Welcome to the second straight week with all Big Ten teams playing at home. Except for Michigan, who apparently didn't get the memo to play at Michigan Stadium this week. Instead, they head to South Bend looking to drag Notre Dame down into the muck of one-loss land that the Wolverines and numerous other Big Ten teams find themselves in. The only two B1G teams to stub their toe at home last week were Indiana and Michigan State. The Hoosier defense disappointed in a 41-39 loss to Ball State, while the Spartan offense had Wisconsin-like issues in a 20-3 loss to the aforementioned Fighting Irish.
Beyond Michigan/Notre Dame, it's hard to pinpoint any other games involving Big Ten teams worth watching. It's a steady diet of assorted non-AQ competition especially heavy on the MAC opponents. The real winners this week may be Indiana and Purdue fans who are spared from having to watch their teams line up against subpar competition thanks to the merciful bye week. After the jump we'll take a look at who could stumble at home in their final tuneup before conference play commences next week.
Week 4 Games (all games on Saturday):
11 AM CT:
UTEP Miners (1-2) at Wisconsin Badgers (2-1) [ESPN2]: If the Badger coaching staff really believes that Joel Stave has what it takes to be the permanent starting quarterback, they surely didn't tip their hand with the conservative play-calling when he was on the field last week. Wisconsin should win as UTEP's offense isn't imposing, but whether or not Wisconsin displays any semblance of offensive success will determine how happy Badger fans are following the game today.
Line: Wisconsin -18. Prediction: Wisconsin 24, UTEP 13.
UAB Blazers (0-2) at #16 Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0) [BTN]: Ohio State had the most impressive victory in the conference last week with their 35-28 win over California, yet fell four spots in the AP Poll. Voters apparently weren't impressed as the Buckeyes trailed briefly in the fourth quarter and were expected to win by more than one touchdown. UAB comes to Columbus this week fresh off of a 49-6 loss to South Carolina. Nothing to see here except an easy Buckeyes win.
Line: Ohio State -35.5. Prediction: Ohio State 41, UAB 10.
Central Michigan Chippewas (1-1) at Iowa Hawkeyes (2-1) [BTN]: The Hawkeyes are one of numerous Big Ten teams with major issues on the offensive side of the ball. Which means it's a good time for them to be hosting Central Michigan, who made Michigan State look like an offensive juggernaut two weeks ago in a 41-7 home loss to the Spartans. Expect the Hawkeyes to easily exceed their 17 points scored per game average in a comfortable victory over the Chippewas.
Line: Iowa -14.5. Prediction: Iowa 34, Central Michigan 13.
2:30 PM CT:
Temple Owls (1-1) at Penn State Nittany Lions (1-2) [ABC/ESPN2]: The last two meetings of this yearly Keystone State showdown featured defensive slugfests with the Nittany Lions coming out on top in both cases. The Owls have lost 29 straight games to the Lions, and coming up with that elusive victory won't be easy to do in always raucous Beaver Stadium. Penn State got their first taste of victory last week over Navy and I see them riding that momentum to another win this week, but Temple should be able to keep it close for a third straight year.
Line: Penn State -7. Prediction: Penn State 20, Temple 16.
Eastern Michigan Eagles (0-3) at #21 Michigan State Spartans (2-1) [BTN]: Well, the good news is that the Spartans defense is for real, holding Notre Dame to only 20 points despite repeatedly being put behind the eight-ball by a Michigan State offense that sputtered the entire evening. The bad news is, well, that the offense looked incompetent. MSU is missing Kirk Cousins nearly as much as Wisconsin is missing Russell Wilson. The Spartans will take out their frustrations on Eastern Michigan, but that won't change the fact that they are yet another Big Ten team dealing with serious problems on offense.
Line: Michigan State -31. Prediction: Michigan State 42, Eastern Michigan 3.
Idaho State Bengals (1-1) at #25 Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-1) [BTN]: Last week, Idaho State played the Black Hills State Yellow Jackets, a school currently in the process transitioning up into NCAA Division II. Obviously, playing the Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium will be slightly more difficult. I'm going to go ahead and put it on record that I think that Nebraska will win not only this game against the Bengals but also the Legends Division title.
Line: Nebraska -40.5. Prediction: Nebraska 56, Idaho State 17.
South Dakota Coyotes (1-1) at Northwestern Wildcats (3-0) [BTN]: The unblemished Wildcats take on the sacrificial FBS lamb for Wisconsin last season, the South Dakota Coyotes. Then-head coach Ed Meierkort was fired after a 6-5 season last year, which surprised me because I was impressed with his ability to draw attention to his school with interesting and unbridled quotes. (Or maybe I just like him because he said: "This isn't the Golden Gophers. This is the Badgers.") Regardless, Northwestern continues to set the standard for both athletic and academic performance in the Big Ten with a victory over the Coyotes.
Line: Northwestern -33.5. Prediction: Northwestern 45, South Dakota 20.
6:30 PM CT:
#18 Michigan Wolverines (2-1) at #11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-0) [NBC]: With a win tonight, the Fighting Irish would do what they haven't done since 2002: go undefeated against the Big Ten opponents on their schedule. Michigan has won three straight in this series, and they will push hard for number four in this heated Midwestern rivalry. There might not be as many offensive fireworks tonight as we've become accustomed to in this rivalry, thanks to a stronger Irish defense. Though Michigan State fell flat on their face against ND last week, the Irish are certainly beatable. The biggest question in this game revolves around whether or not the Michigan defense will be able to successfully contain the Notre Dame offense. My guess is that they will not be able to do so in crunch time, and the Irish hold down Denard Robinson and company just enough to come away with a close win.
Line: Notre Dame -6. Prediction: Notre Dame 28, Michigan 24.
7:00 PM CT:
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (2-0) at Illinois Fighting Illini (2-1) [BTN]: We don't know as much about Louisiana Tech as we would have if their opener versus Texas A&M hadn't been postponed due to a hurricane. So far, the Bulldogs have won a pair of barn-burners, scoring exactly 56 points against both Houston and Rice. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase should be back in action for the Illini, and I don't see why they wouldn't be successful on that side of the ball against the Bulldogs. I wouldn't overlook La. Tech in this one, but the safe bet is an Illinois victory.
Line: Illinois -3. Prediction: Illinois 31, Louisiana Tech 27.
Syracuse Orange (1-2) at Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-0) [BTN]: Sorry, but if you think I'm putting my faith in sophomore quarterback and ginger Max Shortell to lead the Gophers to their fourth straight victory in this young season, you've got another thing coming. I'm still trying to figure out what the heck happened in that Syracuse/Northwestern game a couple of weeks ago, but the Orange will get it done at TCF Bank- you can take that guarantee to the bank.
Line: Syracuse -1. Prediction: Syracuse 34, Minnesota 30.