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In a B1G Country: Week 4 Recap, Week 5 Preview

A much better performance from the conference as a whole leading into the first week of significant conference play - with one notable exception.

Leon Halip

Last Week's Results

Again, grouped by general quality.

Wins Over Actual Teams

Iowa 24, Pittsburgh 20

Behind backup quarterback C.J. Beathard (who played the second half), the Hawkeyes rallied from a 17-7 halftime deficit on the road. It wasn't pretty, as Iowa still got outgained by more than 100 yards and Pitt had only one drive go for fewer than 27 yards; Pitt's inability to finish drives in the second half turned out to be the killer: drives of 39 (punt), 46 (turnover on downs), and 31 (intercepted Hail Mary) came up empty, and a 64-yard drive resulted in a 29-yard field goal.

Maryland 34, Syracuse 20

This box score is even more perplexing, as Syracuse racked up 589 yards to Maryland's 369. An 88-yard interception return touchdown by Maryland's William Likely, a blocked punt, and six empty trips for Syracuse into Maryland territory (a short missed FG right before half, three punts, a turnover on downs, and the aforementioned pick-six) made many of those yards meaningless, though. Maryland had a comfortable 31-13 lead at the half and Syracuse did not score again until the final minute.

Rutgers 31, Navy 24

No, this is not a misprint: Navy actually threw for more yards (231) than they had rushing (171). The game started rather inauspiciously for Rutgers, with a fumble on the first play from scrimmage (setting up a short touchdown drive) and a three-and-out on their second drive (leading eventually to a missed Navy FG). After that? Touchdown, 20-yard FG, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. Navy did eventually make it interesting again with a touchdown with 5:26 to go to cut the deficit to 7 and got as far as first and goal at the Rutgers 6 on the final desperation drive before two sacks sandwiched by incomplete passes on first and fourth downs sealed the win for the Scarlet Knights.

This may turn out to be somewhat of a Pyrrhic victory, however: running back Paul James tore his ACL in the third quarter and is out for the year.

Indiana 31, Missouri 27

The big shock of the day in the conference. A week after giving up 45 to Bowling Green, Indiana's defense managed to hold it together just enough to allow a two minute, 75 yard touchdown drive capped off by a 3-yard run by D'Angelo Roberts to put the Hoosiers over the top with 22 seconds remaining. It wasn't exactly a stellar defensive performance (Missouri gained 503 yards on the day), but it's a big leap forward for Indiana compared to last year (when only Bowling Green and Penn State failed to reach 35 points).

Nebraska 41, Miami (FL) 31

Ameer Abdullah ran amok again - 232 yards of offense (229 on the ground plus a 3-yard touchdown catch) and three total touchdowns, plus 81 yards on four kickoff returns for good measure. The teams traded scores early before Nebraska pulled out to a 10-point lead on Abdullah's second touchdown five minutes into the second half. Then they resumed trading scores, with Abdullah's third score with four minutes left extending the lead to 17 before a meaningless garbage-time score by the Hurricanes.

Ritual MACrifices

Michigan State 73, Eastern Michigan 14

Wisconsin 68, Bowling Green 17

Bowling Green actually managed to keep this close early, trailing only 14-10 at the end of the first quarter. Then Wisconsin turned on the steamroller, finishing the day with a Big Ten record 644 rushing yards. Dare Ogunbowale had 14 carries for 94 yards ... and was the fourth leading rusher for the Badgers. Melvin Gordon put up an absurd 253 yards on 13 carries, five of which went for touchdowns.

Penn State 48, Massachusetts 7

The Nittany Lions' rushing game finally made an appearance, gaining 228 yards on the ground (which beat their total from the previous three games by a yard). A somewhat slow start (6-0 lead at the end of the first quarter) gave way to five touchdowns in a 17:01 span covering most of the second quarter and the first half of the third. A 77-yard pass play from Massachusetts early in the fourth quarter ended the shutout, but the outcome was already long decided by then.

Not-So-Impressive Wins

Northwestern 24, Western Illinois 7

The Wildcats are in the win column for the first time this season, but it was far from pretty: Northwestern gained just 283 yards of offense (93 fewer than the Leathernecks), averaged less than 5 yards per pass attempt, and lost two fumbles. Four turnovers by WIU set up 10 of the Wildcats' points.

Purdue 35, Southern Illinois 13

We've apparently found the cure for what ails bad Big Ten teams: play games against Directional Illinois schools other than Northern. Two early turnovers put the Salukis in a deep hole early, as Purdue was able to cash in on both and eventually ran out to a 28-3 halftime lead. SIU did manage to get within 15 early in the fourth quarter but never got closer, and an Austin Appleby touchdown run from 11 yards out in the final minute provided the final margin.

Illinois 42, Texas State 35

Illinois got off to another horrendous start, trailing 21-6 just two minutes before halftime. A pair of Josh Ferguson touchdowns (one run, one catch) sandwiching halftime got them back to within 21-19; after trailing 28-25 at the end of the third quarter, the Illini managed to regain the lead with a touchdown midway through the fourth and added a field goal and a pick-six around the three-minute mark. Texas State cut it to 7 with 1:12 left but could not recover the onside kick. Illinois has now trailed entering the fourth quarter in all three wins (9-7 vs Youngstown State and 27-21 vs Western Kentucky).

Minnesota 24, San Jose State 7

With Mitch Leidner injured, Minnesota's box score numbers would not have looked out of place at one of the service academies: 1 for 7 passing from Chris Streveler for just 7 yards, 380 rush yards on 58 carries. Five turnovers and two missed field goals kept San Jose State from posing any serious threat; turnovers set up Minnesota's opening field goal and a Streveler touchdown run as the first half ended.

You Bring Great Shame Upon This Conference

Utah 26, Michigan 10

For the second time this season, Michigan outgained a Power 5 foe and still got beat down. Four turnovers will do that to you. Devin Gardner was pulled late for Shane Morris after his second interception of the game, only to see Morris throw one of his own immediately. In fact, Michigan did not even reach the red zone; their 10 points came on a 42-yard field goal and a Willie Henry interception return. The defense is impressive, but Michigan's offensive woes don't seem likely to be solved any time soon.

This Week's Games

Five conference games this week, with the other four finishing off their non-conference schedules. 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. All times ET.

Conference Play

Northwestern at Penn State (Noon, BTN)

Will Penn State's running game exist against a Northwestern team whose defense has been uncharacteristically competent this year, or will Christian Hackenberg have to do everything himself again? It may not matter, as Northwestern's offense hasn't exactly been lighting the world on fire this year either and Penn State has been stingy.

Odds: Penn State 92.2% (favored by 16)

Iowa at Purdue (Noon, BTN)

Purdue will probably hang around, if for no other reason than that Ferentzball seems to lead to a lot of close games whether there's a good reason for them to be close or not. And Iowa has a potential quarterback controversy brewing with Beathard leading the comeback against Pitt after Jake Rudock picked up a minor injury just before halftime. Even so, this is Purdue we're talking about.

Odds: Iowa 75% (favored by 7)

Maryland at Indiana (1:30, BTN)

The previous two games will probably be quite low-scoring. This one will not.

Odds: Indiana 72% (favored by 6 - this is almost all home-field advantage, which tends to skew a little high early in the season)

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

Get ready for some Cro-Magnon football. Michigan's coaching staff seems to regard any strategic innovations developed more recently than the forward pass as suspect, and after Leidner's injury Minnesota seems to be even giving the forward pass some side-eye. The key stat to watch here: Minnesota is tied for second nationally in forcing turnovers (13); Michigan is dead last in turnover margin (-10) and tied for 122nd in turnovers lost (12).

Odds: Michigan 58% (favored by 2)

Illinois at Nebraska (9:00, BTN)

Illinois struggled with three relatively poor teams before coming back in the fourth quarter and got blown out by Washington. That does not bode well against a Nebraska team that's significantly better than any of those.

Odds: Nebraska 92.0% (favored by 16)

Non-Conference Play

Wyoming at Michigan State (Noon, ESPN2)

Wyoming under Craig Bohl (former North Dakota State coach who led them to three consecutive FCS titles) has been consistently low-scoring this year, peaking at 20 points against Florida Atlantic. Despite this, they've won three times (20-19 over FAU, 17-13 over Air Force, and 17-12 over Montana) and lost only one (a blowout to Oregon). Don't expect the Cowboys to put up many points, at least while the first string is still in, but the offense should find things a bit more difficult than against Jacksonville State or EMU.

Odds: MSU 96.3% (favored by 21)

Tulane at Rutgers (Noon, ESPNews)

Tulane has not been impressive so far this year, with a 2OT loss to Tulsa to go with defeats against Duke and Georgia Tech. Rutgers should handle them relatively easily.

Odds: Rutgers 87% (favored by 12.5)

South Florida at Wisconsin (Noon, ESPNU)

South Florida did manage to hang with Maryland before losing, but they also squeaked by UConn and an FCS team and got blown out by North Carolina State, and they were awful last year, so the Maryland results is more likely to be the fluke. Wisconsin is going to do what Wisconsin does to bad teams: run them over.

Odds: Wisconsin 78-to-1 (favored by 29.5)

Cincinnati at Ohio State (6:00, BTN)

Cincinnati got a late start to the season (two consecutive off weeks with the opener on September 12); they've so far won a shootout with Toledo (nearly blowing a 41-7 lead, giving up 27 straight before running off 17 to finish the game) and a close game against Miami-Ohio. This should be a pretty high-scoring game, but Ohio State hasn't lost to an in-state team in ages and I don't think this Cincinnati team is the one to break that streak.

Odds: Ohio State 85% (favored by 11.5)

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 5.67 1 in 133,000 0.03% 0.42% 3.09% 12.22% 26.86% 32.46% 20.03% 4.90% 99.45% 25.38% 48.56%
Penn State 5.44 N/A 0.03% 0.66% 4.73% 16.11% 29.56% 29.95% 15.68% 3.28% 99.90% 19.37% 40.29%
Ohio State 5.35 1 in 88,700 0.04% 0.65% 4.70% 17.24% 31.84% 29.87% 13.41% 2.24% 98.60% 16.07% 35.80%
Indiana 4.23 0.04% 1.12% 7.14% 20.08% 30.19% 25.79% 12.36% 3.01% 0.27% 88.67% 3.70% 12.54%
Maryland 3.47 0.52% 4.81% 16.91% 29.35% 27.96% 15.14% 4.57% 0.70% 0.04% 77.76% 1.23% 5.02%
Michigan 3.09 1.41% 8.75% 22.44% 30.59% 23.74% 10.41% 2.40% 0.25% 1 in 10,400 36.81% 0.45% 2.58%
Rutgers 2.26 3.88% 20.39% 36.01% 27.49% 10.17% 1.89% 0.17% 1 in 16,900 N/A 71.18% 0.03% 0.29%

Penn State moves up a bit as the preseason ratings phase out a little further; MSU is actually now an underdog in that game and barely favored at Indiana. Michigan, obviously, takes the biggest dive and is now actually a 5-to-3 underdog to make a bowl game. The division does appear to be quite competitive, however, as every team is ranked between 22nd (MSU - dropped a couple spots last week due to Oregon's relatively poor performance against Washington State and other teams putting up impressive performances against teams with a pulse) and 63rd (Michigan; they rank ahead of Rutgers because of an easier cross-division schedule).

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 6.40 1 in 1,550,000 1 in 31,600 0.06% 0.67% 4.07% 14.70% 30.78% 34.20% 15.51% 99.92% 53.78% 76.40%
Nebraska 5.47 1 in 463,000 0.02% 0.33% 3.06% 14.14% 32.40% 33.89% 14.17% 2.00% 99.98% 15.62% 34.80%
Minnesota 4.27 0.02% 0.56% 5.20% 19.33% 32.94% 27.95% 11.70% 2.17% 0.14% 94.22% 2.57% 9.40%
Iowa 3.91 0.19% 2.36% 10.85% 24.37% 30.12% 21.41% 8.68% 1.85% 0.16% 86.60% 2.34% 8.40%
Illinois 2.88 0.81% 9.42% 27.29% 34.17% 21.05% 6.35% 0.85% 0.05% 1 in 88,300 62.48% 0.15% 1.04%
Northwestern 2.48 3.47% 16.93% 31.79% 29.25% 14.18% 3.79% 0.56% 0.04% 1 in 81,400 5.02% 0.14% 0.80%
Purdue 1.09 27.34% 43.23% 22.97% 5.65% 0.75% 0.06% 1 in 43,100 1 in 2,010,000 1 in 237,000,000 0.81% <0.01% 0.01%

The shifts here aren't as dramatic. Minnesota overtaking Iowa is because of their respective crossover games: Iowa's opponents (Indiana and Maryland) both improved their prognosis this past weekend, while Minnesota's game against Michigan looks a bit easier now. And Purdue manages to edge their average win count up over 1.0.