Michigan and Minnesota were joined at the hip in this year’s non-conference schedule.

If NCAA Football ’22 existed as a video game, the first 3 games for both teams would have been played on the Junior Varsity setting. Minnesota rolled New Mexico State, Western Illinois and Colorado by a combined margin of 149-17. Michigan drubbed Colorado State, Hawaii and UConn by a collective 166-17.

Week 4 was the soonest we’d be able to gauge anything about either team.

For AP pollsters, Minnesota’s 34-7 win at Michigan State was finally enough to buy in on the Golden Gophers. Minnesota makes its 2022 debut at No. 21.

Michigan, which was finally tested against Maryland, hung on for a 34-27 win and maintained the No. 4 spot nationally.

Based on both performances, it seems dubious to me that there’s a 17-team gap between the Wolverines and Gophers. There might not be any gap, actually. Objectively speaking, both teams should probably be ranked somewhere around 10th.

But when you’re battling the bias of history — good for the Wolverines, bad for the Gophers — these corrections tend not to show up in the polls until mid-October at the soonest.

Michigan doesn’t deserve No. 4 — yet

The Wolverines are still coasting on last year’s accomplishments while also giving voters little reason to think they aren’t capable of another CFP run this season.

They certainly are capable. But Michigan needs to beat a ranked opponent or win a road game before being considered a valid Top-5 team. That’s how historically bad Michigan’s non-conference slate is this season. It has a chance to hurt the Wolverines in the eyes of the College Football Playoff committee when that time comes.

Here’s what each opponent has been up to:

Colorado State

  • Lost to Michigan, 51-7
  • Lost to Middle Tennessee State, 34-19
  • Lost to Washington State, 38-7
  • Lost to FCS Sacramento State, 41-10

Sacramento State’s win is the fourth-most lopsided victory for an FCS team over an FBS opponent in NCAA history.


  • Lost to Vanderbilt, 63-10
  • Lost to Western Kentucky, 49-17
  • Lost to Michigan, 56-10
  • Beat FCS Duquesne, 24-14
  • Lost to New Mexico State, 45-26

Duquesne is 1-3 with its lone win coming against Division II Thomas More.


  • Lost to Utah State, 31-20
  • Beat FCS Central Connecticut State, 28-3
  • Lost to Syracuse, 48-14
  • Lost to Michigan, 59-0
  • Lost to NC State, 41-10

Central Connecticut State is 0-4, including a 70-6 loss to Southeastern Louisiana.

Michigan’s 3 non-conference opponents are a combined 0-11 against FBS opponents. Their lone wins are over struggling FCS teams. And the other team lost to an FCS school by 31 points.

No. 5 Clemson has proven itself with a road win at Wake Forest. No. 6 USC did the same with a road win at Oregon State. Even No. 11 Penn State has proven far more about itself than Michigan with road wins at Auburn and Purdue.

The Maryland win was not a compelling enough piece of evidence to deem Michigan a legit Playoff contender. The score was even after Michigan was gifted a touchdown in the first 7 seconds thanks to the opening kickoff bouncing off the return man’s helmet.

It could be that Maryland is itself a legit Top 25 team. And in turn, Michigan may prove its top-5 bona fides against Iowa and Penn State over the next 3 weeks. But this is about right now.

And Minnesota looked no less than Michigan’s equal in its Saturday slaughter of Michigan State. Maybe even a little better.

Minnesota makes a statement

Before Michigan fans can say “What about Minnesota’s schedule?” — yeah, it’s bad too. But not quite as bad as Michigan’s.

New Mexico State

  • Lost to Nevada, 23-13
  • Lost to Minnesota, 38-0
  • Lost to UTEP, 20-13
  • Lost to Wisconsin, 66-7
  • Beat Hawaii, 45-26

This is actually a pretty helpful comparison, establishing that Minnesota’s win over New Mexico State is stronger than Michigan’s win over Hawaii. Granted, that’s like a strongman competition where someone curled a 4-pound weight over a 3-pound weight.

Western Illinois

  • Lost to Minnesota, 62-10
  • Lost to FCS Southern Utah, 17-10
  • Lost to FCS Tennessee-Martin, 42-25
  • Lost to FCS Northern Iowa, 52-17

The counterargument for Michigan fans: the Wolverines didn’t schedule any FCS teams, much less a bad FCS team. But one wonders if the Leathernecks might give Colorado State a game.


  • Lost to TCU, 38-13
  • Lost to Air Force, 41-10
  • Lost to Minnesota, 49-7
  • Lost to UCLA, 45-17

Of all the years for Colorado and Colorado State not to play one another … the Buffaloes and Rams may have both punched their tickets to 0-12 by skipping their rivalry game. But while the Buffs are bad, they’re also victims of their own schedule.

For reasons beyond comprehension, Colorado AD Rick George scheduled 2 non-conference road games (Air Force and Minnesota) while playing a Power 5 opponent in the other non-conference game. So it’s possible the Buffs have 3-9 talent trapped in an 0-12 body.

Thankfully, we can put all of that behind us at this point. This is no longer about Charmin-soft non-conference schedules, but what each team does in Big Ten play.

And in that regard, Minnesota unquestionably has a better resume right now. Michigan State clearly isn’t what it was a year ago, but to throttle the Spartans in East Lansing is a feat. Minnesota hasn’t beaten Michigan State by 27 points since 1958.

And that last sentence is illustrative as to why Minnesota finds itself down at No. 21. Fleck led the Gophers to a No. 10 national finish in 2019, but prior to that Minnesota hadn’t finished in the Top 10 since 1962. Minnesota just isn’t a name that sticks in the forefront of voters’ minds like Michigan does.

Unfortunately, there’s no Battle for the Little Brown Jug this year to demonstrate just how close these teams likely are on the field. Perhaps we’ll get one in Indianapolis. If we don’t, it’s on the Gophers to keep opening eyes to their legitimacy.

Around the B1G horn

Couldn’t watch every game? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered.

No. 3 Ohio State 52, Wisconsin 21

The Buckeyes put up 539 yards on Wisconsin’s defense, which is the most the Badgers have allowed since Ohio State racked up 558 yards in the 2014 Big Ten championship game.

Injury added to insult for Wisconsin when tight end Clay Cundiff was carted off with an almost-certain season-ending injury. Unfortunately, it’s the second-straight year Cundiff’s season will be done before November.

It’s also the second straight September in which Wisconsin has at least 2 losses. Not a good look for Paul Chryst.

No. 4 Michigan 34, Maryland 27

The Terrapins lost their previous 5 games against Jim Harbaugh by an average of 35 points, so Mike Locksley deserves credit for getting this program in competitive shape. He also deserves credit for the adjustment of getting Maryland down to 1 penalty for 5 yards a week after the Terps committed 15 penalties for 141 yards against SMU.

The problem for Maryland was too many turnovers (3) and too much Blake Corum (243 rushing yards). Granted, Terps fans wouldn’t be wrong to point out one of those turnovers should have been ruled an incomplete pass in a very puzzling non-replay review.

No. 11 Penn State 33, Central Michigan 14

Penn State’s defense forced 4 turnovers and threw in a goal-line stand for good measure against a pretty potent Chippewas offense.

Kaytron Allen showed the Nittany Lions have more than 1 talented freshman running back with 111 yards on 13 carries.

Both of those traits bode well for Penn State’s chances of competing in the B1G East.

Minnesota 34, Michigan State 7

Minnesota was 10-of-12 on third downs. We’ll find out whether that says more about Minnesota’s offense or Michigan State’s defense, but chances are it’s a little bit of both.

Also of note: Minnesota gained 32 first downs to Michigan State’s 14. The Gophers held the ball for 42:30, which puts them in the national lead for average time of possession.

Cincinnati 45, Indiana 24

The Bearcats pretty much begged the Hoosiers to steal this game from them, but Indiana could not get the job done. After cutting a 28-point halftime deficit down to 14 with 14:01 remaining, Indiana had 3 possessions to make it a 1-score game, but failed to capitalize.

Though it seems impossible to lose a game by 21 when you get 26 first downs to your opponent’s 15, that’s just what Indiana managed to do. The Hoosiers ran an insane 104 plays, but only averaged 3.3 yards per play — a bizarre marriage of tempo and inefficiency.

Iowa 27, Rutgers 10

This matchup featured one of the lowest over/unders ever, closing at 34 points after opening the week at 35.5. It was the polar opposite of USC’s game at Oregon State, which closed at 70.5 with a pair of high-powered offenses clashing.

Naturally, the Hawkeyes and Scarlet Knights combined for more points (37) than the Trojans and Beavers (31). Kudos to anyone who had that parlay.

Purdue 28, Florida Atlantic 26

Word trickled out Friday afternoon that quarterback Aidan O’Connell was doubtful to play, and on Saturday night we saw just how valuable he is to Purdue’s offense.

The Boilers gained a season-low 354 yards against a Florida Atlantic defense that surrendered 653 yards to Central Florida the previous week.

If O’Connell is unable to play at Minnesota this week, it could get ugly.

Miami (Ohio) 17, Northwestern 14

The Wildcats allowed 278 yards — only 62 of which were passing yards — and lost. And despite not being able to pass the ball, the RedHawks rallied to score the final 10 points of the fourth quarter. An all-time inexplicable loss for Pat Fitzgerald.

Luckily, 1-3 Northwestern starts with a clean slate in Big Ten play. The Cats are technically tied for first in the West with a 1-0 conference record.

Illinois 31, Chattanooga 0 (Thursday)

The formula is growing familiar for the Fighting Illini — Chase Brown gains at least 100 yards, and the defense doesn’t allow the opponent to do much of anything.

Illinois is fourth in the nation — and third in the Big Ten — with 8 points allowed per game. Keep an eye on the Illini in the West if they can spring an upset at Wisconsin this week.

Week 4 MVPs

1. RB Blake Corum (Michigan)

It’s not just the 1970s-style 243 yards on 30 carries that made Corum’s performance against Michigan so spectacular. It’s the soul-stealing style in which he scored both of his touchdowns.

Maryland had a chance to feel very good about its chances at halftime, especially after its blunder on the opening kickoff. That’s when Corum crushed the Terrapins shells.

Corum put on the finishing touches, too, with a 47-yard touchdown run that put Michigan up 34-19 late in the fourth quarter.

2. QB Tanner Morgan (Minnesota)

The Gophers were dealt a blow at the start of the week when they lost leading receiver Chris Autman-Bell for the season. Autman-Bell is Minnesota’s most veteran pass-catcher and best downfield threat. It was fair to wonder if the injury would sink PJ Fleck’s rowboat.

Instead, Morgan completed passes to 10 targets at Michigan State, finishing 23-of-26 for 268 yards and 3 touchdowns.

3. CB Mike Sainristil (Michigan)

A year ago — heck, not even — Sainristil was a wide receiver. Saturday, he was the most active defensive back on the field against Maryland’s potent passing attack.

Sainristil finished with 8 tackles. Usually that means a corner gave up a lot of catches, but in this case it means he was utilized as a blitzer. Sainristil had 2 TFL and a sack. He also broke up a 2-point conversion attempt that kept the Wolverines ahead 24-19.

4. S Chris Jefferson (Purdue)

Jefferson’s pick-6 against Penn State should have sealed the game for Purdue, but things went awry after that.

This time, Jefferson didn’t make it all the way home after a clutch interception in the red zone. But the Boilers did make the lead stand up after his game-altering play.

5. TE Cade Stover (Ohio State)

Sure, what’s another receiving weapon for Ohio State?

Stover, who has wandered from defensive end to linebacker to tight end in his previous 3 years in the program, scored his first 2 career touchdowns in the first quarter against Wisconsin.

Honorable mention

Ohio State receiver Emeka Egbuka, who can somehow catch 6 receptions for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns and get left out of the Top 5. … Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud, who can somehow throw 5 touchdown passes and get left out of the Top 5. … Buckeyes running backs TreVeyon Henderson (121 yards) and Miyan Wiliams (101 yards), who both went over the century mark. … Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith, who helped stuff Maryland’s run game with 8 tackles including 5 solos. … Penn State running back Kaytron Allen for becoming the second Nittany Lion freshman to break 100 yards this season. … Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim for his 13th straight 100-yard game. … Iowa nickel Cooper DeJean for his 45-yard interception return TD, and Hawkeyes safety Kaevon Merriweather for his 30-yard fumble return TD.

Play of the week

The real answer is Corum’s cutback for a 33-yard touchdown on 4th-and-1 late in the first half. It was a brilliant piece of vision and playmaking.

But you’ve already seen that play. So allow us to dig into the bag for something more fresh. And what could be fresher than a reverse flea-flicker for a touchdown?

Was it a bit foolhardy for the Illini to waste this play on an FCS opponent? Absolutely. But that’s a mere detail. It was still cool.

Blooper of the week

Et tu, Brute?