Week 6 in the Big Ten went almost exactly as expected. The only shocker was how many points Michigan was able to put up -- I think they just scored another touchdown. I told you very emphatically that Michigan State would lose at home to BYU, and I couldn't have been more correct. I also told you that Maryland was the "Reverse Trap-Line Game of the Week", but I read that game wrong. They were the second biggest "no-show", with Rutgers taking the unfortunate honor. If you are a bettor that loves betting on underdogs, you went 5-1 ATS. The only favorite to cover was Michigan. If you area totals player, you would have profited this week by taking the "under" (2-4 "O/U")
Week 7 in the Big Ten features four teams ranked inside the Top 10 for the first time since 1960. No.8 Wisconsin and No.10 Nebraska join No.2 Ohio State and No.4 Michigan. The Buckeyes and Badgers play each other, while Nebraska (-3.5) travels to Bloomington to take on Indiana while the Wolverines are relaxing on a bye week. The juiciest matchup is obviously the Buckeyes/Badgers showdown, but Iowa (-12.5) faces another tough test on the road at Purdue. Iowa is only one game back of first in the West Division. Not bad for a team that lost to an FCS opponent one month ago. The rest of the schedule sees Minnesota take on Maryland (-6.5), Illinois (-6) do battle with Rutgers and Northwestern travel to East Lansing for a date with Michigan State (-4.5).
Moving forward on a weekly basis I will be breaking down the weekly Big Ten slate. I will share with you my Game of the Week, teams trending up and down, key player matchup, best value line and the top underdog to watch just to name a few. Let's get to it.
*All lines courtesy of Bovada*
Game of the Week
There are currently eight teams that reside on the contenders list for the College Football Playoff. Barring an upset in Madison, the list should shrink by at least one. A one-loss Buckeye team would still garner consideration for the CFP, but a two-loss Wisconsin team would be overlooked immediately.
Saturday night will be the No.2-ranked Buckeye's first true test after cruising to a 5-0 start and outscoring their opponents 266-54. They are coming off a fairly straightforward 21-point win against Indiana. They put up 383-yards of total offense, but their usually-lethal passing attack was limited to just 93 yards. Cause for concern? Probably not when you have a mobile QB like J.T. Barrett, who can run the ball like a featured back.
Despite the lack of crispness to the offense, the defense continued their high level of play. They forced two turnovers and made some big defensive stops - none bigger than a fourth-and-goal from inside the five-yard line, when Indiana threatened to make it a seven-point game. This OSU defense ranks in the top 10 statistically in every major category. If Wisconsin thought they played a tough defense two weeks ago against Michigan, they should prepare themselves to play a very similar stop unit.
For Wisconsin, this is about as big of a "must-win" game as there is. Yes, you want to win every game possible, regular season or Bowl games, but the ultimate goal is the CFP, and a second-loss would burst that bubble.
Wisconsin is ranked No.8 in the country and come in fresh off a bye week, after losing to Michigan 14-7. The game wasn't as bad as it sounds, but there is a cause for concern when it comes to the Badgers' offense. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook didn't complete many passes (9-for-25, 88 yards) and looked a bit confused by the coverage, which led to three interceptions. If the Badgers' are thinking about an upset, they will need Hornibrook to be much better and they will need to establish a productive ground game, something that won't be easily done. The Badgers ranked eighth in the Big Ten with 161.6-rushing yards per game. OSU ranks second in the conference at stopping the run. That could be a problem.
Defensively is where the Badgers make hay. They limited the Wolverines to 14 points - a week before they put up 77. That's impressive. I'm not predicting they will be able to shut down the OSU attack like they did Michigan's, but it will be the only chance they have to stay in the game late.
For those who like playing games based on past meetings, the Buckeyes did lose at Camp Randall Stadium as recently as 2010. Take that for what it's worth.
Key Matchup of the Week
Nebraska's Pass Defense vs. Indiana's Passing Offense
This is a huge game for the Cornhuskers. They are fresh off of a bye week and were bumped up two spots in the poll to No. 10 without even playing a game. I feel as if their 5-0 record is a bit misleading. Their toughest test to date was a home date against Oregon, who as we all know now is a terrible team.Indiana, on the other hand, is 3-2 and their two losses have come to Ohio State and a 5-1 Wake Forest team who are turning some heads in the ACC.
Indiana leads the Big Ten in passing yardage per game with 293. Junior College transfer Richard Lagow is completing 60 percent of his passes and has thrown for 11 touchdowns this season. He is averaging 9.3 yards per pass attempt, which should bode well considering Nebraska gives up just over 7 yards per attempt. As a team, the Hoosiers are averaging 26.6 points per game and could be in for a big day against an average defensive unit.
Nebraska is giving up a measly 17.7 points per game, but as I already mentioned they haven't exactly played a murderer's row of teams. They are third-last in the Big Ten in yards per play. The unfamiliarity of having not played Indiana for a very long time comes into effect in this game as well. Yes, they have watched tape to try and game plan for Lagow and Co., but the adjustment period could take some time.
I think Indiana hits Nebraska square in the mouth early and Nebraska fails to answer the bell. I like Indiana in an upset.
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