Tom’s Take: Week 4 honors, grades, top 10 & more

Week Four in the Big Ten is over. And, it was a mixed bag in what was the last big full-blown Saturday of non-conference action. The headliner game was Michigan State at Notre Dame. The Spartans came up short, as the Fighting Irish won despite notching a scant 221 yards in a 17-13 victory.

For the second week in a row, Michigan barely avoided a big upset, sneaking by UConn, 24-21. The day also saw three games vs. FCS foes. And, the Big Ten won all three by an aggregate 170-41.

Big Ten play began with Wisconsin trampling Purdue, 41-10. Here’s a wrap of the fourth week of action.

[ DIENHART: Guiton or Miller? It's a hot debate for OSU ]

Biggest surprise: Iowa. Most felt the Hawkeyes would beat Western Michigan, which was playing its third Big Ten foe. But no one saw Iowa winning, 59-3. Quarterback Jake Rudock continues to play well under center, as Iowa padded its point total with two punt returns and two interception returns for scores.

Biggest disappointment: The Michigan State offense. Turns out that 55-17 win vs. Youngstown State in which MSU had 547 yards was an aberration. The Spartan attack sputtered in a 17-13 loss at Notre Dame, coughing and wheezing to 253 yards. Connor Cook completed just 16-of-32 passes for 136 yards in his second start. The inept offense washed away a great effort by the Spartan defense, which yielded just 221 yards with only 79 allowed on the ground. But four pass interference penalties and a defensive hold call really hurt MSU.

[ SATURDAY LIVE BLOGS: Early games | Afternoon games | Night games ]

Best play: I have to go with Wisconsin running back James White’s sensational 70-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. White didn’t break just one set of ankles (Anthony Brown), but he broke two (Taylor Richards). That gave the Badgers a 14-0 lead.

Play this again: Michigan 24, UConn 21. No, it wasn’t a thing of beauty. But, it was kind of exciting. The Wolverines trailed, 21-7, but rallied to take the win a week after squeaking by Akron, 28-24. Hey, a win is a win, as Michigan is now 4-0 as it enters a bye week. But this drama vs. weaklings is hard on the heart.

[POWER RANKINGS: Who moved up and who moved down?]

Never play this again: Ohio State 76, Florida A&M 0. This is why Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany wants his league to not play FCS schools. Period. End of story. OSU outgained the Rattlers, 603-79.  FAMU had as many turnovers as first downs (2). I could go on, but you get the picture. Enough said. This was the Buckeyes’ biggest margin of victory since a nifty 85-7 whipping of Drake in 1935.

Week 4 grades

Indiana: C-

Iowa: A

Michigan: B-

Michigan State: C

Minnesota: B+

Nebraska: A-

Northwestern: B-

Ohio State: A++++++

Penn State: A

Purdue: D

Wisconsin: A

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Top 10

1. All hail Kenny Guiton. The world’s greatest backup quarterback hit 24-of-34 passes for 215 yards with six touchdowns and a pick in a 76-0 waxing of Florida A&M. That’s 16 wins in a row for Urban Meyer to start his career. Only one coach in the BCS era has started his tenure at a school with a longer winning streak than Meyer: Larry Coker at Miami (2001-02, 24 in a row).

2. Iowa’s versatility. The Hawkeyes scored on punt returns, interception returns, a pass and a rush. Not bad. Kudos to Iowa cornerback B.J. Lowery, who ran back two picks for touchdowns, 35 and 13 yards.

3. Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg is human after all. He hit just 13-of-34 passes for 176 yards with a touchdown and pick. It was by far his poorest numbers of the season. Still, the Nittany Lions won, 34-0, vs. Kent State. That’s all that mattered, as PSU used a strong ground game that churned out 287 yards rushing.

4. Yellow flags. They were everywhere on Michigan State, which had 10 penalties for 115 yards in a 17-13 loss at Notre Dame. Time and again, the Fighting Irish threw deep. Time and again, the Spartans got flagged. The Spartans were hurt most by four pass interference calls and a defensive holding penalty that all kept ND drives alive. By the way: Big Ten officials worked the game.

5. Northwestern picks. The Wildcats intercepted two passes, running both back for touchdowns as Damien Proby and Dean Lowry each did the honors. NU now has 10 interceptions in four games this season.

6. Gritty Gophers. Nothing fancy here. Just good old-fashioned three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense that would make Bronko Nagurski proud for Minnesota in a 45-24 win over San Jose State. The Gophers pounded the Spartans for 354 yards rushing on 67 carries.

7. Backup quarterbacks. Ohio State (Kenny Guiton), Nebraska (Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg) and Minnesota (Mitch Leidner) had to use reserve quarterbacks because of injuries to starters. And all excelled in leading their teams to victory.

8. Nebraska fans. Yes, Bo Pelini was caught on a recording saying some derogatory things about Husker fans. But there still was lots of love for Pelini on Saturday. I can’t say I’m too surprised. Some nice signs of support: If you don’t stand behind Bo, don’t stand here.

9. Michigan’s offense has issues. The Wolverines managed just 286 yards vs. a UConn team that lost earlier this year to FBS Towson State. Devin Gardner’s struggles continue, as he hit just 12-of-25 passes for 99 yards with no touchdowns, two interceptions and four sacks.

10. Thank goodness for FCS schools. Ohio State 76, FAMU 0; Northwestern 35, Maine 21; Nebraska 59; South Dakota State 20.

Top 5 performances

1. Throughout the preseason, Dontre Wilson was the true freshman skill player that got all the attention for Ohio State. Well, true freshman Ezekiel Elliott stole the show today with 162 yards rushing and two scores, averaging 11.6 yards per tote. The kid is going to be good.

2. Iowa waited five years to get a punt return for a touchdown. Well, it got two today in a span of 59 seconds on back-to-back punt returns by Kevonte Martin-Manley, who raced 83 and 63 yards to pay dirt in a 59-3 Hawkeyes win.

3. Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon continues to wow. He burned Purdue for 147 yards rushing on 16 carries, averaging a nifty 9.2 yards per carry with three touchdowns.

4. The Nebraska quarterbacks. With Taylor Martinez out with a toe issue, the Huskers turned to Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg. Armstrong hit 12-of-15 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. Kellogg hit 8-of-9 passes for 136 yards and a score. That helped the Huskers notch a 59-20 win over South Dakota State.

5. Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner was almost a one-man gang vs. San Jose State. Yes, he hit just 5-of-13 passes for 71 yards. But he did his damage on the ground with 23 carries for 122 yards and four touchdowns in a 43-24 win.

Numbers

6. Touchdown passes—all in the first half–for Ohio State quarterback Kenny Guiton. That’s a school record.

5. Interceptions for Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner the last two games. In those two games, Gardner has hit 28-of-55 passes for 347 yards with two touchdowns, five interceptions and five sacks.

8. Wins in a row for Wisconsin over Purdue.

Sneak peek ahead

Wisconsin at Ohio State. Wisconsin’s trip to Ohio State figures to be a de facto Leaders Division title game. The Buckeyes have won five of the last six meetings and look to be the prohibitive favorite to win not just the Leaders Division—but maybe the Big Ten and national championship. Wisconsin hasn’t won in Columbus since 2004.

Iowa at Minnesota. The Hawkeyes won last year’s meeting in Iowa City, 31-13, and have won four of the last six in the battle for Floyd of Rosedale. But the Golden Gophers won the two previous meetings (both in Minnesota) prior to 2012 and have won three of the last four in Minneapolis.

***

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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14 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (14 Comments)
Greg Nielsen on 9/22/2013 @ 11:16am EDT Said:

Where are all the Michigan fans who were chanting “Gardner for Heisman” before the season?

Ben on 9/22/2013 @ 11:44am EDT Said:

Michigan gets a B-… wow. Even after how they played against teams that weren’t that good? They deserve a C- to me.

Hans67 on 9/22/2013 @ 1:03pm EDT Said:

I don’t expect any of the on-air personalities to say anything about Big10 officiating, but something has to be done about a couple of the crews. The crew that worked the UM-Akron game and the one that worked the MSU-ND game yesterday should be benched.

Ed Crawford on 9/22/2013 @ 3:05pm EDT Said:

Michigan could fall to any team in the big ten right now.

reality check on 9/22/2013 @ 3:13pm EDT Said:

Tom I really want to thank the officiating crew for the outstanding job they did at the MSU NOTRE DAME game. If MSU Doug’s looks into it he will find that is the same excellent crew who worked the MSU Nebraska game last year. Wouldn’t it be great if that same crew worked the Michigan MSU game in ELansing on Nov 2 wink wink

Joe on 9/22/2013 @ 3:30pm EDT Said:

Typical bias towards Michigan. They get outplayed by an 0-2 team and get a b- and MSU outplays a top 25 team on the road and gets a c.

ukeone on 9/22/2013 @ 4:29pm EDT Said:

For Michigan, more like a D+…again, excessively ‘overrating’ Michigan runs rampant @ BTN in 2013.

tallygal on 9/22/2013 @ 8:21pm EDT Said:

No love for Sam Ficken? He was all the talk last year when many field goal misses cost PSU a game. Saturday, he kicked a 54-yarder, longest since 1979 and no mention.

Adam on 9/22/2013 @ 10:54pm EDT Said:

I think Dienhart hit it on the head with Michigan. They had 4 turnovers, one of which was returned for a TD, and a freak-accident of a punt hitting a player and giving UConn fantastic field-position for a score. Without even those two incidents, the score would’ve been 24-7 and it wouldn’t have been nearly as big of a deal. I’m not saying they played well; I’m just saying that the team as a whole isn’t as bad as everybody says they are. With that being said, something’s gotta be done about those turnovers or they’re never gonna be better than a B- team.

Blaine Darrah on 9/23/2013 @ 1:52pm EDT Said:

Biased Power Rankings – How can Penn State – who lost to UCF be an A and undefeated Northwestern be a B? Unfortunately, you are right on my Boilers – deserve the D.

Crudd on 9/23/2013 @ 2:10pm EDT Said:

It doesn’t really matter what grade you give Michigan. The bottom line is they are 4-0

Crudd on 9/23/2013 @ 2:13pm EDT Said:

ukeone must be a State fan. It’s ok there little brother. Everything is gonna be alright.

David Walimaki on 9/23/2013 @ 5:55pm EDT Said:

Crudd is an absolute Michigan fan. He KNOWS Michigan was graded EXTREMELY HIGH this week…….and yet he leans on the record after TWO narrow escapes, both of which SHOULD have been over by halftime, both of which had a HUGE possibility of being a loss. One would think that after the Akron debacle, they would come out angry against U-Conn……and then the Detroit Lions showed up wearing the winged helmets.
IF the pollsters actually LOOKED at the wins, Michigan would be ranked somewhere with MSU.
And “little brother” in NOT worried……Big Sister is not as good as she thinks she is..

Scott J. on 9/23/2013 @ 6:10pm EDT Said:

I see that they’re letting janitors from Wyandotte post again. Good job, Crudd.