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Big Ten Sampler: Week 4

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota 43, San Jose State 24

Minnesota took control of this game by scoring 23 straight points in the second half, riding a smashmouth running game (67 rushes for 353 yards) to victory.  On the other side of the ball, the Gophers allowed 439 passing yards on only 35 attempts, but they shut down the Spartan run game (47 yards on 17 carries) and recorded 3 takeaways.  With the top of the West showing weakness, Minnesota's formula could make them a spoiler or even a fringe title contender.

Ohio State 76, Florida A&M 0

Urban Meyer turned to his team, saying, "now let's just stack the bodies in the cellar, leave one by one, and nobody will ever know what happened here."

Iowa 59, Western Michigan 3

Iowa would have stomped the Broncos under any circumstances, but their two punt returns and two interception returns for touchdowns pushed the margin of victory even higher.  Even considering the competition, this was Iowa's strongest statement to date that Kirk Ferentz doesn't plan on missing the postseason again this year.

Notre Dame 17, Michigan State 13

Michigan State's offensive revival lasted all of one week before Bob Diaco's defense held them under 4 yards per play in a defensive struggle.  MSU's defense also showed up, holding the Irish to 220 yards on 66 plays, but the Domers were able to finish two drives with touchdowns instead of only one.

Nebraska 59, South Dakota State 20

South Dakota State is, it must be said, a fairly good FCS team, coming in 98th in the current Sagarin rankings.  And Nebraska did beat them by 39 points, which is quite a healthy margin even against an overmatched opponent, especially since Taylor Martinez missed the game with an injury.  Still, Nebraska showed some weaknesses, falling behind 17-14 in the first quarter and allowing the Jackrabbits to gain 465 yards, including a healthy 227 rushing yards on 38 carries.

Penn State 34, Kent State 0

The Penn State ground game dominated this game, gaining 287 yards on 53 carries; this was needed, as Christian Hackenberg had a rough day throwing the ball, completing only 13 of 35 passes for 176 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT.  A MACrifice is a good time for some growing pains from a freshman, and I'm sure Bill O'Brien will have plenty of instruction for his quarterback during the off week.

Wisconsin 41, Purdue 10

A matchup that looked lopsided on paper was no more interesting on the field.  Wisconsin ran for 388 yards, held Purdue to 180 total yards, and generally looked ready to take on Ohio State.  Purdue, meanwhile, is still bad at football.

Michigan 24, UConn 21

At one point in the third quarter, the Huskies led this game 21-7; at another, they were in position to kick a field goal to extend their lead to 24-14.  But the field goal went wide, and Michigan would score a touchdown and a field goal on their last two meaningful possessions to come away with a narrow escape.  Still, the Wolverines look as vulnerable as ever after a game in which their offense gained only 284 yards while turning the ball over 4 times.

Missouri 45, Indiana 28

Indiana's defense collected a fumble recovery and 2 interceptions, but they hardly slowed down the Missouri offense the rest of the day.  The Hoosier offense, meanwhile, also turned the ball over 3 times, but they gained only 475 yards compared to Missouri's 623.

Syracuse 52, Tulane 17

The Orange built up a 42-17 halftime lead and then slightly extended it in the second half.  Drew Allen has been relegated to the bench, and his replacement at quarterback, Terrel Hunt, posted an efficient 16-21, 181 yard, 4 TD day throwing the ball, tacking on 39 yards and a touchdown on 6 carries as a bonus.

Next Week

Half of the conference is taking the week off, but there is a critical conference game to consider.

11:00 CT

Illinois vs. Miami (OH)

The Cincinnati team that Illinois thrashed in week 2 just beat Miami 14-0; that was the closest game the Redhawks have played this year.  While it would be great for Illinois to faceplant in their final non-conference game, I expect them to have no problem moving to 3-1.

Purdue vs. Northern Illinois

Northern Illinois took down an increasingly competent-looking Iowa team in week 1, but their two wins since then have not been encouraging: a 45-35 road win over Idaho, followed by a 43-39 home win over Eastern Illinois.  Purdue, however, is probably not good enough to hand the Huskies their first loss.

2:30 CT

Iowa @ Minnesota

Floyd of Rosedale might be my favorite rivalry trophy in the Big Ten, and this should be a well-matched edition of the game.  Both teams look competent, relying on strong running attacks and good defense to control games, and both have seemed to gain strength through the non-con, with Iowa finishing their games with a beatdown of a bad opponent and Minnesota soundly beating the best of their opponents last weekend.

6:00 CT

Western Michigan vs. Kent State

The Broncos will try for their first win against a team that has followed a 17-10 win over Liberty with three straight losses.  These aren't even the fun kind of MAC teams, with video game offenses and paper bag defenses, so I have no desire to find out who comes out on top.

7:00 CT

#23 Wisconsin @ #4 Ohio State

This should be the most important game in the East division race; with Penn State ineligible for a trip to Indianapolis and the rest of the division looking weak, the winner of this game has no excuse for failing to get to the conference championship game.  Ohio State opened as a touchdown favorite, but I wouldn't be surprised if that narrows as the game approaches.

9:30 CT

Cal @ #2 Oregon

Cal continues their brutal schedule by opening conference play on the road against a national title contender.  Cal is yet to hold an opponent under 30 points, and Oregon is yet to score fewer than 59.  Cal's only hope is for Jared Goff and company to put about 70 on the board, which would give them some chance of pulling the upset (not really; Oregon could probably hit 100 if they need to).