Around the Big Ten: Week 4
After three weeks of the 2014 season, the Big Ten has done nearly everything in its power to take the entire conference out of consideration for the college football playoff. Many teams have had opportunities to notch high quality non-conference wins, yet the most impressive win for the conference, in my opinion, is Rutgers’ 41-38 victory over Washington State on the road in week 1. If that doesn’t leave you a little down in the dumps, the recap of last week should.
West Virginia @ Maryland
My prediction: Maryland over West Virginia
Result: West Virginia 40, Maryland 37
Indiana @ Bowling Green
My Prediction: Indiana over Bowling Green
Result: Indiana 42, Bowling Green 45
Kent State @ 22 Ohio State
My Prediction: Ohio State over Kent State
Result: Kent State 0, Ohio State 66
Miami (OH) @ Michigan
My Prediction: Michigan over Miami (OH)
Result: Miami (OH) 10, Michigan 34
Iowa State @ Iowa
My Prediction: Iowa over Iowa State
Result: Iowa State 20, Iowa 17
Minnesota @ TCU
My Prediction: TCU over Minnesota
Result: Minnesota 7, TCU 30
Illinois @ Washington
My Prediction: Washington over Illinois
Result: Illinois 19, Washington 44
Purdue vs 11 Notre Dame in Indianapolis
My Prediction: Notre Dame over Purdue
Result: Purdue 14, Notre Dame 30
Penn State @ Rutgers
My Prediction: Penn State over Rutgers
Result: Penn State 13, Rutgers 10
Nebraska @ Fresno State
My Prediction: Nebraska over Fresno State
Result: Nebraska 55, Fresno State 19
Told you it was going to get worse. Iowa’s inconsistent play finally caught up to them and the Cyclones managed to steal a win in Iowa City. Joining Iowa in the “we only lost by 3 points” club were Maryland and Indiana. Maryland managed to rally and tie their game but had the misfortune of not being the last team to have the ball. Indiana fell victim in the same way only their loss came to a team outside of the Power 5, a blow the big ten couldn’t afford. Minnesota, Purdue, and Illinois all got routed by Power 5 opponents. While none of those teams were expected to win, Minnesota and Illinois were expected to be competitive.
On the positive end, there is still not much. Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska all won in blowouts. Nebraska’s came on the road to snap Fresno States 13 game home winning streak but the win was not exactly one that will inspire a lot of praise for the Huskers. As ESPN’s Brian Bennett said, the game was high risk, and no reward. Luckily, they were able to avoid the consequences of the high risk. Rutgers managed to take a 10 point lead into the locker room but Penn State scored the last 13 points of the game to spoil Rutgers’ first ever Big Ten Game.
This week saw me go 7-3 on my predictions. Pretty good when you consider I was undefeated on games that were not decided by 3 points. This brings my year to date record up to a somewhat respectable 25-10. Here’s to hoping in the last week of mostly non-conference games that the Big Ten can avoid complete and total embarrassment.
Iowa @ Pittsburgh
Kirk Ferenze is having his job called for after the sluggish start to the season, punctuated by a week 3 loss to in state rival Iowa State. Pitssburgh poses an intriguing matchup for Iowa. Through 3 games they have amassed 344.3 rushing yards per game and only allowed 15 points a game, good for 5th and 16 in the country respectively. The panthers will look to Sophomore RB James Conner to lead the way with his 544 rushing yards and 8 touchdown. Iowa desperately needs to get a running game going. In their three games, they do not have as many rushing yards (393) as James Conner. And the margin is not that close. I have harped on Jake Rudock all season, but it’s time for the Hawkeyes RB and OL to show up.
Result: Pittsburgh over Iowa
Eastern Michigan @ 11 Michigan State
The Spartans have had a week to mull over their loss in Eugene and access the situation within their conference. Even if MSU goes unbeaten from here on out, they may not make the playoff due to anti B1G bias. So they need wins, and style points certainly can’t hurt. Although it didn’t help at Oregon, the Spartans are averaging well over 500 yards of offense a game and the combination of Connor Cook and Tony Lippett has shown major explosiveness. If the Spartan defense makes the statement they are hping, this one will get ugly.
Result: Michigan State over Eastern Michigan
Southern Illinois @ Purdue
If you looked at a matchup between the Big Ten and Missouri Valley conferences, you would normally think that Big Ten Team has a huge advantage. Then you look up and see the Big Ten Team in Purdue. After an ugly, shootout win, Purdue has lost their last two games by a combined 37 points. However, Southern Illinois is boasting a 3-0 record, 133 points and an overall five game win streak. For Purdue the offense has to do better than the 616 total yards and 178 rushing yards of the last game. A loss here will bring immense criticism into West Lafayette for Darren Hazel.
Result: Southern Illinois over Purdue
Bowling Green @ 19 Wisconsin
Bowling Green used an intense, fast-paced offense to hang 39 first down, 571 yards and 45 points on Indiana. The Wisconsin defense is another monster entirely. Wisconsin, who is coming off a bye is only allowing 15.5 points per game and has had two weeks to not only prepare for this week but get their offense put together. RB Melvin Gordon’s health will be critical for the Badgers as they trying to keep the Green Falcons offense off the field. Most interesting position to watch will be Wisconsin QB position. If Tanner McEvoy struggles, will the Badgers stay with him, or move to the bullpen.
Result: Wisconsin over Bowling Green
Maryland @ Syracuse
If Maryland is bringing anything to the Big Ten, it is intriguing non-conference matchup’s week in and week out. After a heartbreaking loss, the Terps get a chance at redemption against another Power 5 opponent. QB CJ Brown has proved formidable as a dual threat QB with 772 total yards and 8 TD’s so far this season. However, Brown has been turnover prone so far this season as well with three interceptions resulting in a 44.5 adjusted QBR this season. Maryland will need to be ready for the Orange’s dual threat QB Terrel Hunt who has accumulated 386 yards in two games with 4 touchdowns and no turnovers. If Brown protects the ball, The Terps will move to 3-1 on the year
Result: Maryland over Syracuse
Utah @ Michigan
This is a big game for Michigan. One of the biggest losses in the Rich Rodriguez era was a season opening loss in 2008 to this Utah program. If Brady Hoke loses, he will continue to have fans looking back to the not-so-good ole days to ask for Hoke’s firing. With that in mind, Hoke has to push his Quarterback. Devin Gardner is leading Michigan to a paltry 194 passing yards per game, only good for 101st in the entire country. Luckily the rushing offense and scoring defense are both in the nation’s top 30. The Utes counter, after their bye week, with the 3rd best scoring offense in the nation at 57.5 points per game and a quarterback in Travis Wilson who averages 11.74 yards per attempt, 7 total touchdowns and no turnovers. Michigan will be, for the second time this year, looking to avenge a home lose from less than a decade ago, but stopping the Utes offense is no small feat
Result: Utah over Michigan
Rutgers @ Navy
In my preparation for this week’s column, I saw that the Big Ten is 1-11 against teams from Power 5 conferences. That one win belongs to Rutgers. But coming off of their first loss of the season, they are faced with a very difficult road trip in Annapolis. Navy makes no secret that they don’t care to pass the ball, and it shows will their nation leading 403 rushing yards a game. Oh and they have only thrown the ball 19 times through 3 games. Rutgers showed staunch run defense against Penn State giving up only 64 yards on 1.9 yards per carry. The Scarlet Knights run defense has to play sound, assignment football otherwise they will be run out of Annapolis.
Result: Rutgers over Navy
Massachusetts @ Penn State
This Penn State team is shaping itself up for a very dangerous or very special season. They rank 109th and 120th in rushing yards and scoring offense, but they do rank 10th and 11th in Passing offense and scoring defense. Basically, this team is going to throw the ball, score just enough and not let you score. Christian Hackenberg is completing over 60% of his passes and is one play shy of 1,100 yards on the season, but he does have more interceptions than touchdowns right now. Hosting a winless UMass team should let Hackenberg get into more of a rhythm and try to be turnover free for the first time this season.
Result: Penn State over Massachusetts
San Jose State @ Minnesota
Minnesota’s passing game has failed them so far this season, but aside from the debacle at TCU have been able to run their way to two wins. TCU, however, did draw the blueprint for shutting down the Gophers though: Make the Gophers QB beat you. Mitch Leidner was benched late in the game after throwing 3 interceptions and logging a 6.2 QBR in favor of Chris Streveler. Minnesota has a quarterback controversy looming. San Jose State doesn’t loom large, but they are looking for a big non-conference win before they begin their conference schedule. Minnesota has to win this one to ensure they have a chance to bowl eligible at the end of the year.
Result: Minnesota over San Jose State
Texas State @ Illinois
QB Wes Lunt is shaping up to be one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. The sophomore is completing 66% of his passes, has 971 yards and has a 9-2 touchdown to interception ratio. He is not being helped at all by his running game though. In 3 games, Illinois has managed just 214 yards on the ground alongside a paltry 2.6 yards per carry. This is prevented Illinois from being able to maintain larger leads and against better opponents will put a lot of pressure on Lunt. With Nebraska looming, the Illini will have the make their running game appear to be an option against Texas State.
Result: Illinois over Texas State
Indiana @ 18 Missouri
Indiana still has to be scratching their heads over how they let that game against BGSU slip past them. While that loss hurts, Indiana does boast the 4th best running game in the country and one of the fastest rising stars in the entire conference with Tevin Coleman. The Junior RB has 5 touchdowns and 437 yards (in two games) alongside a dazzling 9.3 yards per carry. But now Indiana has the tall task of traveling to Mizzou and taking on the defending SEC East champs. Although Missouri only gives up 17 points a game, their offense is very average and they could be caught looking ahead on their schedule win South Carolina, Georgia and Florida marking its next 3 games. Big chance for Indiana to steal a big non-conference win.
Result: Missouri over Indiana
Miami (FL) @ 24 Nebraska
There was a time where this matchup could have been a top 5 showdown, Gameday would be in town and the words National Championship would be a synonym for this game. But this is a different era for both of these programs. Nebraska is one of the Big Ten’s only two unbeaten teams and still, arguably, boast the conference’s best offensive duo in QB Tommy Armstrong Jr and RB Ameer Abdullah. Hurricanes freshman QB Brad Kaaya has thrown for 700 yards and 7 touchdowns but also has 5 interceptions to his credit. Bo Pelini’s top 20 defense should be licking their chops as the freshman will provide them with plenty of opportunity for big plays.
Result: Nebraska over Miami
Year to date prediction record: 25-10