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Big Ten Week 4 Preview and Predictions

Author:
Randy Gregory

Randy Gregory

Turn back the clock to the the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s. In fact, Nebraska and Miami might prefer that you do.

Nebraska and Miami will play the rare in-season matchup, but the two teams played in five bowl games that helped define the era. The Cornhuskers and Hurricanes met in six bowl games from 1983-2001 with four of those meetings resulting in a national championship.

The Cornhuskers, despite the Big Ten’s struggles, still have all of their goals in play this season, but not if they can’t defeat Miami.

As non-conference play starts to wind down, here’s a look at the week ahead in the Big Ten.

Week 4 Previews and Predictions
ACC| Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC

Big Ten Week 4 Game Power Rankings

All games Saturday, all times Eastern.

1. Miami at Nebraska

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8 p.m., ESPN2

Hard to believe, but these two storied programs haven’t met since Miami’s 37-14 rout of an Eric Crouch-led Nebraska team for the 2001 national title. Moreover, this pair of teams that met in four classic Orange Bowl matchups hasn’t played during the regular season since 1976. This meeting will lack the luster of any of those bowl games, with Miami already 0-1 in the ACC and Nebraska carrying the flag for an otherwise embarrassed Big Ten. The Cornhuskers have defeated FBS opponents 110-26 this season with a 31-24 escape against McNeese State of the FCS the only real cause for concern for Nebraska’s outlook.

Nebraska’s defense is at full strength with the return of end Randy Gregory this week, who leads a rejuvenated Huskers pass rush (four sacks vs. Fresno State last week). Still, all eyes should be on running back Ameer Abdullah. This may be his opportunity to vault into the Heisman race. He has the numbers (second in the Big Ten in all-purpose and rushing yards, both to Indiana’s Tevin Coleman), he has the highlight against McNeese State and he has the creative award campaign. All he needs is a big game against a major opponent on a national stage.

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2. Utah at Michigan

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3:30, ABC/ESPN2

Michigan’s tour of past embarrassing losses continues. After dispatching of Appalachian State 52-14 in a rematch of the 2007 loss, Michigan faces Utah. The Utes handed the Wolverines a 25-23 loss in Ann Arbor in the debut for Rich Rodriguez in 2008. Michigan, however, has more recent losses for which to atone — the 31-0 defeat to Notre Dame two weeks ago, for example. Michigan’s 34-10 win over Miami (Ohio) was a nice rebound from the Notre Dame loss, especially with the return of cornerback Jabrill Peppers and tight end Jake Butt. But Michigan is still a team with clear flaws. The Wolverines have recorded one takeaway and four sacks on defense and remains capable of turnovers in bunches on offense.

3. Iowa at Pittsburgh

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Noon, ESPNU

Northern Iowa and Ball State couldn’t make Iowa pay for playing a subpar game.  Iowa State finally did. Now, the Hawkeyes play their toughest opponent of the season in Pittsburgh. If there’s any consolation in this matchup, Iowa has yet to allow 100 yards rushing in a game this season. Iowa is one of eight teams not to allow a rushing touchdown this season and ranks eighth at 2.26 yards allowed per carry. The run game — specifically national rushing leader James Conner — is the cornerstone of the Pittsburgh offense. Iowa’s offense has no such identity after averaging a season-low 4.04 yards per play against Iowa State.

4. Maryland at Syracuse

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12:30, ACC Network

Maryland continues its start to the Big Ten era with its third consecutive game against the old Big East (USF, West Virginia at Syracuse). The Terrapins will need to recover from allowing more yards against West Virginia (694) than they did in its first two games combined (559). Syracuse doesn’t run the Air Raid like WVU, but quarterback Terrel Hunt will be tough to contain. Meanwhile, Maryland’s offense continues its identity crisis. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs finally had his breakout game of the season in the shootout against West Virginia, but the tailbacks were virtually non-existent. Quarterback C.J. Brown ran the ball 18 times on a variety of scrambles, designed runs and read options. No one else on the Maryland offense had more than four carries.

5. Indiana at Missouri

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4 p.m., SEC Network

A game with two high-powered spread offenses from the Big 12 school of thinking always has shootout potential. Perhaps Indiana will have the key player to neutralize Missouri’s once-again formidable pass rush led by ends Markus Golden and Shane Ray. Indiana running back Tevin Coleman has rushed for a touchdown in 11 consecutive games he’s played for 17 total. Coleman leads the nation with 437 rushing yards this year.

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6. Bowling Green at Wisconsin

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Noon, ESPN2

Wisconsin will find out if its off week came at a good time, especially Melvin Gordon. The bread-and-butter of the Wisconsin offense has been hobbled with a hip injury since the second half of the opener against LSU, contributing to 38 rushing yards on 17 carries against Western Illinois two weeks ago. Wisconsin’s defense also will be tested against a team that ran 113 plays in a 45-42 win over Indiana despite being down to a second-string quarterback.

7. Rutgers at Navy

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3:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

A road trip against Navy doesn’t set up well for a team that just suffered a 13-10 home loss to Penn State. Navy’s option already has proved plenty effective against one Big Ten team (370 yards, two touchdowns against Ohio State). Rutgers’ athletic defensive line will be on the spot.

8. UMass at Penn State

4 p.m., Big Ten Network

UMass may be the weakest opponent Penn State has faced so far, but even the 0-3 Minutemen might not be a pushover. UMass took both Colorado and Vanderbilt to the wire in losses by a combined a field goal each. Perhaps overlooked in Penn State’s season — which has included the debut of James Franklin, the lifting of NCAA sanctions and heroics from Christian Hackenberg and Sam Ficken — has been the play of the front seven. Penn State has picked up seven tackles for a loss in each game this season, led by defensive tackle Anthony Zettel’s seven.

9. San Jose State at Minnesota

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4 p.m., Big Ten Network

Injuries are already starting to cut into the Minnesota offense with quarterback Mitch Leidner playing through turf toe. Left tackle Zac Epping and running back David Cobb are also battling ankle injuries. All of it — plus Minnesota’s limitations in the passing game — caught up with the Gophers in a 30-7 loss at TCU last week. Minnesota should be able to run the ball on a San Jose State team that has allowed 5.8 yards per carry and seven touchdowns in two games. What that means for Big Ten play is up for discussion.

10. Texas State at Illinois

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4 p.m., ESPNews

Illinois got a wake-up call when it lost 44-19 to Washington, a score that’s not too surprising. Illinois will need to bounce back against Texas State, a program three years removed from FCS status, if the Illini are to have any shot at a bowl game.

11. Eastern Michigan at Michigan State

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Noon, Big Ten Network

Michigan State is 21-3 all-time against the directional Michigans, with all three losses coming to Central Michigan. No reason for that trend to change.

12. Western Illinois at Northwestern

Noon, ESPNews

This would be a good time for Northwestern to end its 1-9 skid. Northwestern’s next seven games are: at Penn State, Wisconsin, at Minnesota, Nebraska, at Iowa, Michigan and at Notre Dame.

13. Southern Illinois at Purdue

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Noon, Big Ten Network

Purdue played well in a 30-14 loss to Notre Dame, leading the game until the final 13 seconds of the first half. The Boilermakers can’t let that encouraging moment slip away against an FCS opponent.

Week 4 Big Ten Staff Picks

 

David Fox

Braden Gall

Steven Lassan

Mitch Light

Iowa at Pitt (-7)

Pitt 27-10

Pitt 27-20

Pitt 27-20

Pitt 27-17

Eastern Mich. at Michigan State (-45)

MSU 52-7

MSU 45-0

MSU 48-3

MSU 41-0

Western Ill. at Northwestern

NW 35-21

NW 30-13

NW 40-10

NW 33-10

Southern Ill. at Purdue

Pur 28-10

Pur 34-17

Pur 34-20

Pur 27-7

Bowling Green at Wisconsin (-27)

Wisc 42-24

Wisc 42-24

Wisc 41-20

Wisc 44-20

Maryland at Syracuse (-1)

Cuse 27-24

Cuse 34-30

Md 27-24

Md 24-20

Utah at Michigan (-5)

Utah 27-21

Mich 28-27

Mich 27-24

Utah 30-27

Rutgers at Navy (-6)

Navy 31-28

Navy 34-30

Navy 31-27

Navy 27-20

UMass at Penn State (-27)

PSU 31-13

PSU 34-13

PSU 38-10

PSU 34-14

San Jose St. at Minnesota (-9)

Minn 35-17

Minn 35-27

Minn 31-20

Minn 28-14

Texas State at Illinois (-14)

Illinois 38-14

Illinois 38-30

Illinois 38-20

Illinois 34-10

Indiana at Missouri (-14)

Mizzou 48-28

Mizzou 42-17

Mizzou 35-24

Mizzou 40-17

Miami at Nebraska (-8)

Neb 38-14

Neb 41-31

Neb 31-24

Neb 27-21

Last Week

8-2

7-3

8-2

6-4

This Season

29-8

28-9

29-8

25-12