A look at some things to watch in the Big Ten during Week 4:
GAME OF THE WEEK: Miami at No. 24 Nebraska. Not so long ago, when the Hurricanes met the Cornhuskers, everybody in the nation grabbed a chair in front of the (not light and thin, definitely not high-def) TV. Five times in 19 years from the 1984 Orange Bowl to the 2002 Rose Bowl, college football held its breath and waited to see what might happen. The Canes won four of those five matchups, taking three national titles. Three of those meetings were blowouts, all in Miami’s favor. But the two close games – the Bernie Kosar-led Canes’ 31-30 stunner in 1984 and the Huskers’ title-clinching victory behind Tommy Frazier in the ’95 Orange Bowl – are classics. Neither program has been a national contender for years. It’s unlikely this game will change that. But it sure will be nice to see all those old Tom Osborne, Geno Torretta and Turner Gill film clips.
BEST MATCHUP: Utah at Michigan. This is just the next in what will likely be a series of challenges to Brady Hoke’s four-year coaching tenure with the Wolverines. Fans of the maize and blue have been all over their coach after a lopsided, 31-0 loss in the final rivalry matchup with Notre Dame in Week Two, sandwiched between unimpressive victories against overmatched Appalachian State and Miami (Ohio). Mighty Michigan is just 12-10 in its last 22 games. Utah (2-0) has a good coach (Kyle Whittingham) and QB (Travis Wilson) while Hoke’s offense (led by Devin Gardner) and defense (top tackler: Joe Bolden) have been good but not good enough for the critics.
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INSIDE THE NUMBERS: First, the bad: The Big Ten is just 13-13 against Football Bowl Subdivision teams in nonconference play, 10-0 against Football Championship Subdivision teams and a lowly 1-10 against the other power conferences plus Notre Dame. Rutgers’ win at Washington State to open the season represents the lone victory. … It could get worse, too. Conference teams are either an underdog or a slight favorite in most of Saturday’s games (Iowa at Pittsburgh, Maryland at Syracuse, Utah at Michigan, Miami at Nebraska, Southern Illinois at Purdue and Rutgers at Navy). The only clear-cut favorite is No. 11 Michigan State at home against Eastern Michigan. … Now, the good: Indiana’s Tevin Coleman leads the nation in rushing (218.5 ypg) and all-purpose yards (237.5). … Nebraska is No. 5 nationally in total offense (594.3 ypg) and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg is seventh in the country in passing yards per game (360.7). … The best news, of course, is that Big Ten play begins in earnest next week, putting the ugly comparisons with the SEC and Pac-12 on the back burner until, oh, the bowl games.
LONG SHOT: Indiana at No. 18 Missouri. From the outside, this looks like a laugher. And, covering our tracks, maybe it will be. But Indiana has a wild and productive offense and the Hoosiers (1-1) are coming off an embarrassing loss at Mid-American Conference foe Bowling Green. Missouri (3-0) has a former Mr. Football in Ohio (Maty Mauk) at QB who likes to sling it all over the place. If the Hoosiers’ defense shows up – always a big question – maybe this won’t be an SEC walkover. Or maybe it will.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford. Some preseason publications listed him as a Heisman Trophy dark horse after he put up 1,422 yards a year ago. But an injured left ankle has limited the senior to just 143 yards on 37 carries with one TD in Sparty’s 1-1 start. Coach Mark Dantonio will want to establish a physical advantage on the line by running the ball against the MAC’s Eastern Michigan, so don’t be surprised if Langford grabs some headlines with some impressive numbers.