Week 4 preview: Spartans will try to solve Irish

Week 4 preview: Spartans will try to solve Irish

I’m continuing my early week-by-week look at the 2013 Big Ten schedule, and it’s all about Week 4 today. Being the final week before Big Ten play kicks off across the conference, the slate leaves some to be desired. That said, there are a few intriguing games, including an early Big Ten draw (Purdue at Wisconsin). Get all the storylines, matchups and my rankings of the week’s games in this post.

[ RELATED: Week 1 preview | Week 2 preview | Week 3 preview ]

Game of the week: Michigan State at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are hot coming off an appearance in the BCS title game. After winning two of three in the series from 2007-2010, the Spartans have lost two in a row. And MSU has been outscored 51-16 in the process. The Spartans’ last win in the series came in 2010 on a trick play in overtime. Michigan State last won in South Bend in 2007, taking a 31-14 decision. MSU’s chances figure to be enhanced now that Irish QB Everett Golson has been declared academically ineligible.

Ranking Week 4 games
1. Michigan State at Notre Dame
2. Missouri at Indiana
3. Purdue at Wisconsin
4. Michigan at UConn
5. San Jose State at Minnesota
6. Western Michigan at Iowa
7. Kent State at Penn State
8. Maine at Northwestern
9. South Dakota State at Nebraska
10. Florida A&M at Ohio State

Quarterback matchup to watch: Michigan State’s Andrew Maxwell vs. Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees. Look, neither is an All-American—nor nimble in the pocket. But each is a veteran. And, whoever can make some plays—and limit mistakes—vs. the other team’s stout defense likely will lead his squad to victory.

Coordinator matchup to watch: Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi vs. Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin. Narduzzi is one of the best in the business; and he has the makings of another very good defense in 2013. The linebackers and secondary will be boffo. Martin is a rising star in the coaching ranks, but he has some big questions to solve—among them is developing an offensive identity with quarterback Everett Golson out due to academics.

Upset alert: Penn State should be wary when Kent State visits. Yes, the Golden Flashes saw Darrell Hazell bolt to take the Purdue job. But Kent State still has some nice talent back vs. a Nittany Lions club that lacks depth.

Storylines: There is little sex appeal during this 10-game slate, largely because of three games vs. FCS foes: Maine at Northwestern; South Dakota State at Nebraska; Florida A&M at Ohio State. There are absolutely no redeeming qualities about any of those games. … More reason to snooze: Two games vs. MAC teams: Western Michigan at Iowa; Kent State at Penn State. But know this: The Hawkeyes are 0-2 vs. Western Michigan, losing at home to the Broncos in 2000 and 2007. … Here’s a positive: Conference play starts with Purdue playing at Wisconsin. The Badgers haven’t just beaten Purdue in recent years; they have absolutely clobbered Purdue, winning seven in a row. In that stretch, the Boilermakers have scored 20 points in a game just once. And every Badger win but one has been by double-digits. The last four meetings have been massacres: 37-0 in 2009; 34-13 in 2010; 62-17 in 2011; 38-14 last season. In 2011, Wisconsin had 605 yards (364 rushing); last year, the Badgers had 645 yards (467 rushing). Get the picture? Hide the women and children. … Michigan State’s visit to Notre Dame should be good. …Why is Michigan playing at UConn? The teams have met once, with the Wolverines taking a 30-10 decision in Ann Arbor in 2010. … Fun battle of journalism schools, with Missouri coming to Indiana. The Tigers are coming off a disappointing SEC debut, going 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the SEC en route to missing a bowl for the first time since 2004. The schools last played in 1992, with Indiana taking a 20-10 decision to end an eight-year run of consecutive meetings that began in 1985 and saw the Hoosiers go 6-0-2 vs. the Tigers. MU hasn’t won in Bloomington since 1953, going 1-4. … San Jose State travels to Minnesota in one of the weirdest intersectional matchups all season long. The Spartans went 11-2 last season but have a new coach. The teams split two games played in Minnesota in 1991-92. … Illinois is off, the first Big Ten team to have a bye.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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