This is the last full week of non-conference play as nine teams in the league wrap up their out of league schedule. Only Purdue (next week vs. Northern Illinois), Illinois (off this week before facing Miami, OH), and Wisconsin (A November game with BYU), have out of conference games left. They play each other with the winner getting an early lead in the Big Ten standings.
This week also means a steady diet of the MAC and FCS opponents. Only Indiana and Michigan State are playing anything closely resembling a real team, so we can likely expect some blood to be spilled around the conference.
San Jose State (1-1) at Minnesota (3-0) Noon, ESPN2
The Golden Gophers are a step away from going 4-0 in the non-conference, which all but assures they will reach a bowl game again. San Jose State has long been one of the doormats at the FBS level, but they are coming off of a pretty good season. So far they have beaten an FCS team and lost to Stanford, so it is hard to say how good they are this year.
This will likely be a good test for Minnesota. Both teams haven't had great offensive output so far, but Minnesota has been excellent on special teams. They also have to face a long lost son as Deleon Eskridge transferred from Minnesota to San Jose State. This should be a Minnesota win, but don't be surprised if this is a close game. Minnesota 27, San Jose State 17
Florida A&M (1-2) at No. 4 Ohio State (3-0) Noon, Big Ten Network
The only question about this game is how long Braxton Miller will play. It is going to be bloody. The Buckeyes should have absolutely no trouble. Ohio State 52, Florida A&M 3
Western Michigan (0-3) at Iowa (2-1) Noon, Big Ten Network
Western Michigan is playing its third Big Ten team in four weeks. It has already locked up losses to Michigan State and Northwestern, but the worst result was a loss at home to FCS-level Nicholls State between those two games. That means this should be an easy win for the Hawkeyes.
Well, that is what we thought last year when Central Michigan visited Iowa City and won on a last second field goal. Iowa's offense has been mostly Mark Weisman and they have scored 27, 28, and 27 against competition that hasn't been that great. That is enough for Western Michigan to hang around. A victory would likely be necessary for Iowa to go to a bowl game, as I doubt they are going 4-4 in league play. Iowa 24, Western Michigan 13
Maine (3-0) at No. 18 Northwestern (3-0) 3:30pm, Big Ten Network
Add Maine to the list of FCS teams that have knocked off FBS teams, but UMass could barely be called an FBS team as well as they have played this season. Maine isn't a bad FCS team, but they are still an FCS team. Northwestern has probably been the most consistent team in the conference so far. They have looked good in wins over California and Syracuse from major conferences and did not stumble at all against Western Michigan.
At stake for the Wildcats is a possible visit from the GameDay crew when Ohio State comes to town. It is one thing to get GameDay because you play a quirky game in a century old baseball stadium. It is another when you earn it on the field like Northwestern has. I don't see them tripping up with that on the line. Northwestern 45, Maine 10
Michigan State (3-0) at No. 22 Notre Dame (2-1) 3:30pm NBC
This is a fascinating game and probably the best of the week involving the Big Ten. Did Michigan State finally figure out its offensive woes last week? Does Notre Dame's defense kind of suck by struggling against Purdue or did Purdue figure something out? Either way, Michigan State still has a damn good defense and I don't have a ton of faith in Tommy Rees to figure them out.
The Spartans are giving up only 12 points per game, and many of those were in garbage time last week against Youngstown State. Their passing game is still awful though, and that is where Notre Dame is weak. Even then, Sparty has long has Notre Dame's number in South Bend. May it continue. Michigan State 17, Notre Dame 14
South Dakota State (3-0) at Nebraska (2-1) 3:30pm, Big Ten Network
Am I alone in thinking that Nebraska could very well lose this game? The Jackrabbits are not a bad FCS team, but they have only beaten Butler, North Dakota, and Southeast Louisiana. They have managed to score at least 34 points in every game and the Cornhuskers haven't proven they can stop competent offenses yet.
It has already been a long week in Lincoln with Bo Pelini's diatribe against the fans and an utter collapse against UCLA. If South Dakota State, who has already challenged a Big Ten team before in Minnesota, hangs around too long or even wins, Lincoln may be burning by nightfall. Nebraska 37, South Dakota State 20
Kent State (1-2) at Penn State (2-1) 3:30 pm, Big Ten Network
Coach Hazell's old team heads to Happy Valley this week and has struggled without him. Trayion Durham is only averaging 50 yards per game and Dri archer has a total of three carries. Kent State is coming off of a body bag game at LSU and has lost to a Bowling Green team that just got drilled by Indiana. That is a lot in Penn State's favor.
It should also help that Kent State is not nearly the passing team that Central Florida was. If Archer was playing they might have a chance, but he hasn't played since the opening win over Liberty and the Nittany Lions don't expect him to play. This should be a good bounce back game for Penn State. Penn State 30, Kent State 10
Purdue (1-2, 0-0) at No. 24 Wisconsin (2-1, 0-0) 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2
It often does not get as simple as it does when it comes to looking at Wisconsin. Purdue has to slow down the run to have any chance. If it does not, the Badgers will win in a laugher. We've known this for years and it has still been a decade since we have tasted victory over Wisconsin.
The Boilers did at least look better last week. Rob Henry had his best game of the season and now there are rumors that Raheem Mostert, who was successful against Wisconsin two years ago, is supposed to have more of a role in this game than in the past. That isn't a bad idea, but Purdue is going to need more than that. Henry needs to be perfect, Akeem Hunt needs to get going on the ground, and, as I said, Purdue has got to find some way to slow down the running game.
If the Purdue of last week shows up the Boilers should hang around longer than we're used to. If the Purdue of old shows up pick Wisconsin by a lot with 450+ yards rushing. Wisconsin 38, Purdue 24
No. 15 Michigan (3-0) at Connecticut (0-2) 8pm, ABC
It is not every day that a team like Connecticut gets the Wolverines to come to them, but here we are. Michigan becomes the second Big Ten team to visit the Huskies, as Indiana opened their new stadium a few years ago. Connecticut is playing their third straight home game, but so far it has meant nothing. They lost to future Big Ten member Maryland and got beat up 33-18 by FCS-level Towson.
Normally, this would be an easy Michigan win, but I have no idea what happened last week to the Wolverines. Devin Gardner threw three interceptions, but it was a total team effort of suck to nearly lose to Akron, who hasn't beaten an FBS team in almost three years. If Michigan doesn't look light years better this week there is cause for alarm in ann Arbor. Michigan 45, Connecticut 21
Missouri (2-0) at Indiana (2-1) 8pm, Big Ten Network
This has to be the saddest SEC vs. Big Ten game ever. It is worse than last year's Vanderbilt-Northwestern nerdfight because at least both of those teams bade it to bowl games. It will be hard to say the same for both of these. Indiana at least righted the ship last week and did what Big Ten teams should do against the MAC: win big thanks to superior defense.
A lot is at stake for the Hoosiers. A win means they would have to almost try to not make a bowl game, while a loss means they would have to likely upset someone along the way to get to six wins. It has also been a long, long time since IU beat a team from a BCS-level conference. They beat Kentucky in 2005 and inexplicably won at Oregon in 2004, but before that you have to go all the way back to 1994 for their last win over a BCS level team out of conference, and 1992 for one not named Kentucky.
Both teams like to play offense and abhor defense, so it should be a fun one to watch. Missouri has had two weeks to prepare as well. Missouri 45, Indiana 42