SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 22: Quarterback Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines runs the ball against safety Zeke Motta #17 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the first quarter at Notre Dame Stadium on September 22, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
If you were to pick the Big ten teams that would be 4-0 to start the season, hands up if you would’ve picked Northwestern and Minnesota to be among them. Amazing. Or how about the fact that none of the traditional conference powers would be rolling into conference play without some significant question marks. Wisconsin fans are literally reassuring themselves with the fact that the rest of the league isn't looking all that great. Sigh.
Indiana and Purdue had bye weeks, and the rest of the Big Ten fared... okay. Some decent performances, some not so good. Around the Big Ten, plus non-conference foes, below the jump:
Illinois 24, Louisiana Tech 52
The Illini drew to 3 points just before halftime, but were simply crushed in the second half. Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase returned after missing two games with injury, but was ineffective and replaced early by Reilly O’Toole. Louisiana Tech pretty much started the second half with 78-yard TD reception to break the game open, one of six 20+ yard plays on the day for them.
Iowa 31, Central Michigan 32
The Hawkeyes found some offense, but also found the heartbreak of losing on a last-minute field goal. Black Heart Gold Pants is not amused:
I did not expect a fifth-year senior quarterback (and two-year starter) to be unable to see a wide open receiver for a sure touchdown (on that fourth down play in the second quarter, there was no CMU defender in the same area code as Martin-Manley) and instead lock in on a receiver who was wearing a CMU as a cape. I did not expect a fifth-year senior defensive end to give up a costly (to put it mildly) personal foul penalty at a time of the game when the absolute last thing Iowa could afford to do was give up free yards. I did not expect a senior cornerback (and three-year starter) or junior linebackers (and multi-year starters) to be so bad at the simple art of tackling. It's one thing if we see freshmen or sophomores making mistakes -- that's part and parcel of gaining experience. But when juniors and seniors keep [expletive deleted] up... that's a big [expletive deleted] problem.
Michigan 6, Notre Dame 13
The Irish were fired up to rally around their star player Manti Te’o after he lost his grandmother and a close friend. Still, pretty much everyone who has ever had even a passsing interest in this sport can recognize that Michigan QB Denard Robinson had an incredibly terrible game of epic proportions. Maize and Brew finds a silver lining:
What is unfortunately lost in all of this is the yeoman-like effort of Mcihgan's defense. Long felt to be an afterthought in this game, resigned by fans and media alike to simply be that thing into which Notre Dame would have to run headfirst into all evening on the way to upward of 30 points, the Michigan defense actually came out and looked good. The Notre Dame offense was choppy, and Everett Golson immediately flat lined, but time after time it was Michigan's defense making crucial plays and keeping the entire thing competitive well after the offense had run out of ideas.
Michigan State 23, Eastern Michigan 17
The Spartans moved to 3-1 actually kind of squeaking by Eastern Michigan. It didn't ever look to me like EMU was really going to upset MSU, but they really were in the mix. The Only Colors calls the offense "one and a half dimensional", noting
On 46 of those  plays, the ball ended up, or was targeted to end up, in the hands of Le'Veon Bell or Dion Sims. The average gain on those plays was 7.8 yards.
On the remaining the 26 plays, the ball was intended to end up in someone else's hands. The average gain on those plays was 2.8 yards.
Minnesota 17, Syracuse 10
The Gophers take down the Orange with some tough defense, notching five takeaways. The offense has room for improvement, to be sure (two missed FGs stand out), but The Daily Gopher is very pleased with the overall improvement from a year ago.
To be honest I'm a bit disappointed in the final score. It is too bad the defense allowed that late touchdown and the offense had a few opportunities to blow this open early. This game could easily have been 27-3, but now I'm just getting greedy. Obviously that doesn't really matter, what really matters is that we are 4-0. What matters is we held the Syracuse offense to their fewest yards and points of the season, and that includes games against USC and Northwestern.
Nebraska 73, Idaho State 7
Poor, poor Idaho State just got brutalized by a resurgent Nebraska to move to 3-1, and back up the rankings. Corn Nation is happy that the Huskers played decently (maybe? in a blowout like this, it’s hard to tell) even if Idaho State is not a very good team. And, in even worse news for the Bengals, Nebraska evidently emptied their bench in the second half. Ouch.
As for yesterday, frankly, it was tough to evaluate much of what we saw on the field. Nebraska did what they were supposed to against a bad opponent. We got to see just about everybody who was eligible to play on the field, other than Chase Rome. (And that was probably for disciplinary reasons.) If you could play and not burn a redshirt, you were out there. It was a game that required binoculars and a roster so you knew who was out there in the second half.
Northwestern 38, South Dakota 7
The Wildcats were not really tested as they moved to 4-0 in a romp over South Dakota. Still, the freshmen got a nice treat in attending their first football game before classes start and got to have some fun. Sippin on Purple doesn’t have a lot to take away from this one:
38-7 isn't the most impressive scoreline ever recorded against an FCS team, but it's what NU needed. They got in, got out, got the W, and didn't get anybody hurt enough that they won't be playing next week...
Ohio State 29, UAB 15
The Buckeyes weren’t impressive in their victory over Alabama-Birmingham, but there wasn’t much to worry about, as they moved to 4-0. Land grant Holy Land saw some poor tackling, but also noted that the defense (along with Braxton Miller) held up when it needed to:
With the ball in hand, and a game on the line late once again, Braxton Miller would have to be at his best once again. Passing for 35 yards and running for another 26, Miller would dive into the end zone from a yard out for his second score of the game. Miller would put the cherry on top one play later, stiff-arming a UAB defender en route to a successful two-point conversion, the Buckeyes ahead 29-15. UAB would have another chance to lead a comeback, but a Doran Grant interception would cement the final score.
Penn State 24, Temple 13
The Nittany Lions are suddenly 2-2 after a very rough start, and Black Shoe Diaries is impressed with the depth of this team, who you may have heard was hit by a few late transfers:
Penn State uses 9 - nine - offensive linemen. It doesn't matter what the score or situation is, as far as I can tell. Zack Zwinak, running back number 5 on the season, carried 18 times for almost 100 yards. Four different tight ends - or five, if you count Paul Jones - have caught passes. Five different receivers have a catch. That's 24 guys - and only six of them are seniors: Stank, Farrell, Zordich, McGloin, Day, and Howle. Penn State (hopefully) returns 18 letter winners on offense next season.
Wisconsin 37, UTEP 26
Ranking last in total offense in the conference, and yet somehow still ranked. Montee Ball continues to have a rough year, leaving the game in the second quarter with an apparent head injury. Redshirt freshman QB Joel Stave gave the Badgers a bit of a shot in the arm offensively as he made his first collegiate start. Bucky’s 5th quarter liked what they saw:
But the talk on Saturday was Stave. The young gunslinger looked good in his first start for the Badgers. The highlight play came on a 47 yard pass in the second quarter to Jarred Abbrederis. The Badger wideout got free deep down the right sideline after the UTEP corner fell down. Abbrederis was able to walk into the end zone after hauling in the pass from Stave.
Besides an ugly interception, Stave looked to be making the right reads on most plays Saturday. One play that stands out was a call designed to hit Abbrederis deep down the middle. Stave recognized double coverage, and checked it down to James White in the left flat.
Navy 41, Virginia Military Institute 3
The Midshipmen were in the midst of another blowout, but this time they rolled over the VMI keydets. Navy QB Trey Miller coughed up the ball twice early, but it didn't matter as VMI was no match. Navy compiled over 500 yards of total offense in this laugher, 403 on the ground.
Indiana State 10, South Dakota State 24
ISU couldn't get a third straight win, falling to the Jackrabbits at home. I wouldn't put SDSU in the pushover category, but Kansas was able to notch a solid win against them, and uh... the Jayhawks haven't been successful against anyone else. Not a great loss for the Sycamores.
Massachusetts 16, Miami (OH) 27
The Minutemen can't buy a win, falling to 0-4 in Ohio. At least this one was somewhat competitive. Still, UMass shot themselves in the foot with three turnovers and 88 yards lost on penalities.
Ball State 31, South Florida 27
In the Hoosiers' off-week, at least BSU made that heart-breaking loss look a little better by also coming back against the Bulls. Keith Wenning threw for 244 yards and connected with Willie Snead on a 19-yard TD pass with 1:02 remaining in the game. I don't know how the Cardinals do it, but they benefitted for the second straight week in a row from their opponents racking up twice as many penalties, with both IU and USF topping 100 penalty yards lost.