Around the Big Ten: Week Five
Talk about two teams moving in different directions. Northwestern travels to Happy Valley coming off a 24-7 victory over Western Illinois last Saturday, but that is pretty much the only thing that has gone right for the Wildcats so far. Northwestern had dropped six straight before knocking off the Leathernecks last weekend and have struggled mightily on offense this season. The Wildcats are 75th in the nation in passing yards per game and 106th in rushing yards per game. Quarterback Trevor Siemian will need to find a way to jump start a Northwestern offense that is going up against a Nittany Lion defense that has given up a total of only 20 points over their last three contests.
Penn State on the other hand is off to a quick start under head coach James Franklin. The Lion defense has been stout all year, giving up an average of 11 points per game. Meanwhile, Christian Hackenberg has found ways to pick apart opposing defenses since the season opener in Ireland, and even received some help from the running department last week. Penn State rushed for 228 yards against UMass and will look to carry that momentum into this week’s Homecoming game.
Iowa Hawkeyes (3-1, 0-0) at Purdue Boilermakers (2-2, 0-0) 12:00 ET
The Hawkeyes roll into West Lafayette coming off an impressive 24-20 come from behind win at Pittsburgh last Saturday. Iowa has found themselves in tight ball games all year, with all their games being decided by eight points or less. The Hawkeyes traveled to Purdue last year and made easy work of the Boilermakers, winning by a score of 38-14. However, Iowa will need every bit of that 26th ranked defense to make quick work of Purdue this time around.
It is Homecoming weekend for the Boilermakers, who have shown improvement on the gridiron from a year ago. They have doubled their win total from last year, and have already matched last year’s total of six rushing touchdowns just four weeks into the season. However, their difficulty scoring points could come back to haunt them in this one. It would take Purdue’s best performance in the last 2 seasons to take down a much more talented Hawkeye squad.
Wyoming Cowboys (3-1, 1-0) at #9 Michigan State Spartans (2-1, 0-0) 12:00 ET
The Cowboys are simply out of their league in this showdown. Wyoming is off to a solid start, with victories over Air Force and Florida Atlantic. However, when they went up against a premier college football squad in Oregon, they were beat down 48-14. This time should not be any different.
Despite their one loss, also at the hands of Oregon, the Spartans look like the Big Ten’s top contender. They are averaging over 220 rushing yards per game to go along with just over 48 points per contest. Michigan State should make quick work of the Cowboys in East Lansing this Saturday.
Tulane Green Wave (1-3, 0-1) at Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-1, 0-1) 12:00 ET
Tulane and Rutgers will meet up for the third time in five years this Saturday. Tulane is off to a slow start to the season and has played dreadful defense. The Green Wave have allowed at least 35 points in all four games on the young season and do not show any signs of being able to slow down the Rutgers rushing attack.
The Scarlet Knights are averaging 177.5 yards on the ground per game so far this year, which is a 50 yard improvement from one year ago. The injury to running back Paul James is a devastating blow to the Rutgers offensive attack, but should not affect them until later on in the season. Justin Goodwin and Desmon Peoples should be enough to handle an inferior Tulane squad in this one.
South Florida Bulls (2-2, 1-0) at #19 Wisconsin Badgers (2-1, 0-0) 12:00 ET
South Florida has already been downed by one Big Ten school in Maryland and will have an even harder time in Camp Randall this Saturday. It is difficult to envision the Bulls even being able to get in the endzone in this one, let alone keep it close for even one half of action.
The Badgers once again lead the nation in rushing, averaging 359.7 rushing yards per game through their first three contests. Wisconsin rushed for an astonishing 644 yards against Bowling Green, while running back Melvin Gordon averaged 19.5 yards per rush. The Badgers will use the same approach this week against a lackluster South Florida defense.
Maryland Terrapins (3-1, 0-0) at Indiana Hoosiers (2-1, 0-0) 1:30 ET
Hold on, folks. This one has all the makings for a good, old-fashioned shootout. The Terps will arrive in Bloomington to make their Big Ten debut, and will need to put up a lot of points to leave with their first conference win. Maryland has the ability to play up-tempo and will rely on quarterback C.J. Brown to work quickly. The dynamic Brown has the ability to make plays with his arm and feet, leading the Terrapins in both passing and rushing yards. Standout wide receiver Stefon Diggs will need to bust a few big plays against the Hoosier secondary if Maryland hopes to pass their first Big Ten test.
Indiana is flying high after knocking off the 2013 SEC East champion Missouri Tigers one week ago. The Hoosiers are 10th in the FBS in rushing and have quickly ran all over opposing defenses they have faced through their first three games of the season. The question for Indiana remains if they will be able to score enough points to make up for their weak defense that is allowing 27 points per game. Fireworks should be on full display this Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-1, 0-0) at Michigan Wolverines (2-2, 0-0) 3:30 ET
The oldest trophy in major collegiate football, the Little Brown Jug, is up for grabs in this one. The Golden Gophers will have to rely heavily on running the football, with starting quarterback Mitch Leidner likely out for the game. Minnesota has proven successful on the ground so far, averaging 236 rushing yards per game. If they can get ahead early and force Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner to throw the ball consistently, the Gophers will have a chance of stealing a victory at the Big House.
Brady Hoke and his Wolverines are looking to do anything they can to keep from being embarrassed yet again on this young season. There has even been talk that sophomore quarterback Shane Morris will get the starting nod over Gardner. Either way, Michigan’s offense needs to find a way to generate more points. Running back Derrick Green, who had a solid first half against Utah, may need to bust a few big runs in order to take some pressure off the starting quarterback, whether that is Gardner or Morris.
Cincinnati Bearcats (2-0, 0-0) vs. #22 Ohio State Buckeyes (2-1, 0-0) 6:00 ET
Cincinnati is looking to prove that there is more than one school that plays big-time college football in the state of Ohio. The Bearcats head into this weekend’s matchup with a strong start to their season. Quarterback Gunner Kiel has been slinging the ball all around the field to start his college career, notching 10 touchdown passes in only 2 games. Cincinnati’s 353.5 passing yards per game is good for ninth in the nation, but it remains to be seen how Kiel will do against this caliber of an opponent. Can the strong armed Kiel handle the hostile crowd of Ohio Stadium? He will have to grow up fast.
The Buckeyes have not lost to an in-state school since 1921. Ohio State manhandled Kent State two weekends ago, winning by a score of 66-0. The loss of Braxton Miller has hurt this team in a variety of ways, and the task of knocking off the Buckeyes within Ohio Stadium seems much more achievable after Virginia Tech did it in Week 2. However, Urban Meyer, who is a Cincinnati alum, has plenty of young talent to work with and all be well rested after a bye last week.
Illinois Fighting Illini (3-1, 0-0) vs. #21 Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-0, 0-0) 9:00 ET
The Illini are right where most people expected them to being heading into the conference schedule. Sophomore quarterback Wes Lunt has been impressive for Illinois this far, throwing for 1,237 yards and 11 touchdowns in the first four games of the season. Their defense has looked solid at times, but has allowed an average of over 37 points per game in their last three contests. The Fighting Illini will have to find a way to neutralize Cornhusker running back Ameer Abdullah if they have any chance of keeping this game competitive.
Abdullah has meant everything to Nebraska this year and is widely considered one of the top running backs in the country. He has led the Cornhuskers to seventh overall in the FBS in rushing and has provided big plays when his team needs them the most throughout this first month of the season. Quarterback Terry Armstrong Jr. has contributed on the ground this year as well, and if both Armstrong Jr. and Abdullah get going early in this one, the game could get out of hand quickly.
Andy Madore is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.