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Big Ten Sampler: Week 5

The Big Ten in review and preview

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Conference play ramped up last week, with a key game in the East and a rivalry game in the West.

Illinois 50, Miami (OH) 14

Illinois led 36-0 at the half and never punted. Miami is one of the worst teams in the FBS, but Illinois is also much improved from last year's tire fire.

Northern Illinois 55, Purdue 24

After Rob Henry started the day 5-16 with two interceptions, true freshman Danny Etling came off the bench to give the Boilermakers a spark. It took him 39 passes to throw his two interceptions. Burning Etling's redshirt only makes sense if he will get a chance to start, but a freshman quarterback won't solve Purdue's problems.

Iowa 23, Minnesota 7

Iowa retained Floyd of Rosedale by running the ball (45 carries for 246) and stuffing the run on defense (27 for 30). They could have won by more, but Jake Rudock threw an interception in the end zone and Mike Meyer missed a field goal. Beating Minnesota is not all that impressive, but Iowa is competent enough to sneak into the conference championship game if the rest of the West stumbles at the right times.

Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 24

Ohio State came into the game planning to stop the run and make Joel Stave beat them through the air, and the first part worked perfectly: James White and Melvin Gordon combined for only 105 yards on 23 carries. Jared Abbrederis did his best to make the second fail, though, catching 10 passes for 207 of Wisconsin's 295 passing yards. OSU fought back with a healthy Braxton Miller, who threw for all four of their touchdowns and added 83 rushing yards to his 195 passing yards. The Badgers also committed the day's only turnover, an interception that set OSU up with a short field, and missed a field goal, killing their chance at pulling the upset.

Kent State 32, Western Michigan 14

Western Michigan hung in this game well into the third quarter, trailing 15-14 until a TD with 2:35 remaining in the quarter started a 17 point finish for Kent State. The Broncos actually ran the ball decently, with two backs combining for 146 yards on 27 carries, but Tyler Van Tubbergen's struggles through the air (11-23, 159, 1 TD, 2 INT) prevented them from sustaining drives, while their defense allowed Kent State to gain 276 rushing yards on 47 carries.

Oregon 274, Cal 10

This game was ugly in the first quarter, so I just guessed at the final score. As a sample, here are the results of Cal's first six drives:

  1. fumble
  2. fumble
  3. fumble
  4. fumble
  5. punt
  6. interception
This Week
This is the first week with a full Big Ten slate, as 10 teams are active, playing 5 conference games.

11:00 CT

Penn State @ Indiana

Indiana can move the ball well, but their defense remains a tire fire. Allen Robinson should have some fun as the Nittany Lions roll.

Illinois @ Nebraska

This game matches Bill Cubit's shiny new Illinois offense against a shaky Nebraska defense. I think Nebraska's offense should be able to score plenty of points to make up for their defense's lapses, but I expect a shootout instead of a blowout.

Michigan State @ Iowa

Last year, Iowa started Big Ten play 2-0 with a beatdown against Minnesota and a double-overtime squeaker over Michigan State. Michigan State's defense should be able to handle the Iowa running game, and I don't see Jake Rudock performing well with the team on his shoulders. This leaves the Spartan offense to mop up by scoring 20 or so points; that mark also seems like more than they can manage. Expect another low-scoring slugfest.

2:00 CT

Western Michigan @ Toledo

Western Michigan is 0-5, and their closest game against a FBS opponent was their 26-13 loss to Michigan State in the season opener. This explains why 2-3 Toledo is favored by 19.

2:30 CT

Minnesota @ #19 Michigan

Michigan remains undefeated and ranked; while I don't expect either of those to last very long, Minnesota won't be the team to knock them off.

Syracuse vs. #3 Clemson

Clemson has been held under 30 only once, on a road trip against North Carolina State. Syracuse will need to imitate that performance and find some offense in Terrel Hunt's second start at quarterback. I don't think their prospects are good.

3:00 CT

Cal vs. Washington State

This game looks like a battle for the bottom of the PAC-12 North. This is also the first time Cal has played a non-ranked FBS opponent this season. Considering that Northwestern was probably the worst offense they faced in that stretch, Cal's defense could well prove somewhat competent; I think the more likely scenario is that they need Jared Goff and company to win some shootouts, starting this week.