Four Downs: Who rebounds? Who stays hot?

Every team gets four downs to make something happen. So do I. Here are four more predictions, truths, thoughts and more about the coming Saturday to get you fired up. Can Northwestern rebound at Wisconsin? Will Michigan State’s offense play well again?

You’ve been telling me plenty with your letters to my mailbag, and hear plenty more on Twitter too (@BTNTomDienhart). Those are just a few interesting things to keep an eye. Keep the opinions coming – football season powers on.

4 PREDICTIONS

  • Ohio State’s BCS title game worthiness will be debated for weeks, as the Buckeyes continue to tick off win after win after win. In the end, OSU probably is gonna lack the resume to stack up with champs from the SEC, Pac-12 and even the ACC. So, the Buckeyes must not only win-out but also hope for myriad one-loss teams. Hey, it’s something to cling to. And a possibility.
  • The emergence of quarterback Connor Cook may make Michigan State the team to beat in the Legends Division. Couple a productive offense with a monster defense and very manageable schedule, and it’s easy to get excited about this Spartan team. How does MSU vs. Ohio State in the Big Ten title game sound?
  • True freshman quarterback Danny Etling will instantly make Purdue better. His ability to make all of the throws will make a moribund Boilermaker offense more difficult to defend—and thus hopefully more productive.
  • Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner will look good vs. a shaky Penn State defense. But that won’t mean much. Nope. We won’t really find out about Gardner and his decision-making/confidence until a November 2 trip to East Lansing. Wake me up then.

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4 THOUGHTS

  • First Ohio State, now Wisconsin as cross-division foes. You can see why many felt the schedule was going to be Northwestern’s biggest obstacle to the Legends crown. No Big Ten team has a more rugged conference slate. After going to Madison, the Wildcats also have trips to Iowa, Nebraska, as well as visits from Michigan and Michigan State.
  • Some critics are being too harsh on Iowa’s offense after last week’s game vs. Michigan State. Yes, the Hawkeyes had just 264 yards of offense in the 26-14 defeat. But remember that Iowa was playing the best defense in the Big Ten—if not the nation. This Spartan unit is going to make offenses a lot more advanced than Iowa’s look pedestrian. It’s time for pundits to back off the Hawkeye offense. It’s making progress and has nice potential.
  • The wheels may be about to come off Penn State, which likely is facing an 0-3 start in league play with a visit from Michigan followed by a trip to Ohio State. The Nittany Lions’ stunning inability to run vs. Indiana was a shock. And the Penn State defense continues to have issues defending the pass and tackling.
  • Indiana is suddenly a dangerous team. The loss to Navy was disappointing, but the defeat to Missouri doesn’t look so bad. The convincing victory over Penn State is what fuels my fire for IU football. Yes, I knew the Hoosier offense would be good. It was the play of the defense that shocked me. Holding Penn State to 70 yards rushing was impressive. This Indiana team has at least one more unexpected win in it as it barrels to a bowl.

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4 TRUTHS

  • This will be Nebraska’s first trip to Purdue since 1958. And the rabid fan base will turn Ross-Ade Stadium into a sea of red. In fact, it may sound like a Cornhusker home game.
  • We heard all offseason about how this Ohio State offense was going to be more advanced in the passing game and more versatile, about how it wasn’t going to be all about Braxton Miller. Well, after watching Ohio State at Northwestern, the Buckeye attack looked an awful lot like it did in 2012. That may be good enough to win a Big Ten title, but is it gonna be enough to beat an elite team in a bowl game? And isn’t Miller vulnerable to another injury because of overuse?
  • Wisconsin is the best two-loss team in America. I know that doesn’t mean squat. But I think the Badgers may be the second-best team in the Big Ten. And they are about to show it with a big run of wins. In fact, there’s a decent chance Wisconsin could win-out. Check it out: Northwestern, at Illinois; at Iowa; BYU; Indiana; at Minnesota; Penn State. See what I mean?
  • Nebraska doesn’t need Taylor Martinez to win at Purdue this Saturday. So, it’s no shock to hear the senior will rest another week and the keys will be turned over to Tommy Armstrong, Jr., for another week. After the Purdue game, the Cornhuskers have another bye, giving Martinez more time to heal his turf toe for the stretch run of six games.

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4 JOCKSTRAP GAMES

What’s a “jockstrap game,” you ask? All a team needs to do is throw its jockstrap onto the field and—voila!—a victory will appear.

4 FACTOIDS

  • 4, wins for Northwestern in its last seven games vs. Wisconsin. But the Badgers won 70-23 the last time the teams met in 2010.
  • 12, years since Indiana won at Michigan State. The Hoosiers took a 37-28 decision in 2001 in East Lansing behind the play of Antwaan Randle El.
  • 0, points Nebraska scored in its one and only trip to Purdue back in 1958, when the Boilermakers took a 28-0 decision.
  • 3, wins in a row for Penn State over Michigan, though the teams haven’t met since 2010.

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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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3 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (3 Comments)
Grant on 10/11/2013 @ 10:50am EST Said:

That 1958 Husker team was a great 3-7. Yet somehow managed to beat a much better Penn State team to star the season, and also 14th ranked Pittsburgh. Don’t think Purdue will be so lucky this time around.

ryan eaton on 10/12/2013 @ 9:54am EST Said:

i think my hoosiers have a great chance to go into east lansing and get a win. msu cannot run the ball. and i am still not convinced that connor cook can make enough plays to out score our high powered offense. our defense should have another big performance. GO HOOSIERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

James D Crawford on 10/14/2013 @ 12:26am EST Said:

“•Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner will look good vs. a shaky Penn State defense. But that won’t mean much. Nope. We won’t really find out about Gardner and his decision-making/confidence until a November 2 trip to East Lansing. Wake me up then.” REALLY??? Sleep well?