Around the Big Ten: Week 5

To tell you the truth, I am surprised. The Big Ten finally showed up! Through the first 3 weeks of the season, the conference was 1-10 versus opponents from power 5 conferences. This week the conference had a reputation altering 4-1 record against Power 5 opponents. Lots to talk about this week with conference play starting, including the break out players, surprise teams and coaches whose jobs are relying heavily on a great conference season. First, we have to rehash the week that was.

Last Week

Iowa @ Pittsburgh

Prediction: Pittsburgh over Iowa

Result: Iowa 24, Pittsburgh 20

Eastern Michigan @ 11 Michigan State

Prediction: Michigan State over Eastern Michigan

Result: Eastern Michigan 14, Michigan State 73

Southern Illinois @ Purdue

Prediction: Southern Illinois over Purdue

Result: Southern Illinois 13, Purdue 35

Bowling Green @ 19 Wisconsin

Prediction: Wisconsin over Bowling Green

Result: Bowling Green 17, Wisconsin 68

Maryland @ Syracuse

Prediction: Maryland over Syracuse

Result: Maryland 34, Syracuse 20

Utah @ Michigan

Prediction: Utah over Michigan

Result: Utah 26, Michigan 10

Rutgers @ Navy

Prediction: Rutgers over Navy

Result: Rutgers 31, Navy 24

Massachusetts @ Penn State

Prediction: Penn State over Massachusetts

Result: Massachusetts 7, Penn State 48

San Jose State @ Minnesota

Prediction: Minnesota over San Jose State

Results: San Jose State 7, Minnesota 24

Texas State @ Illinois

Prediction: Illinois over Texas State

Result: Texas State 35, Illinois 42

Indiana @ 18 Missouri

Prediction: Missouri over Indiana

Result: Indiana 31, Missouri 27

Miami (FL) @ 24 Nebraska

Prediction: Nebraska over Miami

Result: Miami 31, Nebraska 41

We’re going to get the boring stuff out of the way first. Penn State and Michigan State each had blowout wins over bad opponents. Handling business is what both of these teams needed to do and they did it. The new additions of Rutgers and Maryland pulled off impressive road wins against quality competition. Both teams are now 3-1 and set up for successful seasons. Illinois got a win but not one fans should feel confident about and Purdue proved me wrong and took care of business against FCS Southern Illinois. Finally, to round out the boring, Minnesota in what I felt like was a largely uninspired performance. Team has to develop an identity in conference play or this season could get very ugly.

The Hoosiers defeated the defending SEC champions in their own stadium

The Hoosiers defeated the defending SEC East champions in their own stadium

Now, what I’ve been waiting. THE HOOSIERS!!!! THE INDIANA FREAKING HOOSIER JUST LOCKED UP THE BIGGEST WIN FOR THE BIG TEN THIS SEASON. I still can’t believe it. Tevin Coleman ran himself into Big Ten Player of the Year discussions and Indiana has life that I did not think was possible coming into the season. On the other side of the coin, Michigan is in trouble. Having watched most of the game, I can say that this team was not ready to play. That was evident since they failed to score an offensive touchdown for the 2nd time in 4 games. Devin Gardner was bench and Brady Hoke is on a fire hot seat in Ann Arbor. Nebraska continued to roll and Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon set or tied several Wisconsin rushing records. Even Heisman winner Ron Dayne never rushed for 5 TD’s in a game. Lastly, Iowa pulled off an impressive road win in their first truly complete performance of the year.

This Week

South Florida @ Wisconsin

Can anyone stop Wisconsin’s running game? The Badgers boast the best run game in the country (360 yards per game) and are led by Heisman hopeful Melvin Gordon who, after last week’s 19.5 YPC performance, has 431 yards on 9.4 YPC and 6 touchdowns. To add insult to injury for Wisconsin’s opponent, the team has a top twenty scoring offense (19th, 43 PPG) and top 15 scoring defense (13th, 16 PPG.) The next team to give the Badgers a go: a 2-2 South Florida team who gives up nearly 30 PPG and gave up 315 rushing yards just 2 weeks ago to NC State. This one can, and will, get ugly

Prediction: Wisconsin over South Florida

Tulane @ Rutgers

One of the season’s more impressive teams so far has been Rutgers. After narrowing being defeated by Penn State, they were able to go blow for blow with a tough Navy team on the road. After remember, prior to week 4, the Scarlet Knights had the conference’s only win over a Power 5 team. QB Gary Nova has one more game to improve on his 1:1 touchdown to interception ratio before he must endure a grueling Big Ten season (Rutgers has road games at Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan State.) Luckily for Nova, Tulane is struggling to find a rhythm this year thanks to their 1-3 record and recent 47-13 pummeling at the hands of Duke. Going 4-0 in the non-conference schedule will make Rutgers’ chances at playing in December much more plausible.

Prediction: Rutgers over Tulane

Iowa @ Purdue

This is an interesting matchup because it features one of the most disappointing teams in the Big Ten. Iowa because of their lack of inspired play against a weak SOS, and Purdue because they are…. Purdue. Iowa’s saving grace has been their defense who has given up only 19 points per game, good for 26th in all of FBS. Their offense meanwhile has only managed 22 PPG, good for 98th. Last week I challenged the Iowa running game to step up and they tried. RB Mark Wiesman managed 88 yards and 2 touchdowns but it still took him 22 carries to do it. For Purdue, they have to try to stay as competitive as possible, and it is entirely possible Iowa will be looking forward to getting into their bye week. Good chance for Purdue to steal their first conference win in 2 years, but will still take a nearly flawless performance which I just don’t think Purdue is capable of.

Prediction: Iowa over Purdue

Wyoming @ 9 Michigan State

Michigan State fans are really set up for another snore fest here. In their two wins, the Spartans have managed to win by a combined score of 118-21. Wyoming is probably the best team of their non-conference matchups (with the exception of Oregon) but this team is not much to look at. Although they are 3-1, their 3 wins have by a combined score of 54-44 and their passing and rushing offenses are ranked 94th and 88th respectively. Mark Dantonio has to keep his team motivated, keep grabbing style pounds and be ready for next week’s showdown against Nebraska.

Prediction: Michigan State over Wyoming

Maryland @ Indiana

This is no doubt going to be one of the most entertaining games of the weekend. Last week, I wrote that Tevin Coleman is a player that people need to pay attention too. This week I am saying that he has should be in the discussion for Big Ten Player of the year. His 569 rushing yards are 3rd in the country and 2nd in the conference (trailing only Ameer Abdullah) and his has only played in 3 games versus Abdullah’s four. Add in that Maryland is the worst Rushing defense in the Big Ten, Coleman is set up to have another huge day. On the flip side, Maryland has the 5th best pass offense in the conference up against the Indiana defense who ranks 13th.  Both teams can put up over 30 PPG but Maryland will struggle if they can’t find a way to bottle up Coleman.

Prediction: Indiana over Maryland

Minnesota @ Michigan

I’m saying it here now. If Michigan loses for the second consecutive week at the Big House and falls to Minnesota, Brady Hoke will not have a job the next time I write this column. This game will be intriguing for that reason alone. On the field, I expect slop. These are two of the worst offenses in the conference, Michigan will likely have Sophomore Shane Morris take the reins at QB from much maligned Devin Gardner, meaning that they likely won’t be able to take full advantage of Minnesota’s porous pass defense (last in the conference.) Michigan will be relying on big play and big play from their defense. If Minnesota gets up early, this game will be one to forget in Ann Arbor.

Prediction: Minnesota over Michigan (Yes, this means I think Brady Hoke will actually be fired)

Cincinnati @ 22 Ohio State

Coming back after a bye week, Ohio State is looking to notch a win against in-state rival Cincinnati. After being embarrassed by Virginia Tech, they hung 66 on Kent State and had some time regroup. Biggest Need for the Buckeyes in for the offense to start clicking more consistently. QB JT Barrett is completing less than 60% of his passes is already has 5 interceptions to his credit. If Urban Meyer can work his magical QB powers on Barrett, the Buckeyes will be able to make up some ground on Michigan and put themselves in position to win the Big Ten. Cincinnati boasts an impressive offense ranking 9th in passing yards and 14th scoring offense. The Ohio State defense will have to step up to bring them to 3-1.

Prediction: Ohio State over Cincinnati

Illinois @ 21 Nebraska

Illinois has to be the most frustrating 3-1 team in the country. Their three wins (Youngstown State, Western Kentucky and Texas State) have all been come from behind wins against lackluster competition. Meanwhile Nebraska is one of the conferences two remaining unbeaten teams with a Heisman trophy frontrunner, Ameer Abdullah, leading the 7th best rushing offense and 10th scoring offense in the nation. On paper this matchup looks grossly uneven, and I don’t expect it to be any difference well these teams take the field in Lincoln. The one good team Illinois faced (Washington) ran them out of the building with a 44-19 score. Now just remember that Nebraska is like a better coached, more talented version of Washington. This will be ugly.

Prediction: Nebraska over Illinois

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