Badgers face questions entering Big Ten opener with Spartans
Some things to watch in Week 4 in the Big Ten:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 8 Michigan State opens its Big Ten championship defense at home against No. 11 Wisconsin. The Spartans are looking for a second straight win over a ranked opponent after beating Notre Dame 36-28 on the road last week. The Badgers struggled to win at home against Georgia State, and Alex Hornibrook will replace Bart Houston as starting quarterback. These teams have played close games in recent years, and this one might come down to who runs the ball best. The Spartans and Badgers are 1-2 in rush defense in the Big Ten. Michigan State's LJ Scott is running for 101.5 yards a game; Wisconsin's Corey Clement averaged 98.5 through two games but missed last week's game and remains questionable with an ankle injury.
Nebraska at Northwestern. This matchup doesn't look that great on paper, but four of the last five meetings have been decided by three or fewer points. The No. 20 Cornhuskers are coming off a big win over Oregon, and Tommy Armstrong Jr. is playing the best football of his career during a 3-0 start. Northwestern opened with losses to Western Michigan and FCS Illinois State before beating Duke last week. The Wildcats are last in the Big Ten in total offense and scoring and have given up a league-high 11 sacks.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Rutgers, which hosts Iowa, is 0-4 against the West Division since joining the Big Ten. ... Iowa has a Big Ten-best eight-game regular season conference winning streak. Iowa hasn't won nine Big Ten games in a row since a 10-game streak from 2001-02. ... Michigan, which hosts Penn State, went 10-plus quarters before committing its first penalty on offense. ... Saquon Barkley's seven combined offensive touchdowns (6 rushing, 1 receiving) are the most through three games by a Penn State player since Lydell Mitchell had eight in 1971. ... Minnesota enters its home game against Colorado State 9 for 9 in the red zone, all touchdowns. The Gophers were 31 of 36 when moving inside the opponents' 20-yard line, but scored only 19 touchdowns. ... Indiana, which hosts Wake Forest, is on its first eight-game non-conference win streak since 1992-95.
Nevada, a 5 +-point underdog at Purdue, is coming off its best offensive performance in coach Brian Polian's four seasons. James Butler ran for 174 yards and three TDs against Buffalo, and the Mountain West's Wolf Pack will be going against the 104th-ranked run defense in the Boilermakers. Purdue leads the Big Ten in passing yards per game, but its six interceptions are twice as many as anyone else in the conference, and the Boilers have lost 28 of 31 against FBS opponents under Darrell Hazell.
PLAYER TO WATCH
WR Janarion Grant of Rutgers is one of the most dynamic players in the country and the one Iowa must keep under control. Through three games Grant has scored touchdowns on punt and kick returns and has thrown for a TD and rushed for three. He's yet to catch a TD pass, but he leads the Scarlet Knights with 15 receptions. He also has a team-leading nine plays gaining at least 20 yards.
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