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In a B1G Country: 2015 Week 3 Recap and Week 4 Preview

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Here's what happened in week 3 and what's in store for the final week of non-conference play.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Week 3 Results

Conference Head Start

Penn State 28, Rutgers 3

Maybe the Temple debacle of 10 sacks allowed was a fluke; Penn State hasn't allowed one since. On the other hand, Buffalo isn't all that impressive, and the next week that goes by with Rutgers not in the headlines for something horribly embarrassing will be the first this season. Two quick touchdowns in the final 2:06 of the second quarter put this one well out of reach at 21-0 at the half.

Rutgers wins Dumb Punt of the Week for a punt on 4th and 5 at the PSU 37 in the first quarter; naturally, this resulted in a touchback and Penn State opened the scoring on the ensuing drive. The next time Rutgers crossed midfield, they were down 21-0.

Decent Non-Conference Wins

Michigan State 35, Air Force 21

Weird game; Air Force easily won the yardage battle (although the vast majority of it came after they were already down 35-7) and made things difficult for the MSU ground game, but a 3-0 turnover edge (including a touchdown return) made up for it. Connor Cook had himself a day in relatively limited passing reps, going 15 for 23 for 247 yards and four touchdowns.

Northwestern 19, Duke 10

With the West seemingly wide open this year, maybe it's time to take Northwestern seriously as a candidate. They're one of two Big Ten teams to have two Power 5 wins already. A Solomon Vault kickoff return to open the second half put Northwestern in front for good at 9-7 (the extra point was blocked), and after an exchange of field goals, Warren Long's 55-yard touchdown run provided the final margin.

Ohio State 20, Northern Illinois 13

The champs looked far from invincible, but if I'm going to put Western Michigan and Air Force in the "decent opponent" category, I have to do the same for Northern Illinois. Five turnovers and under 300 yards of offense is nowhere near what Ohio State expected from this game, but the defense was up to the challenge, holding NIU to under 200 yards and forcing two turnovers of their own, including a Darron Lee pick-six to pad the lead out to 20-10 late in the third quarter. Neither J.T. Barrett nor Cardale Jones did particularly well at quarterback, combining for 133 yards passing on 28 attempts.

Indiana 38, Western Kentucky 35

Indiana is 3-0. Pay no attention to the fact that they needed a late 2-point conversion stand to survive FCS Southern Illinois. WKU is no cupcake, though; they won at Vanderbilt earlier this season and have a very good shot at the Conference USA title. This game was wild right from the start, as the teams combined for 1,207 yards of offense - and that doesn't even count the 91-yard Mitchell Paige punt return that opened the scoring for Indiana. 24 points were scored in a four-minute span just before halftime, with the Hilltoppers going into the half with a 28-17 lead, but Indiana added three touchdowns in the third quarter and ran out the final six minutes of the game after WKU scored to cut the lead back down to three.

Iowa 27, Pittsburgh 24

Here's the other Big Ten team with two Power 5 wins. Field goals from 50+ yards don't work all that often in college. From 55+, disaster in the form of a blocked kick (or, in the case of the 2013 Iron Bowl, a kick that is just short with a return man back) is nearly as likely as success. But occasionally it works, and it did for Marshall Koehn, who hit from 57 (with room to spare, no less) as time expired to give Iowa the win. The field goal drive took just 52 seconds after the Hawkeyes and Panthers traded touchdown drives that burned up a combined 11:58 in the fourth quarter. Pitt had trailed 17-7 at the half but tied the game in the third quarter thanks to a blocked punt.

Cupcake Wins

Maryland 35, South Florida 17

When Caleb Rowe threw the ball, something exciting for one side or the other was likely to happen; 21% of his passes either ended in the end zone (4) or in the opponent's hands (3) - and that's not even counting the three fumbles (Maryland recovered all of them). South Florida put up decent numbers on the ground (240 yards on 50 carries) but couldn't do anything passing (a miserable 2.7 yards per attempt with two interceptions in 22 tries), and two Maryland touchdowns sandwiching halftime to go up 28-10 let the Terps cruise the rest of the way.

Michigan 28, UNLV 7

Michigan's running game ran amok on the Runnin' Rebels, with 254 yards on 39 carries, including touchdowns of 76 and 36 yards. The passing game was ... less encouraging for Wolverine fans; Jake Rudock has already reached his interception total from last year (one against UNLV brought his season total to five) and averaged a mere 5.6 yards per attempt against a pretty awful defense. On the other hand, Michigan's defense made sure UNLV would pose no threat, allowing only 235 total yards and shutting them out until the fourth quarter when the game was already decided.

Minnesota 10, Kent State 7

Might be time to tap the brakes on the Gopher hype train. Holding Kent State to 142 yards of offense with the only score coming on a defensive touchdown is fairly impressive. Only getting 288 yards yourself and turning the ball over three times is the opposite of impressive. Between these guys, Michigan, and Northwestern, there could be some very low-scoring games this year.

Wisconsin 28, Troy 3

Wisconsin never really pulled away like they normally do against bad teams at home; they had one touchdown every quarter, barely over 400 yards of total offense (evenly split between rushing and passing), and didn't really put the game out of reach until Troy missed a field goal at the start of the fourth quarter.

You Lose, You Get Nothing, Good Day, Sirs

Miami (FL) 36, Nebraska 33 (OT)

This looked like it would be a comfortable Miami win for most of the game; the Canes led 17-0 after the first quarter and 27-3 a little over a minute into the third. A 28-yard field goal with 11:18 to go made it 33-10 and seemed to seal the game; Nebraska would have to score three touchdowns with two two-point conversions to tie. Nebraska managed to do exactly that, without even having to onside kick (I think they would have been smarter to go for two the first two times rather than the first and third, just in case one fails and they need to score a fourth time, but all's well that ends well). Unfortunately, the Huskers' momentum ran out in overtime, with a Tommy Armstrong pass intercepted by (I swear I am not making this up) Corn Elder on the first play.

North Carolina 48, Illinois 14

The Illini were flying high after winning their first two games by a combined score of 96-3 (yes, cupcake games, but last year Illinois barely won most of their cupcake games). The Tar Heels supplied a cold dose of reality. Yardage was fairly close for such a lopsided score (471-399) and both teams had one turnover, but a goal-line stand by UNC early, two missed field goals, and some huge punt returns from Ryan Switzer (an 85-yard touchdown and four more returns for 83 additional yards) made up the difference.

Virginia Tech 51, Purdue 24

The Boilermakers hung around for surprisingly long, taking the lead early in the second quarter on a 90-yard fumble return from Danny Ezechukwu and going into half down only 24-17. The third quarter was all Virginia Tech, though, with a field goal, a touchdown set up by a long punt return, and a blocked punt being returned for a touchdown. Austin Appleby had a terrible game for Purdue at quarterback, going 9 for 28 with two picks.

Week 4 Games

Back to all non-conference this week. All times ET. Next week, projections of the conference title race will be posted as well.

Noon Shift

Central Michigan at Michigan State (Noon, BTN)

The Chippewas have had a rough start this year, with a 31-10 win over FCS doormat Monmouth sandwiched between losses to Oklahoma State and Syracuse. Oregon and Air Force both found success running at the edges against MSU, but Central Michigan's rushing offense is terrible (averaging 84 yards per game so far this year at 2.5 per carry); if they are able to get yards on the ground, that's a very bad sign.

Kansas at Rutgers (Noon, BTN)

This game is going to be very bad. It probably won't even be amusingly bad. I wouldn't recommend this even if MSU wasn't playing at the same time. I don't think I'd recommend it if _no one_ was playing at the same time.

BYU at Michigan (Noon, ABC)

Whatever else happens, this should be an entertaining finish; BYU's first three games have ended with two successful Hail Mary passes and an interception in the final minute with the Cougars on the edge of game-winning field goal range. If the MSU game finishes early, this is by far the best choice for finishing up the noon window.

Southern Mississippi at Nebraska (Noon, ESPNEWS)

Nebraska has had two last-second losses already this year (the BYU Hail Mary and falling short in OT after the comeback against Miami). This game shouldn't be as dramatic; Southern Miss is improved from last year but that's faint praise indeed. Hard to guess what kind of game we'll see; against Mississippi State, the game was a relatively sedate 34-16 final in favor of the Bulldogs, but Southern Miss won a 56-50 shootout against Texas State.

Bowling Green at Purdue (Noon, BTN)

With one Big Ten scalp down already, Bowling Green has a shot at adding a second. Purdue is improved over the past couple years, but this is still likely to be a close game. The Falcons have played three high-scoring games already this season; Purdue has shown they're capable of doing so but they'll have to put the Virginia Tech blowout behind them quickly.

Indiana at Wake Forest (12:30, ESPN3)

Indiana has a chance to start the season 4-0, and they may have to if they're going to get to a bowl. Wake Forest is not a particularly formidable foe, having squeaked by Army and lost to Syracuse, but Indiana's had a habit of producing weird results - both positive and negative.

Second Shift

Maryland at West Virginia (3:00, Fox Sports 1)

An early bye week for West Virginia means this is their first non-cupcake game, having handled Georgia Southern and Liberty easily. I don't see Maryland's defense slowing the Mountaineers down enough for the Terps to win this one.

North Texas at Iowa (3:30, ESPNU)

The Mean Green come to Kinnick with an 0-2 record, losing to SMU (possibly not that embarrassing this year, given that both TCU and Baylor had non-negligible difficulty with them) and Rice. If Iowa is going to contend for the West, they should be able to handle North Texas easily.

Ohio at Minnesota (3:30, BTN)

The Bobcats could surprise people here; they beat Marshall in Week 2 and sit at 3-0. I don't expect Minnesota to put up a lot of points, but their defense is for real. Expect a very low-scoring game, but Minnesota will probably pull it off in the end.

Western Michigan at Ohio State (3:30, ABC/ESPN2)

The Broncos take a second shot at a top-5 Big Ten opponent. Since losing to MSU, Western got blown out by Georgia Southern and took out their frustrations on Murray State. The Buckeyes certainly won't be overlooking WMU after struggling with Northern Illinois last week.

San Diego State at Penn State (3:30, BTN)

Another tune-up for the Nittany Lions, as the Aztecs have been less than spectacular to start the year, losing to Cal (understandable) and South Alabama (not so forgiveable). Christian Hackenberg has not looked great even when not pressured, and that has to change if Penn State is to perform up to expectations this year.

Middle Tennessee at Illinois (4:00, ESPNEWS)

Not much useful data on the Blue Raiders so far this year; they've annihilated FCS Jackson State and new-to-FBS Charlotte and lost badly to Alabama. The same can be said for the Illini. This is the type of game Illinois struggled with quite a bit under Tim Beckman, although they rarely actually lost those games (they usually just threatened to do so in embarrassing fashion).

Prime Time

Ball State at Northwestern (8:00, BTN)

Ball State doesn't look like much of a threat, having so far beaten VMI (FCS) and Eastern Michigan by two scores each and been flattened by Texas A&M. Northwestern should be able to handle the Cardinals easily. Then again, how much of a threat a team appears to be and how much of one they actually are have little relationship when Northwestern is involved.

Hawaii at Wisconsin (8:00, BTN)

The Rainbow Warriors make their second visit to the mainland this season, both to Big Ten country (the first was a 38-0 loss to Ohio State in which they hung around longer than expected). Hawaii rarely does well away from the islands, though this being an evening game may mitigate that some (it's mid-afternoon Hawaii time; even a 3:30 game would be a mid-morning kickoff at home).