Doc's Sports Weekly Big Ten Football Betting Report
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 10/4/2011
Leaders leading. After the first week of Big Ten conference play, the Big Ten Leaders division is doing just that, leading. In cross-divisional games, teams from the Leaders Division, Illinois and Wisconsin picked up wins over Legends Northwestern and Nebraska while Michigan State of the Legends defeated Ohio State of the Leaders.
In terms of overall games the divisions are pretty even. The Leaders (Illinois, Wisconsin, Penn State, Purdue, Ohio State and Indiana) are 20-9 while the Legends (Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Minnesota) are 19-9.
A look at the Coaches Poll shows the Leaders with No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 16 Illinois ranked while the Legends boast three ranked teams with No. 11 Michigan, No. 15 Nebraska and No. 20 Michigan State, with Penn State also knocking on the door of the Top 25.
Dissecting the records and rankings may make things look close, but the true barometer of your division is how the favorites do, and Leaders favorite Wisconsin made the biggest statement on Saturday night against Legends favorite Nebraska.
Salt in the wound. Blowing a 28-10 third-quarter lead to No. 24 Illinois was not the worst thing that happened to Northwestern on Saturday. In the fourth quarter they blew a 35-31 lead with 1:15 to play. "Shocked," was what Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald said of his team's second-half meltdown.
That still was not the worst thing to happen to the Wildcats. Northwestern's top running back, sophomore Mike Trumpy, tore his ACL during the third quarter on a non-contact injury and is done for the season. Trumpy averaged 5.2 yards per carry. He ranked second in rushing yards behind quarterback Kain Colter, but there was no mistaking that Trumpy was a legitimate weapon in the backfield.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald attempted to play down his loss. "I thought we ran the ball pretty well without him," Fitzgerald said. "Treyvon Green and Jacob Schmidt and Adonis (Smith) are coming on. So we have guys there that have been involved." Things won't be any easier this week for the Wildcats when they host No. 11 Michigan (5-0).
Not so fast. Ohio State was in desperate need of some offensive help and they were slated to get it just in time for their showdown Saturday night at No. 14 Nebraska. Last year's leading rusher Daniel Herron and top returning receiver DeVier Posey were supposed to return from their five-game suspension this weekend. But their suspensions for accepting cash and free tattoos were extended because they also accepted too much money for summer work.
The NCAA also went ahead and suspended offensive lineman Marcus Hall for the first time. None of that will make things easier on freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, who is scheduled to get the start in Lincoln.
"Braxton (Miller) is still the starter," former starter redshirt senior Joe Bauserman said. Bauserman, the starter for the first three games of the season, accounted for Ohio State's only touchdown in a 10-7 loss at the Horseshoe on Saturday. But Ohio State Coach Luke Fickell remains behind Miller despite the freshman only connecting on 5-of-10 passes for 56 yards and an interception. He also finished with minus-27 yards rushing
"Things were happening fast for him," Fickell said of his quarterback. "I think maybe he didn't see the field real well."
Miller was a little blunter. "Welcome to the Big Ten, Michigan State has one of the best defenses around," the quarterback said. Nebraska is a 10.5-point favorite on Saturday.
Not impressed. Michigan's thorough 58-0 dismantling of Minnesota was enough to impress the pollsters, who vaulted the Wolverines from No. 19 to No. 11 in the Coaches Poll and from No. 19 to No. 12 in the AP Poll.
The Michigan locker room remains unimpressed. "Ranking doesn’t mean anything to us," senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen said. "We definitely don’t think we've played up to the potential of being a No. 12 team in the country."
Coach Brady Hoke voted his Wolverines into the Top 25 for the first time this season on his coaches ballot, although, from the sound of things, he didn’t have them anywhere near the Top 10.
We're not playing the football that we need to play. We're not playing well enough," Hoke said. We're not finishing things well enough."
There might be a reason the Wolverines want to downplay this ranking. Last time the school was ranked this high was in 2007 when they were pegged as No. 5 in the preseason poll. They opened that season against Appalachian State and we all know what happened then.
Badger duo. Russell Wilson's 287 yards of total offense and three scores received a lot of the headlines after Wisconsin's 48-17 pasting of Nebraska, but a lot of credit needs to go to linebacker Mike Taylor as well. The junior linebacker recorded a career-high 14 tackles and picked off a Taylor Martinez pass.
As a unit it seems the Badger defense is undervalued. They rank 10th in the country in total yards allowed (264 yards per game) and fourth in points allowed per game (10.2 points per game). Those numbers should only improve this week when 1-4 Indiana comes to town.
Against the number. Wisconsin is one of only four teams in the country with a perfect record against the spread. The Badgers (4-0-1 ATS) along with Rutgers (4-0 ATS), Stanford (4-0 ATS) and Georgia Tech (4-0-1 ATS) have been a bettor’s best friend this season. On the flip side of that, Penn State is the only team in the country to go 0-5 ATS and believe it or not, the only team in the country to go 0-5 on ‘over’ bets. Somehow the Nittany Lions are 4-1 SU.
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