While No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan remain the top teams in the Big Ten conference, Minnesota was the team that made the biggest impact in Week 4, putting on a dominant display on the road at Michigan State to win 34-7. The Golden Gophers entered the AP Top 25 for the first time this season on the heels of that win; they’ll host Purdue this weekend as No. 21, the only ranked team in the Big Ten West.
That game is among the best in the conference in Week 5, which will also see Michigan face a tough test on the road and a contest between Michigan State and Maryland, both of whom are coming off Week 4 losses.
Iowa hopes to upset No. 4 Michigan with daunting defense
The Big Ten game of the week is in Iowa City, as the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines travel to face the top defense in the country (by points allowed – 5.75/game) in a rematch of the 2021 Big Ten Championship game, when Iowa took a 42-3 defeat at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Michigan faced its first conference opponent of 2022 last weekend, when Maryland visited Ann Arbor and made the Big House nervous with a much closer game than expected (Michigan took the 34-27 win). The Terps hung with the Wolverines all four quarters as Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy had a sloppier game than he can afford against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
McCarthy, a sophomore, went 18/26 in a 220-yard, 2-touchdown effort, tallying two fumbles. “That’s two plays I really want back,” he said after the game on Saturday, adding: “I take full responsibility for the throws I missed.”
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh knows he’ll need more accuracy against Iowa, who’s coming off a 27-10 win at Rutgers that included two defensive touchdowns. “If you’re not as sound as you can possibly be, you’re in for a rough one,” Harbaugh said Monday.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz echoed that sentiment for his squad: “It’s going to take our best team effort to have a chance in this ball game,” he said on Tuesday. Ferentz said he’s not considering this a revenge spot for the last time they faced Michigan, “but [that game] is a reminder…If you aren’t on top of things and you give up a couple big plays, all of a sudden the hill gets pretty steep.”
Expect this to be a close game, especially if Iowa limits Michigan RB Blake Corum, who went for 2 TDs and 243 yards against Maryland last week. If Iowa’s offense was less inept, predicting the Hawkeyes to win this one outright wouldn’t be that farfetched. The story of the game will likely be in Michigan’s turnover numbers – if the Wolverines can take care of the ball, they should be positioned to pull this one out even in a tight contest.
No. 21 Minnesota (4-0) looks to keep momentum against unpredictable Purdue (2-2)
Entering Week 4, it seemed like Minnesota was in for a close game in East Lansing at Michigan State, but the Gophers shut down the Spartans almost immediately and didn’t let them up for air (Michigan State’s only score in the 34-7 loss came with 17 seconds left). Minnesota QB Tanner Morgan went 23/26 in a game where he needed to find new targets with top receiver Chris Autman-Bell out (Autman-Bell had season-ending surgery leg surgery earlier this month).. Morgan found help all over the field – four receivers had at least 3 touches and 40+ yards, while running back Mo Ibrahim added 103 and a touchdown on the ground. Ibrahim enters Week 5 second in FBS rushing yards with 567 on the season.
“They make you bleed,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said on Monday. “And if you don’t find a way to bandage it up or do something to strike back, it can be a long death.”
Minnesota should have an easy time against Purdue on Saturday. But the Boilermakers have a reputation as an upset team – remember when they put 49 points on third-ranked Ohio State in 2018? Or last year, when they upset No. 2 Iowa in October and No. 3 Michigan State in November?
“The key is: can we find a way to get a lead and take them out of what they really want to do?” Brohm said.
Purdue is coming off two close games: a 32-29 loss at Syracuse in Week 3 and a 28-26 win against Florida Atlantic in Week 4. The Boilermakers had a close match in Week 1 as well, losing 35-31 to the now-11th-ranked Nittany Lions of Penn State.
The health of QB Aidan O’Connell – who the team says will be a game-time decision – is likely to be a big factor for Purdue; O’Connell was injured during the game in Week 3 and missed Week 4. He played remarkably through three weeks with 1,000 yards and only one interception, bolstering Purdue to the second-best pass offense in the conference behind Ohio State. Austin Butler played in O’Connell’s place last week and is expected to start at Minnesota if O’Connell can’t.
The Gophers have all the momentum, but know they have to stay focused for a win this week, which is Homecoming at Minnesota. “I always get a little worried when I see strength and twitch together,” Gophers offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca said of the Purdue front. On the passing game, he said, “Their corners are big and physical… They don’t give you any free throws.”
All signs point to a win for Minnesota at home this week, if the team keeps playing efficiently and outruns the curse of the Purdue upset.
Other Games to Watch in Week 5: Ohio State and Penn State at home, Michigan State hoping to turn things around
No. 3 Ohio State and No. 11 Penn State both host conference opponents at home this week. Ohio State (4-0) had an impressive showing against Wisconsin last week, winning 52-21 – and the game wasn’t as close as that score makes it seem. C.J. Stroud added 281 yards and 5 TDs to his case for the Heisman Trophy in an offensive effort that head coach Ryan Day said was “what we’re looking for.”
Rutgers (3-1) struggled against Iowa last week and is unlikely to hold off Stroud and the Buckeyes offense. Ohio State, which has yet to go on the road this season, should take this one by four or more touchdowns.
Penn State (4-0) faces a Northwestern (1-3) side that lost by three thanks to a late field goal by Miami-Ohio last week. The Wildcats have lost three straight since their win over Nebraska in Week 1, and that streak is expected to extend to four losses when they travel to State College on Saturday. The only danger for the Nittany Lions is a loss of focus in the look-ahead as they prepare to go to Ann Arbor to face Michigan in Week 6.
Finally, the Michigan State Spartans (2-2) will try to stave off a 3-game losing streak when they go on the road to Maryland (3-1) this weekend. Michigan State has been trounced two weeks in a row, first at Washington, then at home against Minnesota. Both games were expected to be close before they started.
Spartans coach Mel Tucker started his presser on Monday with a laundry list of things he sees as necessary improvements for his team, from basics like tackling and scoring points to other issues like pre-snap alignments and zone coverage.
“Optimistic and determined is how I feel at the moment,” Tucker said heading into Week 5.
Maryland, meanwhile, was impressive last week in a close game at Michigan and should have some confidence coming off that performance, but they’re not taking the coming matchup for granted.
“When you look at their record it’s easy to say they’re struggling,” Terps coach Mike Locksley said of Michigan State, “But when you watch the tape… They’ve [lost to] two really formidable opponents.”
“We expect them to come in here to try to get back on track,” he added, “and we’ve got to do everything we can… to not let that happen.”
Is Michigan State down and out or ready to take out some frustration on the Terps this week? Maryland enters the weekend favored, suggesting it’s the former. But look for the halftime score to tell the story here: if the Spartans can keep it close in the first half, they’ve got a good chance to pull this one out. It’ll probably be a big loss if it gets away from them early.