With Michigan on bye, Week 7 was a chance for fans to scope out the rest of the Wolverines’ opponents, set their expectations accordingly for upcoming games and to see how Michigan’s six wins have held up. Here’s how it all played out.
Western Michigan (Sept. 4, 47-14 win)
Despite a 45-20 loss at home vs. Ball State on Oct. 9, Michigan’s season-opening win has aged pretty well. Worth noting the Cardinals won the MAC last season and that WMU’s own big win, 44-41 at Pittsburgh in Week 3, looks even better now that the Panthers are 5-1. Adding to that, the Broncos smashed Kent State, 64-31, in Kalamazoo this past weekend, gaining 652 yards of offense. This one was actually close until a third-quarter onslaught saw WMU turn a six-point halftime lead into a 33-point one. Kaleb Eleby threw for 311 yards, Skyy Moore and Jaylen Hall both had 144 yards receiving and Sean Tyler picked up 169 yards on the ground.
Western Michigan is 5-2 and 3-1 in MAC play and will be at Toledo this week.
Washington (Sept. 11, 31-10 win)
The Huskies, not exactly a team equipped to play from behind, did just that against UCLA this past weekend. After falling into a 17-3 hole, Washington went on two straight touchdown marches to tie the score. But the Huskies couldn’t stop Dorian Thompson-Robinson lead his team to a 13-play, 90-yard drive to ultimately win the game, 24-17. Washington, now 2-4 and 1-2 in the Pac-12, is proving itself to be intensely mediocre. The running game, which needs to be bruising and effective for its style of football, gained just 83 yards on 31 carries vs. the Bruins.
Fortunately for the Huskies, they get to play Arizona this Saturday.
Northern Illinois (Sept. 18, 63-10 win)
With Kent State’s blowout loss at Western Michigan, Northern Illinois is now the only unbeaten team in the MAC. The Huskies held off a late Bowling Green charge to win 34-26 and claim their fourth straight victory, improving to 5-2 and 3-0 in the conference. NIU went smashmouth in this one, as Rocky Lombardi threw just eight passes. Jay Ducker carried the ball 33 times and gained 210 yards, while the Huskies’ defense forced a pair of stops on the Falcons’ last two drives.
Northern Illinois will be at Central Michigan this week.
Rutgers (Sept. 25, 20-13 win)
Once upon a time, a road win over Northwestern would have been the type of victory the Scarlet Knights would kill to have. Now it’s an opportunity they let slip through their fingers. Rutgers did absolutely nothing in a 21-7 loss, gaining 222 yards on 66 plays from scrimmage and committing 11 penalties. This was a bad, bad defeat for a team that started out 3-0 and hoped to get back to winning ways after three straight top 10 opponents, but instead saw their bowl hopes dwindle severely. It’s becoming much harder to justify Michigan’s performance against the Scarlet Knights, just as it’s becoming harder to say Rutgers has definitively improved from last season.
At 3-4 and 0-4 in Big Ten play, Rutgers gets a week off before going on the road to Illinois on Oct. 30.
Wisconsin (Oct. 2, 38-17 win)
The Badgers’ game against Army this past Saturday went pretty much as expected. Army dropped back to pass seven times and ran it 49 times. Wisconsin attempted 16 passes to 42 runs. Both of the Badgers’ touchdown drives took more than 10 plays to achieve. Both teams had 10-play drives that ended with a punt. Halftime arrived in just 73 minutes. A combined 576 yards were gained, or approximately a third of the combined total from the 2016 Oklahoma-Texas Tech game. The Badgers won, 20-14, to improve to 3-3 on the season. This is far from a vintage Wisconsin outfit, but all the outward characteristics of one are still there.
This week, the Badgers get to take a trip to West Lafayette to face a Purdue team high off a commanding upset of Iowa.
Nebraska (Oct. 9, 32-29 win)
So much for all those close, “quality” losses. With Ohio State and Iowa looming later this season, the Cornhuskers had a microscopic margin for error if they wanted to keep their bowl hopes alive. Thanks to a 30-23 loss at Minnesota, they now have none. The Golden Gophers gained 252 first-half yards and led 21-9 at halftime, taking their foot somewhat off the gas late. At this point their talent means little: without a bowl appearance to mark tangible progress — Nebraska (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten) hasn’t gone bowling since 2016 — it’s fair to wonder if Scott Frost’s fourth season in Lincoln will be his last.
Week 8 is the Huskers’ bye week before they host Purdue on Oct. 30.
Northwestern (Oct. 23)
Somehow, some way, Northwestern is 3-3 and has a more viable path to bowl eligibility than Nebraska. It doesn’t mean the Wildcats are a good team, but they were very much competent against Rutgers this past week. Ryan Hilinski started at quarterback once more and threw for 267 yards, completing big plays to Stephon Robinson Jr. and Malik Washington. On defense, Northwestern, which was allowing nearly 600 yards on average to Power 5 teams, held the Scarlet Knights in their own territory on all but three drives.
Northwestern’s margin of error going forward is slim but not entirely nonexistent. They’ll travel to Ann Arbor this weekend, but they’ve got Minnesota, Purdue and Illinois to close out the season.
Michigan State (Oct. 30)
It wasn’t pretty. But the Spartans became the first team in the country to reach 7-0 with their 20-15 win at Indiana this past weekend. Kenneth Walker III gained 84 yards — barely half his season average — on 23 carries. Payton Thorne had his first really lackluster game of the season, throwing two picks, losing a fumble and averaging 4.8 yards per passing attempt. Fortunately for MSU, Indiana quarterback Jack Tuttle was worse, averaging 3.6 yards per attempt and throwing a pick-six to Cal Haladay.
The Spartans absolutely could have lost this game. They didn’t. Now they have two weeks to prepare for Michigan.
Indiana (Nov. 6)
I’ll just leave this here...
Penn State, Maryland and Ohio State were all on bye this week.