Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, September 23, 2015

Week 4 is bursting at the seams with 14 games. None have national implications, but all will go a long way in shaping the fortunes of the Big Ten and its postseason hopes.

[ MORE: Week 4 scoreboard | Week 4 previews | Polls: Pick Week 4 winners | Power Rankings | Bowl Projections | Player Rankings | Latest polls | Big Ten standings | Big Ten stats ]

There are just two road games-and they are intriguing: Indiana at Wake Forest and Maryland at West Virginia.

And how cool will the BYU at Michigan tilt be? Exactly.

A special treat: BTN/BTN2Go will air seven (!) Week 4 games, ending with Ball State at Northwestern and Hawaii at Wisconsin in primetime.

Get my Week 4 previews below:

Central Michigan (1-2) at Michigan State (3-0) – noon ET, BTN/BTN2Go. 

The Spartans continue their tour vs. directional Michigan schools after dispatching Western Michigan in the opener. The Spartans are rolling, ascending to No. 2 in the AP poll. It?s the highest Michigan State has been ranked since 1966. It looks like Aaron Burbridge is primed to be the Spartans? next great wideout. And QB Connor Cook is rolling. But the rushing attack needs work. Maybe that comes this week for a program that is trying to enter October undefeated for the first time since 2010 and for just the second time in nine seasons under Mark Dantonio.


Bowling Green (1-2) at Purdue (1-2) – noon ET, BTN/BTN2Go. 

A 51-24 home loss to Virginia Tech has taken a lot of wind from the sails of the Boilermakers. Yes, the Hokies are good. But the Boilermakers looked bad in every phase of the game. This program is supposed to be beyond performances like this in its third year under Darrell Hazell. Well, Hazell is making a move, starting QB David Blough in favor of Austin Appleby. A bigger issue: Getting that o-line to run block better. It will be vital for the Boilers to run well with RBs D.J. Knox and Markell Jones. Purdue can?t get into a shootout with Bowling Green and its high-powered offense. The Falcons had 692 yards and 48 points in a win at Maryland earlier this season. BG quarterback Matt Johnson leads the nation with 1,358 passing yards and 12 touchdown passes. The Falcons are second nationally in total offense (609.3 YPG) and have run the third-most offensive plays (264). Swallow hard, Purdue. This is gonna be tough.


Kansas (0-2) at Rutgers (1-2) – noon ET, BTN/BTN2Go. 

A visit from moribund Kansas could cure what ails the Scarlet Knights, who will play a second game in a row without suspended coach Kyle Flood. RU has lost two in a row, getting throttled at Penn State last week, 28-3. The Scarlet Knights need to run better, ranking No. 10 in the Big Ten in rushing (177.3 ypg). And the 0-2 Jayhawks may be the foe to muscle up on. How pitiful has KU been? The Jayhawks have lost 30 consecutive road games. Their last road win came in 2009 at UTEP. The last time the Jayhawks beat a power conference team on the road was in 2008 at Iowa State. Rutgers is looking to avoid its first 1-3 start since 2008 when it started 0-3.


Southern Miss (2-1) at Nebraska (1-2) – noon ET, ESPN News.

A visit from the 2-1 Golden Eagles of C-USA is just what the doctor ordered for the Cornhuskers. The NU offense has been good. The defense? It has been bad, especially vs. the pass. Nebraska is giving up 357.0 pass yards per game to rank ahead of only Indiana (392.7 ypg) with the second-worst pass D in FBS. The Huskers need to take out their frustrations, having lost two games this season in heartbreaking fashion: The Hail Mary against BYU and in overtime at Miami (FL) after a spectacular 23-point fourth-quarter rally. That?s why Nebraska is staring at the ugly reality of a 1-2 start, the first since 1981. That year, NU went on to play for the national title vs. Clemson. No one expects that type of rise from the 2015 Huskers-but a bowl would be nice. In case you are wondering: The last time Nebraska started 1-3 was in 1957.


BYU (2-1) at Michigan (2-1) – noon ET, ABC. 

It has been all about running the ball and defense for the Wolverines. And, it?s working. Michigan has three legit options to carry the ball in De?Veon Smith, Ty Isaac and Drake Johnson. And the line is getting physical. The Cougars will be the toughest test yet for the Michigan defense. The Cougars are averaging more than 432 yards with nearly 311 of those yards coming through the air. Michigan is not equipped to get into a shootout with BYU. QB Jake Rudock has completed nearly 65 percent of his passes but has five picks in just 91 attempts. He had five in 345 attempts last season at Iowa. The only other meeting between these schools was in the 1984 Holiday Bowl, with BYU winning 24-17 to claim the national championship.


Indiana (3-0) at Wake Forest (2-1) – 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3.

Style points don?t matter. The Hoosiers are just finding a way to win, trailing in the second half of all three games. Who cares? IU is 3-0 for the first time since 2010. Indiana has won four consecutive games dating back to last season?s finale. The last time the Hoosiers won four straight? It was in 1993. The last time IU won five in a row? Jump into the Hot Tub Time Machine, as it was in 1987. The Hoosiers are doing it with the tough running of Jordan Howard, who leads the nation with 507 yards rushing. And while the defense still gets gashed, it is generating turnovers, as IU is second in the Big Ten with seven turnovers forced. This is the first time the Hoosiers have played Wake Forest, which is 2-1.


Maryland (2-1) at West Virginia (2-0) – 3 p.m. ET, FS1.

Nothing better than a rivalry. And, this is a good one. WVU is 2-0 and coming off a bye and has won eight of the last nine vs. the Terps. Last year?s meeting was epic. The Mountaineers had 694 yards and ran 108 plays, winning on a 47-yard field goal as time expired. Randy Edsall was hacked after the game about the number of plays WVU ran in its frenetic offense, thinking it was dangerous. Well, Dana Holgorsen?s Mountaineers will have their guns blazing again. Starting QB Caleb Rowe sparked Maryland last week, but he can be prone to interceptions. The Terrapins need their defense to play like it did last week vs. South Florida, yielding just 17 points and 300 yards a week after Bowling Green notched 692 yards and 48 points.


Ohio (3-0) at Minnesota (2-1) – 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN/BTN2Go.

It?s Homecoming in Dinkytown! That?s always fun. But, it will be even more fun if the Golden Gophers can blow out the Bobcats. This maligned offense needs a big game. Minnesota couldn?t run vs. Kent State. Not good. The Gophers had 44 carries for just 104 yards (2.4 yards per carry). QB Mitch Leidner has become a lightning rod and took a step back on Saturday when he threw for a season-low 184 yards and also tossed his first two picks. Led by Frank Solich, Ohio is no pushover at 3-0. The last time Ohio played a Big Ten team on the road was in 2012, when it won at Penn State in the season opener.


San Diego State (1-2) at Penn State (2-1) – 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN/BTN2Go. 

The Nittany Lions can build off a dominating win vs. Rutgers. PSU allowed no sacks for a second game in succession. And the rushing attack thrived, notching 330 yards. That was the most by the Nittany Lions since a 338-yard effort at Illinois in 2009. The RB tandem of Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch is strong. Good thing, since QB Christian Hackenberg remains off his game. He is completing 49 percent of his passes for 372 yards with one touchdown pass. Through three games last year, he had 1,082 pass yards and four touchdowns. The defense is having no such issues. Penn State has 31 tackles for loss in 2015, which is the fourth-most in the nation. And its 13 sacks are the third-most in the nation. This is PSU?s first meeting with San Diego State, which is 1-2 but has a top RB in Donnel Pumphrey.


North Texas (0-2) at Iowa (3-0) – 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU.

Suddenly, it?s hip to be a Hawkeye fan and Kinnick Stadium is the place to be after that spell-binding 57-yard field goal as time expired pushed Iowa to 3-0 for the first time since 2009 when it started 9-0. Funny how winning changes things. This visit from 0-2 North Texas of C-USA is juicy because of who it?s coached by: Dan McCarney, an Iowa City native, former Hawkeye o-lineman and long-time Iowa assistant (1979-89) under Hayden Fry who also had a long run as Iowa State head coach (1995-2006). The Hawkeyes need to get their ground game rolling again after gaining just 105 yards rushing on 29 totes vs. Pitt.


Western Michigan (1-2) at Ohio State (3-0) – 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2. 

The Buckeyes are ranked No. 1, riding a national-best 16-game winning streak. But, you wouldn?t know it based on some of the grousing from coast to coast. Ohio State is coming off two lackluster wins, as concerns are growing about how the quarterbacks are being handled. Who should start? Should Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett both be playing? Maybe the offense gets fat and happy on Saturday by letting RB Ezekiel Elliott run the ball 30 times for 250 yards. While the offense struggles, the defense soars. The Buckeyes have allowed 355 yards and just 8-of-34 conversions on third-down the last two weeks combined. They also have scored more defensive touchdowns (2) than they?ve allowed (1) in that span.


Middle Tennessee (2-1) at Illinois (2-1) – 4 p.m. ET, ESPN News.

That thud you heard was the Fighting Illini falling back to earth after a 34-point loss at North Carolina. The Illinois defense we had been fawning over? After allowing three points, 157 rushing yards, and 386 total yards combined in the first two games, the Tar Heels dumped a cold bucket of water over a unit that got scorched for 48 points, 254 rushing yards and 471 yards at North Carolina. Beware 2-1 Middle Tennessee State of C-USA, which can score points in bunches and is No. 1 in America with 10 turnovers forced. The coach?s kid is the QB.


Ball State (2-1) at Northwestern (3-0) – 8 p.m. ET, BTN/BTN2Go. 

The Wildcats look determined to put the misery of consecutive 5-7 seasons behind them. NU is an early-season darling, one of five Big Ten unbeatens. But fast starts don?t often equal long-term success. NU started 4-0 two times in the last three seasons. It?s all about defense and running the ball in Evanston. The Wildcats have not allowed a touchdown in 11 of the 12 quarters they?ve played. NU is No. 1 in the Big Ten in rushing offense (256.7 ypg). This is Northwestern?s first meeting with David Letterman?s alma mater.


Hawaii (2-1) at Wisconsin (2-1) – 8 p.m. ET, BTN/BTN2Go. 

Anyone else notice how good QB Joel Stave has been? He ranks in the Top 3 in the Big Ten in touchdown passes (6), completion percentage (67.4%), and passer rating (150.9). No bad for a guy who was dealing with a case of ?yips? this time last year. RB Corey Clement figures to be kept under wraps for a third game in succession as he convalesces a bum groin. No worries. Backups Dare Ogunbowale and Taiwan Deal are more than capable. If the offense can?t subdue 2-1 Hawaii, the Badger defense can. The unit sat on a good Troy attack last week, yielding just 255 yards and three points. The Rainbows did put up a bit of a fight at Ohio State in Week 2. But know this: Wisconsin has allowed fewer than seven points per game in its last eight non-conference home games.


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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