Every Sunday, after a whirlwind autumn Saturday of college football, we'll be taking you around the Big Ten to keep tabs on the rest of the conference. As it fights as one for respectability in the non-conference, or as its power dynamics shift on a week-to-week basis in October and November, we'll follow the narrative to give you a better idea of where Northwestern fits into the 14-team puzzle.
Here are the top three storylines from Week 4:
Top Three Storylines
1. Iowa takes down Wisconsin at Camp Randall
When Northwestern fans scanned the team's remaining schedule, the Nov. 21 game at Camp Randall Stadium against Wisconsin seemed like the toughest matchup left for the Wildcats. However, thanks to an upset at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes in Madison yesterday, Wisconsin is 3-2 and not looking like a team that NU should be afraid of. Instead, it's Kirk Ferentz's squad that is more formidable, as the Hawkeyes are 5-0 with wins over Iowa State, Pittsburgh and now Wisconsin.
Northwestern is good
Northwestern is good
The Badgers' quarterback, Joel Stave, had a rough go of it, throwing two interceptions — both to cornerback Desmond King — and just not playing well in general. Wisconsin even had a tough time on the ground, as Iowa's defense proved to just be too strong. All the Badgers could muster was a pair of field goals. The Hawkeyes likely will move into the Top 25 this week while Wisconsin will probably drop out of it.
2. Michigan State and Ohio State avoid upsets
The Big Ten was a few breaks here and there from suffering a pair of devastating losses from two of its best teams. First off, at home, Michigan State was only able to knock off lowly Purdue by three points after the Boilermakers scored 14 unanswered in the third and fourth quarters to get within a touchdown of the Spartans. Michigan State responded with a field goal but then a Markell Jones rushing touchdown for Purdue cut the deficit to just 27-24. However, a late turnover on downs for Darrell Hazell's team make the comeback bid in vain.
For the second game in their last three, the Buckeyes looked like a very beatable team. Two weeks ago, Ohio State just got by Northern Illinois in Columbus by a score of 20-13. On Saturday in Bloomington, the Indiana Hoosiers were the next team to challenge the defending national champions, even with starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld out due to injury. Backup Zander Diamont -- mostly known for this -- entered and kept the Hoosiers right in the game, and even ran for a crazy 79-yard touchdown.
However, while driving in Ohio State territory with a chance to tie or take the lead at the end of the game, Diamont wasn't able to find an open receiver on a fourth down which resulted in a game-ending turnover on downs. Still, it was an impressive performance for Kevin Wilson's team, and a disappointing one for Urban Meyer's — outside of Ezekiel Elliott of course.
3. Illinois comes back to shock Nebraska
Down 13-0 heading into the fourth quarter, the Illini — at an empty Memorial Stadium, so nothing new — needed a quick turnaround to avoid losing their first Big Ten game of the season. Wes Lunt, the former Oklahoma State signal-caller, came through with two touchdown drives, one of which put Illinois ahead 14-13 with just 10 seconds left in the game, to stun the Cornhuskers and new coach Mike Riley, whose record in Lincoln dips to 2-3. Northwestern fans probably don't mind Nebraska losing on a late passing touchdown anyway.
- No. 22 Michigan moved to 4-1 on the season with a 28-0 romp of Maryland, which could be one of the conference's worst teams this season. The Wolverines only managed a pair of field goals in the first half — while holding Maryland and Caleb Rowe (three interceptions) — but broke out after intermission with 15 third-quarter points. Randy Edsall benched Rowe in favor of Daxx Garman — another Oklahoma State transfer — who wasn't able to get much going on offense either. The Terrapins head to Columbus next weekend, where the spread against the Buckeyes will be astronomical.
- Penn State, in its final non-conference game of the year, staved off the Black Knights of Army in Beaver Stadium by a score of 20-14. Christian Hackenberg (10-19 for 156 yards and a touchdown) underwhelmed again as Army was able to hang around until the fourth quarter, despite only attempting one pass the entire day (that pass was completed, for 32 yards to boot) before fading away in the loss.
Elsewhere around the country
- Baylor and Texas Tech managed to hit the over (it was set at a crazy high 89.5 points) as they combined to score 98. However, it was the No. 5 Bears who went home happy, as they scored 49 points in the first half en route to an easy 63-35 victory.
- Kentucky edged Eastern Kentucky 34-27 in a game that somehow went to overtime. Fun fact: The Wildcats paid EKU $450,000 to play them.