Welcome to week four of Big Ten football.
A relatively sleepy week three has given way to a gargantuan week four slate headlined by Ohio State vs. Notre Dame and (for a variety of reasons) future member Oregon vs. Colorado.
Let’s talk ball.
Wisconsin at Purdue
Let’s be real.
Purdue hasn’t beaten Wisconsin since a 3-point Badgers loss way way way back in 2003. One team is coached by Luke Fickell, the other is coached by a first-time guy still learning on the job. Nothing against Ryan Walters, but his opponent Saturday took a Group of Five team to the College Football Playoff.
This game could take forever because both teams run the air raid (which, lol) on offense. If Phil Longo suddenly realizes that Braelon Allen is on the roster Purdue will be in extra trouble.
Rutgers at No. 2 Michigan
Rutgers is 3-0 heading out of the noncon slate and heading into Big Ten play. Michigan is Michigan. Jim Harbaugh is back on the sidelines in Ann Arbor following a self imposed 3-game suspension by the football program and he’ll be eager to get back on the grind.
The Scarlet Knights probably don’t stand a chance here. The defense could frustrate Michigan but that offense is getting them nowhere.
Maryland at Michigan State
Maryland should find its footing after a few weird games in the nonconference slate and Michigan State is still reeling from the impending firing of head coach Mel Tucker following a sexual harassment investigation by USA Today.
Florida Atlantic at Illinois
I’d say this one would get weird were it not for the fact that FAU quarterback Casey Thompson is out for the season with a torn ACL. Bret Bielema’s Illini need a statement to end the nonconference slate following a disappointing loss to Kansas and a shaky home game against Toledo. FAU will be that statement.
Louisiana Tech at Nebraska
Nebraska is banged up. They lost running backs Gabe Ervin and Rahmir Johnson for the year against Northern Illinois and could again be without starting quarterback Jeff Sims, who missed Saturday’s game after injuring his ankle against Colorado in week two. Sophomore Heinrich Haarberg made his first career start in place of Sims last week, leading the Huskers to a 35-11 win over NIU.
Nebraska takes this one handily if Haarberg starts, but the same cannot be said if Sims finds himself under center. The Georgia Tech transfer’s turnover issues, coupled with Louisiana Tech’s ability to score quickly, mean this one could get spicy.
No. 24 Iowa at No. 7 Penn State
This will be a battle of two of the more polarizing Big Ten quarterbacks.
Despite not throwing a touchdown and completing just 48% of his passes at Illinois last week, PSU sophomore Drew Allar looks the part three games into his tenure as QB1. Allar’s 90.0 PFF rating when facing pressure is best in all the land.
Iowa fifth year Cade McNamara also completed less than half of his pass attempts last week, going 9-19 for 103 yards, two touchdowns, and two picks against Western Michigan. The former Wolverine QB has yet to throw for over 200 yards as a Hawkeye, and is averaging just 5.9 yards per attempt this season.
Passing woes aside, Iowa’s offense scored more than 30 points for the first time since October 29th of last year in their 41-10 win over WMU. Running back Leshon Williams stirs the drink for the Hawkeyes, and rushed for 145 yards across a dozen carries versus the Broncos.
OSU/ND and IU/Akron (sigh) unfortunately relegate this one to the third screen. Very curious to see how the Nittany Lions are faring against a legitimate defense during my intermittent checks. I think Drew Allar will be the conference’s best QB by season’s end.
Pick: Penn State
No. 6 Ohio State at No. 9 Notre Dame
This is a weird one.
On one hand, Ohio State struggled out of the gate while Notre Dame has been rolling. On the other hand... the Irish don’t really match up all that well here. Ryan Day’s offense had weird outings against Indiana and then Youngstown State before finding its groove against Western Kentucky this past week. Notre Dame has cruised to a 4-0 record thanks to wins over Navy, Tennessee State and Central Michigan.
Ohio State had to find its way and seems to have done so. Even if Notre Dame plays a cleaner game, the Buckeyes have enough talent to pull through for the first statement win of the year.
Pick: Ohio State
Minnesota at Northwestern
Minnesota running back Darius Taylor was the bright spot down in Chapel Hill last Saturday, rushing for 138 yards and a score in the Gophs’ 31-13 loss to No. 20 North Carolina. Taylor leads all FBS true freshmen with 334 rushing yards through three games.
Northwestern also spent last weekend in the Tar Heel State, falling to No. 21 Duke 38-14. Given the football team’s poor on-field product and recently-uncovered hazing scandal, I strongly recommend Wildcat fans shift their focus towards the upcoming women’s lacrosse season. NU brings back superstar Izzy Scane for a sixth year, and she’ll be looking to cap off her illustrious career with a second consecutive national championship in 2024.
B O N U S
Colorado at Oregon
Oregon is a future Big Ten member. Our list, our rules, who cares.
Anyway, the Ducks are the first challenge for the Primetime Deion-led Buffs and that’s a bit of an understatement. Colorado probably should’ve lost at home to Colorado State were it not for Jay Norvell’s decision-making with the game on the line, and an away environment won’t be all that much fun.
Sean Lewis vs. Dan Lanning will be an interesting battle to watch as the former is among the better play callers in college football and the latter is a rising star at head coach.
Lanning’s Oregon takes this one by a few scores.