Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, September 17, 2014

Week 4 is on our doorstep, the last Saturday of full-blown non-conference action. What am I buying? What am I selling? Check it out inside.

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Buy or sell: Michigan State running the table?
I think this Spartans club is ultra-motivated to show it?s an elite team this season. The loss at Oregon on Sept. 6 still stings, as MSU blew a third-quarter lead. No shame in losing at Eugene to a Ducks squad that may be the best in the nation. Michigan State has the talent-and motivation-to finish the regular season 11-1. The Spartans were off last week and play host to overmatched Eastern Michigan this Saturday. This is the first 10 games in which MSU will be favored to close the regular season. It helps that Nebraska (Oct. 4) and Ohio State (Nov. 8) come to East Lansing. Bottom line: Don?t write off MSU as a possible playoff team.

Buy or sell: Nebraska as the favorite in the West?
Buy. Yes, Wisconsin is promising and has a more favorable schedule in the West. In fact, the Cornhuskers have to play in Madison on Nov. 15 in what could be a de facto division championship game. Nebraska looks like it may be hitting its stride coming off a dominating win at Fresno State to move to 3-0. The offense is No. 1 in the Big Ten (594.3 ypg). The defense is No. 5 (294.7 ypg). It helps that the Huskers have trimmed turnovers. Nebraska is minus-one this season after being a combined minus-23 the previous two seasons. The next two games are at home, with Miami (Fla.) this Saturday followed by a visit from Illinois. So Nebraska could be 5-0 as it heads to East Lansing on Oct. 4 for a big game with Michigan State. Could it be a preview of the Big Ten title game?

Buy or sell: Penn State?s chances to win the East?
Sell. Look, I like this Nittany Lions club. It has been fun to watch it forge a 3-0 start. Those gutty victories vs. UCF and Rutgers that saw PSU stage fourth-quarter rallies were impressive. And I expect Penn State to move to 5-0 with home games vs. UMass and Northwestern next. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been sensational and is good enough to almost single-handedly deliver victory. But this is a flawed team whose offensive line will be its undoing at some point. When the dust settles, I expect Penn State to finish third in the East behind Michigan State and Ohio State. If you had told that to Nittany Lions fans back in August, I think they would have been elated. But if that happens after a 5-0 start, some Penn State fans surely will mope.

Buy or sell: Rutgers ability to finish at least .500?
Sell. The 2-1 Scarlet Knights may have an emotional hangover from that 13-10 home loss to Penn State. The school invested so much into beating the Nittany Lions in their first Big Ten game — even going so far as to give Kyle Flood a two-year contract extension to boost mojo. If Rutgers isn?t dialed in on Saturday, it could get ambushed at Navy. There also are games with Tulane, Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan State and Maryland remaining. To get to six wins, the Scarlet Knights almost have to beat the Midshipmen. Even then, it may be a challenge to get to six victories.

Buy or sell: Indiana?s bowl hopes?
Sell. After last Saturday?s kick-in-the-gut 45-42 loss at Bowling Green, it?s difficult to envision the Hoosiers making a bowl for the first time since 2007 and just the second since 1993. Indiana is 1-1, needing five more victories to qualify for a bowl. Can you find five wins in here? At Missouri; Maryland; North Texas; at Iowa; Michigan State; at Michigan; Penn State; at Rutgers; at Ohio State; Purdue. I struggle to.

Buy or sell: Minnesota figuring out its passing game?
Sell. I have a difficult time seeing this happening. The Golden Gophers are last in the Big Ten in passing (130.7 ypg). That?s almost 40 yards behind the 13th-rated team (Wisconsin). Mitch Leidner is completing just 48 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and four interceptions. And he?s banged up with a bad knee and big toe. Backup Chris Streveler is an inexperienced hand who isn?t ready for prime time. Can this team match its eight-win total of 2013?

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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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