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On the surface, Saturday's schedule in the Big Ten does not feature Top Ten tilts or massive rivalry games. As schools look back on their seasons, however, victories on these types of weekends turn promising seasons into profitable seasons. The matchups are quietly intriguing.
Few expect any surprises in Piscataway, Bloomington, or Evanston. Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State should roll up big numbers in each of those cities. Look further down the schedule for a few sneaky good battles.
Purdue trails Illinois by a game in the Big Ten West. They are at home against Iowa and on paper it should add up to a Boilermakers' victory. Mix in a little forecasted wind in West Lafayette, however, and suddenly the Hawkeyes' tremendous defense combines with just enough of their ball-control offense to potentially deal a serious blow to Purdue's hopes of winning the West.
The Maryland Terrapins can make it three straight conference wins if they can overcome a raucous crowd in Madison, WI and a Badgers' team that is fresh off a solid win over the aforementioned Purdue Boilermakers.
Nebraska and Michigan State continue to scuffle along but Illinois and Minnesota can ill afford hiccups this weekend. P.J. Fleck's team becomes bowl eligible with a win in Lincoln. The 14th-ranked Fightin' Illini have not won even eight games in a season since 2007. Bret Bielema's squad earns win #8 and maintains control of the Big Ten West with a win over Sparty in Champaign.
As they have every week of the BIG Ten this season, the NBC Sports EDGE Analysts have taken a deeper dive into the Big Ten slate and present their top plays.
Week 10 Plays:
Michigan State @ Illinois:
Illinois RB Chase Brown OVER 135.5 Rushing Yds. (-110)
Vaughn Dalzell (@VmoneySports)
Before we get started, you need to know what Michigan State's defense has allowed in the last five conference games:
Week 4: Minnesota's Mohamed Ibrahim: 22 carries, 103 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown
Week 5: Maryland's Antwain Littleton: 19 carries, 120 rushing yards, 1 touchdown
Week 6: Ohio State's TreVeyon Henderson: 19 carries, 118 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown
Week 7: Wisconsin's Braelon Allen: 29 carries, 123 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns
Week 9: Michigan's Blake Corum: 33 carries, 177 rushing yards, 2 total touchdowns
It's obvious Sparty is terrible at stopping the run. Those five starting running backs averaged 24.4 rushing attempts, 128.2 rushing yards, and 1.4 total touchdowns against Michigan State.
Brown has 108 or more yards on the ground in every game this season and ranks first in the country with 1,208yds rushing. It's evident that Illinois is committed to running the ball, but also committed to getting Brown the Big Ten rushing crown and possibly the nation's rushing title.
Brown has recorded 129-plus rushing yards in four-straight games and seven out of eight on the season and posted at least 25 rushing attempts in five of eight contests. Brown hit 146-plus rushing yards in three-straight games and is 6-2 to the Over this season (75%).
Minnesota @ Nebraska: 1st Half Minnesota -7.5 (-110)
Zachary Kruger (@ZK_FFB)
Minnesota is 5-3 on the season and 5-3 ATS including a couple of tough losses against Purdue and Illinois. Yes, that 45-17 loss to Penn State screams at you as well but remember that quarterback Tanner Morgan was out for the game against the Nittany Lions.
Golden Gophers' fans would rather the focus be on the four-straight wins at the start of the season (albeit including a couple against the likes of Colorado and New Mexico State). The most convincing of those four was a 49-7 thrashing of Michigan State on the road. A 3-game slide followed the four straight wins. A 31-0 home win over Rutgers with Morgan back under center snapped the losing skid for the Gophers.
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P.J. Fleck and the Gophers are in Lincoln this weekend to take on an underperforming Huskers' (3-5) team that is now led by interim coach Mickey Joseph. The Huskers are 2-3 under Joseph (2-3 ATS) since he took over for Scott Frost, with their most recent loss being a 26-9 home defeat at the hands of Illinois.
Much like Illinois, the Gophers get by on a run-heavy attack bolstered by a top-flight defense. PJ Fleck's defense is allowing the 4th-fewest points per game on the year (14.4), while his offense ranks 51st in points per game at 31.9. Running back Mohamed Ibrahim (170-955-13) has enjoyed a solid start to his year and has rushed for 241 yards and six touchdowns in three games against the Huskers. On Saturday, Ibrahim gets a Nebraska defense that is allowing the 17th-most rushing yards per game (190.1) and is 112th in success rate against the run (46.7%).
Minnesota's ground game coupled with a defense that is allowing the fourth-fewest yards per game in the nation (274.4) could prove to be too much for the Huskers in this one. As far as the first half goes, I like the Gophers to stymie Nebraska often and turn those stalled drives into points going the other way.
Ohio State at Northwestern:
TreVeyon Henderson over 85.5 rushing yards (-110)
Brad Thomas (@MrBradThomas)
I could not resist this play. This is a number Henderson has only hit three times this season, but in large part, Henderson has been splitting carries with Miyan Williams. After suffering a hand injury, Ryan Day is expected to limit the number of carries for Williams. In addition to Henderson getting the bulk of the carries, the Buckeyes might be forced to run more often than they prefer due to a windy and potentially soggy forecast for Evanston, Illinois. Said forecast is projecting 23 mph wind and a slight chance of rain.
This game will be won by Ohio State in the trenches, and they should have zero problems running against this Northwestern team that has allowed 198.6 rush yards per game this season. Books are only offering Henderson's alt line of 100+ at +162, which indicates they are limiting their liability. Back Henderson to rush for over 85.5 yards.
Iowa @ Purdue:
Iowa QB Spencer Petras – UNDER 169.5 Pass Yards
Eric Froton (@CFFroton)
Draft Kings was nice enough to list Petras at 169.5 when FD had hung it at 150.5, giving us some nice line value here.
Do not be fooled by Petras' 220 yard showing on 21-of-30 passing last week against Northwestern's 80th-ranked pass defense. He was positively dreadful the previous week against Ohio State, completing just 6-of-14 passes for 49 yards and two interceptions before getting pulled at half in favor of backup Alex Padilla. The Hawkeyes play at the 110th-slowest pace, getting off a play once every 28.4 seconds, and field the fifth-worst offense in the country leading them to slow down the game and rely on their vicious defense.
The Iowa defense ranks first in the nation against the pass, allowing 5.6 yards per attempt (3rd overall) while ranking fourth in suppressing explosive plays.
For their part, Purdue plays at the 50th-fastest pace nationally while fielding a superb run defense (13th in FBS). However, they have not been nearly as effective against the pass (8.3 yards per attempt = 113th).
Additionally, there is a 70% chance of rain in West Lafayette with wind gusting up to 24 MPH, which is the mark where passing games tend to be affected, though we will see exactly what “gusts” entail on Saturday.
Iowa's offense has been brutal this year, accruing just 248 total yards per game which is a stunning indictment on the play-calling acumen displayed by OC Brian Ferentz. This is a road game against a credible opponent. As such, I think we see another OSU-worthy performance by Petras, who I believe will be replaced by Alex Padilla once again at some point in the third/fourth quarter, making this a very logical Under 169.5 Passing Yards prop.
Enjoy another Saturday of Big Ten Football and enjoy the sweat!
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