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Golden Nugz: B1G Edition (9.22.15) - Michigan is getting better every week

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All the Big Ten news that's fit to print. Or not.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This column is late. Why? Because we live in a strange world where Ohio State struggles to put away MAC teams, and Northwestern leads the nation in scoring defense, that's why.

Illinois

Reality bites: After riding high for the past two weeks, Illinois came crashing back to the ground with a blowout 48-14 loss to UNC. The Illini defense came into the contest having given up only 3 points through two games, but the Tar Heels racked up nearly 500 yards of offense.

It was a case of so close yet so far for Illinois, with a number of dropped passes, missed field goals, and even just plain old fatigue (Michael Dwojak, Daily Illini). But according to at least one blogger, all is not lost (Rees Woodcock, Writing Illini).

Indiana

Great Expectations: Somehow, for reasons even Indiana fans don't really understand, the Hoosiers are 3-0, and are making the most of the opportunity. Not only are they thinking (not so seriously) about Indiana's route to the playoffs, but also about College Gameday in Bloomington for the Indiana-Ohio State game, which could be the biggest game in the program's recent history.

The Crimson Quarry's Kyle Swick asks the important question, i.e. what should Lee Corso wear?

Iowa

Field of Dreams: Iowa's season so far has been the thing that Hawkeyes fans dreamed of all off-season. A close game against a competitive opponent was just what the football gods ordered, and the 27-24 win over Pitt showcased both C.J. Beathard and Jordan Canzeri.

Iowa won on a 57-yard field goal by Marshall Koehn and the celebration afterwards may have gotten a bit out of hand, but the real star of the game was former Hawkeye Brett Greenwood who led the team out onto the field in an emotional and inspiring display.

Maryland

Judgment Day: Caleb Rowe started for the Terps against South Florida and had three interceptions, but also four touchdowns and nearly 300 yards through the air in a 35-17 romp for Maryland.

But not all was perfect. The running game failed to get untracked, and the Terps may be in for a struggle against West Virginia and the meat of the Big Ten schedule.

Michigan

(Big) House Party: The defense was so dominant in Michigan's 28-7 victory over UNLV that Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis was actually upset that the unit gave up a score in garbage time. This is a far cry from the Wolverines of just a year ago who casually dismissed a string of consecutive losses as just "statistics."

If there's room for improvement, it's probably at quarterback, and nobody knows this better than Jake Rudock himself (Nick Baumgardner, MLive).

Michigan State

Beauty and the Beast: Michigan State had a narrow escape against Air Force. In a 35-21 win, the Spartans usually stout defense gave up 7.0 yards per play to the triple-option offense. But the game also saw Aaron Burbridge emerge as a star, with 156 yards and three touchdowns.

The Spartans' reward for the close win was a move to #1 in SI's Power Rankings and seven first place votes in the AP Top 25 poll.

Nebraska

Urban Legend: It was not quite the Nebraska-Miami showdowns of old, but the Huskers' back-and-forth contest with the Canes was not without some highlight reel moments, including a furious fourth quarter comeback by Nebraska that tied the game and forced overtime. But the rally fell short when Tommy Armstrong threw a pick in OT. The ball was intercepted by a Miami player named Corn Elder. You cannot even make this stuff up.

Nebraska is now 1-2 on the season and both losses came on the last play of the game.

Northwestern

Fight Club: I don't know what anyone expected of the Wildcats this season, but a 3-0 start with two road wins over bowl teams and the #1 scoring defense in the country probably wasn't it. This set of circumstances has the Wildcats faithful (all ten of them) dreaming of a New Year's Day bowl against Alabama.

The 19-10 win over Duke was an ugly affair, the two teams combining for 10 points, 15 punts and three turnovers in the first half. Northwestern's defense and special teams made up for offensive ineptitude to score the win. It will be interesting to see if the Wildcats can keep it going against some of the Big Ten's better offenses.

Ohio State

The Great Escape: Ohio State beat Northern Illinois 20-13, but to judge by the reaction of the fans, you'd think the Buckeyes had lost the game. The offense is surprisingly ineffective, and the problems may go deeper than Urban Meyer's inability to pick a starter.

Ohio State still leads the polls, but has recently given up a lot of ground.

Penn State

The Big Hackenberg: Penn State kicked off Big Ten play by beating Kyle Flood-less Rutgers 28-3, including a 21-point burst in the second quarter that effectively sealed the game.

The highlight of the game was definitely the stripe-out of Beaver Stadium, however. One fan spent a week at the base of the stadium and lived to tell about his experiences in Nittanyville (Nick Weiss, Onward State).

Purdue

Clueless: Purdue got, um, railroaded 51-24 by Virginia Tech on Saturday. The Boilers' defense was especially hapless, giving up just under 500 yards of offense and 37 points to the Hokies. The real shocker? Purdue was actually leading 14-10 at one point, before squandering all the momentum and an opportunity to score a program-defining win.

In what is undoubtedly a knee-jerk reaction to the loss, Austin Appleby has been benched in favor of redshirt freshman David Blough, although Darell Hazel insisted this was not panic but a rational response to Appleby's turnovers against Virginia Tech (Mike Carmin, Indianapolis Star).

Rutgers

The Raritan Redemption: Rutgers could perhaps be forgiven for apparently forgetting how to football in the loss to Penn State. Four running backs combined for 80 yards total, and though quarterback Chris Laviano played well early on, he ultimately fell apart, throwing two interceptions, including one that killed an otherwise good Rutgers drive. The defense was not much better, not registering a single sack while giving up over 300 yards rushing.

There may be light at the end of the tunnel. For one, the rumor mill suggests Chip Kelly may find a new home at Rutgers. For another, Rutgers play Kansas, so a win is almost guaranteed.

Wisconsin

Goodfellas: Wisconsin barely broke a sweat against Troy and won the game easily 28-3. In the process, the Badgers rediscovered their traditional identity as a power rushing team.

Wisconsin lost two key players, Leon Jacobs and Derrick Tindal, to ejection based on some questionable targeting callsduring the game. This may prove costly when the Badgers take on Hawaii next week.