Michigan had no problems with Northern Illinois in Week 3, putting on a complete performance in a 63-10 win. But how did the rest of the Wolverines’ schedule fare?
Western Michigan (Sept. 4, 47-14 win)
The Broncos represented their state and conference fabulously, going to Pittsburgh and beating the Panthers, 44-41. Kaleb Eleby went 23-of-34 for 337 yards and three scores, while Corey Crooms (eight catches, 161 yards, one score) and Skyy Moore (11 receptions, 124 yards, 1 TD) consistently burned Pitt’s secondary. Ladarius Jefferson (22 carries, 84 yards, two touchdowns) and Sean Tyler (14 rushes, 78 yards, one TD) combined to make up a ground game solid enough to let Eleby and company do their thing.
WMU was picked to finish second in the MAC West Division, but after Saturday, the Broncos look like they might be the best team in not just their division, but league. Michigan’s season-opening blowout is only getting better. WMU hosts San Jose State (2-1) in an attractive mid-major duel Saturday.
Washington (Sept. 11, 31-10 win)
The Huskies thumped Arkansas State, 52-3, for their first win of the season after an immensely disappointing start. Dylan Morris threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns and Washington ran for 200 yards on 39 carries. It certainly didn’t hurt Morris that he had a top target newly available in Jalen McMillan, who went off for 10 catches, 175 yards and a TD in his first game back from injury. Meanwhile, the Red Wolves averaged less than five yards per passing attempt and just two yards per carry against the Huskies’ defense.
Is Washington as good as it looked in a 49-point win over a Sun Belt team? Probably not, but at the same time, it probably isn’t as bad as it looked while losing to Montana and Michigan (it bears repeating that the Grizzlies are one of the best teams in the Football Championship Subdivision). The Huskies host California (1-2) this Saturday.
Rutgers (Sept. 25)
The Scarlet Knights took care of business against Delaware, winning 45-13 against their FCS foe to move to 3-0 for the first time since 2012. Noah Vedral picked apart the Blue Hens’ secondary for 323 yards on 21-of-26 passing, connecting on big gains with Bo Melton (six catches, 125 yards) and Brandon Sanders (three catches, 84 yards). Defensively, Rutgers held Delaware to 98 yards passing and had five sacks, though if there’s one place to worry, the Blue Hens averaged nearly five yards per rush.
Rutgers is unbeaten, but their season statistics, such as an average of 3.3 yards per rush, still don’t scream “for real.” And the Scarlet Knights certainly haven’t played anybody the caliber of Michigan.
Wisconsin (Oct. 2)
The Badgers were on bye this week in preparation for a Saturday showdown against Notre Dame at Soldier Field. The Fighting Irish, who seem hell-bent on pushing the transitive property of sports as far as it can go, are 3-0 despite looking far less than impressive in wins over Florida State, Toledo and Purdue.
Nebraska (Oct. 9)
The Cornhuskers went down to Norman to renew their ancient rivalry with Oklahoma and surprised pretty much everyone. As three-touchdown underdogs, they hung right with the third-ranked Sooners all game and fell 23-16.
Oklahoma certainly didn’t look great Saturday, but this wasn’t all on OU. Adrian Martinez outplayed preseason Heisman favorite Spencer Rattler, throwing for 289 yards and showing pinpoint accuracy all game long. Nebraska’s defense, led by linebackers JoJo Domann and Luke Reimer, held Rattler and the Sooners’ offense mostly in check.
At the same time, the Huskers showed why they haven’t made any tangible progress in four years under Scott Frost. The offensive line committed six penalties, couldn’t run block, and Cameron Culp missed two field goals and an extra point that was returned all the way for a two-point OU score.
Nebraska’s a talented team and will surprise some more teams if it consistently plays like it did against Oklahoma, though its schedule from here on out does it no favors. It’s got Michigan State in East Lansing this week.
Northwestern (Oct. 23)
There are three separate stories to the Wildcats’ 30-23 loss at Duke last week. The Blue Devils took a 27-0 first-half lead as Hunter Johnson was disastrous, throwing three picks and losing the ball on a sack. Andrew Marty came in to replace Johnson and gave Northwestern’s offense immediate life, leading the offense to two quick TDs on his first two drives. However, Marty suffered an injury in the fourth quarter and the Wildcats couldn’t complete the comeback with South Carolina transfer Ryan Hilinski replacing him.
Marty, if healthy, seems like the answer at QB after going 11-of-16 for 151 yards and two scores while running for 44 yards and another touchdown. But Northwestern’s defense still allowed 562 yards to the Blue Devils, so it’s not time to be bullish on the ‘Cats yet. They’ll host Ohio (1-2) this week.
Michigan State (Oct. 30)
The Spartans were commanding in a 38-17 win at Miami, especially during a fourth quarter in which they outscored the Hurricanes 21-3. Payton Thorne went 18-of-31 for 261 yards and four touchdowns, while Kenneth Walker III exploded for 172 yards on 27 carries. MSU gave up 388 yards through the air but was opportunistic on defense, picking off D’Eriq King twice and forcing two fumbles. This was a statement opportunity for the Spartans and boy, did they make one.
Michigan State will host Nebraska this Saturday in what looks like it might be a much more fun game than it appeared before the season.
Indiana (Nov. 6)
Considering how the Hoosiers looked in Week 1, a 38-24 loss to No. 8 Cincinnati, which they led going into the fourth quarter, is reason for encouragement. Indiana held a potent offense to 328 yards, and had the Bearcats even more in check before linebacker Micah McFadden was ejected for targeting late in the first half, a play that greatly swung the momentum. But Michael Penix’s play (17-of-40, three interceptions) has to be concerning, especially on the heels of a 4.3 yards-per-attempt performance against FCS Idaho.
Indiana goes on the road this Saturday to face Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers (1-1) are averaging 456.5 yards through the air with Houston Baptist transfer Bailey Zappe leading the way.
Penn State (Nov. 13)
The Nittany Lions, after beating Auburn 28-20 in their first non-conference White Out game since 2011, have the best resume in the Big Ten and it’s not close at all. While PSU couldn’t move the ball on the ground against the Tigers, Sean Clifford (28-of-32, 280 yards, two touchdowns) had a career night, leading his team with poise and accuracy that he lacked last season. No one really knows how good Auburn is yet, but this one felt like a marquee, possibly season-defining matchup regardless, and the Nittany Lions rose to the occasion.
Penn State hosts Villanova this Saturday. The Wildcats (3-0) are usually one of the better teams in FCS, but they opened as four-touchdown underdogs and it would be a major surprise if they were competitive.
Maryland (Nov. 20)
The Terrapins had their first road test this week and handled it...passably. Joseph Petrino’s field goal with time expiring gave Maryland a 20-17 win against Illinois and its first 3-0 start in five years.
Taulia Tagovailoa was once again the star, going 32-of-43 for 350 yards and a touchdown. He spread the ball around plenty, as the Terps had four receivers with at least 66 yards. Defensively, Maryland’s pass rush never let Brandon Peters have it easy, with six sacks and four quarterback hurries. Sam Okuayinonu, Durell Nchami and Greg Rose each had two sacks and two tackles for loss.
Maryland hosts Kent State this week. The Golden Flashes are 1-2 with big losses to Texas A&M and Iowa.
Ohio State (Nov. 27)
Is it time to speculate if this could be the year Michigan actually does it?
Even if you’re not ready to go quite that far, it’s fair to say the Buckeyes aren’t the invincible force they’ve been of late. Their 41-20 win over Tulsa was a one-score game until late in the fourth quarter, and Ohio State’s secondary was porous against a Golden Hurricane team that lost to FCS UC Davis. Davis Brin threw for 428 yards, thoroughly outplaying C.J. Stroud (15-of-25, 185 yards).
Freshman running back Treveyon Henderson (24 carries, 277 yards, three touchdowns) was explosive and looks like the real deal, but the Buckeyes have more questions than answers after last Saturday. They’ll have a chance to play a more complete game against a very terrible Akron team (No. 125 in SP+) this weekend.