10 Things We Learned About the Big Ten in Week 4

Alex Callos@@alexcallosCorrespondent ISeptember 23, 2012

10 Things We Learned About the Big Ten in Week 4

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    Week 4 of the college football season produced another disappointing showing for the Big Ten.

    The league has been much maligned during the early part of the season, and rightfully so. The conference was 7-3 this weekend, but once again failed to produce on a national stage.

    Here are 10 things we learned about the Big Ten.

Minnesota May Be Better Than We Imagined

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    Even though Minnesota has not played a team of real significance yet, it has been impressive. The Gophers were that again over the weekend, knocking off Syracuse 17-10.

    Minnesota has a relatively easy schedule, particularly at the start of Big Ten play, and has a legitimate shot at reaching a bowl game, something they have not been able to do since 2009.

    With the emergence of Max Shortell as a replacement for the injured Marqueis Gray at quarterback, the Gophers have not missed a beat and could be in good shape for the next few years.

Ohio State Still Has a Lot of Work to Do

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    Ohio State has looked progressively worse in each of its four games and struggled mightily in a 29-15 win over winless UAB.

    While there are plenty of questions about the offense, what appears to be a bigger issue is the defense. it allowed more than 400 yards to UAB, 259 through the air, and Ohio State was dominated 33:55 to 26:05 in time of possession.

Andrew Maxwell Is Not the Answer for the Spartans

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    Michigan State played one of the worst teams in the country in Eastern Michigan and the game was still in question midway through the fourth quarter. Part of that is due to the struggles of quarterback Andrew Maxwell.

    The junior completed 16-of-29 passes for only 159 yards and a touchdown. The Spartans continue to rely too heavily on running back Le'Veon Bell, making it hard for him to last the entire season.

Wisconsin Is Not Likely to Improve Any Time Soon

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    After a loss at Oregon State in their second game, many thought the Badgers would quickly regroup. And while they have won their previous two games, that has obviously not been the case.

    Wisconsin struggled against Utah State last week and once again on Saturday against UTEP, leading only 23-19 with four minutes to go. 

    The main problem has been the offense, which has struggled in the absence of quarterback Russell Wilson.

    It doesn't look like Wisconsin is going to be able to right the ship this season.

Taylor Martinez Might Lead Nebraska to the Rose Bowl

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    Taylor Martinez has silenced a lot of his critics in the early part of this season. And with Ohio State not eligible for postseason play, Nebraska is emerging as the favorite to represent the conference in the Rose Bowl.

    Nebraska throttled Idaho State 73-7 on Saturday, and Martinez and the Cornhuskers are 3-1, with a 36-30 loss at UCLA their only blemish.

    Martinez has passed for 878 yards and nine touchdowns with only one interception while rushing for 191 yards and two touchdowns.

    His arm, not his legs, could lead Nebraska to the Rose Bowl.

College Football Has Solved Denard Robinson

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    Denard Robinson was one of the most explosive players in the country the past two seasons. But it looks like the college football world has him figured out this season.

    He has put up decent numbers, but turnovers have been a huge issue.

    Robinson has thrown eight interceptions, including four against Notre Dame on Saturday night. He also lost a fumble against the Fighting Irish.

    Those turnovers were the reason Michigan lost in South Bend.

Penn State Has a Lot of Heart

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    After what happened at Virginia the second week of the season, it would have been easy for Penn State to fold up and go home.

    But the Nittany Lions have battled through an extremely difficult situation and showed their heart once again Saturday in a 24-13 win over Temple.

    While wins over Navy and Temple are not all that impressive, a 2-2 record at this point probably exceeds the expectations of most Penn State fans.

    Senior quarterback Matt McGloin has been a big reason for the Nittany Lions' success. He has thrown for nine touchdowns with only two interceptions.

Northwestern Is No Fluke

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    Northwestern is one of three undefeated teams in the Big Ten, and the Wildcats have beaten three schools from BCS conferences in the process.

    With Indiana and Penn State coming up the next two weeks, it is likely Northwestern will be 6-0 heading into a game at Minnesota.

    That is uncharted territory for the Wildcats, who could be one of the nation's biggest surprise teams.

Home Field Has Not Been Kind

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    The friendly confines of home have been just the opposite for the Big Ten this season. Week 4 was no different. 

    Iowa lost 32-31 at home on a last-second field goal by Central Michigan, and Illinois was dominated at home in a 52-24 loss to Louisiana Tech.

    Michigan State and Indiana were the Big Ten losers at home in Week 3. Notre Dame topped the Spartans, 20-3, and Ball State upset the Hoosiers, 41-39.

The Conference Race Is Wide Open

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    Heading into Week 3, many considered Michigan State the heavy favorite to win the Big Ten after  Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan suffered early-season defeats.

    But after Week 4, that is no longer the case. At this point, there's no telling who will emerge in a conference filled with teams on the verge of falling out of the Top 25.

    Even dark-horse candidates such as Northwestern and Minnesota now have a shot.