Doc's Sports Weekly Big Ten Football Betting Report
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 10/11/2011
Red Scare. The first Nebraska/Ohio State showdown under the lights in Lincoln was supposed to determine a conference front-runner. The game ended up being an elimination contest with the loser falling to 0-2 in the conference.
Ohio State somehow found a way to be that loser despite holding a 27-6 lead in the second half. Quarterback Braxton Miller injured his ankle in the third quarter and was replaced by Joe Bauserman, who could do no right. Bauserman completed one pass to his team and one pass to Nebraska. His other eight passes fell incomplete. He threw for only 13 yards and helped Nebraska get back into the game.
Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez was just the opposite in helping the Cornhuskers storm back and win, 34-27. After a week of heavy criticism, Martinez threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 102 yards and a touchdown.
“He kept fighting,” Bo Pelini said. “He led the team and I was proud of how he played. Everyone wants to doubt him. You guys can choose to write whatever you want and attack him like the fans will, and now they’ll praise him.”
A saving grace for Ohio State backers was that when Nebraska was up 34-27 late in the game as a 10-point favorite, the Buckeyes decided to kneel on the ball once they got into the Ohio State redzone.
Scarlet Fever. There are a number of streaks on the line when Ohio State hosts unbeaten No. 16 Illinois as it tries to save its season. Ohio State (3-3, 0-2) has not been under .500 since losing the season opener to Miami in 1999. It has not been below .500 later than Oct. 1 since 1988. It has not failed to reach a bowl game since 1999. A loss would make it hard for Ohio State to reach the required six wins.
But there is good news, Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller is likely to play. An Ohio State spokesperson said, “Well, he’s No. 1 on our depth chart.” Miller passed and rushed for more than 90 yards in just over two quarters of football before suffering a game-changing ankle injury. The Buckeyes led 27-13 with Miller and were outscored 21-0 without him. In another sign of how far the Ohio State program has fallen,
Illinois is a 4.5-point favorite Saturday in Champagne. The Illini have not been favored against Ohio State since 2001. Illinois is 4-2 ATS against Ohio State at home but in the last six meetings, Ohio State has been favored by an average of 19 points.
Must win. The only Big Ten game not involving a ranked team on Saturday might be one of the most important games in the conference. Northwestern (2-3, 0-2) visits Iowa (3-2, 0-1). A quick glance at the team’s records lets you know right away how devastating another conference loss would be.
Iowa is coming off an awful offensive performance in a 13-3 loss at Penn State. But after Northwestern It plays Big Ten bottom-feeders Indiana and Minnesota before two huge games at home against Michigan and Michigan State. The schedule favors the Wildcats to make a run at the Legends Division, but a loss to Northwestern would end that dream.
Northwestern is coming off losses over ranked opponents Illinois and Michigan in which it blew double-digit leads. Worse yet in Week 3, the Wildcats lost to Army.
“It’s frustrating,” Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa said. “But we have no one else to blame but ourselves. We have to look inside ourselves to see what we need to do to pull it out.”
Iowa is a six-point favorite Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium although history has favored Northwestern in this series. They have won three in a row overall and three in a row at Kinnick Stadium. No team in college football has consistently pulled off more upsets against one opponent than Northwestern over Iowa. Last season it won 21-17 as 10-point underdogs, in 2009 it won 17-10 as 14-point underdogs, in 2008 it won 22-17 as 9.5-point underdogs and in 2006 it won 21-7 as 20.5-point underdogs.
In need of a bye. The Minnesota Vikings won their first game this week, giving them as many wins as their cross-town collegiate brethren, the Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-5, 0-2). The Golden Gophers will not lose this Saturday for a change. They have a much-needed bye week after starting the season 1-5 and 0-2 in the Big Ten.
Since promising early season results that included a 19-17 loss at USC and a 29-23 win over Miami (Ohio), the wheels have fallen off for Jerry Kill’s bunch. There was the 37-24 loss to FCS school North Dakota State and then there were the Big Ten blowout losses at Michigan and Purdue where Minnesota was outscored 103-17. In the loss to Purdue, Kill used 59 different players, including 32 freshmen and sophomores. Seven freshmen were actually starting for Minnesota, so at least there is an attempt at rebuilding.
“It’s frustrating for those kids in there. They go to practice, they work hard to try and get better – you don’t think they’re frustrated,” Kill said after Minnesota’s latest loss. “I feel bad for them, I really do.”
Underrated? For once, you can make an argument that the constantly overrated Nittany Lions are underrated. Very quietly Penn State is 5-1 and 2-0 in the Big Ten and back in the rankings at No. 25 with a very winnable game Saturday at noon for homecoming as 12.5-point favorites against Purdue.
Penn State’s only loss was to No. 3 Alabama. Its offense is horrendous, ranking 93rd in the country in points, but its business as usual on defense where Penn State has allowed 10.5 points per game (fifth best in the country).
“We were better physically,” Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said after a 13-3 win over Iowa on Saturday. “We kind of put our will on them.”
The schedule favors Penn State in the coming weeks. After the Purdue game, Penn State visits Northwestern before hosting Illinois and Nebraska with a bye week in-between those two games. The closing stretch is not easy with road trips to Ohio State and Wisconsin. If Penn State can win four of its five down the stretch, the road trip to Madison could decide the Leaders Division.
Rankings Report. The Big Ten has a pair of teams in the Top 10 and four teams in the Top 15. No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 10 Michigan both crept up a spot in the latest USA Today Coaches Poll. No. 14 Nebraska, No. 15 Illinois, No. 19 Michigan State and No. 25 Penn State give the Big Ten a season-high six ranked teams.
In the Harris poll, the second-third of the BCS standings along with the coaches’ poll and computer rankings, No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 10 Michigan, No. 13 Nebraska, No. 14 Illinois and No. 22 Michigan State are ranked. The first BCS rankings will come out next week.
Early showdown. No. 23 Michigan State (4-1, 1-0) hosts No. 11 Michigan (6-0, 2-0) on Saturday in East Lansing at noon. It is an early kickoff for a made-for-TV showdown, and it’s early in the season as most rivalries occur in November.
Michigan State has held onto the Paul Bunyan Trophy since 2008. Last season Michigan State won, 34-17, in Ann Arbor. The Spartans defense is ranked No. 1 in the country while the Wolverines are averaging 38 points per game. Michigan State is a three-point favorite.
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