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Around the Big Ten, Week 4: Wisconsin returns with a blowout, Penn State remains winless

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The East is weak.

Wisconsin v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Every Sunday, after a Saturday full of college football, we’ll take a look at some of the top story lines around the Big Ten. We’ll follow every team throughout the bizarre eight-week season all the way up until Champions Week.

Here are the top storylines from Week Four.

Wisconsin is back and didn’t miss a beat

It appears that Michigan sucks, but it was still a rocky road back for the No. 13 Badgers, recovering from their COVID-19 outbreak. But boy did they deliver, winning 49-11 and leading 28-0 at the half. Freshman quarterback Graham Mertz threw for 127 yards and two touchdowns, while the ground game gained 341 yards and five scores.

The Wisconsin defense surrendered only 219 yards on the day, most of which came through the air. Michigan quarterback Joe Milton threw an interception on his first two drives and was benched in late in the third quarter for Cade McNamara. Wisconsin faces its first real test at Northwestern next Saturday, and the Wolverines may be in for a grinder against Rutgers.

Indiana wins the Old Brass Spittoon in a big way

No. 10 Indiana was searching for glory this week. The last time they had possession of the Old Brass Spittoon was 2016. More importantly, the last time the Hoosiers started 4-0 in conference was in 1987. They accomplished both by beating the Spartans 24-0, led by a 320-yard, two-touchdown outing from quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Running back Stevie Scott added 84 yards and a touchdown, but the real star of the game was wide reciever Ty Fryfogle, who caught 11 passes for 200 yards and two scores, including this 65-yard catch-and-run that he turned into a score.

The state of Michigan continues to struggle at football. The Spartans turned the ball over four times, bringing their season total to 14. Indiana has its biggest game in memory next week in Columbus as it takes on No. 3 Ohio State.

Journey Brown retires and Penn State is still bad

Before we talk about Penn State’s game this week, it’s only fair to talk about starting running back Journey Brown, who announced last week he will retire from football due to a medical condition. Northwestern fans may find this familiar as Wildcat running back Jeremy Larkin retired in the 2018 season for medical reasons. The staff of Inside NU wishes Journey Brown the best, no matter how his path forward continues.

This is the worst the Nittany Lions have looked since 2001, the only other time they’ve started 0-4. It’s the first time since 1984 a team ranked top 10 in the preseason has started 0-4. This week, the loss came at the hands of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. In the battle of the previously-winless, the Huskers stormed out to a 27-6 lead at half. Penn State put together a comeback, cutting the lead to 30-23, but faltered on two drives within the Nebraska 15. Scott Frost started Luke McCaffrey instead of Adrian Martinez at quarterback, and Penn State signal caller Sean Clifford was pulled in the second quarter for Will Levis. Both performed decently, with McCaffrey throwing for 152 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and Levis passing for 219 yards.

Other Scores

Iowa 35, Minnesota 7

Iowa’s Spencer Petras wasn’t asked to do much, throwing for only 111 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Running back Tyler Goodson had 20 carries for 142 yards and two touchdowns, and Mekhi Sargent added another. Bottom line is, the Gophers are bad. Minnesota’s only score was a Tanner Morgan to Rashod Bateman touchdown pass with 14 seconds left. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz burned his three timeouts right before that play and when asked why, he had this to say:

So petty, Kirk. We love it.

No. 23 Northwestern 27, Purdue 20

The Wildcats held Purdue to two (!) total rushing yards. Unfortunately, they also let their opponent score in the second half. It was still an impressive evening from the ‘Cats, who led this one from the very beginning. and the defense got stops when they needed to. It’s a virtual Big Ten semifinal next Saturday in Evanston when Wisconsin comes to town.

Illinois 23, Rutgers 20

#ILLINUTGERS lived up to the hype. Illinos started Isaiah Williams at quarterback with Brandon Peters still sidelined due to COVID protocols, and Williams did his best work on the ground, scrambling for 192 yards and a touchdown and only passing for 104. Actual running back Chase Brown added 131 yards to the Illini offensive output. After missing two kicks earlier in the day, Illinois kicker James McCourt nailed a last-second, 47-yard field goal for the win. The game featured four turnovers.