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In a B1G Country: 2015 Week 5 Recap and Week 6 Preview

One week into conference play, the West gets thoroughly rearranged and the East sees some shifts behind the leader.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Week 5 Results

Michigan State 24, Purdue 21

What is it with MSU-Purdue games always being close when nothing about the teams suggests they should be?

Penn State 20, Army 14

In the week's lone non-conference game, Penn State got outgained by Army 293-264 but won the turnover battle 3-0. Those turnovers helped Penn State establish a 13-0 lead before hanging on for the win; Army's attempt at a winning drive late made it as far as the PSU 43 before stalling. The Nittany Lions' inability to finish drives early kept this one close, as both field goal drives started in Army territory and Penn State punted twice from the Army 39 in the first half (one was 4th and 17, which makes it understandable except that the punt went out of bounds short of the sticks; the other was 4th and 6). Christian Hackenberg went 10 for 19 for 156 yards and a touchdown but was sacked three times.

Northwestern 27, Minnesota 0

In one of only two Big Ten games decided by more than one score, Northwestern's already impressive defensive numbers took another step forward; Minnesota managed just 173 yards of total offense and turned the ball over twice (one of which was returned for the final touchdown). The Wildcats weren't particularly efficient on offense themselves, but they didn't really have to be; 184 yards rushing on 51 carries (sacks included) and 128 yards on 19 pass attempts (14 completions) was enough. The Gophers reached Northwestern territory three times, including their first two drives, but punted on 4th and 3 from the NW 40 on the first one and turned the ball over on downs the other two times.

Michigan 28, Maryland 0

The other blowout of the day featured total offensive ineptitude for the first 35 minutes; not counting a kneeldown to end the first half, the first 19 drives combined for as many turnovers as points (6) plus a missed field goal. Michigan's offense lurched to life after that, but Maryland's remained about as immobile as ... well, a turtle on its back. Two of Michigan's touchdowns came after short fields on a turnover and a short punt plus a kick catch interference penalty, with the other being a 66 yard Jehu Chesson run.

To say Maryland's offense achieved nothing all day might be overly kind to the Terps; the first two drives (ending in a 4th and 11 punt from midfield and an interception) combined for 70 yards, but no drive after that even made it to 15 and several went backward. Caleb Rowe and Daxx Garman combined for an apocalyptic 10/36, 76 yards, 3 INTs line; add 3 sacks for 20 yards and the passing game didn't even account for 1.5 yards per attempt. Incredibly, that barely even qualifies as an outlier - on the season, Maryland is barely completing 45% of its passes, averaging 5.3 per attempt and one interception per 10.7 passes. This might be the worst passing offense ever in the Big Ten.

Ohio State 34, Indiana 27

The state of Indiana put a scare into both of the top-ranked teams from the Big Ten. While MSU never trailed Purdue, Indiana led for most of the first half and even retook the lead at 17-13 late in the third quarter. But Ezekiel Elliott proved to be too much, putting together three touchdown runs from the far side of midfield in a 14-minute span to put Ohio State ahead 34-20. Backup QB Zander Diamont quickly answered with a 79-yard touchdown run of his own to cut the deficit back to 7, and Indiana made it as far as fourth and goal from the 9 for the final play of the game, but a fumbled snap killed any chance of the upset.

After Indiana's touchdown with 10 minutes left, the Hoosiers missed an opportunity to try one of the most clearly valuable game-theory maneuvers available that somehow never gets used: going for 2 when behind by multiple touchdowns. Indiana would surely have gone for it if they scored on the last play (they would have to like their chances on a single play better than their chances of stopping the Buckeyes in OT), but by going for it on the first of the two necessary touchdowns instead of the second they would have a backup option available if it fails (by going for two to tie at the end). Wouldn't have mattered here since Indiana never scored again, but it's a clear advantage: either way, you win by making your first two-point attempt, but missing is no longer certain doom.

Iowa 10, Wisconsin 6

In a banner week for dumb punts, the award goes to Wisconsin: trailing in the fourth quarter, they punted from the Iowa 33 (!!!) on 4th and 8 and again from the Iowa 40 (somewhat more understandably, since it was 4th and 16, but with only three minutes left that's still ugly). Two Badger turnovers deep in their own territory set up both of Iowa's scores in the second quarter, and two others in the second half shut down potential scoring drives (including a 2nd-and-goal fumble midway through the fourth quarter). All told, Wisconsin reached Iowa territory 8 times but went two for three on field goals, punted twice, and added an interception, lost fumble, and turnover on downs just for good measure. Iowa's total of 221 yards of offense is far from pretty, but not shooting themselves in the foot quite as frequently as Wisconsin did proved to be enough.

Illinois 14, Nebraska 13

It's hard to say whether Nebraska or Tennessee has found the most painful ways to lose this year, but there's a wide gulf between the two of them and #3. After a Hail Mary loss and a 23-point comeback that fizzled out with a first-play turnover in OT, giving up the winning score with 10 seconds left is relatively early for the Huskers this time. Illinois trailed 13-0 going into the fourth quarter, thanks in part to two missed field goals and a turnover on downs in the first quarter.

The Illini would never have had the time for that final drive if not for an utterly baffling decision by Nebraska to throw the ball on 3rd down while trying to run out the clock; at best they would have gotten the ball back with around 10 seconds instead of 50. Equally mystifying was Nebraska's decision to throw on 4th and 7; a failure running would have stopped the clock as well, but the ball was within reasonable field goal range (about a 44 yard try) and a field goal would have pushed the lead to 9. Wind conditions may have had something to do with that decision, but that makes the throws even more bizarre; you're 10 of 28 on the day (before those two throws) and you'd rather do that than guarantee that you run out 80% of the remaining clock time?

Week 6 Games

Odds are based on my margin-aware rating system (available here). The ratings still include some carryover from last season (a little over two games' worth for teams that have played four, a little under that for teams that have played five). If you want to see the ratings without carryover or ignoring margin, you can find them here.

All times ET.

Mismatch of the Week: Maryland at Ohio State (Noon, BTN)

This one is going to be brutal. Maryland's offense is discovering new depths of incompetence, and while Ohio State hasn't exactly looked like the #1 team in the country, you don't have to be anywhere near #1 for the turtle to be somewhat less than fear-worthy. In order for the Terps' best offense ("hope the opponent is dumb enough to punt the ball to Will Likely") to be a factor, they will have to shut down the Buckeyes repeatedly, and that seems unlikely.

Odds: Ohio State 98.2% (26-point favorite)

Jekyll and Hyde: Indiana at Penn State (Noon, ESPN2)

When Indiana has the ball, assuming that injured QB Nate Sudfeld and RB Jordan Howard are ready to go, this game will feature a reasonably strong offense against a very good defense. But when Penn State has the ball, this could get much uglier: Penn State's offense has been somewhat less than imposing, while Indiana's defense has been all too accommodating (though not to the same extremes as in recent years).

Odds: Penn State 80% (9-point favorite)

Unexpectedly Relevant Game of the Week: Illinois at Iowa (Noon, ESPNU)

Before the season - heck, even before last week - I would have thought both teams being 0-1 in conference was far more likely than both being 1-0. Iowa has to avoid getting caught looking ahead to Northwestern (also a sentence I did not expect to be writing this year).

Odds: Iowa 86% (12-point favorite)

First to Ten Wins: Northwestern at Michigan (3:30, BTN)

Northwestern and Michigan are the top two teams nationally in terms of points allowed per game; Northwestern has allowed a mere 7.0 per game and Michigan 7.6. If any game can replicate the famous Iowa-Penn State 2004 game (final score: 6-4), this would be the one. Both teams have major division clashes ahead next week after the cross-division game.

Odds: Michigan 67% (4.5-point favorite)

Now Is Not the Time for Fear; That Comes Later: Wisconsin at Nebraska (3:30, ABC/ESPN2)

For one of these teams, panic time is only a few days away; the loser is 0-2 with a pair of division losses and potential tiebreaker doom as well (especially Wisconsin; Nebraska's first loss was against a team less likely to be in any tie). That's a hole that may prove too deep to dig out of.

Odds: Nebraska 59% (2-point favorite)

The Lesser Bounce-Back Game: Minnesota at Purdue (3:30, ESPN)

Like Wisconsin-Nebraska, both teams are coming off losses. Unlike them, Purdue has almost no chance of influencing the division race, and Minnesota looks pretty unlikely to as well after the Northwestern beatdown. If either is to make a run at the title, it has to start with this game.

Odds: Minnesota 61% (3-point favorite)

It's a Trap: Michigan State at Rutgers (8:00, BTN)

Let's see: sleepwalking team who's been winning despite playing below their potential, on the road, the week before a major rivalry with potential division title implications? If Rutgers were any good at all, I'd be really worried. As it is, let's hope that, much like 2013 and 2014, the team responds to a narrow escape against Purdue by destroying their next opponent.

Odds: Michigan State 80% (9-point favorite)

Conference Title Race

Projected records are based on game-by-game odds. Division title chances are estimated based on 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
Ohio State (#1) 7.00 1 in 14,600,000 1 in 135,000 0.03% 0.48% 4.36% 20.29% 43.87% 30.97% >99.99% 55.12% 79.20%
Michigan (#12) 5.72 0.01% 0.35% 2.89% 11.72% 26.15% 32.51% 20.97% 5.40% 99.64% 11.18% 28.21%
Michigan State (#11) 5.63 1 in 36,200 0.12% 1.77% 10.94% 30.85% 37.08% 16.94% 2.29% >99.99% 6.86% 20.74%
Penn State (#46) 4.18 0.42% 4.84% 20.24% 36.71% 27.79% 8.80% 1.17% 0.05% 94.74% 0.48% 2.64%
Indiana (#70) 2.77 1.78% 11.53% 28.02% 32.63% 19.36% 5.83% 0.82% 0.04% 86.69% 0.01% 0.15%
Rutgers (#76) 1.93 6.22% 29.35% 37.35% 20.58% 5.65% 0.80% 0.05% 1 in 69,100 17.88% <0.01% 0.03%
Maryland (#93) 1.33 20.28% 39.75% 28.60% 9.67% 1.59% 0.12% 1 in 28,000 1 in 2,820,000 1.71% <0.01% <0.01%

Don't be fooled by the #1 remaining next to Ohio State's name; they dropped from a clear #1, miles ahead of everyone else, to barely holding off Alabama. Michigan shot up the ranks by adding another beatdown of a not-quite-atrocious opponent and removing some of the influence from last season's team, while MSU dropped a bit due to being unable to put away Purdue. While MSU remains ranked ahead, Michigan projects to more wins due to having the two key games (OSU and MSU) at home.

Meanwhile, Maryland has yet to take the lowest-ranked team crown from Purdue, but the worst projected record is now theirs; the combination of Purdue being competitive in a game the ratings expected to be anything but that and of Maryland having to face the three highest-rated teams in the conference yet drags them under.

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
Iowa (#28) 5.98 1 in 101,000 0.05% 0.79% 6.23% 23.24% 38.51% 25.79% 5.39% >99.99% 33.41% 61.11%
Northwestern (#17) 5.68 1 in 17,900 0.22% 2.38% 11.59% 28.05% 34.12% 19.55% 4.08% 99.99% 25.61% 50.29%
Wisconsin (#38) 4.69 1 in 10,900 0.27% 2.66% 12.01% 27.49% 33.07% 19.84% 4.65% 97.06% 5.17% 18.38%
Nebraska (#47) 3.86 0.29% 2.83% 11.32% 24.18% 29.96% 21.62% 8.44% 1.38% 61.40% 2.38% 9.28%
Illinois (#69) 3.00 7.62% 26.70% 34.56% 22.00% 7.56% 1.43% 0.14% 1 in 18,300 65.68% 0.33% 1.91%
Minnesota (#66) 2.64 2.33% 13.51% 29.89% 31.96% 17.30% 4.51% 0.48% 0.01% 54.27% 0.10% 0.86%
Purdue (#102) 1.58 14.30% 34.90% 32.71% 14.62% 3.16% 0.31% 0.01% 1 in 484,000 0.32% <0.01% 0.07%

Iowa and Northwestern leap to the front with their upset victories in the opener. Wisconsin and Nebraska drop similarly precipitously, Minnesota dips below Illinois in the projected standings (though not the rankings, yet), and Purdue gains ground across the board thanks to the 'moral victory' of keeping it close at MSU.