Saturday, September 21, 2013
Big Ten Week 4 primer
By Brian Bennett
Week 4 doesn't offer the most appealing slate of games. But Michigan State and Indiana have big ones, Minnesota will get a test, and we have our first conference game of the year. Here's everything you need to know to be ready, starting with the schedule (all times ET):
San Jose State (1-1) at Minnesota (3-0), ESPN2: Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson is not expected to play because of a hamstring injury, so freshman Mitch Leidner will have to lead the offense against the best team on Minnesota's nonconference schedule. San Jose State quarterback David Fales threw for more than 4,100 yards last season and is considered an NFL prospect.
Florida A&M (1-2) at No. 4 Ohio State (3-0), Big Ten Network: Braxton Miller will be a game-time decision for the Buckeyes, while Carlos Hyde returns from suspension. Other than that, not much to see in arguably the most lopsided matchup involving a Big Ten team this year.
Western Michigan (0-3) at Iowa (2-1), BTN: WMU lost to Michigan State and Northwestern by a combined 34 points and fell to FCS Nicholls State at home. So the Hawkeyes have a great shot at being 3-1 by late this afternoon if they can avoid a disaster like last year's Central Michigan home loss.
Maine (3-0) at No. 18 Northwestern (3-0), BTN: The Wildcats simply need to make sure they don't look ahead, as they have a bye week followed by the critical Ohio State showdown coming up after this mismatch.
South Dakota State (3-0) at Nebraska (2-1), BTN: Quarterback Taylor Martinez is questionable because of turf toe. The most interesting thing in this game will be how the crowd reacts to Bo Pelini after quite possibly the toughest week of Pelini's career.
Kent State (1-2) at Penn State (2-1), BTN: The Nittany Lions look for a bounce-back effort on defense after losing at home to UCF last week. The good news is that Darrell Hazell's old team is averaging just 17 points per game so far.
Purdue (1-2) at No. 24 Wisconsin (2-1), ABC/ESPN2: Our first Big Ten conference game of 2013 pits a pair of Leaders Division teams that can take something positive from losses last week. Purdue played its best game of the year against Notre Dame and will need to come out with the same intensity against the Badgers, who have dominated this matchup in the past four years.
Michigan State (3-0) at No. 22 Notre Dame (2-1), NBC: Can Connor Cook lead the Michigan State offense to a decent showing on the road? Can Tommy Rees and the Irish offense figure out a Spartans defense that is limiting teams to 177 total yards and only 50 rushing yards per game?
No. 15 Michigan (3-0) at Connecticut (0-2), ABC: The Wolverines will look for a much cleaner performance after nearly gagging against Akron last week. Devin Gardner needs to fix his turnover problems. Teams like Michigan don't often come to Rentschler Field, and UConn has been bad in most areas so far this year.
Missouri (2-0) at Indiana (2-1), BTN: This one might not end until after midnight, as the teams are averaging a combined 98 points per game. Can Indiana's defense come up big for a second straight week? This is the only SEC-Big Ten game in the regular season, and it features a pair of teams fighting for respect.
Bye week: Illinois
We point out some places where weather could be a factor on Saturday:
There's a 90-percent chance of showers in State College for Kent State-Penn State.
There's a 60-percent chance of rain and with a possible thunderstorm in Columbus for Florida A&M-Ohio State, though rain should mostly clear out by kickoff.
There's a 90-percent chance of precipitation in East Hartford, Conn., for Michigan-UConn.
And, finally, some of our top posts from the past week: