Wisconsin-Notre Dame at Soldier Fields tops Big Ten schedule

NCAA Football

Things to watch during Week 4 of play in the Big Ten Conference:

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 18 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Notre Dame, at Soldier Field, Chicago

The venerable Midwestern programs meet for the first time in 57 years, and first as ranked opponents. Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan will be facing his old teammates in one of the game’s key storylines. Coan started 18 of his 22 games for the Badgers from 2017-19 and has been solid in leading the Irish to a 3-0 start. Wisconsin is still waiting for the emergence of QB Graham Mertz, who won the starter’s job in 2020, prompting Coan to leave.

BEST MATCHUP

Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III vs. Nebraska defense. Walker is shifty and tough to bring down, not to mention the nation’s leading rusher. The Cornhuskers feel good about the way they’re playing defense, but they’ve been prone to giving up chunk plays. They must limit those. Walker leads the Big Ten with 14 runs of 10 yards or longer, including seven of 20-plus yards.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

It’s been a long time since Michigan has been as productive running the ball. The Wolverines are averaging a nation-leading 350.3 yards per game, and their rushing total of 1,051 is their highest through three games since at least 1997. They’ve gone over 300 yards in three straight games, a first for the program since 2011. Blake Corum is running for 136 yards per game and has a Big Ten-leading seven rushing touchdowns. Hassan Haskins is running for 94 yards per game with four TDs.

LONG SHOT

Western Kentucky is an 8 1/2-point underdog to Indiana at home, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Both Indiana losses are to ranked opponents, and this game against the Hilltoppers of Conference USA has a must-win feeling for the Hoosiers. Western Kentucky is coming off an open date and has an offense that could make things interesting. The Bailey Zappe-led Hilltoppers passed for 913 yards and 11 touchdowns in their first two games.

IMPACT PLAYER

Rutgers QB Noah Vedral has a hot hand going into a game at No. 19 Michigan. Vedral is completing 72% of his passes, and his 81% accuracy against Delaware last week was best by a Rutgers QB since 2000. Vedral also has nine pass plays of at least 20 yards. He must be at his best if the Scarlet Knights are going to keep pace with one of the highest scoring teams in the nation.

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25

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