Week 4 brought about three teams on bye for the Big Ten West. However, a statement was made by the front runner and another kind of statement was made by one of the preseason darlings and dark horses to win what was supposed to be a wacky divisional competition. Is the division already settled? Is everyone else (non-Illinois division of course) competing for second place? Only time will tell. Until more divisional contests take place, we won’t know how things will shake out. So lets review where the division stands after Week 4.
(Overall record, conference record)
Illinois Fighting Illini (2-2, 0-1)
Illinois put up both plenty of points and quite the fight against Nebraska this week in Urbana-Champaign. Unfortunately for the Fighting Illini, it did not result in a win. Quarterback Brandon Peters was uneven throughout Saturday night’s contest and running back Reggie Corbin’s excellent performance (134 yards on 20 carries with one rushing touchdown) was ruined by a Cornhusker comeback. Perhaps this game gives the orange and blue faithful some hope that their divisional games will at least be competitive if ultimately unfulfilling.
Next Up: A bye week
Iowa Hawkeyes (3-0, 1-0)
The Hawkeyes had a bye this week.
Next Up: A non-conference home game against the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State
Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-0, 0-0)
The Golden Gophers had a bye this week.
Next Up: Their conference opener against Big Ten West opponent Purdue in West Lafayette
Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-1, 1-0)
As previously mentioned above, the Cornhuskers avoided what would have been a unexpected loss to the Fighting Illini by coming back in the fourth quarter. The team was essentially willed to victory by quarterback Adrian Martinez who racked up 327 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, and 118 rushing yards. While the sophomore phenom had two lost fumbles, he was the game’s difference-maker. Nebraska’s offense gained nearly 700 yards of offense but four total turnovers hindered the final score. 10 penalties is also a troubling number for the Followers of Frost. Nebraska certainly appears vulnerable for other middling West foes to take advantage of in coming games.
Next Up: Inexplicably, College Gameday is coming to Lincoln to witness the Buckeyes play (re: destroy) Nebraska.
Northwestern Wildcats (1-2, 0-1)
The Wildcats were thoroughly trounced in Evanston by Michigan State 31-10. Starting quarterback Hunter Johnson was benched in the fourth quarter after completed 15 passes for a meager 88 yards and an interception. The Northwestern offense managed 265 total yards including 3.4 per pass and 3.2 per rush. Not great. While the Spartan defense is formidable, this performance doesn’t leave Wildcat fans with much confidence in their offense going forward. On the other side of the ball, Northwestern was rather bland. While Michigan State totaled 337 yards of offense, quarterback Brian Lewerke threw for three touchdowns. Northwestern stuffed the run, allowing only 2.7 yards per rush but were unable to create havoc plays to make a difference for their struggling offense.
Next Up: A tall task as they visit Madison and the Badgers.
Purdue Boilermakers (1-2, 0-0)
The Boilermakers had a bye this week.
Next Up: A home date with the Golden Gophers to open up conference play.
Wisconsin Badgers (3-0, 1-0)
The Badgers continued to impress in all facets of the game as they thumped the Michigan Wolverines early and often 35-14 at Camp Randall. The score was 28-0 at halftime. Wisconsin held Michigan to 2.1 yards per rush. They didn’t turn the ball over. As much as it pains me to type, the Badgers looked impressive. Running back Johnathan Taylor was his usual dominant self with 203 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Jack Coen was 13-16 for 128 yards and the Badger defense forced four Michigan turnovers. While the Wolverine offense is an absolute tire fire right now, there is no denying the Wisconsin defense has returned to its pre-late 2018 swoon form.
Next Up: A home date with the Northwestern Wildcats