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Big Ten Preview: Week 4


For the third of four weeks, there's at least one game in the Big Ten that pits two top 25 teams against each other; for the second time each, that game involves Michigan and Notre Dame, who meet in South Bend this week. The Wolverines are the only team in the conference on the road this week, and the only team not favored to win.

Both schools located in the great state of Indiana have a bye week going into conference play next week.

Illinois (2-1) vs Louisiana Tech (2-0)

Line: Illinois -3 LA Tech was scheduled to kick off the season versus Texas A&M, but that game was postponed due to Isaac. In their two games since, the Bulldogs have scored 56 points in each outing, running a no-huddle offense similar in style to Arizona State, the team that the Illini lost to in week two.

Likely winner: push. Illinois QB Reilly O'Toole had a school-record 83.9% completion rate last week, but original season starter Nathan Scheelhaase should be back against LA Tech. There could be a quarterback battle brewing in Champaign, but if their defense can't get enough stops, that may not matter.

Iowa (2-1) vs Central Michigan (1-1)

Line: Iowa -15 The Chippewas are coming off a bye week after a beatdown at the hands of Michigan State two weeks ago. One good spot for Central Michigan? Penalties--they are the only school in the FBS to be penalty-free headed into week four of play.

Likely winner: Iowa. The AIRBHG strikes again, as it looks like walk-on Mark Weisman will be starting for the Hawkeyes due to injuries to Damon Bullock and Greg Garmon. It shouldn't matter much, though; Weisman ran for 113 yards and three touchdowns in Iowa's victory last week versus Northern Iowa, a team that, despite its lower division, may be better than this week's opponent.

Michian (2-1) vs Notre Dame (3-0)

Line: Notre Dame -5 The injury bug is hitting the Wolverines hard, with four players already out for the entire season due to injuries, and many more having lost significant time so far this year.

Likely winner: push. This is Notre Dame's first 3-0 start in ten years, and they look to build on a top-fifteen win last week at Spartan Stadium. Last year in this game, the Irish were leading until Michigan scored 28 fourth quarter points.

Michigan State (2-1) vs Eastern Michigan (0-3)

Line: Michigan State -33 What better way to rebound from a disappointing home loss against Notre Dame than by playing a MAC traditional bottom feeder? Last week, MSU failed to score a touchdown, never reached the redzone, its vaunted defense gave up its first TD of the season, and its offense scored the team's fewest points at home since 1991. This week will be a different story.

Likely winner: Michigan State. EMU lost to Purdue by almost forty points last week, and the Boilermakers' defense isn't the Spartans' defense. This one should be out of reach by early in the second quarter.

Minnesota (3-0) vs Syracuse (1-2)

Line: Minnesota -1 Syracuse finally got a win last week over FCS Stony Brook after starting off the season with close losses against Northwestern and USC. Minnesota's dual threat quarterback, MarQueis Gray, looks to be out due to an ankle injury sustained last week, and sophomore Max Shortell, more of a pocket passer, looks to start after a 3 TD performance versus Western Michigan after Gray's injury.

Likely winner: push. This might be one of the most interesting games on the conference slate this week, at least when the Golden Gophers D and Orange O are on the field: Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib has thrown for over 300 yards in every game they've played, and Minnesota has the #5 passing efficiency defense in the nation.

Nebraska (2-1) vs Idaho State (1-1)

Line: n/a Nebraska coach Bo Pelini looks to be fine after being taken to the hospital as a precaution during halftime of last week's win over Arkansas State, and it turns out his absense didn't impact the Cornhuskers too much. Idaho State, an FCS school, lost to Air Force in week one before beating Black Hills State and their bye week in subsequent weeks.

Likely winner: Nebraska. Last week, the Huskers had 59 pass plays to 14 running plays. That lopsided dynamic should shift this week, when Nebraska gets back star running back Rex Burkhead, who had sprained his MCL in the first quarter of the team's season opener.

Northwestern (3-0) vs South Dakota (1-1)

Line: n/a This is the FCS school that meat Minnesota at Minnesota in 2010, but Northwestern is decidedly not 2010 Minnesota. It may not even be 2011 Northwestern, without Dan Persa, but they're off to a good start, with three solid wins under their belt versus Syracus, Vanderbilt, and Boston College. In typical (lately, at least) Wildcat fashion, none of these wins were blowouts, and all were fairly high schoring. Still...

Likely winner: Northwestern. Pat Fitzgerald has been switching between Kain Coulter (for running situations) and Trevor Siemian (for more passing downs), but whomever the signal caller, Northwestern should be undefeated headed into conference play.

Ohio State (3-0) vs University of Alabama-Birmingham (0-2)

Line: Ohio State -36.5 The Blazers are a pretty young team, as evidenced by the fact that five of the six cornerbacks they used against South Carolina last week were freshman. That doesn't bode well for their chances this week, as the Buckeyes look for win #400 inside the Horseshoe.

Likely winner: Ohio State. OSU running back Carlos Hyde is still out with an injury, but the home team will get RB Jordan Hall back in its lineup this week. The most interesting part of this matchup is Blazer o-line coach John Peterson, who played for Ohio State and coached at OSU from 2004-2011.

Wisconsin (2-1) vs University of Texas-El Paso (1-2)

Line: Wisconsin -18 Penn State isn't the only team with kicking problems: UTEP's starting kicker is 0-4 for field goals this year, and his back up had an extra point blocked and a missed snap on a field goal attempt last week in the Miners' win over New Mexico State. It likely won't make much difference in Madison.

Likely winner: Wisconsin. As of this writing, Bret Bielema hasn't named a starting quarterback for this game after benching Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien in favor of freshman Joel Stave in last week's close victory over Utah State. Whomever the quarterback will be, they'll have an extra target in WR Jared Abbrederis, who is cleared to play again after leaving the field in week two in an ambulance after a chest injury.

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