This week we step more of a toe into conference play in earnest. So far there have been some conference games each week, and Illinois has even played two league games so far. Purdue, Michigan, and Rutgers are the only teams in the league that have not played a conference game yet, but that changes this week as they play each other on Saturday.
This week also marks many of the final non-conference games and the formal end of the Big Ten/MAC challenge. It has been a while since we have had a season where a MAC team has not beaten a Big Ten team, but this will probably be it. Yes, last year’s weird year of no non-conference games meant no MAC wins, but you have to go back to 2005 for the last time they didn’t get at least one pelt (and we were happy to assist them in 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2018), but at least we were not the sole reason the streak kept going in those years.
Barring a bowl game matchup this week is the last week for the MAC to continue its run.
Villanova (3-0) at #6 Penn State (3-0) Noon, BTN
For the second week in a row Penn State hosts a ranked opponent, as Villanova is ranked 11th in the FCS poll. It won’t matter. Penn State rolls as expected. Penn State 45, Villanova 10
#12 Notre Dame (3-0) vs. #18 Wisconsin (1-1) Soldier Field, Chicago, IL Noon, FOX
I would describe this game as sluggish. Both teams have kind of mucked around through their three games so far. They have been underwhelming, but Wisconsin had a week off last week. Can they finish the job and do what Florida State, Toledo, and Purdue couldn’t do by closing out a game in the fourth quarter? All three of those teams had their chances to beat the Irish. All three missed. Notre Dame 27, Wisconsin 24
Bowling Green (1-2) at Minnesota (2-1) Noon, ESPNU
Purdue’s week 5 opponent gets one of those MAC games as they come off of a completely dominant performance at Colorado. The Gophers are a good team and they have an offensive line that just steamrolls everyone. They sat on Colorado’s head for four quarters last week on defense too. Bowling Green is 1-2, but lost to Tennessee and South Alabama. If they make this a game Purdue’s chances improve for next week. Minnesota 30, Bowling Green 17
Ohio (0-3) at Northwestern (1-2) Noon, BTN
Ohio is bad. They are one of nine teams left in the country without at least one victory. They even lost a home game to FCS Duquesne, which I am not even sure is a scholarship level program. Regardless, a loss for the Wildcats here would be pretty disastrous, and it is a great chance to work some things out. Northwestern 31, Ohio 13
Colorado State (1-2) at #5 Iowa (3-0) 3:30pm, Fox Sports 1
The Rams have not been good this year, losing to an FCS team and a Vanderbilt team that lost to an FCS team. They did beat Toledo last week by 16 points, so maybe Colorado State can beat Notre Dame? I don’t know. Regardless, Iowa needs to figure things out offensively. They have the worst offense in the league, but have been buoyed by a defense that has scored three touchdowns. They are vulnerable, but not to the Rams. Iowa 21, Colorado State 7
Rutgers (3-0, 0-0) at #19 Michigan (3-0, 0-0) 3:30pm, ABC
Though both teams were bad last year they played one of the more entertaining games of the season with Michigan winning in multiple overtimes. Rutgers has looked solid through three games and might even be a bowl team, but this is their first real test. Michigan has looked even better and has absolutely dominated its competition thus far. They should roll in this one. Michigan 34, Rutgers 17
Illinois (1-3, 1-1) at Purdue (2-1, 0-0) 3:30pm, BTN
So far, Purdue has passed the “Show improvement and get to a bowl” test. Illinois is arguably the weakest team left on the schedule, so any loss on Saturday would be flunking the next part of that test. I have a hard time seeing a path to a bowl game if we lose to an Illinois team that has not been great defensively and is an offensive mess. The weather will be good, so we’re not playing them in Dagobah during a storm like two years ago. Purdue should win comfortably, but not in blowout fashion. Purdue 31, Illinois 17
Kent State (1-2) at Maryland (3-0) 3:30pm, BTN
Maryland is another team that is a bit of a surprise at 3-0, and with a win over the Golden Flashes they will be looking at the Rutgers, Minnesota, and Indiana games as “get to a bowl” games. They are the only team in the conference with a better passing offense than Purdue. Kent State’s opponents have varied wildly, as they blew out VMI 60-10, but lost on the road to Texas A&M and Iowa. Maryland 27, Kent State 14
Nebraska (2-2, 0-1) at #20 Michigan State (3-0, 1-0) 7pm, Fox Sports 1
Michigan State has looked really good and Nebraska is hanging by a thread right now. They need to get to a bowl game and with a loss that path becomes very complicated, as they would need to get at least one from Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, or Iowa while not dropping any other game. They looked better against Oklahoma last week, but they are still a dysfunctional mess at least a few times per game. Michigan State 28, Nebraska 13
Akron (1-2) at #10 Ohio State (2-1) 7:30pm, BTN
This year marks a century since the Buckeyes last lost to an in-state opponent, and that was a 7-6 loss to Oberlin on October 8, 1921. That’s a streak of 43 consecutive games, and it seems unlikely to end this year, but the Bucks have been underwhelming at best. Akron lost to Auburn and Temple, so even underwhelming will be enough. Ohio State 52, Akron 10
Indiana (1-2) at Western Kentucky (1-1) 8pm, CBS Sports Network
Crimson Quarry still totally exists as a site.
It would be wise of Michael Penix Jr. would stop throwing interceptions, as he has a half dozen of them so far and seems very determined to throw them. This game is exactly the type that old Indiana would lose. The Hilltoppers have a blowout FCS win, a narrow road loss at a good Army team, a week off to prepare, and they are playing at home. If Indiana really is a good team they win. If not, they will miss a bowl game during their OMG GREATEST SEASON EVAR WE CAN CHALLENGE FOR THE EAST AND EVEN THE PLAYOFF! Indiana 31, Western Kentucky 28