Many of the teams in the conference are still trying to establish their own identities, in Week 4 some teams moved closer to figuring that out — Michigan, Maryland, Penn St. — while others still are trying to figure things out.
Big Ten East Division:
Indiana Hoosiers 3-1 (0-1)
For the first three weeks of the season the Hoosiers looked like an upper-tier bowl team but in the 35-21 loss to the Michigan St. Spartans, Indiana was reduced to looking like the mid-tier team it is. Despite the defense forcing four turnovers — including interceptions by defensive back Khalil Bryant and linebacker Cam Jones — Indiana came up short because the offense struggled to find any continuity. Quarterback Peyton Ramsey passed for 272 yards and two touchdowns but had two interceptions himself. The run game was non-existent as the team was limited to 29 yards on 32 carries. If the Hoosiers want to be competitive they will have to find a way of running the ball against good defenses.
Maryland Terrapins 3-1 (1-0)
The Terrapins offense rushed for 315 yards on the way to easily defeating the Minnesota Golden Gophers 42-13. Ty Johnson (11 carries, 123 yards) and Anthony McFarland (six carries, 112 yards) led the way for an offense that is establishing an identity as a run-first team. Linebacker Tre Watson’s 11 tackles, one sack and interception return for a touchdown. The Illinois transfer has paid major dividends for a Maryland defense that limited a Golden Gophers offense to 262 yards.
Michigan Wolverines 3-1 (1-0)
What was anticipated to be a good game turned into a bloodbath as the Wolverines crushed the Nebraska Cornhuskers 56-10. Running back Karan Higdon returned to the line-up and rushed for 136 yards on 12 carries and true freshman receiver Ronnie Bell caught his first pass for 56 yards and one touchdown. The defense dictated the entire afternoon as it had 14 tackles-for-loss and four sacks. Linebacker Devin Bush Jr. led the way with six tackles one sack and two tackles for loss. This was a great team effort for the Wolverines team that is looking to build continuity on all levels.
Michigan St. Spartans 2-1 (1-0)
The Spartans were able to overcome four turnovers to defeat the Indiana Hoosiers 35-21. Quarterback Brian Lewerke passed for 213 yards but he threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. The burden of the offense is on the passing game because other than true freshman Jalen Nailor’s 75-yard touchdown run the team did nothing on the ground. Luckily for Spartans fans, the defense was able to cause the same havoc to the Indiana offense as it forced two turnovers and limited Indiana to 29 rushing yards. Andrew Dowell had two of the team’s five sacks. The defense continues to be stout for MSU but they have to find a running game against better opponents.
Ohio St. Buckeyes 3-0 (1-0)
The Buckeyes continued to ease through the non-conference part of the schedule as it easily defeated the Tulane Green Wave 49-6. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins continues to make a name for himself as he passed for 304 yards and five touchdowns in one half of play. Receiver Parris Campbell was the favorite wide out of the week as he caught eight balls for 147 yards and two touchdowns. The defense played its first full game without all-world defensive end Nick Bosa but didn’t miss a beat. Linebacker Dante Booker had one sack and three tackles-for-loss. The Buckeyes are trucking along, but things get very interesting next week.
Penn State Nittany Lions 4-0 (1-0)
After playing around with the Illinois Fighting Illini for three quarters, the Nittany Lions scored 35 points in the fourth quarter to easily win 63-24 on Friday. Running back Miles Sanders led the way offensively with 200 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 22 carries. With Sanders leading the way, quarterback Trace McSorley wasn’t asked to do much and only passed for 160 yards and three touchdowns. If there is any reason for concern is the fact that the defense allowed 411 total yards — including 245 yards on the ground — and only registered one sack. Linebackers Ellis Brooks and Jan Johnson did have interceptions on the evening.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights 1-2 (0-1)
This season has gon left pretty quickly for the Scarlet Knights. Its one thing to lose to power 5 schools like OSU and maybe even an improving Kansas, but to get blown out 42-13 by the Buffalo Bulls of the Mid-American Conference is unacceptable. At this point, I don’t know what head coach Chris Ash can say to the team to keep them focused because nothing seems to be working. Running back Raheem Blackshear rushed for 69 yards on 15 carries but because the team got down so early, they couldn’t rely on the sophomore running back. The quarterback position still is offering little-to-no excitement as Giovanni Rescigno passed for only 129 yards on 24 attempts. Defensive backs Isaiah Wharton and Damon Hayes both had interceptions but for some reason, the Scarlet Knights defense couldn’t slow down the Bulls on Saturday.
Big Ten West Division:
Illinois Fighting Illini 2-2 (0-1)
For one half, the Fighting Illini gave the Penn St. Nittany Lions but eventually youth set in, and Illinois fell 63-24. Running backs Reggie Corbin (11 carries, 87 yards) and Mike Epstein (13 carries, 73 yards) did what they could running the ball, and freshman quarterback MJ Rivers passed for 178 yards, but it wasn’t enough as the Illinois defense surrendered 591 total yards. Defensive lineman Bobby Roundtree had one of the best games of his career and finished with 12 tackles and two sacks. The youth movement is being led by head coach Lovie Smith is taking its share of lumps now, but if they can stay the course, the team will be okay soon.
Iowa Hawkeyes 2-1 (0-1)
Iowa had its chances, but untimely turnovers doomed them in the 28-17 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers. Quarterback Nathan Stanley passed for 256 yards and two touchdowns but had an interception while the offense was trying to take the game late in the fourth quarter. The defense failed to make the critical stop it needed all evening and its hard to win games when your most talented player, defensive end AJ Epensa only has one tackle. Dreams of winning the Big Ten West division took a major hit with this loss, but there is still a lot to play for the Hawkeyes.
Minnesota Golden Gophers 3-1 (0-1)
Quarterback Zack Annexstad has played well all season but in the 42-13 loss to the Maryland Terrapins, he looked like the freshman walk-on he is as he completed only 14-of-32 passes for 169 yards and two interceptions. Freshman running back Mohamed Ibrahim (26 carries, 96 yards) played well but he didn’t have any help offensively. The Gophers will not be able to rely on a freshman quarterback to lead them to victory so other aspects of the team must step up.
Nebraska Cornhuskers 0-3 (0-1)
The Scott Frost era in Lincoln continued to struggle as the Cornhuskers were dismantled 56-10 on Saturday by the Michigan Wolverines. Quarterback Adrian Martinez was on the run the entire afternoon and only passed for 71 yards. The run game was stymied the whole afternoon and only totaled 39 yards on 30 carries. The lone bright spot offensively was receiver Stanley Morgan who had three catches for 61 yards. Deontai Williams made a spectacular play on an end zone interception, but that was the only highlight on that side of the ball. Cornhuskers fans have to realize that the transition won’t be a quick one but when it happens, they will be happy.
Northwestern Wildcats 1-2 (1-0)
No game scheduled
Purdue Boilermakers 1-3 (0-1)
David Blough followed up a career day with another solid performance passing for 296 yards and three touchdowns as the Boilermakers defeated the Boston College Eagles 30-13. Inconsistency at the quarterback position has been the Achilles heel for the Boilermakers but if the last two games are any indication, quarterback Jeff Brohm may have figured things out. Unfortunately, the rushing attack wasn’t as successful as the team only rushed for 76 yards on 41 carries. The defense had its best output of the season as it limited the Eagles offense to only 229 total yards while forcing four interceptions by Kai Higgins, Kenneth Major, Antonio Blackmon, and Anthony Watts. This is a huge win for Purdue but they have to build upon the momentum once it returns to conference play.
Wisconsin Badgers 3-1 (1-0)
Some say its too early for must-win games but after dropping a non-conference game the week before the margin of error was slim for the Badgers and they responded well with a 28-17 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook played one of the best in-conference games of his career as he passed for 205 yards on 17-of-22 attempts and had three touchdowns with zero interceptions. Running back Jonathan Taylor continued to be the steady back he has been all of his career, rushing for 113 yards on 25 carries. The Badgers defense came up with big play after big play all night — including a critical fumble recovery by safety D’Cota Dixon and interception by linebacker TJ Edwards.
Sports Q&A Big 10 Player of the week:
Miles Sanders RB – Penn St.
With the departure of Saquon Barkley, some wondered if the Penn St. offense would take a hit without the all-everything running back. Against the Fighting Illini Sanders showed that he is more than capable of stepping out of Barkley’s shadow and creating his own legacy in Happy Valley.
Game of the Week
Ohio St. vs. Penn St.
Both teams come into this contest playing some of the best football in the nation but you have to ask if either team is ready to be national contenders or was it the lack of quality opponents. This game will boil down to who can at least slow down the other offense and right now OSU has more talent on the defensive side of the ball, even without its best player Nick Bosa.
Ohio St. 42 Penn St. 27
Week 5 Picks: (Week 4 record: 7-1)
Michigan over Northwestern
Michigan St. over Central Michigan
Indiana over Rutgers
Purdue over Nebraska
BYE WEEK: Wisconsin, Iowa, Maryland, Illinois, Minnesota