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It was another wild week in the Big Ten in Week 3, and while Week 4 still has one big marquee matchup, it doesn’t appear to have the same cache as last week did.
Penn State cemented itself as the contender in the East, Michigan ran and rolled yet again, Ohio State continued to struggle, Indiana succumbed to Cincinnati, Iowa merely won against Kent State, Maryland needed a walk-off to beat Illinois, Northwestern came back after being blown out, Minnesota blanked Colorado, and Purdue was close to taking down Notre Dame. Wisconsin was on bye, but now it faces that same suspect Irish team this week.
While Big Ten play starts in earnest for many schools, given that some had Week 1 or Week 0 Big Ten opponents, there are still some nonconference games this week. Here is how the WolverinesWire staff expects things to shake out across the conference in Week 4.
Villanova at 8 Penn State
Photo: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
Trent Knoop: The Nittany Lions are coming off a huge win last weekend against Auburn, and sometimes letdowns are possible, but not against a team like Villanova. This one will more than likely be over with by halftime, and PSU fans will get to see some backups play in the second half. Penn State 45, Villanova 10 Isaiah Hole: Villanova obviously stands no chance here, even as a 3-0 FCS team. The bigger challenger to Penn State is Penn State, coming off of an emotional night game win hosting Auburn. The Nittany Lion defense is legit, holding an explosive Auburn team to just 20 points, while the offense clicks. Regardless of what Villanova is, it won’t be able to do much here unless Penn State lets its guard down. It won’t. Penn State 52, Villanova 0
12 Notre Dame vs. 18 Wisconsin (-6.5) - Soldier Field
Photo: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Trent Knoop: It feels like this is a batter of the ‘overrated’ thru three games. ND has almost lost to winless Florida State and just about lost to Toledo. Whereas the Badgers lost week one to a good PSU team. Former Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan is now the starter for the Irish and he will be out for some revenge. Wisconsins starter Graham Mertz has yet to throw for a touchdown, but he does have two interceptions to his name, so he will need to play like the five-star recruit he was to win. Notre Dame 28, Wisconsin 24 Isaiah Hole: This is a weird one in that Notre Dame has eked by its opponents, including a bad Florida State team and MAC program Toledo. Wisconsin was on bye last week. Though Soldier Field is neutral territory, Chicago is arguably where most Irish fans reside. The big battle will be between the ND offense and the Wisconsin defense — especially with the Jack Coan angle — but the other side will be interesting in its own right as Wisconsin’s offense didn’t exactly look functional against Penn State and Notre Dame’s defense is nonexistent. I’ve got Wisconsin in a close one. Wisconsin 21, Notre Dame 17
Bowling Green at Minnesota (-31.5)
(Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Trent Knoop: The Gophers are coming off a huge win against Colorado — who took Texas A&M to the wire the prior week. Minnesota has scored more than 30 points in its first three gamers of the year, and this should add another one to that column. I look for Treyson Potts to continue to shine in Mo Ibrahim’s absence. Minnesota 48, Bowling Green 14 Isaiah Hole: Minnesota proved a lot in the 30-0 road win at Colorado and Bowling Green is even worse than the Buffaloes. Returning home, I expect the Golden Gophers to continue to excel in the run game with Trey Potts while the defense continues to fluster, this time against the Falcons. Don’t expect a shutout again, but it’ll be close. Minnesota 42, Bowling Green 6
Ohio at Northwestern (-14.5)
Photo: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Trent Knoop: What is a good way to put a band-aid on from being 1-2? Playing a school like Ohio University that is 0-3. Things are really bad in Evanston for the Wildcats, and Hunter Johnson looks really bad at the quarterback position, but the Bobcats are even worse. OU barely averages over 300 yards-per-game, and it has allowed 35 points-per-game scored against them. Look the Northwestern to get back to .500 on the year. Northwestern 31, Ohio 10 Isaiah Hole: Northwestern is lucky it gets a bad, completely defeated Ohio team, because the Wildcats are struggling to find life, especially after the loss to Duke. They showed some mettle by coming back after being down 27-0, so maybe the season isn’t completely lost, but it’s getting close. Regardless, consider this a meager bounce back game. Northwestern 31, Ohio 10
Colorado State at 5 Iowa (-23.5)
Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras (7) gets set under center Tyler Linderbaum (65) and offensive lineman Kyler Schott (64) lines up during a NCAA non-conference football game against Kent State, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.
Trent Knoop: Let me start by saying, Iowa will not lose this game, but I think this could end up being interesting thru a couple quarters. The Hawkeyes have one of the best defenses in the league, but they are only averaging 298 yards-per-game on the offensive side of the ball. The Rams on the other hand have a very prolific offense, and they very well could put up some points against Iowa. Tyler Goodson and company won’t allow an upset to happen, so the Hawkeyes will pull away in the third. Iowa 27, Colorado State 17 Isaiah Hole: I was disappointed last week when Iowa merely handled business rather than attaining any style points in the process against Kent State. Colorado State is a similar opponent and I think the Hawkeyes are just built this way, for better or worse. The Rams have an OK rushing defense so Spencer Petras will need to get things going in the passing game. Iowa 35, Colorado State 10
Rutgers at 19 Michigan (-20.5)
Photo: Isaiah Hole
Trent Knoop: Rutgers and Michigan: the battle of the unbeaten. That doesn’t sound right, but it is, and it could be a game — for a half. The Wolverines have the best rushing attack in the nation, and Cade McNamara has been extremely efficient behind center for Michigan. Rutgers just lost its best defensive back, Max Melton, to suspension on Monday. I don’t think Noah Vedral has game-changing ability for the Scarlet Knights to hang with the high-powered Wolverines for the entire game. Michigan 42, Rutgers 17 Isaiah Hole: Yes, Rutgers is vastly improved and took Michigan to triple-overtime a year ago. But Cade McNamara came in and made it a game last year, on the road, when the Wolverines were already down 21-0. It’ll be a big defensive battle and the Scarlet Knights will really try to stop the run game. Michigan’s already been tested by a stellar defense in Washington, and while Rutgers won’t give up quite so easily, the Wolverines will pull away in the second half. Michigan 35, Rutgers 14
Illinois at Purdue (-11.5)
Photo: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Trent Knoop: Illinois has been on a tail-spin since week 1 after defeating Nebraska Purdue however, is on an offensive tear averaging 437 yards-per-game, and passing for 326 yards-per-game. Jake Plummer has yet to turn the ball over for the Boilermakers and he has accounted for seven passing touchdowns. I don’t see how Brandon Peters and the Fighting Illini can hang with Purdue. Purdue 31, Illinois 17 Isaiah Hole: Illinois showed a lot of fight against Maryland, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, but so did Purdue against Notre Dame. I don’t have a lot to say about this game, but I’m just not sure that the Illini have a lot of fight left. At least not enough to win the game. Purdue 24, Illinois 17
Kent State at Maryland (-14.5)
Photo: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Trent Knoop: Things don’t get any easier for Kent State. The Golden Flashes just had the pleasure of getting destroyed by Iowa last week, now they have to take on Taulia Tagovailoa and the Terrapins. Tagovailoa is arguably the most dynamic quarterback in the league, and he should have a field day against Kent State on Saturday. The Terrapins could very well put up 50-plus points. Maryland 56, Kent State 10 Isaiah Hole: Maryland managed a lot of yards but not a lot of points against Illinois last week. Against Kent State, I expect that the Terps will keep things less interesting and look more like what I expected Iowa to look like a week ago. Maryland rolls. Maryland 45, Kent State 10
Nebraska at 20 Michigan State (-4.5)
Photo: Lansing State Journal
Trent Knoop: The Cornhuskers may be 2-2, but they are looking like a much improved team since getting beat by Illinois. Nebraska stayed with Oklahoma for the entirety of the game last week, and that in its own right should be a confidence booster. Michigan State also is a much improved team, and it showed last week after demolishing Miami FL. The Spartans have one the best running backs in the nation — at the moment — in Kennth Walker, and I’m not sure the Cornhuskers have the man-power to stop him. Michigan State 28, Nebraska 24 Isaiah Hole: Weirdly, I think that Nebraska, which hasn’t been able to get out of its own way, will give MSU a bigger challenge than Miami did last week. Adrian Martinez should stretch a somewhat suspect defense, and while the Huskers’ D performed incredibly against Oklahoma, the Spartan offense should be able to handle business, ultimately. Michigan State 28, Nebraska 24
Akron at 10 Ohio State (-49.5)
(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Trent Knoop: Things don’t look great in Columbus, especially for the Ohio State teams that we are used to seeing. The defense continues to find new ways to allow yards and scores to the opposing teams. But, it appears the Buckeyes have found their new workhouse running back in TreVeyon Henderson. I’m guessing they will continue to feed him, and he will end up having another monster game against a terrible Akron defense. Ohio State 52, Akron 14 Isaiah Hole: Maybe I’m crazy, but I’m seeing a nearly 50-point spread and feeling like that’s way too much, no matter how bad Akron is. Ohio State has been plain mediocre this year and the defense is straight-up garbage. The Buckeyes will win convincingly in perhaps the most complete game thus far, but any subsiding problems are merely masked for the moment. Ohio State 55, Akron 24
Indiana (-9.5) at Western Kentucky
Photo: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
Trent Knoop: What happened to the Hoosiers? The one-time preseason top 20 team, now looks like a bottom feeder in the Big Ten. Michael Penix has thrown seven interceptions through three games, and the IU offense appears to be in shambles. The Hoosiers are going up against a WKU team that averages 47 points-per-game, and will try to pass the ball at will against the IU secondary. If Penix doesn’t play any better, Indiana could be looking at 1-3. Western Kentucky 35, Indiana 28 Isaiah Hole: I really don’t know what to make of Indiana. Michael Penix Jr. has been bad so far, which isn’t something I anticipated. While it gave Cincinnati a fight, I don’t necessarily think that the ills have suddenly been cured. Still, Western Kentucky will be overmatched, even at home. Indiana takes out some aggression. Indiana 38, Western Kentucky 10