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In a B1G Country: Week 5 Recap, Week 6 Preview

Conference play kicked off in earnest last week, with a few non-conference stragglers finishing up.

Duane Burleson

Last Week's Results


The Big Ten went a tidy 4-0 this week, without too much drama in any of the games.

Michigan State 56, Wyoming 14

The final tune-up before conference play could hardly have gone better for the offense: the first drive not to reach the endzone was a kneeldown immediately before half. The defense wasn't quite up to the outrageous standard that they set last year, getting burned on a couple of big plays in the first half, but it's hard to complain too much about under 300 yards, 3 turnovers, and six sacks.

Wisconsin 27, South Florida 10

This was another weirdly slow start for the Badgers; after leading Western Illinois 9-3 at the half earlier this season, they went into the break against the Bulls tied at 3. Something woke them up in the locker room, though; their five second-half drives went touchdown, touchdown, 18-yard field goal, touchdown, run out the clock. The ground game remains impressive, coming up just short of 300 yards on the day; Tanner McEvoy was not called on to pass much but was reasonably efficient when he did (11/18, 160 yards, 1 TD).

Rutgers 31, Tulane 6

Gary Nova was on fire in the first half, going 9 for 9 for 195 yards and three scores (including a 93-yard catch-and-run by Andrew Turzilli). That was plenty to see off the Green Wave, which is a good thing since his second half was somewhat less spectacular (5/12, 96 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT). Desmon Peoples and Justin Goodman split backfield duty in place of the injured Paul James, each picking up just over 80 yards.

Ohio State 50, Cincinnati 28

The Buckeyes ran up 710 yards of total offense (and would have set a school record if not for a bad snap late costing them 20 yards), but the secondary has to be a huge area of concern still. Cincinnati QB Gunner Kiel threw for 352 yards and four touchdowns in just 32 attempts, with three of the touchdowns combining for 221 yards by themselves. It looked early as though OSU would blow the game open, answering an initial score by the Bearcats with 30 consecutive points; Cincinnati then went on a 21-3 run spanning halftime to cut the deficit to just five before Ohio State put up the final 17 points.

Conference Games

Northwestern 29, Penn State 6

Yeah, about Penn State being a contender in the East. You kind of have to do better than 70 rushing yards (sack-adjusted) and 266 total against Northwestern. Christian Hackenberg spent a fair bit of time running for his life, and it showed in his stats: under 50% completions with a pick-six. (Meanwhile, Northwestern might need to fix their kicking situation: a 44-yard FG miss is excusable, but two missed PATs are not.)

Iowa 24, Purdue 10

This game was dreadfully ugly. Iowa did manage to move the ball reasonably well (420 yards) but couldn't cash in early and in fact spotted the Boilers a 10-0 lead thanks to an interception return for touchdown by Frankie Williams and a field goal drive that started in Iowa territory. At that point, Iowa had been outgained 86-10 and did not have a first down. Then the script flipped: Iowa started alternating those three-and-outs with long scoring drives, while Purdue added just 72 yards the rest of the way (not counting a pre-halftime kneeldown).

Maryland 37, Indiana 15

#CHAOSTEAM is at it again, as Indiana has gone from losing to Bowling Green, to beating defending SEC East champion Missouri on the road, to getting smoked at home in the Terrapins' Big Ten debut. Nate Sudfeld had a horrendous day, completing just 14 of 37 passes for 126 yards and a pick, while C.J. Brown (who left the game with a wrist injury and is likely to be a game-day decision this week) and Caleb Rowe combined for a 22/33, 361, 3 TDs line. Indiana's normally high-scoring offense didn't find the end zone until there were under 10 minutes left, although kicker Griffin Oakes was impressive, hitting from 38, 48, and finally 58 (!) yards in the first half.

Minnesota 30, Michigan 14

First things first: the Shane Morris situation was handled atrociously by all involved, and heads will almost certainly roll (if they haven't already; I'm writing this Tuesday night). I can only hope Michigan's next coach is hilariously incompetent instead of dangerously incompetent. There's plenty of reading to be found on the situation around SBN and elsewhere.

As for the game itself: if the Morris saga wasn't enough to dial the temperature on Brady Hoke's seat up to "supernova", getting trounced by the Gophers in a game that wasn't really as close as the score would have probably bumped it up a notch or two. David Cobb outgained Michigan by himself, 183 yards rushing to 171 yards total - and that's without counting his 50 yards receiving. Morris and Devin Gardner combined for an awful 10/25, 88 yards, 1 pick-six line. Michigan got the first points of the game, but the lead would hold up for all of three minutes and Michigan would not cross midfield again until the game was out of hand.

Nebraska 45, Illinois 14

I realize Illinois is not exactly a defensive stalwart, but it appears Nebraska might be kind of good at running the ball. Ameer Abdullah had 196 rushing yards by halftime, and the team as a whole finished with a little over a quarter-mile of ground gain (458 yards). Continuing a theme for the day among losing Big Ten quarterbacks, Reilly O'Toole failed to even complete half of his passes for Illinois and threw three interceptions as well.

This Week's Games

All times ET. Odds are based on my margin-aware ratings including preseason bias (available here); all four sets of rankings (margin-aware or W-L only, with or without preseason bias) are available here.


Just one non-conference game this week: North Texas at Indiana (2:30, BTN). The Mean Green are probably vaguely mediocre at best; they've obliterated SMU (who is last in FBS in both points scored and points allowed, so that's probably not a useful data point) and Nicholls State (an 0-5 FCS team; although three of those losses have come against FBS competition, one was against a 2-3 FCS squad and one was against a Division II team) and gotten the hammer dropped on them by Texas and Louisiana Tech. It would be very #CHAOSTEAM of Indiana to blow this one, but I don't think it's likely.

Odds: Indiana 73% (favored by 6.5)

Conference Games

Pillow Fight of the Week: Purdue at Illinois (Noon, ESPN2)

Illini QB Wes Lunt is expected to return after missing last week's game; if he sits, I could see Purdue pulling this off, especially if Illinois digs a big hole and tries to do a Houdini routine in the fourth quarter as they have in their three wins thus far. If the Boilers do not win, the next reasonably likely chance to get in the win column in conference is not until November 22 vs. Northwestern.

Odds: Illinois 88% (favored by 13)

There Will Be Points: Ohio State at Maryland (Noon, ABC)

If C.J. Brown can go, he and Stefon Diggs should give Ohio State's secondary coach nightmares. On the other hand, the Buckeyes' offense has looked explosive after a slow start to the season. This has the feel of a "last team with the ball wins" type of game.

Odds: Maryland 52% (favored by 0.5)

Mismatch of the Week: Wisconsin at Northwestern (3:30, ESPN2)

Yes, Northwestern shut down Penn State's running game entirely. Wisconsin's offensive line is just a wee bit better, as are their running backs. That said, the Badgers have been prone to getting shut down for a half in most games (the first half against Western Illinois and South Florida, the second against LSU). That might be enough to keep it close, but I don't see Northwestern piling up enough points to withstand even one half of Wisconsin's running game going at full effectiveness. (Yes, two games have wider lines. This would be the widest with all games at neutral sites, however.)

Odds: Wisconsin 70% (favored by 5.5)

"When Can We Fire Our AD" Bowl: Michigan at Rutgers (7:00, BTN)

After everything from this past offseason, it seemed inconceivable that Julie Hermann would not be the most-loathed athletic director in the conference. A month into her first football season in the B1G, that crown may have been wrested away by the pizza man down the road. It's hard to guess whether the past week will have a galvanizing effect on Michigan or cause things to fall apart entirely, but I think most of the money would be on the latter.

Odds: Rutgers 83% (favored by 10.5)

Game of the Week: Nebraska at Michigan State (8:00, ABC)

Nebraska's rushing attack looks as fearsome as ever, and they've had more success against the Spartans than anyone else in conference when it comes to moving the ball effectively the past few years. On the other side, MSU's offense is on an unprecedented roll of its own, putting up 201 points in the opening four games. Expect some fireworks.

Odds: Michigan State 63% (favored by 3.5)

Temporarily Out of Action

Iowa, Minnesota, and Penn State have the week off.

Conference Race

Projected records are based on game-by-game odds. Division title chances (outright or share) are estimated by 100,000 season simulations.

East Division

Team Avg wins 0-8 1-7 2-6 3-5 4-4 5-3 6-2 7-1 8-0 Bowl Outright Shared
Michigan State 5.83 1 in 271,000 0.02% 0.29% 2.37% 10.16% 24.39% 32.92% 23.23% 6.62% 99.69% 32.20% 56.14%
Ohio State 5.59 1 in 315,000 0.02% 0.31% 2.87% 13.15% 29.49% 33.01% 17.62% 3.53% 99.67% 22.39% 44.27%
Maryland 5.03 N/A 0.13% 1.65% 8.50% 22.30% 31.87% 24.72% 9.50% 1.34% 98.22% 11.84% 28.77%
Penn State 3.84 N/A 1.99% 11.30% 26.13% 31.50% 20.87% 7.20% 1.01% N/A 79.59% 2.00% 7.96%
Indiana 2.90 0.55% 9.07% 27.40% 34.20% 21.07% 6.66% 1.00% 0.05% N/A 53.85% 0.20% 1.44%
Rutgers 2.61 1.31% 12.09% 34.00% 33.91% 15.04% 3.28% 0.35% 0.01% N/A 86.60% 0.09% 0.69%
Michigan 1.80 10.35% 30.79% 34.44% 18.53% 5.13% 0.71% 0.05% 1 in 95,600 N/A 5.89% 0.01% 0.16%

Quite a bit of shuffling here due to three home conference losses (Indiana, Michigan, and Penn State); MSU is the only team to remain in the same place in the overall order. Maryland's jump up the rankings due to the win at Indiana means that, as of now, MSU would be a half-point underdog on the road. It's looking like that early November stretch of back-to-back Saturday night games against OSU and Maryland will be crucial for deciding who goes to Indy.

West Division

Team Avg wins 0-8 1-7 2-6 3-5 4-4 5-3 6-2 7-1 8-0 Bowl Outright Shared
Wisconsin 5.98 1 in 308,000 0.01% 0.24% 1.93% 8.52% 21.87% 32.58% 26.12% 8.71% 99.74% 30.44% 54.92%
Nebraska 5.85 N/A 1 in 89,400 0.10% 1.45% 8.84% 25.70% 36.26% 22.62% 5.03% >99.99% 23.64% 47.43%
Minnesota 5.20 N/A 0.01% 0.46% 4.70% 19.39% 36.09% 29.20% 9.19% 0.96% 99.53% 8.33% 24.12%
Northwestern 4.30 N/A 0.40% 4.48% 18.52% 34.35% 28.44% 11.46% 2.20% 0.16% 44.83% 2.34% 9.14%
Iowa 4.09 N/A 0.97% 7.65% 22.79% 32.66% 24.33% 9.58% 1.88% 0.14% 91.38% 1.95% 7.90%
Illinois 2.41 1.83% 17.59% 35.82% 30.25% 12.09% 2.24% 0.17% 1 in 23,900 N/A 44.76% 0.03% 0.21%
Purdue 0.59 53.14% 36.42% 9.22% 1.15% 0.08% 1 in 36,600 1 in 2,090,000 1 in 326,000,000 N/A 0.08% <0.01% <0.01%

Nebraska's impressive performance against Illinois and Wisconsin's lackluster first half against South Florida have greatly narrowed the gap here; should Nebraska win in East Lansing I think they become the favorite and a serious contender for the playoff. Minnesota and especially Northwestern make big leaps, while Purdue is now a favorite to run the table (in a negative sense).