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It is Week 12 in the Big Ten. While the nation is looking ahead to next week and The Game - Ohio State vs. Michigan – bettors have plenty to focus on this weekend.
Four teams are tied atop the West Division with two of the four meeting at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The Iowa Hawkeyes and Golden Gophers of Minnesota (-2.5) kick-off at 4P Eastern. It is a game featuring two of the nation's stingiest defenses and the Over/Under set at 32.5 reflects that.
Fresh off their 31-24 upset of the Fightin' Illini, Jeff Brohm's Purdue Boilermakers (-18.5) host the Wildcats of Northwestern. The Over/Under is set at 44.5 with Aidan O'Connell and the Boilermakers expected to score the bulk of those points.
The 4th of the four teams tied atop the West Division is Illinois. A handful of weeks ago, the Fightin' Illini were back in the Top 25 and rolling at 4-1 in conference play. Two home losses later, however, and Illinois is scrambling to stay in the race for the division crown…but are staring Michigan (-17.5) in the face this weekend.
Elsewhere, CJ Stroud and the Buckeyes (-27.5) travel to College Park for a date with Maryland. Can the Terrapins find the end zone even twice to help cash the Over at 63.5? Speaking of scoring, can Rutgers cross the goal line even once against Penn State? The Nittany Lions (-19.5) have outscored their opponents the last two weeks 75-14. Indiana (+10) travels to East Lansing where they will take on a Spartans' team that has won three of their last four. Nebraska hosts Wisconsin (-10.5). Five of the Badgers' seven conference games have hit the Over this season.
That is a quick overview of this week's schedule in the Big Ten. The NBC Sports EDGE Analysts have taken a deeper dive into the conference slate and present their top plays for those so inclined.
Week 12 Plays:
Illinois @ Michigan:
Game Spread Michigan -17.5 (-110) vs. Illinois
Vaughn Dalzell (@VmoneySports)
Chase Brown is confirmed in, but it is clear his workload will not be the same and that is all the difference for this Illinois offense.
Illinois has lost the past two games and the defense is slipping with 23 points allowed to Michigan State and 31 points to Purdue.
These two teams possess two of the best ground games and defenses in the country, which match up well, but Illinois is not playing for the Big Ten Championship and Michigan is chasing a perfect season, Big Ten Championship, and College Football Playoff berth.
The Wolverines have scored 30-plus points in eight out of 10 games with 27 at Iowa and 29 against Michigan State. In the Fighting Illini's three losses, Bret Bielema's team allowed 23, 23 and 30 points to Indiana, Michigan State and Purdue.
Of course, there is a look ahead spot for Michigan to Ohio State next week, but here is how Michigan has done the week prior to The Game historically:
2021: Beat Maryland 59-18
2020: None - Covid
2019: Beat Indiana 39-14
2018: Beat Indiana 31-20
Take Michigan -17.5 or -18 or the Team Total Over 29.5, which I like as well.
Northwestern @ Purdue: 2nd Half Purdue -8.5 (-110)
Zachary Kruger (@ZK_FFB)
One of the worst offenses in the nation, Northwestern has gone for 20 or more points just once in their last seven games. The Wildcats rank 128th in the nation in points per game (15.3) and 83rd in points allowed per game (28.2).
This weekend, Northwestern travels to Purdue to take on a Boilermakers' offense that is hanging 29.6 points per game on opposing defenses while ranking 50th in yards per game (407.8) and 17th in passing yards per game. Quarterback Aidan O'Connell (2674-18-11) continuously torches bad defenses through the air. To Northwestern's credit, they are allowing the 12th-fewest passing yards per game in the nation (182.8), but to cover this 8.5-point second half spread, they are going to need to find a way to get on the board a few times themselves.
Northwestern managed just 14 points in this matchup last season and was outscored 19-7 in the second half. In two of their last three meetings, Purdue has outscored the Wildcats by double-digits in the second half.
The first half number of 10.5 felt somewhat of a steep hill to climb when you consider the two-point differential between the first and second half lines. While I am confident Purdue can get the requisite points to cover this one, I am equally confident in Purdue's ability to limit an offense that has been less than productive against the majority of opponents they have faced this season.
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Penn State @ Rutgers:
Rutgers RB Kyle Monangai UNDER 56.5 Yards Rushing (-110)
Eric Froton (@CFFroton)
This is a classic overreaction line if I have ever seen one with Monangai coming off a 24 carry, 162-yard eruption against Michigan State's Charmin-soft defense that is allowing a 47% success rate (117th) while ranking 111th in suppressing explosiveness on the year.
His career-game is the first time in the last 8 games that Monangai reached the 30 yards rushing mark.
In their previous two contests against above average defenses, Rutgers barely ran the ball, rushing 16 times for 34 yards against Michigan and 16 times for 54 yards against Minnesota. Those numbers are not just Monangai mind you, but the entire Rutgers' offensive rushing production (truly offensive). The problem is Samuel Brown had been the unquestioned lead running back for the Scarlet Knights until his injury against Indiana four weeks ago. Since then, RU had not been able to establish any sort of consistent run game until they played Michigan State and averaged a season-high 6.8 YPC.
Now Rutgers has to deal with Penn State's ninth ranked defense that is allowing just 4.9 yards per play (16th) with a 38% success rate against (20th). When Rutgers has played quality defensive lines including Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota they have been overrun at the point of attack and essentially had to abandon the run altogether. I see a similar game script coming against PSU with Monangai going Under 56.5 Rushing Yards.
Enjoy another Saturday of Big Ten Football and enjoy the sweat!
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