Big 10 of the Big Ten: Conference overview after Week 4

Editor’s note: Big 10 of the Big Ten is a collection of tidbits from around the conference. This weekly feature provides a recap from the previous slate of games and also serves as a preview to the upcoming football weekend.

Conference play begins

Saturday marks the start of conference play for the nation’s oldest athletic conference. It’s the 117th season in the Big Ten and the second year of the two divisions and championship game. 

Michigan vs. Notre Dame could end?

Michigan is off this week and still reeling from its loss to Notre Dame, but now the Fighting Irish have notified the Wolverines that they plan to opt out of the schools’ contract from 2015 to 2017. After 2014, it will be at least five years before they match up again, as the two schools were already scheduled to take a hiatus in 2018 and 2019. The Michigan football Twitter account tweeted that the decision “was Notre Dame’s and not ours.”

Top offensive performance

For the second time this season, Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell won the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. He finished with a career-high 253 yards rushing and a touchdown in Michigan State’s 23-7 victory over Eastern Michigan. 

Top defensive performance

Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland recorded 12 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and a career-high two sacks as Wisconsin defeated UTEP on Saturday. It is his fourth career Big Ten Defensive player of the Week honor, tied for the second-most in conference history. 

Where they rank

The highest-ranked Big Ten team in the AP poll is No. 14 Ohio State, while Michigan is the latest Big Ten team to fall out of the rankings. Eight Big Ten teams received votes, including Northwestern — just three votes shy of the top 25.

Game to watch

ESPN’s “College Gameday” will be in East Lansing this week, when No. 14 Ohio State visits No. 20 Michigan State in a battle between the Big Ten’s top-ranked teams. Michigan State has the No. 6 defense in the country, and the Buckeyes have looked like the Big Ten’s best team thus far.  

Game to keep an eye on

Wisconsin, the preseason favorite to win the Leaders division, has struggled to a 3-1 start and fallen out of the rankings. The Badgers go on the road to face No. 22 Nebraska; the Cornhuskers will have revenge on their mind after losing their Big Ten debut in Madison last season. 

Remaining unbeaten

Northwestern, Minnesota and Ohio State all enter the weekend 4-0, but only the Buckeyes are ranked. The three teams will put their perfect records on the line on the road against Indiana, Iowa and Michigan State, respectively.

Odd men out

The start of the Big Ten season will have to wait for Purdue and Michigan. The Boilermakers are at home against Marshall, which leads the nation in passing yards and is averaging 41 points per game. But it is also allowing almost 43 points per game. The Wolverines, on a bye this week, open conference play next week in West Lafayette.

ESPN coming to C-U

This Saturday’s Illinois vs. Penn State game will broadcast on ESPN at 11 a.m. Dave Pasch, Brian Griese and Jenn Brown will have the call for the broadcast team for a pair of 2-2 teams that appear to be trending in different directions. 

Jamal can be reached at and @jamalcollier.