This week didn’t reveal all that much about the division except that it might not be as decided as one might have thought. The top team, in the form of the Wisconsin Badgers, showed some signs of vulnerability and the hopeful challengers, Iowa and Minnesota, continued to beat teams that were designated as “should-wins” by their respective fan bases. Separation is beginning to reveal itself in the form of relatively noticeable tiers and the division does appear to be pretty weak as a whole despite having three undefeated teams at the moment.
(Overall record, conference record)
Illinois Fighting Illini (2-2, 0-1)
Illinois had a bye week
Next Up: The Illini visit the undefeated Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis
Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0, 1-0)
The Hawkeyes dominated the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 48-3 in Iowa City this past Saturday. This included racking up 644 yards of total offense while allowing only 216 yards. Nate Stanley was efficient and effective and Iowa averaged 6.9 yards per rush in a game that had no turnovers for either team. Because MTSU ranks 115th out of 130 in SP+, this result doesn’t really say much about Iowa except that they can take care of business.
Next Up: A trip to Ann Arbor to face the Michigan Wolverines
Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-0, 1-0)
The Golden Gophers had a day offensively in West Lafayette as they defeated the Purdue Boilermakers by a score of 38-31. Tanner Morgan was nearly perfect going 21-22 for 396 yards and four touchdowns. The three-headed receiving monster of Rashod Bateman, Chris Autman-Bell, and Tyler Johnson combined for four touchdowns, 17 receptions (including 20.4 yards per reception), and 347 yards receiving. Rodney Smith eclipsed the 100 yard mark for the first time this season and average 5.2 yards per carry. The defense left something to be desired, especially considering Purdue’s injuries but Kamal Martin’s two interceptions were a bright spot.
Next Up: Homecoming against the Illinois Fighting Illini
Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-2, 1-1)
The Cornhuskers got the pants beat off of them at home on national TV by the Ohio State Buckeyes 48-7. There aren’t many things to take away from this game except for the massive chasm of talent, execution, and quality that exists between Ohio State and Nebraska.
Next Up: Northwestern comes to Lincoln in a Big Ten West clash
Northwestern Wildcats (1-3, 0-2)
In a bizarre game, the Wildcats fell to Wisconsin in Madison 24-15 despite out-gaining the Badgers on offense. This isn’t to say that the Wildcats were successful on offense because they rushed for an average of 2.4 yards and passed for 158. What ultimately doomed Northwestern were turnovers, including two fumbles and one interception. There was split duty at quarterback with both Hunter Johnson and Aidan Smith throwing 20+ attempts but neither found much success. Smith replaced Johnson in the 3rd quarter in attempts to jump start the brutally stagnant Wildcat defense (now 123rd in SP+ rating). While the defense held Johnathan Taylor to pedestrian numbers (well, at least by his standards), they couldn’t overcome a complete lack of explosion plays on the offensive side of the ball.
Next Up: The Wildcats travel to Lincoln to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers
Purdue Boilermakers (1-3, 0-1)
The Boilermakers fell to Minnesota 38-31 in a game where the Purdue secondary appeared to be in a bit of a malaise. It didn’t help matters that the black and gold lost starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar and All-American receiver Rondale Moore to injuries on the same play. However, backup quarterback Jack Plummer acquitted himself quite well and the Boilermakers at least made things interesting in the fourth quarter of a game where perhaps they should have been trying to recover onside kicks a little earlier based on the execution of the play and their secondary issues.
Next Up: The Boilermakers journey to Penn State
Wisconsin Badgers (4-0, 2-0)
The Badgers displayed their first weakness in a 24-15 win over Northwestern. First off, they were out-gained by one of the worst offenses in the country. While running back Johnathan Taylor ran for 119 yards (4.6 per carry) and added a touchdown, quarterback Jack Coan compiled 113 yards on 24 attempts and an interception. His 18.8 QBR for the game didn’t scream quality. Fortunately for Wisconsin, their now-1st ranked (SP+) defense dominated the proceedings, including out scoring the offense with two touchdowns on the day and tallying three forced turnovers, five sacks, and 14 tackles for loss.
Next Up: Wisconsin receives a visit from non-conference cupcake Kent State