There’s a bit of a sleepy slate around the Midwest* with not a ton of compelling football taking place.
Week four is gonna be wild but we have to get through our vegetables first in week three. Here’s how we think the Big Ten will perform this week:
*East coast too I guess
Virginia at Maryland
Virginia football is still reeling from the senseless murder of three of its players last November. I grew up a UVA fan and have spent a ton of time in and around Charlottesville. Watching that community undergo such a tragedy was difficult, but the program’s response to all the turmoil has been empowering. Rest easy Devin, Lavel, and D’Sean.
The Wahoos enter this one fresh off a 36-35 home loss to James Madison, a program that has played thirteen (13) games as a member of the FBS. Had a couple laughs tapping through snapchat stories of JMU students storming the field at Scott Stadium on Saturday... incredibly tough look for the ‘Hoos.
Entering the season, Maryland was widely considered a squad that could give the Big Ten heavyweights a game in 2023. They haven’t looked the part thus far, but it’s hard to take much away from games against Towson and Charlotte.
Testudo takes this one handily and Taulia Tagovailoa plays like the good quarterback we know him to be. I’m being told this game will be played at “CQ” Stadium.
Northwestern at No. 21 Duke
Duke’s week one upset of Clemson was an all-time “Heartbreaking: The Worst Person You Know Just Made A Great Point” moment. Four Blue Devils have broken an explosive (30+ yards gained) play through two games.
Northwestern’s week two victory over UTEP was the Wildcats’ first win on American soil October 16th, 2021. As thought-provoking as that situation is, the only story that matters in Evanston is the fallout of the hazing scandal that was uncovered this summer. This program is not seeing heaven.
Duke wins this one handily. At night I dream of a conference realignment scenario in which Duke and Northwestern end up together. I think a conference of academically-focused P5 schools like these two, Rice, and Stanford would be intriguing and could decrease the adverse effects the impending shifts will have on student athletes.
Western Michigan at No. 25 Iowa
People don’t talk enough about how much of a downgrade WMU’s recent rebranding was. Yuck! Saturday’s trip to Iowa City is the second of back-to-back-to-back road games for the Broncos. They got blown out at Syracuse last week.
Do not let the Cade McNamara smoke and mirrors fool you: this Iowa team is the same as every other one we’ve seen during the Kirk Ferentz era. They’ve got a legitimate defense and elite punter (Tory Taylor hive rise tf up), but it takes a herculean effort for the Hawkeyes to move the chains offensively. It’s B1G West ball at its finest.
Despite having just moved to Kalamazoo, I will absolutely not be watching this game. Iowa wins, 29-6.
Virginia Tech at Rutgers
There are rumblings of a quarterback change in Blacksburg. 2022 starter Grant Wells avenged the Hokies’ 2022 loss to Old Dominion in week one but struggled against Purdue last Saturday, failing to lead a scoring drive in the second half of the 24-17 home loss. Baylor transfer Kyron Drones also saw time under center in that rain delayed slopfest, and fans want to see more of him this weekend.
Rutgers has given up just 14 points through two games this season. Sure, those games were against Northwestern and Temple, but still! Junior running back Kyle Monangai seems like The Guy on offense.
I see the Scarlet Knights this one thanks to their stout defense, which will be aided by the absence of at least one of Va Tech’s top two receivers.
No. 7 Penn State at Illinois
Illinois is a little tough to judge at this point with a narrow victory against a good MAC team in week one against Toledo followed by a loss to Kansas that probably won’t look bad by season’s end. The Jayhawks are on the come up.
Regardless, Penn State will prove too much for the Illini to handle. Drew Allar is completing 78% of his passes right now for an average of 9.6 yards per completion for a Penn State offense that put up 63 points last weekend against Delaware.
I also think the Nittany Lions will come in with an added edge to this game, hoping to prove themselves to be the second best team in the conference. If they can beat Illinois convincingly and have the Buckeyes play another close game, look for them to jump OSU in the polls.
Pick: Penn State
Georgia Southern at Wisconsin
Wisconsin is coming off of a rather unfortunate loss wherein they seem to have forgotten that Braelon Allen is their starting running back.
Look man I get it. The air raid is cool and hip with the kids. But you are the Wisconsin Badgers and whether you like it or not you’re still built like the Wisconsin Badgers. If you have a guy like that on your roster and don’t give him the ball you deserve to lose.
If anyone is smart enough to course correct for that kind of error it’s Luke Fickell. They take this one in angry, dominant fashion.
Minnesota at No. 20 North Carolina
You see a number next to North Carolina’s name, yes?
I don’t believe that’s accurate, you can’t tell me that operation is the 20th best in the country, no shot. The offense hasn’t been inspiring despite good performances and I don’t believe they have what it takes.
They’re riding high and I think Minnesota could be a wake-up call.
Western Kentucky at No. 6 Ohio State
Despite being 2-0, Ohio State has dropped three spots in the AP poll for their lackluster wins over Indiana and Youngstown State. The 23-3 win against the Hoosiers cost them two of those spots alone.
Like Tom Allen, Ryan Day has named his starter this week, opting with Kyle McCord for the rest of the season. Day appeared to be taking the training wheels off for McCord last week after conservative play calling against Indiana, so it’s fair to assume we get our first glimpse of what the Ohio State offense is capable of this week.
Ohio State will win, and for Day’s sake, they better win handily. This is the Buckeyes’ last tune up before heading to no. 9 Notre Dame and I think they notch their first convincing win with the quarterback competition settled; the receiving core is just too talented for the offense to struggle all year.
Pick: Ohio State
No. 8 Washington at Michigan State
Michael Penix has actually already seen Michigan State since transferring out of Indiana, when he led Washington to a 39-28 upset of the then no. 11 Spartans. He threw for 397 yards and four touchdowns, completing 24 of 40 passes.
I expect more of the same this year now that Penix is a bonafide Heisman candidate and Michigan State is out of a head coach. This should be a blowout.
Go Huskies. Penix for Heisman.
Northern Illinois at Nebraska
Will Matt Rhule notch his first win at Nebraska? This should be his easiest game so far, yet it’s hard to see any team be competitive with the quarterback play it got last week against Colorado.
ESPN only gives Northern Illinois a 24.4% chance to pull off the upset, but I am now operating under the assumption that Nebraska actually is cursed. I cannot, in good conscience, pick the Huskers here. Plus my parents went to Northern Illinois.
Go Huskies, again.
(This game should be on Big Ten Plus)
Pick: Northern Illinois
Bowling Green at No. 2 Michigan
Ever since Jim Harbaugh committed brave and noble acts*, Michigan started playing with a chip on its shoulder in his honor. In their first two games, the Wolverines have outscored their opponents 65-10 without dropping from the no. 2 spot in the AP poll.
Critics will say that Michigan hasn’t been tested yet this year, which is true. On the other hand, they were not punished for their weak non-conference schedule last season, which saw them make the College Football playoff.
This is worth noting if you find yourself among the Indiana fans who are disappointed in the cancelation of next year’s game with Louisville. Until there are negative consequences for playing easy games, just get to Bowl eligibility.
*actually got suspended by the school for four games.
Syracuse at Purdue
Purdue took a rather interesting nonconference loss to Syracuse last season and is coming off of a road win over a bad Virginia Tech team that was sealed in the fourth with a touchdown. This was after the Boilermakers allowed 17 unanswered points in the second quarter to allow Tech right back into the game.
Ryan Walters and the new staff are still settling in. Dino Babers is not.
I think the Orange, who have scored 113 points while allowing just 7, give Purdue some trouble and escape Ross-Ade Stadium with a win.