B1G Recap - Week 4

Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)

Kansas - 14 at Rutgers – 27

Rutgers (2-2) gained more than 500 yards of total offense, including 312 yards of rushing, and cruised to the 27-14 victory over the Kansas Jayhawks (0-3). Rutgers made a concerted effort to establish their running game (which should always be their first priority) as both Josh Hicks and Robert Martin ran for more than 100 yards. Chris Laviano added 201 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns and the Scarlet Knights cruised to the victory over the worst “Power 5” squad in the country.

Despite the victory, there are still plenty of concerns for Rutgers. Laviano threw a pair of interceptions (Rutgers also lost a fumble) and the Scarlet Knights committed ten penalties. In addition, defensive captain Darius Hamilton, who has struggled with injury all season, has been ruled out for the remainder of the year. Rutgers now has two weeks before resuming B1G play (remember, they lost to Penn State on September 19) as they have a bye week before facing #2 Michigan State.

 BYU - 0 at Michigan – 31

The B1G East is home to the #1 and #2 ranked teams in the country. However, Michigan (3-1) is making sure this division isn’t just a two-team race. The Wolverines man-handled the BYU Cougars (2-2), 31-0, in front of 108,000 people at the Big House. BYU was held to 101 yards of total offense by the suffocating Michigan defense and the Wolverines racked up 254 yards on the ground. This was another example of the brand of football we should expect to see in Ann Arbor. Great defense (and this defense is proving to be “great”, that’s not hyperbole at this point) and a powerful running game that grinds the opponent into powder.

The one missing ingredient is still quarterback. For the first this season, Jake Rudock was able to complete a game without a turnover but even when he plays well, he’ll be nothing more than efficient. Even with that deficiency, Michigan has an improving offensive line, a dominant defense and four running backs that can contribute to varying levels. The Wolverines travel to College Park for a primetime matchup next Saturday night before returning home to face #16 (and 4-0) Northwestern on October 10.

 Central Michigan – 10 at (2) Michigan State – 30

In the “B1G Viewing Guide”, I wrote that this would be comfortable but not a laugher for the Spartans. Once in a while, I get things right! Michigan State (4-0) led 17-10 after three quarters but managed to pull away for a 30-10 victory over their in-state foes, the Central Michigan Chippewas (1-3). Madre London ran for 73 yards on 15 carries and Gerald Holmes pounded in two touchdowns to pave the way for the Spartans win. Central Michigan ended up outgaining Michigan State, 340-324, thanks to 285 passing yards from Cooper Rush.

This isn’t to say that Michigan State is “overrated” or isn’t worthy of being in the Top 5 but, the Spartans have now been outgained in the past three games. They have some injury issues (Ed Davis and Vayante Copeland are done for the season, offensive lineman Jack Conklin is injured and tight end Josiah Price left the CMU game with an ankle injury) and their marquee victory over Oregon doesn’t look quite as impressive as we thought it would after the Ducks were blasted by Utah. Michigan State is a very, very good team but the second best squad in the country? I don’t think so.

 Southern Mississippi - 28 at Nebraska – 36

The Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-2) surrendered 447 passing yards to Nick Mullens but handled the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles, 36-28. Tommy Armstrong Jr. threw for 368 yards with a touchdown and ran for an additional 63 yards and a score. Jordan Westerkamp led the receiving corps, catching 11 passes for 118 yards. In total, the Huskers had 610 yards of offense against the leaky Southern Miss defense. The win evens the Huskers record at 2-2 but there are a lot of concerns about where Nebraska stands in the B1G West. The Huskers secondary appears very porous and every game they’ve played has seen at least a quarter of shockingly bad play from Nebraska. They struggled with penalties (12 called against them on Saturday) yet again and nearly blew a 22-point lead at home. All that said, the offense appears to be adjusting well to its new offensive system. With Wisconsin, Iowa and Northwestern all as good (or better than) as expected and Minnesota clinging to a 3-1 record, it will be interesting to see how the B1G West shakes out.

 Bowling Green - 35 at Purdue – 28

For the second time this season, the Bowling Green Falcons (2-2) entered a B1G team’s home field and left with a victory. They blasted Maryland in week two and scored a late game-winning touchdown at Ross-Ade Stadium to defeat the Purdue Boilermakers (1-3) in week four. Those two wins each came after losses (to Tennessee and Memphis, respectively) so it will be interesting to see how the Falcons fare in MAC play. David Blough threw for 340 yards in his first start but he was bested by Matt Johnson. Johnson completed 43 of 59 passes for 402 yards and Travis Greene ran the ball 11 times for 70 yards and two touchdowns. In total, Bowling Green outgained Purdue 539 to 426. The Falcons had an astonishing 39 first downs on the day.

For Purdue, the loss drops them to 1-3 and leaves them staring at a season that will be lucky to reach their expected win total of four. Boiler fans are wondering if this coaching staff is capable of beating competent FBS teams (Darrell Hazell has beaten two FBS teams in his tenure, IU has beaten three of them this season) and if the university leadership cares enough to make a change and invest in returning Purdue football to a level of respectability. Things get no easier for the Boilers as they travel to East Lansing to take on the Michigan State Spartans next week.

 Indiana - 31 at Wake Forest – 24

The Indiana Hoosiers are 4-0! Hoosier Huddle has some terrific coverage and analysis of this victory over Wake Forest and we’ll have more this week so keep checking the site for the latest IU football content.

Maryland - 6 at West Virginia – 45

I thought that it would take a major disaster to cost Randy Edsall his job before next season. The Terrapins have a prized quarterback recruit coming to College Park and a lot of momentum surrounding their 2016 recruiting class. The blowout home loss to Bowling Green was ugly. What happened in Morgantown on Saturday was something else and it might just qualify as the “major disaster” that costs Edsall his job. West Virginia (3-0) hammered the rival Maryland Terrapins (2-2), 45-6. The Mountaineers were ahead by three touchdowns after ten minutes and it never got better from there.

Brandon Ross was the only bright spot for the Terps as he ran for 130 yards on 15 carries. Caleb Rowe completed only 10 of 27 passes for 67 yards and four interceptions. He was benched for Daxx Garman (the third quarterback MD has tried this season) and Garman threw four completions on nine attempts with one interception. West Virginia threw for 297 yards and ran for another 304 yards (601 total) during the blowout victory. The teams each had ten penalties and they combined for eight turnovers (six for Maryland) in a game that was never the least bit competitive.

 North Texas - 16 at Iowa – 62

The Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0) rolled the North Texas Mean Green (0-3) 62-13 behind a fast start, a balanced offensive performance and a pair of defensive touchdowns. The Hawkeyes threw for 278 yards and ran for another 210 yards (488 total) and outgained North Texas by more than 100 total yards. The defensive touchdowns came courtesy of interception returns by Bo Bower and Josey Jewell. Jordan Canzeri ran for 115 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries to lead the ground attack. The Hawkeyes have set themselves for a very nice season and they are definitely one of the contenders in the wide-open B1G West. Their quest for a division title begins next Saturday with a clash against reigning division champ Wisconsin.   

Ohio - 24 at Minnesota – 27

Offense in Minneapolis! The Golden Gophers (3-1) scored a final-minute touchdown to survive the Ohio Bobcats (3-1), 27-24. Despite a lot of injury concerns, the Gophers were able to gain 468 yards (264 through the air and 204 on the ground) and they ran for three touchdowns to secure the victory. Minnesota is really banged up and at one point played without three of the four regulars in their secondary. Those injuries showed as Ohio took a late lead and gained 345 yards (not a ton by any means but more than expected) on the day.

The Gophers don’t appear to be healthy enough to get survive the B1G grind and come out on top of the West division but they are one of four teams that I think has a realistic dream of representing the division in the B1G Championship game.

 Western Michigan - 12 at (1) Ohio State – 38

The Ohio State Buckeyes (4-0) looked a bit more like the team everyone expects them to be in 2015 as they rolled the Broncos of Western Michigan (1-3), 38-12. Cardale Jones asserted himself as the #1 quarterback as he started and completed 19 of 33 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns. The Buckeyes wanted to hit on a few explosive plays and wanted to re-establish the consistent running attack of Ezekiel Elliott. They accomplished both things as Elliott ran for 124 yards (with a 7.8 yards per carry average) and the Buckeyes had four plays of more than 35 yards. The offense wasn’t perfect but it looked much better than it did against Northern Illinois and it’s clear there’s no “offensive crisis” in Columbus. Western Michigan was able to gain 338 yards as the defense looked a tad bit sloppy at times but the defending national champions were never really threatened by the Broncos and they remain atop the national rankings heading into the matchup with the Indiana Hoosiers this Saturday in Bloomington.

San Diego State - 21 at Penn State – 37

Penn State’s (3-1) passing attack finally got going as Christian Hackenberg threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns and Penn State pulled away to knock off the Aztecs of San Diego State (1-3), 37-21. The Nittany Lions struggled to run the ball (only 72 yards on 34 carries) but the defense held SDSU’s offense to only 242 yards and put the game away with a scoop and score from defensive lineman Austin Johnson. Penn State errors and special teams miscues helped keep the Aztecs in the game but injuries to both Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch prevented the Nittany Lions from being able to effectively pull away. Barkley injured his ankle in the second half and was unable to return (although he was jogging on the sideline). Lynch’s issue appeared more serious as left the game with an apparent knee injury.

The Nittany Lions will hope to get healthy with one more week of non-conference play as they take on Army before hosting the Indiana Hoosiers on October 10.

 Middle Tennessee - 25 at Illinois - 27

The Fighting Illini (3-1) and Blue Raiders (2-2) played a statistically even game that resulted in a narrow 27-25 victory for Illinois. Middle Tennessee threw for 330 yards while running for only 38 (368 total yards) while Illinois ran a more balanced attack with 238 passing yards and 140 rushing yards (378 total yards). The only notable statistical difference was one turnover by the Blue Raiders. Josh Ferguson ran for 83 yards while Ke’Shawn Vaughn had 80 yards and a touchdown. Geronimo Allison led the way in receiving yards, catching ten passes for 128 yards.

Illinois’ defense was much better than they showed two weeks ago in Chapel Hill but the Illini found themselves behind, 25-24, in the fourth quarter. An 8-play, 41-yard drive resulted in a field goal that gave them the lead with 2:09 remaining. Middle Tennessee marched the ball to the Illinois 26-yard line but a Cody Clark 43-yard field goal was no good and the Illini survived with the two-point win. I wouldn’t expect Illinois to challenge many squads in the West but they are halfway to bowl eligibility and will be looking for win number four with a home game against Nebraska next Saturday.

 Ball State – 19 at (17) Northwestern – 24

Northwestern (4-0) very nearly messed up their perfect start to the season. The Wildcats struggled throughout the first half and trailed the Ball State Cardinals (2-2) 10-7 at the half. However, Northwestern rallied for a strong third-quarter, outscoring the Cardinals 17-6 in the third quarter and surviving with a 24-19 victory. Clayton Thorson threw for 256 yards with three touchdowns and Justin Jackson exploded for 184 yards on 33 carries. Northwestern outgained Ball State 546 to 359 but turned the ball over three times and committed eight penalties.

This was an ugly game from Northwestern but one that they survived despite multiple injuries (four starters left the game with injuries). If left tackle Geoff Mogus is out for an extended period of time, the Wildcats will likely struggle on the offensive line. They finish the non-conference portion of their schedule with victories over Stanford and Duke and they will definitely be a factor in the B1G West race.

 Hawaii - 0 at Wisconsin – 28

The Wisconsin Badgers (3-1) dominated Hawaii (2-2) for their third straight victory. The 28-0 win came in a fashion we have expected from Badgers team in the recent past (but not so far this season). They ran the ball exceptionally well (326 yards on 54 carries), threw it efficiently (164 yards and one score) and shut down their opponent (only 255 yards for the Rainbow Warriors). I have written about the oddity of seeing Wisconsin near the bottom the B1G’s rushing rankings but those questions have been lessened after seeing the numbers put up by the Badgers in this one. Taiwan Deal appears to be the new number one tailback with Dare Ogunbowale as the primary back-up. Corey Clement will miss the next 4-6 weeks after sports hernia surgery so that’s the combination the Badgers will probably roll with for the foreseeable future. One interesting thing that was pointed out by the Wisconsin blog, buckys5thquarter.com, is a new formation was used that helped the ground game get going. The Badgers deployed three running backs (really, one running back and two fullbacks) with one tight end to overwhelm the Hawaii defense and churn out rushing yards. Time will tell if this formation is used during the bigger fronts in the B1G. The Badgers open up their defense of the B1G West title next Saturday against the Iowa Hawkeyes.