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College Football: Blowouts, struggles mark Week 4 of Big Ten season

(Reuters) -- The Week 4 schedule appeared to be really weak going into Saturday’s action and the results certainly proved that to be true. It was blowout Saturday for many Big Ten teams.

Ohio State thoroughly dominated overmatched FCS Florida A&M, Iowa rather surprisingly waxed Western Michigan, Wisconsin handled Purdue, Nebraska took care of business against FCS South Dakota State, Penn State shut out Kent State and Minnesota looked good against San Jose State.

That’s not to say everything was rosy. Northwestern didn’t exactly run over Maine, Michigan struggled again before rallying past Connecticut on the road, Michigan State was doomed by penalties and lack of offense at Notre Dame, and Missouri thumped defenseless Indiana in Bloomington.

Nothing changed as far as the balance of power in the Big Ten. Fourth-ranked Ohio State stands head-and-shoulders above the other 11 teams. Michigan and Michigan State took a step backward. Wisconsin bounced back from what could have been a demoralizing loss at Arizona State the previous week. Northwestern did enough to win before turning its attention toward Ohio State’s visit to Evanston on Oct. 5.

Four teams are ranked in this week’s Associated Press Top 25. After the Buckeyes come Northwestern at No. 17, Michigan at No. 18 and Wisconsin at No. 23.

Big Ten play continues next weekend with only two conference matchups on the schedule, but both should be good ones.

Wisconsin’s visit to Ohio State on Saturday night will go a long way in deciding the Leaders Division championship. The two teams realistically are the only legitimate title contenders.

Improving Iowa and Minnesota will slug it out on the ground Saturday afternoon in Minneapolis with the Floyd of Rosedale trophy on the line. Both teams have rugged Big Ten schedules ahead and need a win in this one.

Minnesota (4-0, 0-0)

Game: Minnesota 43, San Jose State 24. Mitch Leidner filled in for injured quarterback Philip Nelson and rushed for 151 yards and four touchdowns in Minneapolis. The Gophers rumbled for 353 of their 424 total yards on the ground. Minnesota pulled away in the third quarter after leading 20-17 at halftime with three rushing touchdowns, including two by the 240-pound Leidner.

Takeaway: Minnesota coach Jerry Kill was back on the sideline after suffering a seizure a week ago and liked the way that Leidner performed in place of Nelson, who sat out with a hamstring injury. The Minnesota offense also played without tailback Donnell Kirkwood, who was limited to special-teams duty because of an ankle injury. There are indications that Kill will stick with Leidner for this week’s game against rival Iowa and that Kirkwood is questionable. David Cobb rushed for 125 yards on 25 carries in place of Kirkwood. A more pressing issue for theGophers might be their pass defense, which was riddled for 439 yards by San Jose State.

Iowa (3-1, 0-0)

Game: Iowa 59, Western Michigan 3. The Hawkeyes scored on offense, defense and special teams while racking up the most points in a game since 2002. Kevonte Martin-Manley had back-to-back punt returns for touchdowns and defensive back B.J. Lowery returned two interceptions for scores.

Takeaway: Saturday’s blowout was a positive sign for the Iowa program. Western Michigan managed only 209 total yards and nine first downs against the Iowa defense. The offense rushed for 258 yards and first-year starting quarterback Jake Rudock threw two touchdown passes without an interception. The Hawkeyes didn’t need to lean on workhorse running back Mark Weisman, who carried just 10 times for 43 yards and a touchdown. A win at Minnesota on Saturday would help re-establish the Hawkeyes’s significance in the Big Ten after three down years.