Still riding out the non-conference schedule this week but with a shakeup in the rankings. Nebraska choked big time and dropped out of the top 25 completely. Michigan squeaked one out against an Akron team that looked a lot more like their neighbors in Columbus. Unless they win the conference championship, medicine it’s safe to say the Wolverines can kiss their BCS bowl bid adieu. But hey, I’m sure there’s great swag at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Michigan State at No. 22 Notre Dame, 2:30pm on NBC
The Spartans 3-0 start is impressive (so is their top-ranked defense only allowing 177 yards per game), but those numbers are also pretty deceiving. The 22nd ranked Irish will be by far their most capable opponent, so this week will be a good test to see just how good that Spartan defense really is.
Why you should care: The most intriguing matchup is the Spartan’s rush defense against Notre Dame’s ground game. Senior middle linebacker Max Bullough is a big reason why Spartan opponents are only averaging 1.8 yards per carry. And Notre Dame’s rushing attack? Abysmal; they’re ranked 92nd in the country. So big part of the Irish scoring will have to come from quarterback Tommy Rees; he was named offensive player of the week after his impressive showing against Purdue last week (20 for 33 on 309 yards and two touchdowns).
My take: Michigan State has a lot of fight in them, but I think the Irish take it in a close one.
Maine at No. 18 Northwestern, 2:30pm on Big Ten Network
This is going to be a tough week for the Black Bears. They’re going up against probably
the best team their program has faced ever (ever!), they’re doing it on the road and they have to face a Wildcat defense that’s first in interceptions with eight over three games. Some would even argue that this team could represent the Legends in the Big Ten title game.
Both teams are coming into this matchup 3-0, and Maine does have some strengths. Namely their defense; they’ve given up on average 14 points per game. And if last year’s Wildcats show up (you know, the ones that spent three quarters letting teams run up the score and then coming back for a nail biter in the fourth), this could spell out trouble.
Why you should care: If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one. That’s not the case for the Wildcats who have successfully switched between pocket-passing Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter who is more of a threat on the ground than he is in in the air. More than anything, this will be a great opportunity to get creative with this (incredibly risky and potentially disastrous) two-quarterback system. Maine is happy with a more traditional quarterback scenario, and they’ve gotten great play out of senior Marcus Wasilewski. He racked up four touchdowns and went 23 for 32 for 236 yards to seven different receivers last week against Bryant.
My take: Northwestern heads into their Bye next week and then faces #4 Ohio State primetime on ABC. This has the makings for a trap game if they’re not careful.
Around the division
Western Michigan at Iowa, 11:00am on Big Ten Network
Next week, when the only game the Legends have on slate is Iowa at Minnesota, I will have to write at length about both the Hawkeyes and the Gophers. Lord help me.
South Dakota State at Nebraska 2:30pm on Big Ten Network
You gave up 35 consecutive points after you build a 21-3 lead. Your defense gets
absolutely shredded for over 500 yards in three quarters. And you drop out of the top 25 after losing a game you had in the bag. But on the bright side, at least no tape surfaced of your coach ripping a new one into your diehard fans. Oh wait….
San Jose State at Minnesota, 11:00am on ESPN2
Head coach Jerry Kill has returned to work after suffering an epileptic seizure during last week’s win over Western Illinois, and he’ll be coaching from the sidelines (not upstairs in the booth) Saturday.
No. 15 Michigan at Connecticut, 7:00pm on ABC
It took the Wolverines a last-second defensive stop on the one-yard line to beat Akron. They’ll probably put up 60 on UConn. Just because.