Last weekend, we learned that Big Ten teams other than Northwestern can beat BCS conference opponents. Logically, Northwestern and Ohio State are going to run the table while the rest of the Big Ten manages to have both teams lose in every game. Or something like that. On to the blurbs!.
This Week's Opponent: South Dakota
The Coyotes (pronounced like you're an old-timey prospector) had a bye last week. So far this year, they have defeated Colgate 31-21 and lost to Montana, 35-24. Sagarin has Northwestern as a more than 20 point favorite, and that exhausts my knowledge of South Dakota's quality. Their offense seems to involve their quarterback, Josh Vander Maten, as a runner; he tied for the team lead in carries against Colgate and led the team in carries against Montana. Northwestern shouldn't have any trouble; I want to see Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian each lead a few touchdown drives early before sending the backups in to finish the job, all while the defense keeps the Coyotes to single digits..
The Big Ten: Winners
The Big Ten went 10-2 this week! The conference still sucks, but more on that in a moment.
Ohio State: Beat Cal 35-28
OK, Cal isn't very good at football (trust me, I am a grad student there). Ohio State still deserves some recognition for picking up the only other win by a Big Ten team over a team from a BCS AQ conference on the season. Ignore the fact that Ohio State let Cal to come back from a thirteen point halftime deficit to lead in the fourth quarter and allowed Brendan Bigelow to run for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns on only 4 carries; Ohio State is yet to embarass the conference on the field, which is more than can be said for most Big Ten teams (well, they missed an extra point, but so did half the conference last week). This week, the Buckeyes host 0-2 UAB in what should be an easy warm-up for Michigan State the following week.
Penn State: Beat Navy 34-7
Navy probably isn't very good this year, but after the first two weeks of the season Penn State will take a 27 point win against anybody. The Penn State offense ran only 49 plays for 341 yards, but when the defense gets 4 takeaways and scores a touchdown on its own the offense's numbers are going to be held down. When not turning the ball over, Navy moved the ball decently, gaining 391 yards on 83 plays. Like Ohio State, Penn State missed an extra point. This week, Penn State hosts 1-1 Temple to try and even up their record.
Nebraska: Beat Arkansas State 42-13
The most important story from this game was Bo Pelini's hospitalization; fortunately, he appears to be fine. As for the football, Nebraska should be reasonably happy with the result. Last year, Arkansas State posted 10 wins, including their last 9 regular season games. While the Red Wolves changed head coaches, this was a decent opponent as far as Sun Belt teams go. Nebraska fans have taken notice of the 34 points that Arkansas State put up on Oregon in week one, but I saw Oregon shut down once they were up 50-3 in the second quarter and take comparisons with a grain of salt. This week, Nebraska gets their FCS cupcake in the form of Idaho State.
Purdue: Beat Eastern Michigan 54-16
NASA's Big Ten team did everything you can ask against a MACrifice, scoring over 50 points and racking up 576 yards while only letting the Eagles reach double digits on the scoreboard well into garbage time. Purdue joined the missed extra point club twice. With Wisconsin struggling, the Boilermakers have to be the early favorite to reach the conference championship game from the sanctions division. This week, Purdue has an off week.
Minnesota: Beat Western Michigan 28-23
Minnesota picked up their third win in as many tries to match their total from last season. With Marqueis Gray out with an injury, his backup Max Shortell filled in capably by throwing for 188 yards and 3 touchdowns on only 17 throws. Gray is expected to miss 2-4 weeks, which puts his status for Northwestern's visit on October 13 in doubt. Congratulations to the Gophers form making all their extra points, though a missed field goal is almost as good. This week, Minnesota hosts Syracuse, which should offer some insight on how the Gophers stack up against Northwestern.
Wisconsin: Beat Utah State 16-14
Wisconsin managed to deny Utah State a 3-0 start, but the Badgers were far from dominant. Utah State led 14-3 at halftime and got in position to kick a game-winning field goal at the end of the game. Wisconsin's offense was anemic, gaining only 234 yards and converting only 3 of 15 third downs. A punt return touchdown helped the Badgers make up for their offensive deficiencies. While Utah State's missed field goal made headlines, Wisconsin had their own kicking struggles, missing an extra point and a field goal. This week, Wisconsin hosts UTEP in their last chance to get the offense moving before conference play begins.
Michigan: Beat UMass 63-13
This was a glorified FCS matchup, so it is no surprise that Michigan put up gaudy numbers. In spite of 9 chances, Michigan managed to escape without a missed extra point. This week, Michigan offers the Big Ten its last chance for a win over Notre Dame. Go Wolverines.
Illinois: Beat Charleston Southern 44-0
Charleston Southern gained a total of 125 yards and didn't convert a single third down. It is fair to say that this was a mismatch. This week, 2-0 Louisiana Tech visits after scoring 56 points in each of their two wins. I would be thrilled to see another 56 from the Bulldogs.
Iowa: Beat Northern Iowa 27-16
Congratulations to Iowa for proving that they are better than one in-state opponent. Northern Iowa's first two games were a solid attempt at upsetting Wisconsin and a 59-0 thrashing of Division 2 Central State, so it isn't impossible that they are a decent team. Still, an 11 point win over an FCS school is not a positive sign for a team that has so far beat a MAC opponent by 1 and lost at home to a rival. This week, Iowa hosts Central Michigan in another attempt at making a proper MACrifice.
The Big Ten: Losers
Only two teams here, but both were disappointing to see.
Indiana: Lost 39-41 to Ball State
Indiana lost another quarterback this week and still looked like they had staged an impressive comeback by taking the lead on a touchdown pass with 49 seconds to play. Ball State, however, managed to kick a field goal as time expired to come away with their third straight win over Indiana. Indiana has a bye week to prepare for Northwestern. This team has already faced a lot of adversity this year, and I expect that Kevin Wilson's team is thankful to get a week to regroup.
Michigan State: Lost 20-3 to Notre Dame
After Purdue came away from South Bend with a close loss, Michigan State's prospects in a home game appeared bright. While the defense looked good on the whole, Andrew Maxwell once again struggled and Le'Veon Bell only managed 77 yards on 19 carries. Sparty's defense singlehandedly makes them a strong contender in conference play, but if Maxwell can't improve his performance Michigan State will struggle to score against even mediocre defenses. This week, he gets a chance at the Eastern Michigan defense that surrendered 54 points to Purdue.
The Non-Conference Opponents
Syracuse: Beat Stony Brook 28-17
A week after an encouragingly close loss to USC, Syracuse posted a distressingly close win over an FCS opponent. Ryan Nassib and the offense had a solid day, but a turnover by fumble, two on downs, and two missed field goals kept the score close. As mentioned with Minnesota, Syracuse goes on the road to take on the Gophers this week. With Marqueis Gray out, Syracuse has a shot at picking up the first FBS win from a previous Northwestern opponent.
Vanderbilt: Beat Presbyterian 58-0
Vanderbilt beat Presbyterian in every phase of the game, putting up over 600 yards and holding the Blue Hose under 150. This week, Vandy gets to visit Athens to take on Georgia. A win here would be an unexpected boost for Northwestern's strength of schedule.
Nothing to see here: we all know what happened to BC last weekend, and this week they have a bye.
So, there are some more reasons to be thankful for Jeff Budzien and hopeful about Northwestern's conference prospects. I'm pulling for Vandy against Georgia, Michigan against Notre Dame, and Louisiana Tech against Illinois. Let us know which games you are keeping an eye on in the comments.