday they were 17-point favorites at Nebraska and they had that spread buried by halftime leading 38-0. While the offense was fantastic in the 48-7 win topping 500 yards for the fourth consecutive game, it was the defense again that stepped up big vs a Nebraska offense that put up 673 yards a week earlier at Illinois. The OSU defense limited QB Martinez to just 8 completions and 47 yards passing for the entire game and held the Huskers to just 231 total yards. With that effort the Buckeye defense has held every opponent this year to less than 300 yards of total offense. If you take out their end of the half possession when OSU was simply running out the clock, the Buckeyes scored on each of their first 8 offensive possessions vs the Huskers. Following up with last week’s stats that we posted in this report, Ohio State has now outscored their opponents 173-18 in the first half! We took advantage of that last week with a first half wager on OSU -10, an easy winner. They have now had 38 offensive possessions in the first half this year and scored TD’s on 23 of them (over 60%)!

The Spartans (-14) held on to beat Indiana at home last week winning 40-31 failing to pick up the cover. The final score was definitely misleading as the game was tied with less than 6 seconds remaining in the game. Yes you read that correctly. MSU kicked a FG with just 5 seconds left in the game to go up 34-31. Indiana then went into lateral mode on their final play of the game and MSU was able to score a TD on a fumble recovery. The Spartan defense has been in lockdown mode for most of the season but IU was able to exploit them through the air completing 33 passes for 286 yards and 3 TD’s. That was the most pass completions an MSU defense has allowed since their bowl game in 2017. The 31 points and 356 total yards allowed by Michigan State’s defense were both season highs. These two both played Indiana this year with drastically different results. OSU beat the Hoosiers by 41 points and outgained them by almost 250 yards. MSU outgained Indiana by 87 yards last Saturday and while they won by 9, we let you know how that played out. The Spartans now enter a brutal stretch in their schedule playing at Ohio State, at Wisconsin, and hosting Penn State their next three games.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: The first number that popped up on this game last Sunday afternoon was OSU -17. That lined was pushed all the way to -20 just a short time later. Last year the Buckeyes were favored by 3.5 on the road and that number has swung more than 2 TD’s from that match up which Ohio State won 26-6. MSU has been held to 17 points or fewer in 9 of the last 11 meetings in this series. Since 1980, when the spread in this series is -14 or higher, the underdog has covered 9 of the 12 meetings.

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