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In a B1G Country: Week 3 Recap, Week 4 Preview

What happened during MSU's bye week and what's on tap for the final full weekend of non-conference play. Now with conference race projections!

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Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Last Week's Results

Conference Play

Penn State 13, Rutgers 10

Penn State's inability to finish drives could easily have cost them this one - through the first 35 minutes, five trips into Rutgers territory resulted in three punts, a blocked FG, and a turnover. Rutgers, however, could not take advantage, as Gary Nova threw five interceptions. With the lead just 10-0 midway through the third, Penn State kicked field goals on the next two drives. With under six minutes to go, Penn State indefensibly decided to have Christian Hackenberg quick-kick on 4th and 14 from the Rutgers 36 ... and got a whopping five yards out of the kick. Fortunately, they got the ball back with three minutes left and had time for an 80-yard touchdown drive to win. Once again, Penn State had to rely entirely on Hackenberg's arm for their offense (under 70 rushing yards); the more I watch of them, the less worried I am about MSU's finale.

Non-Conference Wins

Ohio State 66, Kent State 0

Ohio State obliterated the Golden Flashes with six touchdown passes from J.T. Barrett in the first 36 minutes. The lead was 7-0 just 1:44 into the game, 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, and 45-0 at halftime. The Buckeyes outgained Kent State nearly by a factor of 5 (628-126).

Nebraska 55, Fresno State 19

No late-night West Coast disaster for this Big Ten team; Nebraska scored four touchdowns from the far side of midfield (two rushes, one pass, and a punt return) in a romp.

Michigan 34, Miami (Ohio) 10

Michigan outgained Miami 460-198, but a quick burst of turnovers let Miami hang in the game for a while, tying it at 10 briefly midway through the second quarter. The score held at 17-10 most of the way through the third quarter before Michigan scored on their final three drives.

Non-Conference Losses

West Virginia 40, Maryland 37

This looked like a complete disaster in the making, with the Mountaineers leading 28-6 six minutes before halftime. Maryland added two touchdowns before the half and another just 14 seconds into the third quarter to cut the deficit to 28-27. West Virginia pushed the lead back out to 10 with a safety and touchdown in the latter portion of the third quarter, but a punt return touchdown for Maryland tied the game with 9:43 to go before West Virginia kicked the winning field goal at the final whistle. The Mountaineers gained an impressive 694 yards on the day, but four turnovers, two failed fourth down attempts (out of four), and a missed field goal with four minutes to go kept Maryland within striking distance.

Notre Dame 30, Purdue 14

Purdue's ability to be inexplicably competitive against Notre Dame even when they're awful revealed itself again, as the Boilers led 14-10 late in the second quarter. Everett Golson led the Irish on a late touchdown drive to take the lead into halftime, and the Irish gradually pulled away in the second half thanks in part to two Danny Etling interceptions.

Washington 44, Illinois 19

Don't be fooled by the score - it was much worse than the score looks. Washington led 35-5 just 20 minutes into the game, thanks in part to two Shaq Thompson defensive touchdowns. The lone bright spot was Geronimo Allison catching six passes for 160 yards and two TDs.

Iowa State 20, Iowa 17

Iowa led this one 14-3 at the half but blew it late. An interception set up a short touchdown drive for ISU to cut the lead to 14-10 in the third quarter, then the Cyclones marched 92 yards for the lead midway through the fourth. Iowa tied it with a field goal with four minutes to go, but Kirk Ferentz tried to ice ISU kicker Cole Netten only to wipe out a missed kick with the timeout and have the second try go dead center. Patience for Ferentz appears to be wearing thin among Iowa fans.

TCU 30, Minnesota 7

Minnesota couldn't do much of anything offensively in this one, accumulating just 268 yards of offense and turning the ball over five times. It only took TCU 21 minutes to get out to a 24-0 lead, after which it was mostly cruise control.

Bowling Green 45, Indiana 42

A halftime score of 14-12 Indiana was not what anyone expected, but two prolific offenses turned it up a notch in the second half, which featured nine lead changes (three in the final six minutes). Indiana managed to regain a 42-39 lead with just two minutes left, but that was far too much time to leave BGSU, who answered with a 2-yard TD pass with nine seconds left. The teams combined for 1,153 yards of offense on the day.

This Week's Games

Back to all non-conference this week. All times ET. I've included projected margin and victory chances 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. At this point preseason bias accounts for as much as actual season results for teams who have played three games; for teams who have played 2 it accounts for nearly twice as much. This is still probably a bit shaky but it's more useful than going just off of this year's data.

Eastern Michigan at Michigan State (Noon, BTN)

After an off week, MSU returns to play against the Eagles. EMU is not good at all; a 3-point win over Morgan State was followed by a 66-0 demolition at the hands of Florida and a 17-3 loss to Old Dominion. Here's hoping the backups see plenty of time.

Odds: MSU 140-to-1 favorite (32-point margin)

Southern Illinois (FCS) at Purdue (Noon, BTN)

The Salukis sit at 3-0 with wins over Division 2 Taylor, Eastern Illinois, and SE Missouri State. That wouldn't be scary for most teams, even with the relative disaster the Big Ten has been this year. Purdue is not most teams. Sagarin actually has Southern Illinois as a two-point road favorite. (My method doesn't distinguish between various FCS teams - that would require tracking all of them as well as FBS - so the odds given are Purdue versus "generic FCS".)

Odds: Purdue 92.7% (+16.5)

Iowa at Pittsburgh (Noon, ESPNU)

Pitt's results don't seem that impressive (obliterating Delaware isn't all that hard, nor is beating Florida International) until you remember that Boston College ran amok on USC and yet lost to Pitt 30-20. Iowa will have their work cut out for them here.

Odds: Pittsburgh 87% (+12.5)

Western Illinois (FCS) at Northwestern (Noon, ESPNEWS)

Western Illinois hung with Wisconsin for a half before eventually getting the doors blown off, so this is no pushover. That said, this should be a much easier opponent than either Cal or Northern Illinois, and Northwestern was competitive in both of those games, so there is reason to hope the Wildcats can get a win.

Odds: Northwestern 97.9% (+25)

Bowling Green at Wisconsin (Noon, ESPN2)

After upending Indiana in a shootout, the Falcons take on the Badgers this week. Wisconsin's defense will probably not be so forgiving.

Odds: Wisconsin 85% (+11)

Maryland at Syracuse (12:30, ESPN3 streaming only)

Hard to get a read on Syracuse to this point - they needed OT to beat FCS Villanova, then blew out Central Michigan. Maryland has a somewhat more understandable set of results so far (FCS blowout, win over bad FBS team, loss to possibly-decent one).

Odds: Syracuse 75% (+7)

Rutgers at Navy (3:30, CBS Sports Network)

Rutgers held both Washington State and Penn State under 70 rushing yards (in fact, they held Washington State under seven), but Mike Leach teams don't even try to run the ball very often and Penn State hasn't looked remotely good at running against anyone this year. This will be a much tougher test for the run defense.

Odds: Navy 86% (+11.5)

Utah at Michigan (3:30, ABC/ESPN2)

Utah has blown out a couple of bad opponents this year (Idaho State and Fresno State), so that doesn't tell us much. Looking back at last year's team confuses the issue further, as they went 2-7 in conference but beat Stanford and scared the bejeezus out of ranked UCLA and Arizona State.

Odds: Michigan 62% (+3)

San Jose State at Minnesota (4:00, BTN)

The Gophers' passing game leaves much to be desired. So does San Jose State's running game. This is a big game for Minnesota's bowl hopes; they might be able to survive it without getting much from their quarterback's arm but to make any serious noise in conference they'll need Mitch Leidner to step up in a big way.

Odds: Minnesota 78% (+8)

Texas State at Illinois (4:00, ESPNEWS)

Texas State is coming off a decent year (6-6 but no bowl) and so far this year has a 65-0 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and a two-touchdown loss to Navy. This is the kind of game that Illinois tends to win but only in the most excruciating and unnerving manner possible.

Odds: Illinois 77% (+8)

Massachusetts at Penn State (4:00, BTN)

UMass put a major scare into Vanderbilt last week before collapsing late; they did a similar job against Colorado the week before. Penn State can probably expect to do a little better than that, but until they find a running game to complement Hackenberg's arm, the Lions have a relatively low ceiling.

Odds: Penn State 97.9% (+25)

Indiana at Missouri (4:00, SEC Network)

Missouri put an impressive beating on the same Central Florida team that hung in until the final second against Penn State. There will probably be lots of points, but I don't expect Indiana to keep up.

Odds: Missouri 96.1% (+21)

Miami (FL) at Nebraska (8:00, ESPN2)

Miami couldn't keep up with Louisville in the opener but handled Florida A&M and Arkansas State with relative ease. Nebraska has handled two of its three cupcakes with similar ease. Nebraska's rushing attack should provide a serious challenge for the Hurricanes.

Odds: Nebraska 76% (+7.5)

Bye Week: Ohio State

The Buckeyes take the week off after their blowout win over Kent State.

Conference Race

Projections for conference records and bowls are based on game-by-game odds. For division titles, they are based on 100,000 simulations without considering tiebreakers (both outright title chances and shared-or-better title chances are listed).

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 6.04 1 in 504,000 1 in 10,600 0.17% 1.53% 7.52% 21.05% 33.26% 27.41% 9.06% 99.99% 31.77% 56.61%
Ohio State 5.73 1 in 380,000 0.01% 0.24% 2.26% 10.84% 27.09% 34.58% 20.63% 4.34% 99.39% 20.33% 42.50%
Penn State 5.17 N/A 0.05% 1.05% 6.88% 20.48% 31.71% 26.52% 11.36% 1.95% 99.79% 10.95% 27.56%
Michigan 4.25 0.09% 1.18% 6.48% 18.77% 30.56% 27.65% 12.72% 2.40% 0.15% 85.08% 2.35% 9.18%
Indiana 3.82 0.08% 2.08% 11.51% 26.57% 31.30% 20.16% 7.03% 1.20% 0.07% 53.96% 1.38% 5.87%
Maryland 2.82 1.60% 11.16% 27.83% 31.80% 19.42% 6.73% 1.32% 0.14% 1 in 18,100 35.51% 0.24% 1.36%
Rutgers 1.83 9.36% 30.07% 35.40% 19.26% 5.19% 0.69% 0.04% 1 in 102,000 N/A 25.00% 0.01% 0.08%

MSU is the favorite thanks in part to catching Ohio State at home (62% to win, 5-point favorites). The trip to Penn State actually registers as a more difficult game because of the site (basically a coin flip, MSU favored by less than half a point). Despite Penn State's 3-0 start, the closeness of their wins keeps the ratings somewhat skeptical; combined with MSU and OSU's great seasons last year, they rank well ahead of PSU (#17, #18, and #39 respectively). On the other hand, Rutgers is still being dragged down by a poor 2013, being in the stronger division (the East is projected to win 8.66 out of 14 cross-division games), and catching the worst possible crossover pair (Wisconsin and @Nebraska).

Cross-division schedule isn't a huge factor in the projections at the top; MSU gets Nebraska and @Purdue while OSU gets @Minnesota and Illinois. After factoring in home field, there's not a huge difference between those two sets. Penn State makes up a little ground with Northwestern and @Illinois.

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 6.49 1 in 2,410,000 1 in 46,200 0.05% 0.52% 3.39% 13.15% 29.63% 35.64% 17.62% 99.86% 58.68% 79.86%
Nebraska 5.36 1 in 376,000 0.02% 0.40% 3.65% 16.05% 34.04% 32.42% 11.96% 1.46% 99.88% 13.10% 30.51%
Iowa 4.01 0.17% 2.06% 9.71% 22.91% 30.00% 22.74% 9.90% 2.29% 0.22% 68.11% 2.72% 9.29%
Minnesota 4.01 0.03% 0.91% 7.60% 24.40% 34.38% 23.42% 7.92% 1.26% 0.07% 86.10% 1.64% 6.58%
Illinois 2.91 0.68% 8.88% 26.87% 34.50% 21.57% 6.56% 0.89% 0.05% 1 in 86,200 55.76% 0.16% 1.05%
Northwestern 2.61 2.77% 14.86% 30.21% 30.03% 16.22% 4.98% 0.86% 0.08% 1 in 36,400 6.50% 0.21% 1.16%
Purdue 0.94 34.21% 42.65% 18.76% 3.91% 0.44% 0.03% 1 in 94,100 1 in 4,860,000 1 in 628,000,000 0.44% <0.01% 0.01%

A decent chunk of Wisconsin's edge is due to 1) having Nebraska at home and 2) a much more favorable crossover schedule (Maryland and @Rutgers instead of @MSU and Rutgers). Wisconsin is also slightly ahead in the ratings (about two points on a neutral field), widening the gap a little further. Minnesota's edge for bowl eligibility over Iowa is mainly due to their softer non-conference finale; Illinois's over Northwestern is largely due to Illinois winning their non-conference games in mildly embarrassing fashion instead of losing them.