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Big Ten Report - Week 8

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It's a rivalry weekend here in the Big Ten. Michigan tries to end its four-game losing streak to Michigan State at the Big House while Wisconsin tries to continue its 2000's domination of Minnesota to retain Paul Bunyan's Axe. In another big game, Iowa and Penn State - both currently in first place of their respective divisions - duke it out in Iowa City.

Michigan (-10) vs. Michigan State - (Big Ten Network, 3:30 p.m. ET)
UM: Last week vs. Illinois: W 45-0
MSU: Last week vs. Iowa: L 16-19

This is a huge in-state rivalry and motivation will not be lacking for either side. However, it has lost a lot of luster as Michigan State hasn't lived up to its lofty preseason expectations. Last week the Spartans lost at home to Iowa in overtime - their third home loss of the season. Defensively MSU still looks elite at times as they rank 7th in total defense and 14th in scoring defense. Offensively, aside from RB Bell, Mark Dantonio's squad has been an absolute mess. Last week Bell rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown, but the passing game behind QB Andrew Maxwell continued to struggle. Maxwell completed just 12-of-31 passes (39%) for 179 yards and one interception. It's those struggles in the passing game that have hampered this offense all season long. MSU now ranks 81st in total offense and 104th in scoring offense. Things won't get easier against this 10th ranked Wolverine defense that has been steadily improving week by week.

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Michigan has dominated its first two Big Ten games, outscoring Purdue and Illinois by a combined score of 89-13. Defensively the Wolves have allowed just 173.5 yards in those two wins while forcing six turnovers. The offense has taken off as they've unleashed QB Robinson. Robinson passed for 264 and rushed for 363 and tallied five total touchdowns the previous two weeks - most importantly with no turnovers. Michigan will face another stout MSU defense after struggling against the other two top-notch defenses it faced in Alabama and Notre Dame. The Wolves managed just 20 total points in those two losses and Robinson really struggled; completing just 24-of-50 passes for 169 yards per game with one touchdown and six interceptions while rushing for just 117 yards on a 3.3 YPC average.

Recent history: After winning six straight in the series from 2002-07, Michigan is 0-4 SU & ATS against Michigan State. MSU has won those four by an average of 12.8 points per game and three were by 14 points or more. The Spartans frustrated Robinson into less than 50% completions with four interceptions and less than 3.3 YPC over the last two years.

Trends: Michigan State is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 road games. However, Sparty is just 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games overall and 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games following a SU loss. Michigan is 6-2 ATS in its last 8 home games. The Wolverines are just 9-24 ATS in their last 33 conference games.

Injury Report: Michigan RB Vincent Smith and FB Stephen Hopkins are expected to play this week against Michigan State.

Iowa (-3) vs. Penn State - (Big Ten Network, 8:00 p.m. ET)
IU: Last week at Michigan State: W 19-16
PSU: Last week - BYE

After losing to Central Michigan at home, Kirk Ferentz and his players have turned their season around with back-to-back division wins in the Big Ten against Minnesota and Michigan State. Last week Iowa's defense was aided by terrible weather conditions as MSU couldn't throw the ball with any effectiveness. RB Mark Weisman was able to churn out enough yards on the ground and the defense was opportunistic in the second overtime and Iowa was able to win on the road. Outside of Weisman (who may miss Saturday's game - see more below), the offense has really struggled. QB Vandenberg is completing less than 58% of his passes with just two touchdowns and three interceptions this season. They now rank 100th in both total offense and scoring offense.

Penn State had last week off after winning their first two conference games. The Nittany Lions have now won four straight after dropping its first two games of the season. They are averaging 33 points per game and only allowing 14 points per game during this current hot streak. QB Matt McGloin (12 TD & 2 INT) and WR Allen Robinson (41 REC & 7 TD) have developed a nice rapport together and lead a suddenly dangerous offense. Defensively the Nittany Lions rank 32nd in total defense and 15th in scoring defense and they could have another big day against this struggling offense in Iowa.

Recent history: Iowa is 8-2 SU & 7-3 ATS in the past 10 meetings, but Penn State won and covered in State College last season. Last year Penn State held Iowa to just 253 yards, forced three turnovers, and allowed just three points in the 13-3 win. Expect another low-scoring game Saturday.

Trends: Penn State has covered five straight games. The Nittany Lions are just 4-10-1 ATS in their last 15 vs. a team with a winning record while the Hawkeyes are just 1-7 ATS in their last eight games following a SU win. PSU is just 1-4 ATS in the last five meetings in Iowa and the UNDER is 6-1-1 the last eight meetings.

Injury Report: Iowa RB Mark Weisman hasn't been ruled out for Saturday's game against Penn State, but it doesn't sound like he'll play much or at all after suffering a sprained ankle last week.

Northwestern (+6.5) vs. Nebraska - (ESPN2, 3:30 p.m. ET)
NU: Last week at Minnesota: W 21-13
UN: Last week - BYE

After their bye, the Cornhuskers will have had two weeks to try and figure out their defensive woes against spread teams and playing on the road in general. In their last game, they were torched by the Buckeyes for 371 rush yards and 63 points in the 25-point road loss. The offense hasn't been an issue as this unit has scored 30 points or more in every game and is ranked 14th in yards per game. They have one of the best rushing attacks in the nation (292 yards per game) and QB Martinez is greatly improved as a passer. Look for a big day from this offense against a Northwestern "D" that has been susceptible to big plays.

After its first loss of the season two weeks ago at Penn State, the Wildcats got back on track with a win at Minnesota last week. They were outgained and had fewer first downs, but they forced three turnovers (and committed none), and turned in a few big touchdown plays to best the Gophers. The Wildcats rushed for 208 yards on a 6.1 YPC average as Venric Mark and Kain Colter (combined to score all three touchdowns) continue to gash defenses. Defensively Northwestern is a ordinary 56th in overall defense, but the Wildcats have been torched by the best offenses they've played. Syracuse scored 41, Penn State scored 39, and Indiana scored 29. Nebraska is better than all three of those teams so the Huskers could have a big day here.

Recent history: Northwestern won in Lincoln last season in their first meeting as conference foes. Kain Colter had three total touchdowns and Nebraska allowed the Wildcats to hold a +10 minute advantage in time of possession in the 28-25 NW win.

Trends: Nebraska has failed to cover its last five road games and five of its last six conference games. Northwestern has covered four straight home games but is just 6-13 ATS in its last 19 conference games.

Injury Report: Nebraska RB Rex Burkhead will play this week against Northwestern after re-aggravating his left knee injury at Ohio State two weeks ago. Northwestern moved CB Daniel Jones ahead of Quinn Evans on the depth chart for Saturday's game after Evans struggled against Minnesota.

Wisconsin (-18.5) vs. Minnesota - (ESPNU, 12:00 p.m. ET)
UW: Last week at Purdue: W 38-14
UM: Last week vs. Northwestern: L 13-21

It's the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe in the oldest rivalry in college football. The Badgers offense looked to be rejuvenated last week against Purdue - which is bad news for Minnesota. Wisconsin tallied 467 rush yards, 645 total yards, and 30 first downs in the 24-point road win over the Boilers. Most importantly RB Montee Ball had his best performance of the season with 247 rush yards and three touchdowns. Defensively the Badgers held Purdue to just 252 total yards and 11 first downs (81 of those yards came on a long touchdown run in garbage time). Purdue was the fourth opponent that this defense has held to 14 points or fewer.

Minnesota is a more dangerous team when senior QB MarQueis Gray is on the field. The Gophers are averaging 14.3 points per game since his injury after averaging 34 PPG with him at the helm. He played sparingly last week and completed 7-of-11 passes and rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown. Gray re-injured his ankle in that game and is doubtful for this weekend. Minnesota has solid defensive rankings across the board, but they've allowed the most points this season in its two road games - 27 at UNLV and 31 at Iowa. Camp Randall is not a forgiving place to play, especially when Wisconsin's offense gets rolling.

Recent history: Wisconsin has won eight straight in the series, including the last two by a combined 47 points. However, the Gophers have covered two straight and four of the last five. In the four games Minny covered, Wisco was favored by double digits - including last year when the Badgers were 30-point favorites. They outgained the Gophers by 309 yards and held them to nine first downs in last year's meeting.

Trends: The Gophers are 4-1 ATS in their last five games following a SU loss and 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games overall. Wisconsin is 4-1 ATS in its last five conference games but just 1-4 ATS in its last five home games. The OVER is 11-1 in the last 12 meetings between these two rivals.

Injury Report: Minnesota coach Jerry Kill suffered a seizure last week but will be on the field Saturday. QB MarQueis Gray will likely not be as lucky. Wisconsin LT Ricky Wagner is listed as the starter on the depth chart, but his status for the game is uncertain after he injured his knee last week.

Ohio State (-19) vs. Purdue - (ABC, 12:00 p.m. ET)
OSU: Last week at Indiana: W 52-49
PU: Last week vs. Wisconsin: L 14-38

Ohio State's defense is far from elite and they couldn't stop the Indiana Hoosiers last week. The Buckeyes allowed 481 yards and 49 points and barely escaped with a win. Offensively the Bucks racked up 578 yards and received another huge performance from QB Braxton Miller. Miller had 211 passing yards and 149 rushing yards with three touchdowns. Miller has now accounted for 2,183 passing and rushing yards and 20 touchdowns this season. It's just a matter of time before someone slows down Miller, and that defense will have to step up.

Purdue is a mess on both sides of the ball right now. The defense has major issues after surrendering an average of 41 points and 385 rushing yards in their first two Big Ten contests - both losses by a combined score of 27-82. That's now three straight games that the Boilers have allowed 38 points or more and they rank 73rd in points per game allowed. Offensively they have yet to find a solid QB rotation with TerBush, Marve, and Henry all getting snaps. The past two weeks they've combined to complete 51.5% for 141 YPG with one touchdown and three interceptions.

Recent history: Purdue and Ohio State have split, 3-3, over the last six meetings - but Purdue is 6-2 ATS over the previous eight. The Boilers beat Ohio State last year at home, 26-23, in overtime. Over the past four meetings, the Boilers have been double-digit underdogs three times, and they've covered two of those three games.

Trends: Purdue is 6-1 ATS in its last seven games following a double-digit loss at home. The Boilers are also 5-2-1 ATS in their last eight games following a SU loss. Ohio State is 2-6 ATS in its last 8 home games. The UNDER is 6-2 in the last eight meetings.

Injury Report: Top FB Zach Boren led the Buckeyes in tackles last week at Indiana playing linebacker and he will be seeing more time on defense in the coming weeks. The Buckeyes have very little depth at linebacker, and Boren played well at the position.

Navy (-2.5) vs. Indiana - (CBSSN, 3:30 p.m. ET)
Navy: Last week at Central Michigan: W 31-13
IU: Last week vs. Ohio State: L 49-52

The bad news: Indiana has dropped four straight games. The good news: They are doing a lot of things right and remaining competitive. They lost to Ball State by two points, Northwestern by 15, Michigan State by four, and Ohio State by three. The passing offense has been fantastic. Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld have combined to complete over 62% with 12 touchdowns and just one interception. That will help the Hoosiers remain in games, because their defense isn't going to stop many teams. IU has allowed 42 points per game over the four game losing streak and now ranks 106th nationally in total defense. They'll get a chance to break that losing streak with a non-conference roadie at Navy this week.

Navy has back-to-back road wins over Central Michigan and Air Force. The Midshipmen are averaging 233 rush yards per game (15th) in their triple-option attack, but are only averaging 19.5 points per game (110th). Navy hasn't matched up with a Big Ten squad since it's near upset of Ohio State in 2009.

Illinois - BYE
UI: Last week at Michigan: L 0-45

Things continue to get worse for the Illini and the bye comes at a perfect time. They were shutout last week in Michigan and gave up 353 rush yards and three touchdowns of 49 yards or more. Illinois is now 0-3 on the road this year and has been outscored by an average of 40-9 in those three losses. Illinois' offense was totally hopeless against the Wolves. It managed just 134 yards and seven first downs. The Illini now get a week off to prepare for a home date with the Hoosiers.

  
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