clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

In a B1G Country: 2015 Week 4 Recap and Week 5 Preview

New, 57 comments

Conference play begins in earnest this week. Now with division title race projections!

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Week 4 Results

Statement Win

Michigan 31, BYU 0

After playing three close games against reasonable-quality opposition (Nebraska, Boise State, and UCLA), BYU went into Michigan Stadium and ... did not play Michigan remotely close. This was pure annihilation, and the score might not even do it justice - Michigan held BYU to 108 yards of offense (!!) and didn't even score in the second half. Combined with Utah (who beat Michigan in a competitive season opener) incinerating Oregon, it appears that the gap between Michigan (who always appeared to be a solid #3 in the East) and the top two is much, much smaller than we thought before the season.

Boring Cupcake Wins

Michigan State 30, Central Michigan 10

This was close for far longer than any of us would have liked, but Central's only drive with a chance to tie in the fourth quarter featured a 4th and 36, and the drama was gone by the midpoint of the fourth quarter. The injury situation - and being outgained by a MAC team (though not on a per-play or per-drive basis) - is concerning, but MSU won this game by finishing drives - all five scoring opportunities (drives with a first down inside the CMU 40) were cashed in, with four being touchdowns, while CMU's four led to three field goal tries (two of which were blocked).

Rutgers 27, Kansas 14

The Jayhawks couldn't stop Rutgers on the ground; both Josh Hicks and Robert Martin went over 100 yards rushing. The other problem for Kansas was finishing drives; they twice turned the ball over on downs in Rutgers territory and also punted from there once early (4th and 11 from the 45).

Iowa 62, North Texas 16

It's hard to have a much better day than C.J. Beathard did: 18/21, 278 yards, 2 TDs. Add four rushing touchdowns for Jordan Canzeri and two pick-sixes and you have a recipe for a rout. The long interception returns, along with three Mean Green field goals, explain why total yardage was vaguely close (488-356) in a game that was anything but.

Ohio State 38, Western Michigan 12

Cardale Jones seems to have grabbed the starting QB spot for good; his line (19/33, 288 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) wasn't spectacular, but J.T. Barrett only went 1 for 3 with an INT. WMU had modest success on the ground (41 carries for 169 yards, not sack-adjusted) but couldn't slow OSU's ground attack, and a pick-six with four minutes left in the first half pushed the Buckeyes' lead to 24-6 and let them cruise from there.

Penn State 37, San Diego State 21

As with the MSU-CMU game, this was close for longer than Nittany Lion fans were comfortable with. Trailing 14-13 with a minute and a half to go before halftime, Penn State took advantage of two SDSU fumbles to go up 27-14. After the Aztecs cut the lead back down to six, a sack by Carl Nassib caused a fumble which was returned 71 yards for a score by Austin Johnson. Penn State's running game was ineffective (32 rushes for 81 yards, sack-adjusted), but Christian Hackenberg played more like the high NFL draft pick he's expected to be, going 21 for 35 for 296 yards and 3 TDs. After giving up ten sacks to Temple (who, in fairness, has a nasty defensive front by non-Power 5 standards), PSU has only allowed two in the next three games; how much of that is because they've improved and how much is because they've played lousy teams is yet to be seen.

Wisconsin 28, Hawaii 0

Somehow, Wisconsin's 326 rushing yards and 186 passing only translated to one touchdown in each quarter, without any turnovers. A punt from Hawaii territory, a missed field goal, and an 81-yard clock-killing drive to end the game may have something to do with that. Hawaii managed only 38 yards rushing on 15 attempts even after removing sacks.

Cupcake Wins That Were Less Boring Than Hoped

Nebraska 36, Southern Miss 28

A mere week after nearly pulling off an epic comeback against Miami (falling in OT), Nebraska nearly let Southern Miss do the same to them. The Huskers led 22-0 at the half after settling for five field goals and 29-7 at the end of the third quarter, but two quick touchdowns cut the deficit to 8 with more than 12 minutes left. Nebraska managed to extend the lead back to 15, but Southern Miss quickly answered again with 7 minutes left. A field goal block with 30 seconds left gave the Golden Eagles one more chance, but Nick Mullens was sacked by Freedom Akinmoladun near midfield to end the game.

Southern Miss's strategy during the comeback is baffling to me; down 22, it's obvious to go for 2 on the first score, because if it fails you can still recover by making the next two. Instead, the Eagles kicked every time, opting to (assuming they got one last score) stake everything on one two-point try instead of having the chance to try for two out of three if the first failed. It ended up moot, but this is the kind of silly decision that can cost big. (Outside of Big Ten play, a similarly egregious error by Tennessee - kicking to push the lead to 13 instead of attempting a two-point conversion to go for 14 in the fourth quarter - may have been the difference between losing to Florida and going to overtime.)

Indiana 31, Wake Forest 24

This one appeared to be well in hand with 10 minutes to go, as Indiana's Tony Fields nabbed a pick-six to pad the lead out to 31-10. The Demon Deacons then scored a touchdown of their own, forced a punt, scored again, and recovered the onside kick; with 2:33 to go, Wake Forest was just 54 yards from tying the game. On 4th and 18, a pass interference penalty kept the drive alive, and Wake appeared to convert on 4th down again before having it called back for a hold; on the retry on 4th and 20, the pass was broken up and Indiana managed to hang on.

Minnesota 27, Ohio 24

Perhaps it's unfair to lump Ohio in here; after all, they've beaten Marshall and looked generally competent this season. The Gophers didn't take the lead until a 49-yard Ryan Santoso field goal in the third quarter put them up 17-14, which held until a fumbled punt gave Ohio an easy touchdown early in the fourth quarter. With 9 minutes left, Minnesota opted for a field goal on 4th and 5 from the 6 yard line while trailing 21-17; that seems dubious strategically (an opposition field goal forces you to go for a touchdown again, and the odds are that you'll have to go for a worse situation than that next time), but it worked out; the Bobcats did indeed respond with a field goal to push the lead back to four, but Minnesota never even faced a third down (much less a fourth) on their final drive, and Shannon Brooks scored from three yards out to provide the winning points.

The ending featured a rather unusual call: as Ohio lined up for a 53-yard tying field goal attempt, the Gophers iced the kicker, and Josiah Yazdani used the opportunity to get in a practice kick. This is not at all unusual. What is unusual is that he was flagged for delay of game. To be fair to the referees, the whistle and signal for timeout is well before the snap, to the point that it seems quite likely the center and kicker were well aware the whistle had already gone. Still, kicks like this happen all the time and I've never seen that called before. Faced with a 58-yard attempt, Ohio instead opted for a Hail Mary, which failed.

Illinois 27, Middle Tennessee 25

Much like last year's Illini, Illinois almost - but not quite! - found a way to lose. Up 24-12 entering the fourth quarter, the Illini allowed the Blue Raiders to march down the field twice in a row to take a 25-24 lead with just over four minutes left. The Illinois defense stopped the two-point try to keep the deficit to just one, and Taylor Zalewski made a 51-yard field goal with two minutes left to take advantage. Middle Tennessee answered with a drive to the Illinois 26, but the attempt at a game-winning field goal went wide left.

Northwestern 24, Ball State 19

Three first-half turnovers (and a turnover on downs) helped neutralize an advantage in total yardage of nearly 200 for the Wildcats, who trailed 10-7 at halftime. The third quarter went much better, with two touchdowns and a field goal to take a 24-10 lead. The Cardinals were able to get decent yardage on the ground (181 on 34 carries) but were not very effective in the air (Riley Neal went 14 for 35, barely breaking 5 yards per attempt).

The Cupcake Bites Back

Bowling Green 35, Purdue 28

This was a remarkably consistent game: five times, Bowling Green scored to take the lead; four times, Purdue answered on either the next drive or the one after that. The Falcons' final score, however, came with just nine seconds left, leaving Purdue no time to repeat the pattern. Purdue missed two field goals, including a 19-yard attempt in the first half, while Bowling Green squandered two long drives with turnovers on downs. David Blough put on a solid show through the air for the Boilers, going 29 for 39 for 340 yards with two touchdowns and a pick (which came on Purdue's last-second desperation play).

A Nightmare at Milan Puskar Stadium

West Virginia 45, Maryland 6

When you turn the ball over 6 times and allow 600 yards of total offense, you're gonna have a bad time. It was 38-0 at halftime and could easily have been worse; the Mountaineers entered Maryland territory on two more drives that failed due to a missed field goal and an interception. When West Virginia was kind enough to fumble the opening kickoff of the second half, the Terps responded in kind by throwing an interception on the first play. Only three Mountaineer drives all day went for fewer than 30 yards, and one of those was a field goal drive cut short due to the end of the first half.

Week 5 Games

With enough data to get at least a reasonable estimate, I'm now including odds based on my margin-aware rating system (available here). The ratings still include some carryover from last season (three games' worth for teams that have played three, a little over two games' worth for teams that have played four). If you want to see the ratings without carryover or ignoring margin, you can find them here.

All times ET.

Nonconference Straggler: Army at Penn State (Noon, ESPNU)

It's not easy to run against Penn State. It's not easy for Army to pass against anyone (although they're reasonably effective when they do, just from the sheer shock of it). With the unique style of the service academies, Navy and Air Force are fairly tricky opponents for just about anyone; Army isn't good enough to be much more than a mild annoyance most of the time.

Odds: Penn State 93.3% (favored by 17)

Mismatch of the Week: Purdue at Michigan State (Noon, ESPN2)

MSU has struggled with Purdue the past couple years despite the obvious disparity in team strength, so it's unsafe to assume anything about this game. But on paper, this is the most lopsided matchup of the year in conference (Ohio State does not play Purdue, and the gap between Maryland and Purdue is larger than the gap between OSU and MSU).

Odds: Michigan State 98.2% (favored by 26)

Where We're Going, We Don't Need Points: Minnesota at Northwestern (Noon, BTN)

Prepare for #M00N: The Obligatory Sequel. Both teams have been strong defensively this season (Minnesota hasn't allowed more than 24 points in a game, and Northwestern hasn't allowed more than 19) and mediocre offensively (the Gophers haven't scored more than 27 and the Wildcats haven't scored more than 24 against FBS competition). In a wide-open West, every division game is huge.

Odds: Northwestern 80% (favored by 9)

Game of the Week: Iowa at Wisconsin (Noon, ESPN)

Another big West clash. The Hawkeyes have looked vastly improved this year, and Wisconsin hasn't done their usual job of annihilating cupcakes early (they've won comfortably, but "only" scoring 28 against the likes of Hawaii and Miami-Ohio is unusual for them). At Iowa, the Hawkeyes would be slightly favored (although this early, the system tends to overestimate home field advantage slightly), but at Camp Randall, Wisconsin is the clear favorite.

Odds: Wisconsin 76% (favored by 7.5)

Children of the Corn: Nebraska at Illinois (3:30, BTN)

This could be a bit of a trap game for the Huskers ahead of their meeting with Wisconsin next weekend. Illinois's last two games have not been impressive, but their opening demolition of Kent State was at least mildly so, and Nebraska's played almost everyone close so far.

Odds: Nebraska 57% (favored by 2)

Reality Check Time: Ohio State at Indiana (3:30, ABC/ESPN2)

Indiana's 4-0 start is nice and all, but one-score wins against Wake Forest, Western Kentucky, and Southern Illinois do not inspire confidence. The Buckeyes are a big step up in competition level, and Indiana will have to do it without DT Darius Latham, suspended pending a student ethics hearing.

Odds: Ohio State 89% (favored by 13.5)

Rocked By a Hurricane?: Michigan at Maryland (8:00, BTN)

Tropical Storm Joaquin may be Maryland's best hope here; the Terps have been blown out by their two real opponents, and Michigan is about on par with West Virginia in the early rankings. On the other hand, with Michigan's ability to run the ball, high wind and rain might not affect the Wolverines' offense as badly as Maryland would hope. The latest forecast has Joaquin still well south of the area Saturday, potentially coming close enough to affect the area Sunday night into Monday.

Odds: Michigan 71% (favored by 6)

Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Week: Rutgers

Conference Race

Projected records are based on game-by-game odds. Division title chances are estimated based on 100,000 season simulations (tiebreakers are not included; I've been meaning to add them to the season simulation routine but haven't had time yet).

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) 7.07 1 in 241,000,000 1 in 2,140,000 1 in 49,400 0.05% 0.58% 4.33% 18.49% 40.93% 35.62% >99.99% 62.12% 83.52%
Michigan State (#8) 5.97 1 in 8,010,000 1 in 74,500 0.05% 0.80% 6.23% 23.31% 38.93% 26.17% 4.51% >99.99% 11.97% 29.84%
Michigan (#26) 4.60 0.04% 0.71% 4.52% 14.55% 26.67% 28.79% 17.98% 5.95% 0.80% 94.73% 2.62% 9.27%
Penn State (#45) 4.25 0.35% 4.32% 18.85% 35.58% 29.77% 9.87% 1.22% 0.05% 94.07% 0.48% 2.85%
Indiana (#73) 2.92 1.52% 10.05% 25.49% 31.97% 21.55% 7.83% 1.45% 0.12% 1 in 27,400 88.43% 0.07% 0.55%
Maryland (#82) 2.00 7.81% 26.57% 34.27% 22.09% 7.69% 1.43% 0.13% 1 in 20,900 1 in 1,770,000 9.26% <0.01% 0.04%
Rutgers (#77) 1.83 8.08% 31.15% 36.36% 18.81% 4.89% 0.66% 0.04% 1 in 83,400 16.32% <0.01% 0.03%

No surprises at the top, where Ohio State has a substantial lead aided by getting their closest competition at home. With MSU getting their three toughest opponents all on the road and most of the easy ones at home, the schedule is a bit bipolar: MSU is a 94% or higher favorite in three games, in the mid-80s in two more (Penn State at home and Rutgers away), barely favored in two (at Michigan and Nebraska) and a significant underdog in one (at OSU). Michigan, with both of the Big Two at home, could throw a monkey wrench into things.

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 (#23) 5.78 1 in 216,000 0.02% 0.37% 2.72% 10.91% 25.06% 32.66% 22.22% 6.04% 99.61% 33.97% 58.42%
Northwestern (#27) 5.02 1 in 25,200 0.14% 1.59% 8.21% 22.37% 32.78% 24.71% 8.96% 1.24% 99.86% 12.78% 30.61%
Iowa (#39) 4.85 1 in 24,200 0.14% 1.74% 9.63% 25.97% 34.00% 21.48% 6.33% 0.70% 99.86% 9.45% 24.71%
Nebraska (#40) 4.63 0.07% 0.89% 4.83% 14.34% 25.53% 28.02% 18.53% 6.75% 1.04% 79.87% 9.46% 23.84%
Minnesota (#57) 3.45 0.48% 4.55% 16.65% 30.01% 28.91% 14.98% 3.94% 0.46% 0.01% 78.32% 1.20% 5.34%
Illinois (#75) 2.27 5.42% 21.53% 32.65% 25.47% 11.39% 3.03% 0.47% 0.04% 1 in 74,300 40.40% 0.15% 0.94%
Purdue (#111) 1.36 19.75% 38.79% 29.03% 10.40% 1.86% 0.16% 1 in 13,800 1 in 659,000 1 in 85,000,000 0.17% <0.01% 0.03%

The West is a mess. Wisconsin is the favorite, partly due to a ridiculously advantageous crossover schedule (Maryland and Rutgers) and hosting both Northwestern and Iowa. Even so, three other teams have at least a 9% chance of an outright division title. Even Minnesota can't really be ruled out, although getting Ohio State as a crossover removes a lot of their margin for error. And Purdue ... well, 1 in 85 million is better than the 1 in 237 million they had at this point last year for going unbeaten.