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Big Ten Notebook
Big Ten Notebook
Big Ten Notebook
By Chris David
The chances of the Big Ten being represented in the BCS Championship looks like it will come down to No. 6 Penn State. The conference as a whole is down, with just three teams ranked in the Top 25 of last week’s AP Poll. Ohio State (12) and Michigan State (23) are the other pair of Big Ten schools ranked but both of them have suffered losses to Pac 10 schools early in the year. Even if the Buckeyes and Spartans ran the table, the odds are still against a one-loss Big Ten reaching the title game in Miami, Fl. come January.
With that being said, Saturday’s showdown between Penn State and Wisconsin becomes even more important for the Lions and the conference as whole. Joe Paterno and company will be facing its second straight road test when heads to Madison, while the Badgers are hoping not to fall to 0-3 in Big Ten play.
The Nittany Lions’ offense is ranked first is easily the most explosive in the conference, even though it was held in check last Saturday against Purdue, 20-6. PSU also owns the Big Ten’s best total defense but that’s largely due to facing one-dimensional attacks. When the unit did face a balanced offense, Illinois was able to put up 372 total yards and 24 points.
The Penn State offense has been difficult to contain because you can’t commit to stopping the run or the pass. Quarterback Darryl Clark (970 yards, 9 TDs) can beat with you his arm or legs and running back Evan Royster (659 yards, 8 TDs) is just as dangerous out of the backfield. Clark has been helped by a talented trio of wide receivers on the outside in Jordan Norwood (318 yards, 4 TDs), Deon Butler (19 catches) and the playmaker Derrick Williams (240 yards, 19 receptions).
Even though Wisconsin has suffered back-to-back losses, the school is five points away from being undefeated. The 27-25 collapse to Michigan was unacceptable and last Saturday’s 20-17 defeat to Ohio State proved that the defense couldn’t make key stops and the passing game hasn’t been able to deliver in big spots.
The loss to the Buckeyes at home snapped a 17-game winning streak in Madison for the Badgers. Wisconsin hasn’t dropped back-to-back games at home since 2002, when they suffered three in a row, including a 34-31 setback to PSU.
If the Badgers want to get back on track, they’ll need the ground game (210 YPG) of P.J. Hill and John Clay to explode against the untested Lions’ defense. Back-to-back road games within conference play are always tough but a victory for PSU should definitely push the school into the top five.
The home team has won and covered the last four meetings between Wisconsin and Penn State, and all four have been decided by double digits as well. Penn State has scored a total of six points in its last two trips to Camp Randall. The ‘under’ is on a 4-0 run during this recent stretch. PSU is 2-0 both SU and ATS on the road this year while Wisconsin is 2-1 SU and 1-2 ATS. The Badgers are 2-1 both SU and ATS in their last three instances as a home ‘dog.
Other games to keep on tap in the Big Ten:
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, the second best game to keep your eye on this Saturday is Michigan State at Northwestern. The Wildcats have a chance to go 6-0 for the first time since 1962 but they’ll get tested against a red-hot Michigan State team that has rolled off five straight wins after losing its Week 1 opener to Cal. The road team has won three straight in this series. Last year, Northwestern captured a 48-41 overtime victory against Michigan State.
Purdue at Ohio State: The Buckeyes hung tough last week and captured a solid 20-17 victory over Wisconsin as a 2½-point road favorite. The duo of freshman QB Terrelle Pryor and RB Chris “Beanie” Wells are expected to carry the offensive load while the defense plays sound football. Purdue had its opportunities last week against PSU early but QB Curtis Painter was inconsistent. The Boilermakers only problems aren’t on offense. Joe Tiller’s defense (435 YPG) is the worst in the Big Ten and those numbers could get worse this weekend. The last four meetings have gone ‘under’ the total.
Minnesota at Illinois: Illinois QB Juice Williams busted out last week, racking up 431 total yards in a 45-20 blowout victory on the road against Michigan. Don’t be surprised to see Williams do the same this week, considering Juice racked up 350 total yards and 3 TDs in a 44-17 win over the Golden Gophers last year. Minnesota is 1-1 SU and 2-0 ATS on the road this year.
Iowa at Indiana: Pick your poison in this matchup folks. Iowa and Indiana both enter this contest with three-game losing streaks intact. On paper, the Hawkeyes (-6) appear to be the better of the two schools and the oddsmakers agree. Kirk Ferentz’s team could easily be unbeaten if it had any offense at all. The three losses for Iowa have come by a combined nine points and the team only scored 20, 17 and 13 in the setbacks. Turning your attention to Indiana and it’s clearly a case of being outclassed. The school is 2-2 SU and 0-2 ATS in Bloomington this season with losses to Ball State (42-20) and Michigan State (42-29). Last Saturday, they fell again on the road to Minnesota, 16-7. The Hoosiers are still searching for their first cover of the year, going 0-3 ATS in their first three attempts. Could be a tough task considering Iowa’s strength is stopping the run and Indiana hasn’t shown the ability to air it out at all this season behind QB Kellen Lewis.
Toledo at Michigan: Michigan is ranked last in the Big Ten in scoring (20 PPG) and has turned it over 16 times this year, yet they’re laying double digits to Toledo. First question that pops in my head, “How bad is Toledo?” It’s safe to say that this isn’t one of head coach Tom Amstutz best clubs, evidenced by three straight home losses. The defense has been torched for 55, 35 and 31 points during this streak. That number should go down, considering Michigan hasn’t score more than 27 points all season but right now the Rockets aren’t clicking at all.
Re: Big Ten Notebook
Big Ten Game of the Week
Oddsmakers currently have the Nittany Lions listed as 5½-point favorites versus the Badgers, while the game's total is sitting at 47.
Evan Royster ran for one touchdown to help Penn State beat Purdue 20-6 in Week 6.
The outcome was a push (14-point spread),while the combined score played UNDER the total of 58.
Wisconsin fell 20-17 to Ohio State in Week 6, as 2.5-point underdogs. The 37 points went UNDER the posted total of 44.5.
P.J. Hill had 63 yards rushing with a TD in the loss for Wisconsin.
The Nittany Lions on the offensive side of the football this season has proved to be one of the most productive rushing offenses in the nation, rolling up 256.7 yards per game, on 6.1 yards per carry. The passing game 243.0 yards per game, for a 44.8 ppg.
Penn State on the defensive side of the ball this year, allowing just 11.7 ppg and 250.3 yards of total offense. The team has been strong against the run (80.2 ypg) and with 17 sacks this season.
Wisconsin ground game 210.6 yards per game on 4.7 yards per carry. Defensively, Wisconsin against the pass (186.2 ypg), but opponents have had success running on Wisconsin (123.6 ypg).
Wisconsin leads the all-time series with Penn State by an 8-5 count. Penn State has won two of its five games at Camp Randall Stadium and captured the last meeting with Wisconsin, a 38-7 rout in Happy Valley a year ago.
A few trends to consider:
Penn State is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
Penn State is 5-1 SU in its last 6 games on the road
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Penn State's last 5 games when playing Wisconsin
Penn State is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games when playing on the road against Wisconsin
Wisconsin is 16-1 SU in its last 17 games at home
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Wisconsin's last 5 games when playing Penn State
Wisconsin is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing at home against Penn State
Wisconsin is 19-6 SU in its last 25 games