Now that we’ve made it through the fourth week of the season, at least as far as the Big Ten is concerned, let’s take a look at how everyone came out of the weekend.
Ohio State (4-0) Defeated UAB 29-15. The Buckeyes are suffering from a few growing pains. Ohio State used a big second quarter to beat the Blazers who had trouble putting the ball in the end zone. OSU coach Urban Meyer was pretty frustrated saying there’s a long way to go yet for the Bucks as they continue to adjust to Meyer’s system. UAB actually outgained OSU by nearly 50 yards but penalties and turnovers were their undoing. Still, they only trailed 21-15 after a fourth quarter field goal. OSU quarterback Braxton Miller scored from a yard out with 5 minutes left, and also converted a two point conversion to seal things for the Bucks going up 14 points with just over five minutes remaining. Ohio State is going to have to put things together fairly quickly if they want to continue pulling out victories. Next week: @ Michigan State
Wisconsin (3-1) – Defeated UTEP 37-26. Somehow, Wisconsin has won 3 games. Despite all the close calls and offensive malaise they’ve found ways to win games. That should scare Big Ten opponents, especially if they’ve finally found some answers at quarterback. We may have seen the Danny O’Brien era come to an end before it hardly begun. Freshman Joel Stave got the nod under center for the Badgers and all he did was throw for 12/17 and 210 in his debut. UTEP isn’t any sort of juggernaut opponent, though they did put a scare into Oklahoma in their opener in El Paso, but they were a decent challenge for a team struggling to find answers anywhere they can find them. Next week will be a different beast for the young Mr. Stave as he heads to Husker land in prime time. We also had an injury alert in this one. All American running back Montee Ball left the game after taking a couple of shots to the head. He left the game in the first quarter. Next week: @ Nebraska
Iowa (2-2) lost to Central Michigan 32-31. Last week, they at least found a way to win. Today, hands are wringing as Central Michigan hits a field goal as time expired to raise the panic levels in Iowa City to 11. The good news is they may have found a running back. Mark Weisman went 27/217 and three touchdowns. We’ll see if he makes it through the week. Beyond that, there aren’t a whole lot of issues that don’t need to be addressed. There are holes that need to be plugged on virtually every level. If the Hawkeyes don’t get it figured out and fast, things could into a tail spin that even the best fighter pilot couldn’t correct. But hey, I saw a story on BTN about this awesome children’s hospital they’re building next to the stadium, which is awesome. They’ll have that to hold onto at least. Next week: vs. Minnesota
Nebraska (3-1) – Defeated Idaho St. 73-7. Not much to be learned in this one. Rex Burkhead returned and looked mostly healthy. That’s a plus. Nebraska has faced some really bad teams, perhaps not this bad, but not much better either and have failed to put them away like they did on Saturday, so that’s an encouraging sign as well. They didn’t suffer any serious injuries and should be healthy heading into Big Ten play next week. Things ratchet up a bit next week when Wisconsin comes to town. It is officially "Black Helmet Week" in Lincoln. Next week: vs. Wisconsin
Penn State (2-2) –Defeated Temple 27-13. The weight was lifted off the shoulders of the Penn State program last week and they came out and got another victory over the Owls of Temple. Matt McGloin had a career day passing for more than 300 yards and a touchdown, running for two as well. This wasn’t the prettiest football game ever played and Penn State controlled it for most of the game. Temple scored a late touchdown to make it look a little closer than perhaps the play on the field might have indicated. Next week: @ Illinois
Northwestern (4-0) Defeated South Dakota 38-7. It was the Venric Mark show in Evanston who ran the ball 16 times for 117 yards and 3 touchdowns. This was really just a take care of business sort of day for the Wildcats who racked up 408 total yards, 277 of which came on the ground. Kain Colter was banged up a little in the first quarter but was able to return and the Wildcat faithful were able to breathe a sigh of relief. Next week: vs. Indiana
Michigan State (3-1) – Defeated Eastern Michigan 23-7. This game is like the report you turned into your English teacher in high school. Yes, technically, you got the paper done on time, but you really didn’t do it until the night before and wasn’t anything close to the best you could do. Eastern Michigan led this game until 1:11 in the third quarter. Le’Veon Bell set a new career mark in rushing for 253 yards, but that was really the only real bright spot. Coach Mark Dantonio was fairly terse in his post game press conference, setting the tone for what is sure to be a spirited week of practice for Sparty. Next week: vs. Ohio State.
Michigan (2-2) – lost to Notre Dame 17-6 UMASS 63-13. If you look at the box score of this game, you could make a reasonable case that Michigan probably should have won. They matched or bested Notre Dame in virtually every statistical category. That is until you get to the bottom of the sheet and you see that Michigan turned the ball over six times to Notre Dame’s two. It’s very difficult to win football games when you turn the ball over six times. This was the worst games of Denard Robinson’s career. He threw five interceptions and fumbled on six consecutive possessions to seal the Wolverines fate. Robinson vowed to never let this happen again, and he better not lest Michigan suffer a similar result. Next week: Bye
Minnesota (4-0) Defeated Syracuse 17-10. Syracuse got a touchdown in the final minute but it wasn’t enough as Minnesota’s defense completely controlled this game to give Minnesota an undefeated non-conference slate. They did it without starting quarter back Mar’Quies Gray who is still sidelined with an ankle injury that will likely keep him out for at least another week. If they can continue to get solid defensive play, they’ll give them a shot in a conference that will have some wins up for grabs, beginning this week. Next week: @ Iowa
Illinois (2-2) Lost to Louisiana Tech 52-24. We saw our second six turnover game of the weekend from a Big Ten team and boy did the Illini pay for it. Illinios quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase tried to return from a sprained ankle but was unable to make it through the first quarter. Illinois fumbled the ball away five times and threw in an interception for good measure. Illinois was likely going to be challenged by Tech without giving the ball away, but their failure to keep possession turned this one into a rout. Next week: vs. Penn State
Purdue (2-1) Bye. Next week: vs. Marshall
Indiana (2-1) – Bye. Next week: @ Northwestern
Ranking the B1G:
1. 1. Nebraska (2): Call me a homer, but this looks like the most dynamic team in the league right now. They’ll get a chance to prove it over the next two games.
2. Ohio State(1): Back-to-back rather uninspiring efforts raises doubt they’re the top team in the conference, but they are undefeated.
3. Michigan State (3): Can Michigan State ride Bell all the way to Indianapolis?
4. Northwestern (5): Wildcats look to go 5-0 for the third time in five seasons but only third time this century. Favorable schedule gives them opportunity for much more.
5. Michigan (4): Robinson’s clunker and Wolverines find themselves on the short end of another marquee game.
6. Purdue (6): Purdue looks to finish up non-conference play strong.
7. Wisconsin (7): Did they find some answers on offense? Badgers hope so as Stave looks to take the job from O’Brien before really got started.
8. Minnesota (9): 4-0 start gives Gophers legitimate shot at a bowl game. Going to need to get Gray healthy, though.
9. Penn State (10): Is the ship being righted? Two straight wins have the Nittany Lions a little less on edge as of late.
10. Illinois (8): Ugly, ugly loss. No other way to spin it. Hold on to the ball, give yourselves a chance.
11. Iowa (11): More questions than answers right now for Ferentz and company.
12. Indiana (12): Hard to move them out of this spot when they don’t play.
Player of the Week: Mark Weisman. This probably will be little consolation after such a bitter loss. If Weisman and the Iowa offense can build on that momentum, they might be able to salvage something of this season. Weisman ran for 217 yards and three touchdowns, grabbing hold of that starting spot. Oh, and he’s a walk-on, so that automatically makes it a cool story.
Final thoughts: - Conference play gets cranked up with five games this week. It should come as a welcome relief as teams can now pound each other into a pulp. With teams so closely bunched together, it’s shaping up to be a wide open race to Indy.
- The Big Ten hasn’t done itself any favors when playing BCS competition, but losing to teams from non-BCS leagues, especially in blow out fashion does just as much damage if not more to the conference reputation which might be at an all-time low. At least one national commentator thinks that and said as much during halftime of the Florida State/Clemson game in prime time. The conference isn't not going to be able to change that perception until bowl games roll around.
- This is the week Nebraska fans have all been either waiting for or dreading. It’s not Wiscosnin week, it’s alternate uniform week. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re going to be one of the main topics of conversation this week around this program. Nebraska could really benefit from a solid prime-time performance.