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Around the B1G: Football Week 4 Recap, Week 5 Preview

Road teams won three out of four in the first week of conference play, while three others wrapped up their non-conference schedules.

Wisconsin v Michigan State Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

Week 4 Results

Conference Games

Wisconsin 30, Michigan State 6

Welp. It’s hard to put too much blame on the defense for allowing 30 points; they weren’t even on the field for one of Wisconsin’s touchdowns (a 66-yard return of an L.J. Scott fumble early in the second half to break the game open) and were put in horrible position with Wisconsin starting inside the MSU 30 on two others (once by a turnover, another by a botched punt). MSU actually had the yardage advantage on the day, 325-317, but the offense could not get out of its own way; four turnovers plus the bad punt snap killed two promising drives in addition to setting up three Wisconsin scores. Tyler O’Connor had an awful start, completing just 4 of his first 13 passes on the way to an ugly 18/38, 224 yards, 3 INT line.

Should we panic about the offense? Probably not; after all, the Spartans did top the 500-yard mark against Notre Dame, and early stats suggest that Wisconsin’s defense is for real. On the other hand, there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that the Irish - stop me if you’ve heard this one before - were vastly overrated to start the season, as they’re now 1-3 with losses to Texas (okay) and Duke (!!). So maybe that’s not as encouraging as we thought at the time.

Michigan 49, Penn State 10

This was a comprehensive butt-kicking. Michigan gained over 500 yards, held Penn State to less than 200, won the turnover battle 2-0, and added a 53-yard punt return to set up their first touchdown for good measure. Four running backs each ran for at least 50 yards and a touchdown for Michigan, and the outcome was really never in doubt.

If there had been any doubt about the outcome, James Franklin ended it by kicking a 20-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half ... while trailing 28-0. If you need four scores, you’re going to have to take some risks - and risks don’t come much smaller than 4th and goal from the 2 yard line. This didn’t even cut the lead down to three scores, even if you assume all three were TD+2s. Then, on 4th and 1 at their own 37 on the next drive, the Nittany Lions punted - in a game where they still trailed by four scores and wouldn’t even get four more possessions (despite this occurring midway through the third quarter). What do you have to lose, apart from a game you’re already losing badly? Are you trying to hold the score down? Didn’t work; Michigan’s remaining possessions went TD, TD, TD, kneel-down.

Nebraska 24, Northwestern 13

Missed opportunities early looked for a short time like they might haunt Nebraska. The Huskers’ opening possession ended with a goal-line fumble killing what was nearly a 50-yard touchdown run, a 74-yard drive ended in a 23-yard field goal, and after a Tommy Armstrong run to the 2-yard line, another fumble at the 1 left Northwestern still up 7-3 with three minutes to go before half. Nebraska did cash in on their next three possessions, though, and that was enough.

Iowa 14, Rutgers 7

This was one ugly puntfest early. Rutgers somehow managed to string together a 16-play opening drive that ended in a punt after getting inside the Iowa 10-yard line (an offensive pass interference penalty and long sack turned 3rd and 6 into 4th and 34). On the Scarlet Knights’ fourth drive, they reached 4th and 7 from the Iowa 40 before punting again. Iowa’s ensuing drive was the first of the day for either team not to end in a punt; they got to the Rutgers 10 but went for it on fourth down and failed. Rutgers then marched all the way down the field before being stopped on 4th and goal; Iowa answered with a 99-yard touchdown drive to take the lead into halftime. Rutgers (after five punts between the two teams to start the second half) would tie the game on a long drive of their own early in the fourth quarter, but a fumble on their next possession set up Iowa with a short field, and the Hawkeyes only needed one play to cash in, a 26-yard Akrum Wadley run. Rutgers reached the red zone on the answering drive but couldn’t convert on 4th and 2, and Iowa ran out the clock.

Non-Conference Games

Minnesota 31, Colorado State 24

The Rams hung around all day, but they never had the lead or even kept the score tied apart from answering Minnesota’s first scoring drive immediately. After an exchange of punts to start the game, the Gophers struck twice (with a CSU touchdown between) to go up 14-7. A fumble recovery with six minutes before halftime set up a field goal to pad the lead out to 17-7. Colorado State scored on their first three possessions of the second half, but the Gophers responded to each of the first two with a touchdown to keep the Rams at arms’ length. With four minutes to go, CSU did get the ball back with a chance to tie, but the drive stalled just past midfield and Minnesota was able to run out the clock after the turnover on downs.

Purdue 24, Nevada 14

This looked like trouble for the Boilermakers early, as two turnovers set up Nevada touchdown drives to give the Wolf Pack a 14-3 lead with six minutes to go before halftime, and another fumble on the first play after the kickoff gave Nevada the ball at midfield. That drive stalled out, though, ending in a Dumb Punt of the Year contender on 4th and 7 from the Purdue 33, which (of course) went for a touchback. The Boilers quickly scored to cut the deficit to just four at halftime, then cashed in again on their first possession of the second half. Purdue was unable to pad the lead out further until the very end, but Nevada missed a potential game-tying field goal (from just 27 yards out) with four minutes to go and a 51-yard pass from David Blough to Brycen Hopkins sealed the win.

Wake Forest 33, Indiana 28

If you had told me the Big Ten would lose one non-conference game this week, this would not have been my guess. (Also, I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but somehow Wake Forest is 4-0.) The Hoosiers heavily outgained the Demon Deacons 611-352, but five interceptions undid all of that advantage. Indiana only needed one play to jump out to a 7-0 lead (a 75-yard touchdown pass to Nick Westbrook), and they were knocking on the door on their next drive when the first of those interceptions halted them. Wake tied the game on the ensuing drive, then a Jessie Bates 55-yard pick-six put them ahead early in the second quarter. The lead reached 24-7 early in the third before another quick-strike touchdown for the Hoosiers, and another cut the lead to 27-21 late in the third quarter. Wake answered with a 12-play touchdown drive to pad the lead out to 12 (with a failed two-point try), and the Deacons’ defense forced a turnover on downs with three minutes left to preserve the lead. The Hoosiers got the ball back with only 46 seconds left and did score once, but the onside kick with 11 seconds to go failed.

Week 5 Games

Everyone’s in conference play this week. All times ET. Odds are per my margin-aware ratings. There is still quite a bit of carryover from last season in the ratings at this point - three games’ worth for teams who have played three, a little over two games’ worth for those who have played four.

Northwestern at Iowa (Noon, ESPNU)

The Hawkeyes had a surprisingly sluggish win over Rutgers last week, while some good fortune with Nebraska failing to finish drives kept Northwestern closer than expected. As mediocre as the Wildcats have looked this year, this is an opportunity Iowa probably can’t afford to screw up if they want to win the West again.

Odds: Iowa 84% (projected margin: +11.5)

Rutgers at Ohio State (Noon, BTN)

Good luck, Scarlet Knights. You’re gonna need it.

Odds: OSU 98.0% (+27)

Purdue at Maryland (3:30, BTN)

This week’s Pillow Fight features an aerial focus from Purdue against a run-heavy Terrapins offense. Both teams have decent records to start, but don’t be fooled; this is the toughest game for each of them to date, and both will face plenty that are more difficult down the road.

Odds: Maryland 84% (+11.5)

Wisconsin at Michigan (3:30, ABC)

This ought to be good. Michigan hasn’t scored fewer than 45 points yet this season; Wisconsin has only allowed 33 total. A typical Wisconsin offense plus Harbaugh should equal a hard-hitting, rush-heavy game.

Odds: Michigan 76% (+8)

Minnesota at Penn State (3:30, BTN)

The Nittany Lions need to recover from the smackdown they took from Michigan last weekend; with two losses already, Penn State’s bowl chances look uncertain and this would go a long way toward salvaging them. This will be Minnesota’s first real test of the season (previous FBS opponents rank #87 and #99).

Odds: Penn State 66% (+4.5)

Illinois at Nebraska (3:30, ESPN2)

The Huskers are off to a flying start this season, while the Illini have struggled early in Lovie Smith’s first year. Would probably be the Mismatch of the Week if not for OSU-Rutgers.

Odds: Nebraska 94.2% (+19)

Michigan State at Indiana (8:00, BTN)

MSU’s offense will have to get back on track against an Indiana team that’s quite capable of putting up points on almost anyone, but equally capable of giving up points to almost anyone (although their games have been uncharacteristically moderate-scoring so far).

Odds: MSU 51% (+0.5)

Conference Projections

Projected records are based on game-by-game odds (bowl odds assume a 6-6 record is the cutoff). Division title chances (outright or shared) are based on 100,000 season simulations; tiebreakers are not considered.

East Division

Team Avg wins 0-9 1-8 2-7 3-6 4-5 5-4 6-3 7-2 8-1 9-0 Bowl Outright Shared
Ohio State 7.75 1 in 1.49B 1 in 10.6M 1 in 197k 0.01% 0.20% 1.73% 8.76% 25.62% 39.41% 24.27% >99.99% 56.66% 79.13%
Michigan 6.98 1 in 2.42M 1 in 31,600 0.08% 1.05% 6.78% 22.52% 37.38% 27.10% 5.09% >99.99% 18.69% 40.23%
Michigan State 4.58 0.03% 0.52% 3.98% 14.56% 28.07% 29.85% 17.36% 5.07% 0.56% 91.72% 0.65% 3.06%
Indiana 4.10 0.15% 1.84% 8.74% 21.37% 29.80% 24.26% 11.11% 2.53% 0.21% 1 in 20,300 67.90% 0.19% 1.16%
Penn State 4.08 0.22% 2.21% 9.26% 21.28% 29.06% 23.84% 11.24% 2.67% 0.22% 67.03% 0.21% 1.36%
Maryland 3.82 0.17% 2.29% 11.35% 26.23% 31.27% 20.16% 7.09% 1.31% 0.12% 1 in 25,400 86.19% 0.15% 0.87%
Rutgers 2.29 3.94% 20.35% 34.88% 27.38% 10.90% 2.29% 0.25% 0.01% 1 in 627k 13.45% <0.01% 0.02%

MSU’s projection takes a nosedive after getting demolished at home as a favorite, while Michigan moves up a bit after destroying Penn State. The result is a huge gap after second place, with four teams in a reasonably close fight for third. Sorry, Rutgers, you aren’t one of them.

West Division

Team Avg wins 0-9 1-8 2-7 3-6 4-5 5-4 6-3 7-2 8-1 9-0 Bowl Outright Shared
Wisconsin 6.29 1 in 84,700 0.05% 0.74% 5.06% 17.75% 32.55% 29.76% 12.30% 1.79% 99.95% 29.76% 53.92%
Nebraska 5.98 1 in 69,700 0.06% 1.00% 7.11% 23.81% 36.43% 24.56% 6.54% 0.49% 99.94% 18.61% 39.99%
Iowa 5.72 0.04% 0.58% 3.80% 12.93% 25.27% 29.28% 19.81% 7.20% 1.08% 95.58% 17.04% 35.45%
Minnesota 4.53 0.04% 0.71% 4.66% 15.46% 28.11% 28.73% 16.43% 5.06% 0.76% 0.04% 94.59% 2.76% 9.80%
Northwestern 2.69 1.77% 12.72% 29.97% 32.21% 17.50% 5.03% 0.75% 0.05% 1 in 108k 5.83% 0.05% 0.45%
Purdue 2.13 7.60% 24.35% 32.15% 22.99% 9.82% 2.61% 0.43% 0.04% 1 in 43,200 1 in 1.95M 12.91% 0.03% 0.26%
Illinois 2.06 7.09% 25.82% 34.07% 22.59% 8.40% 1.80% 0.22% 0.01% 1 in 251k 1 in 23.1M 2.03% 0.01% 0.11%

Wisconsin surges to the front with a convincing road win against a strong opponent. Nebraska and Iowa aren’t far back (and Iowa, remember, is probably being underestimated here thanks to my treatment of FCS games). Minnesota is comfortably in the middle of the pack, while Northwestern looks very likely to go from 10 wins to no bowl in just one year.