As we enter the last full week of non-conference play for the Big Ten conference, there's actually a handful of more intriguing matchups compared to recent weeks. The games start off interestingly enough with Michigan hosting a Brigham Young team that has already knocked off Nebraska and Boise State, easily providing Michigan their biggest test since their road opener at Utah. The Wolverines have struggled on offense, particularly at quarterback, but facing Oregon State and UNLV the last two weeks at home made their struggles irrelevant. Now Michigan will face a team that is fully capable of beating them and might actually be the better team in general, even if they're relegated to a backup quarterback (who quickly made a name for himself with some late game heroics in the first two weeks).
Outside of the top noon game, we also have a Purdue team already turning to their backup quarterback (again...sigh) in hopes of desperately avoiding a loss to a Bowling Green team that can straight up sling out. Considering Purdue's woeful defense last week versus Virginia Tech's backup quarterback and this could get ugly...but not as ugly as Kansas and Rutgers. The honest reality is Rutgers, even short handed, is a considerably better team and this game shouldn't be close. But Kansas has been a punching bag for 2015 when it comes to jokes about the worst power conference team while Rutgers has had so many off-the-field issues that this matchup is just unfortunate.
Other games of note include Maryland traveling to face West Virginia on Fox Sports 1, probably the second biggest game of the day. Also of note is an Indiana team that has struggled with the likes of Southern Illinois and Florida International, now set to head to Wake Forest, one of the worst teams in the ACC. On paper the Hoosiers have the offense to make this a cakewalk but at the same time they probably shouldn't have struggled so heavily on their way to a 3-0 start, so who knows. We also have a Minnesota team hosting a better MAC opponent in Ohio, which will be problematic if they play as poorly as they did versus Kent State last weekend. Finally in primetime we get Northwestern and Wisconsin both hosting inferior opponents they should be fully capable of dealing with, though Ball State's offense could put up some points on the Wildcats if they overlook their opponent. I vaguely remember a recently ranked Northwestern team playing at night against an inferior foe (Purdue) led by their third string quarterback (Rob Henry) and losing unexpectedly once upon a time.
With that being said, the game shouldn't be as close this week but the storyline surrounding Ohio State's offense is probably one of the more notable issues heading into the week.
Can Ohio State Get Up to Speed?
Regardless of how he finished out last season, I think the consensus was that Urban Meyer would end up starting J.T. Barrett in the opener against Virginia Tech. That didn't happen, with Cardale Jones getting the starting spot, and things going pretty well in the opener. Then the home opener against Hawaii happened and the Buckeyes offense looked flat, utilizing a fourth quarter run to make the game look like more of a blowout then it actually was. Then Jones was benched in a Northern Illinois game that Ohio State could have lost had the Huskies found any sort of offense. Now Jones is only hitting 56.5% of his passes, with a 2-3 TD-INT ratio, in his first three starts and once again is getting a (somewhat) surprising start.
This is more or less Cardale Jones last stand, since if he struggles once again against another mid-major opponent it's hard to see Meyer not turning back to Barrett as Big Ten play approaches. I actually think Barrett is the better option at quarterback, with Jones still a bit raw and making poor decisions frequently so far. In a limited amount of playing time Jones was able to overcome the odds, but I think with him under center the Buckeyes are a beatable team. The only problem, or benefit if you're Ohio State, is that schedule is so weak that it's really hard to see a team fully capable of beating them until Michigan State comes around late in the season.
As for this week, Western Michigan is almost as good of a MAC team as Northern Illinois, but it's still very unlikely we'll see a stagnant Buckeyes offense for three weeks in a row. If we do then there might be more significant issues at hand, like the loss of Tom Herman, but the Western Michigan game should provide the Buckeyes with an opportunity to get things squared away before they open conference play at Indiana.
|12:00||ABC / ESPN||BYU at Michigan||BYU 24 Michigan 20|
|BTN||Bowling Green at Purdue||Bowling Green 45 Purdue 31|
|BTN||Central Michigan at Michigan State||Michigan State 38 Central Michigan 17|
|BTN||Kansas at Rutgers||Rutgers 27 Kansas 10|
|ESPN News||Southern Mississippi at Nebraska||Nebraska 31 Southern Miss 17|
|12:30||ACCN||Indiana at Wake Forest||Indiana 31 Wake Forest 20|
|3:00||FS1||Maryland at West Virginia||West Virginia 34 Maryland 28|
|3:30||ESPNU||North Texas at Iowa||Iowa 27 North Texas 17|
|BTN||Ohio at Minnesota||Minnesota 24 Ohio 13|
|BTN||San Diego State at Penn State||Penn State 27 San Diego State 23|
|ABC/ESPN(2)||Western Michigan at Ohio State||Ohio State 38 Western Michigan 13|
|4:00||ESPN News||Middle Tennessee at Illinois||Illinois 35 Middle Tennessee 31|
|8:00||BTN||Ball State at Northwestern||Northwestern 24 Ball State 20|
|BTN||Hawaii at Wisconsin||Wisconsin 45 Hawaii 7|
Last Weekend's Predictions: 9-4
Current Record: 29-9