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What I Want in the Non-Conference, Week 3: Just...please don’t embarrass us any more.

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Three Big Ten teams are underdogs, two of those at home and the other to Kansas. Also, Ohio State can solidify itself as a playoff contender. Let’s all get through this together.

Kansas v Rutgers Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Did you burn your mattresses in the streets?

Something about last week’s 8-4 timeline didn’t feel as world-ending as it could have. Maybe it was wisconsin and Ohio State (predictably) keeping their shirts clean and the tacit recognition that Michigan State was probably not a possible playoff team while Penn State is keeping that candle lit. Or maybe it was Minnesota’s triumphant win over a better team than they and Northwestern’s all-too-predictable loss at home to Duke being just another drop in the September bucket of Pat Fitzgerald.

Also, “Purdue could surprise some people” being used as a positive (rather than a “no one know what the fuck Purdue will be”) is the “Texas back” of the Big Ten in 2018.

Whatever the circumstances, let’s remind ourselves of the rules and shake our fingers at the naughty offenders:

My General Rules:

  • Beat Notre Dame.
  • Blow FCS teams the hell out.
  • Don’t lose to G5 schools.
  • Cover spreads on the road if you’re the underdog.
  • Cover the spread at home [or win by five scores].

You’ll note that the last requirement changed ever-so-slightly. I refuse to give some people the full satisfaction they crave.

The Offenders:

Northwestern (L, 21-7 at home to Duke — line NU -3)
Purdue (L, 20-19 at home to G5 Eastern Michigan — line PU -15)
Nebraska (L, 33-28 at home to Colorado — line UNL -4.5)
Indiana (W, 20-16 at home over UVA — line IU -5.5)
Michigan State (L, 16-13 at Arizona St — lol herm edwards)
wisconsin (failed to cover the spread)

I’ll be honest—that Indiana one feels a little harsh. The rest are reasonable.

Of these, I really only see need to laugh at Northwestern (a 2-score home loss to an ACC also-ran) and Purdue (a home loss to a MAC school?! who the hell does that?!), though a case can be made for Michigan State as well for foolishly playing a game at night in Arizona. That’s the “land war in Asia” of the Big Ten.

The Games

#11 Penn State Nittany Lions (2-0) vs. Kent State Golden Flashes (1-1)

11am CT | FS1 | PSU -35

Last Week: PSU def. Pitt, 51-6; Kent State def. Howard, 54-14

Another day, another mid-major with a dual-threat QB coming to Happy Valley...but Zac Thomas, Woody Barrett is not. The Flashes could make a little noise with speedy WR Antwan Dixon and Justin Rankin, who’s having a nice start to the season running the ball, but there’s not a ton here, even if Kent State hung with Illinois.

What I Want: Cover, move on.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-1, 0-1 B1G) at Kansas Jayhawks (1-1, 0-1 FCS)

11am | Fox Sports Regional | KU -2.5

Last Week: Rutgers lost to OSU, 52-3; Kansas BEAT CENTRAL MICHIGAN!

We’re not here to laugh at Rutgers, guys, we’re here to praise Kansas, who got their first FBS win of the season on Saturday at Central Michigan. After not playing against FCS Nicholls State, 4* RB Pooka Williams announced himself for the Jayhawks with a 14-for-125, 2 TD rushing performance against the Chips.

The solution for the Knights is pretty easy—stop Pooka (neither Khalil Herbert nor Dom Williams are as inspiring with the ball) and get to Peyton Bender. The former Wazzu man is not the most mobile guy in the pocket and is really not even that accurate (59% passing, 5.2 YPA). If he finds deep-threat Kerr Johnson Jr., the Knights are in some trouble, and WR Steven Sims, Jr. is still here, too.

Keeping Keith Loneker Jr. out of the backfield and off Arthur Sitkowski’s balky collarbone—should the IMG standout backup be ready to play—will be a priority for the Knights, who will hope to establish the run and take the pressure off the passing game to navigate a ball-hawking secondary that already has four picks.

But really, let’s just expect some derp.

What I Want: Comedy, possibly a win.

Indiana Hoosiers (2-0) vs Ball State Cardinals (1-1)

11am | BTN | IU -14.5

Last Week: Indiana def. UVA, 20-16; Balls Tate lost at Notre Dame, 24-16

The Cardinals might be frisky in 2018! Who’s ready for some CHAOSTEAM vs. MACTION on Saturday morning from Bloomington?

Riley Neal is back to his old tricks—being a wildly-inconsistent passer and a threat to run—and James Gilbert has provided nice stability at the running back spot for the Cardinals, and OH MY FUCKING GOODNESS DO TRAINS JUST RUN THROUGH CARBONDALE ALL FUCKING DAY I MEAN WHY HAS A WHISTLE BEEN BLOWING FOR THE LAST 45 FUCKING MINUTES

...sorry, I’m at SIU for the week and a bit on-edge.

What I Want: A cover feels...high. A two-score win would do just fine for me, Indiana, though a cover might demonstrate that you are going to bowl in 2018. Your call.

Maryland Terrapins (2-0) vs Temple Owls (0-2)

11am | BTN | MD -15

Last Week: Maryland def. Bowling Green, 45-14; Temple lost at Buffalo, 36-29

Temple lost to Villanova. So...going bowling in 2017 was officially a flash in the pan, right?

Frank Nutile has had to air it out for the Owls, who have not gotten anything consistent going from their offense—Ryquell Armstead is fine running the ball but won’t blow you away, and Nutile has balanced his 4 TDs with 4 picks. Branden Mack is the downfield threat for the Owls.

When you’ve played an FCS team and a MAC team and have just 2 sacks, that’s probably not good...[/checks note], that is definitely not good. One place the Terps might want to avoid throwing: senior CB Rock Ya-Sin, who’s already totalled 3 passes defnded and a pick in 2018, and with a name like that can definitely head-bang with the best of them.

What I Want: A home cover still feels optimistic, but I’m thinking of Old Temple, and the Persian Wars were ages ago. Cover.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (0-1-⚡) vs Troy Trojans (1-1)

11am | BTN | UNL -11.5

Last Week: UNL lost to Colorado, 33-28; Troy def. Florida A&M, 59-7

Look at how much better Nebraska’s record looks with that lightning bolt? Isn’t that bitchin’? RAWK.

Anyways, yeah. Troy has gotten hamblasted by Boise State and whupped the Rattlers, so your guess is as good as mine. Kaleb Barker is going to try to do it all for the Trojans—he’s run for a TD and thrown for five more—but Troy doesn’t have quite the athleticism that a Colorado brings to Memorial Stadium.

Still, it’s a Neal Brown-coached team, and that means you’ll get discipline and, normally, defense. That last part is just an excuse to mention Tron Folson, who has two picks, including a pick-six and IS NAMED TRON.

What I Want: A routine cover, maybe with some defense.

#6 wisconsin badgers (2-0) vs BYU Cougars (1-1)

2:30pm | ABC | uw -21.5

Last Week: wisconsin def. New Mexico, no one cares; BYU lost to Cal, 21-18

Upset Arizona, learn it’s actually not that hard, get beat at home by Cal. So...a bit of a mixed bag for BYU in 2018 so far, huh?

“Get to Tanner Mangum” is pretty much wisconsin’s MO here—Squally Canada has an awesome name but is not moving the ball well (3.7 ypc), and Mangum is putting up a respectable 111.0 QBR but really not doing a ton tossing it around. The only real threat is that BYU goes pretty deep at the WR position, including Hawaii transfer Dylan Collie, who might be a deep threat. But really, I wouldn’t worry—no Cougar has over 80 receiving yards.

Instead, BYU just relies on defense, though they’ve given up 4.29 ypc to teams like Arizona and Cal, which seems...not ideal for a date with wisconsin. And allow a 47% third-down conversion percentage. And have just one sack, one pick, and two fumble recoveries. I’ll be honest—I don’t actually get why BYU is remotely considered a threat here. Senior LB Sione Takitaki likes to get into the backfield and DT Corbin Kaufusi is a Very Large Man in the middle of the BYU DL, but...yeah. The badgers have the speed to get to the edges on the jet sweep and Jonathan Taylor outside runs.

What I Want: A cover.

#19 Michigan Wolverines (1-1) vs SMU Mustangs (0-2)

2:30pm | BTN | MI -35

Last Week: Michigan back, 49-3; SMU lost to TCU, 42-12

Things, uh, aren’t currently going great for Sonny Dykes in Dallas. The Ponies were probably not going to hold onto the Iron Skillet, even at home, but that was preceded by an embarrassing 46-23 loss in the Safeway Bowl at the hands of their little brother-to-the-north, your North Texas Mean Green.

Braeden West has been at least capable for the Ponies as a change-of-pace RB from QB Ben Hicks throwing it all over creation, but...the OL isn’t good at keeping him upright, as they’ve allowed four sacks in each of their two games. James Proche is one of his deep threats, and West is a decent option catching the ball out of the backfield.

But...the Wolverines will run all over SMU. After holding North Texas to 68 yards on 43 attempts, the Mustangs got run all kinds of over by the Horned Frogs. After jumping to a 9-0 lead, SMU managed only a FG as the Frogs got a punt return and a scoop-six, yielding 247 yards on just 42 carries along the way (5.9 ypc). Michigan’s got the explosive runners and SMU’s PONY RAID (I don’t actually know what Dykes is calling his offense now) will wear out its own defense with some three-and-outs.


Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-0) vs Miami Hydroxide Redhawks (0-2)

2:30pm | BTN | MN -14

Last Week: Minnesota def. Fresno State, 21-14; Miami Hydroxide lost to Cincinnati, 21-0

Did you know Miami(OH) plays Cincy for the Victory Bell? The things you forget...

The Redhawks are throwing it a lot and...well, they’re not doing a lot else. None of Kenny Young, Alonzo Smith, or QB Gus Ragland have really emerged as the ground option for Miami Hydroxide, which has instead relied—with mixed results—on big plays from WRs James Gardner (12.9 ypc) and Jack Sorenson (4 catches for 105, 1 TD). Get ready for Ragland to air it out.

On the other side, the Redhawks got worn down by Cincinnati, which got two late TDs to give an ugly game a misleading scoreline—there were 18 punts and just one pick (of Ragland, by Cincy) in the Battle for the Victory Bell. Marshall, however, used two backs to run all over the Redhawks...though they were backed up by a strong passing game. If Minnesota finds a replacement for Rodney Smith from among its talented stable of young backs, the Gophers should cruise.

What I Want: A cover—preferably with the emergence of a consistent RB threat.

Illinois Fighting Illini (2-0) vs South Florida Bulls (2-0)

2:30pm | BTN | USF -9.5

Last Week: Illini def. Western Illinois, 34-14; USF def. Georgia Tech, 49-38

The Illini are home dogs to a team that whipped them up and down the field in a penalty-fest last year. So there’s that. Half of Illinois is suspended, we think, and per Thump’s despondent ramblings, an LB and QB have started at WR, while the backup kicker has entered the two-deep at WR as well.

It’s just athletes all the way down for Charlie Strong at USF—their best RB, Duron Bell Jr., is questionable with a head injury, but even he was second-fiddle to QB Blake Barnett. In addition to leading the Bulls in carries (with 24, double that of Bell), Barnett is completing 69% of his passes (nice) for 7.8 YPA and has 5 TD/1 INT. Cover Tyree McCants? That’s fine, Randall St. Felix or Darnell Salomon will burn you deep.

A deep, deep secondary in Strong’s 3-3-5 system hides a green front three behind blitzing linebackers and ballhawking defensive backs. From the linebacking corps, there’s Nico Sawtelle, who’s already got 2.5 TFL, a sack, an INT, and a fumble recovery...and while the Bulls’ rushing stats are ugly due to their matchup with Georgia Tech, there’s an actual concern that the Illini could establish the run. Allowing 7.4 ypc against the Jackets is one thing, but almost 4 ypc to Elon as well is not a great look.

What I Want: Beat the spread, Illinois. Dear God. Just beat the spread.

Purdue Boilermakers (0-2, 0-1 B1G) vs Missouri Tigers (2-0)

6:30pm | BTN | Miz -7

Last Week: Purdue lost to EMU, 20-19; Mizzou def. Wyoming, 40-13

If Clayton Thorson and Northwestern could move the ball at will against Purdue...dear God, what are Drew Lock and the Missouri Tigers going to do against our lovable locomotive lads?

Fresh off tearing up both UT-Martin and the usually-stout Wyoming Cowboys, the Tigers will attack Purdue through the air again and again. Really, be ready for Lock (74.3%, 9.8 YPA, 8/0 TD/INT) to find Emanuel Hall (14 for 342! that’s a real number, in just two games! and 3 TDs) over and over and over, with Johnathon Johnson and Albert Okwuegbunam providing shorter targets.

It’s the same formula for Purdue in 2018 as it was in 2017—move the ball efficiently on the ground and turn over the Tigers. Mizzou’s got a friskier pass rush than last year, but they’ve yet to manage an INT and haven’t been tested in 2018 by a QB like David Blough or Elijah Sindelar. Consider how damning a statement that is, but still take the over.

What I Want: Get off the schnide, Purdue. You’re the Big Ten’s only hope against the SEC until we get shut out of the playoff again.

Iowa Hawkeyes (2-0, 1-0 state of Iowa) vs Northern Iowa Panthers (0-1)

6:30pm | BTN | no line for FCS

Last Week: Iowa def. ISU, 13-3; Northern Iowa lost at Montana, 26-23 (9/1)

No word on who’s starting at QB for the Panthers, after UNI dug a 26-0 halftime hole with starter Eli Dunne before clawing back all but three of those points with backup Colton Howell.

It shouldn’t matter.

What I Want: Yawn.

Northwestern Wildcats (1-1, 1-0 B1G) vs Akron Zips (1-0-⚡)

6:30pm | BTN | NU -21

Last Week: NU lost to Duke, 21-7; Akron def. Morgan State, 41-7)

Doesn’t 1-0-⚡ look so much more badass than just being 1-0? If ties in soccer were marked with lightning bolts instead of numbers, you’d never hear an American denigrate that sport again. Anyways, Northwestern-Akron:

The good news: Northwestern now has game tape on Akron.
The bad news: Akron played an FCS team and needed to show next to nothing.

The good news: Akron QB Kato Nelson struggles with accuracy and INTs.
The bad news: Nelson is a threat to run with the ball.

The good news: Akron is a MAC team with an undersized and rebuilding OL.
The bad news: Van Edwards Jr. is a small, shifty RB who has big-play potential.

I could do this over and over, but you get the idea. Northwestern will need to establish Jeremy Larkin against a Zips front four anchored by DE Jamal Davis II. Terry Bowden and his Akron identity prey on turnovers and return their top six defensive backs, so Northwestern actually acting like a Big Ten team for once and imposing its will in the trenches would go a long way.


What I Want: Win by two scores. I don’t care about the spread, just...please.

#4 Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0) vs #15 TCU Horned Frogs (2-0)

7pm | ABC | OSU -12
Played at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX

Last Week: OSU def. Rutgers, 52-3; TCU def. SMU, 42-12

Here it is—TCU’s best chance to make a case for its inclusion in College Football Playoff discussions. Gameday is here, and the Horned Frogs face an Urban Meyer-less Ohio State squad in the game where the Buckeyes could use Meyer’s steady hand on the sideline.

Instead, Gary Patterson and the Frogs’ 4-2-5 defense will try to contain Ohio State’s explosive offensive in an era where the RPO has begun to challenge it by forcing hesitation, as Football Study Hall so nicely detailed. As we mentioned above, the TCU defense and special teams were opportunistic against SMU, and DB Innis Gaines has broken up 4 passes already in 2018. Corey Bethley has racked up three sacks along with Ty Summers’ two, and both KaVontae Turpin and Daythan Davis have return touchdowns. They haven’t faced a offense like Ohio State’s, though, and Dwayne Haskins has two options in Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins unlike anything the Frogs have seen from Southern or SMU.

Meanwhile, QB Shawn Robinson leads a run-happy TCU offense that is not afraid to spread the ball around—Turpin is the big-play threat in the receiving corps, but there’s enough to worry about with Robinson, Darius Anderson, and Sewo Olonilua all getting the ball out of the backfield. Ohio State’s only allowing 3.8 ypc so far, but no one’s confusing Oregon State or Rutgers with Power 5 programs, are they? Getting the Frogs behind schedule will play well for Greg Schiano’s defense.

What I Want: A win on the road (or a neutral site, whatever) is good enough.

What I Want:

12-1. I just...remember that someone out there loves you, Illinois. It’s not me, but someone does. And The Beatles told us love is all we need.

What I Expect:

11-2. Illinois, plus one of Rutgers and Purdue.

Burn Mattresses in the Streets If...

7-5 happens, I guess, but even then the conference’s reputation is probably fine unless wisconsin or Ohio State go down in flames. There are three underdogs, so in a 7-5 scenario we’re taking all of them as losses. Any one of Nebraska, Maryland, Indiana, or Northwestern wouldn’t stun me, and I guess Minnesota has to adjust with Rodney Smith. But as Week 2 showed us, the rest of the conference not named Ohio State, Penn State, and wisconsin—and Michigan, who is definitely BACK—has a long way to go before they’re respectable.


How does the Big Ten do in Week 3’s non-conference?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    (8 votes)
  • 8%
    11-1, Illinois loses
    (34 votes)
  • 2%
    11-1, Rutgers loses
    (9 votes)
  • 2%
    11-1, Purdue loses
    (11 votes)
  • 12%
    10-2, Illinois and Rutgers
    (48 votes)
  • 21%
    10-2, Illinois and Purdue
    (83 votes)
  • 6%
    10-2, Rutgers and Purdue
    (26 votes)
  • 31%
    9-3, all three lose
    (124 votes)
  • 5%
    9-3 (other, hit the comments)
    (20 votes)
  • 4%
    8-4 (tell us who takes the upset loss!)
    (18 votes)
  • 3%
    7-5 or worse
    (12 votes)
393 votes total Vote Now