Big Ten Week 4 picks: Conference play gets off to a nail-biting start

Penn State- Iowa set for collision in Iowa City (0:56)

No. 4 Penn State travels to Kinnick Stadium to take on the upset-minded Hawkeyes on Saturday on ABC at 7:30 p.m. ET. (0:56)

Conference play cranks up as we approach the end of September this weekend. Two of the Big Ten's Top 10 teams go on the road to kick off their conference schedules with interesting tests on Saturday.

A week ago, Penn State steamrolled the last of their overmatched nonconference opponents. Now they have to head to face Iowa at Kinnick Stadium, which always presents a challenge to visitors at night.

Purdue looked just as impressive in its undressing of Missouri to move to 2-1 early in Jeff Brohm's tenure. The Boilermakers' early returns put a bit of pressure on Michigan to get things going with its offense if the Wolverines are going to stay undefeated.

Lastly, Notre Dame and Michigan State never fail to add a bit of drama to the college football slate. Both those programs will get a chance to prove they're back on track after disappointing 2016 seasons.

Visit the college football PickCenter page for a full rundown on what to expect on the field from every corner of the country this weekend. For now, here's how we see another interesting day in the Big Ten shaking out.

No. 4 Penn State at Iowa, Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ABC

Dan Murphy: Penn State's wide receivers got a jump-start this past weekend against Georgia State. After not catching a touchdown pass in the Nittany Lions' first two games, that group contributed three of them in a blowout win. They'll be the difference-makers that get Trace McSorley and company past a tough Iowa defense. Penn State 30, Iowa 24

Mitch Sherman: A night game at Kinnick Stadium is no place to be overconfident for a visitor. Michigan saw its perfect season dashed last year against a four-loss Iowa squad at night in Iowa City. These Hawkeyes are unbeaten and gaining steam behind first-year QB Nathan Stanley. But the Nittany Lions are too strong. Penn State 28, Iowa 17

Tom VanHaaren: Penn State seems to be firing on all cylinders right now, and it doesn’t seem like this Iowa team is equipped to stop it. The Hawkeyes' defense is going to be tested and the Nittany Lions likely have too much to contend with. Penn State 45, Iowa 17

No. 8 Michigan at Purdue, Saturday, 4 p.m., Fox

Murphy: The collective blood pressure might spike in Ann Arbor at the start of this game, but by sundown the Wolverines should be just fine. The Jeff Brohm-vs.-Don Brown chess match when Purdue has the ball will be interesting, but Brown is playing with stronger and more athletic pieces. Michigan 23, Purdue 10

Sherman: Ah, the classic matchup, pitting the Wolverines' stout defense against the prolific Purdue offense. Yes, I just typed that. The Boilermakers might be a bit overhyped after this unexpected start. But just a bit. Michigan 27, Purdue 21

VanHaaren: I think this game has Michigan fans a little leery of what could happen. Purdue’s offense looks much improved from last season and Michigan’s offense hasn’t been great in the first three games. Luckily for the Wolverines, the defense is their strength, and while I do think this game could get interesting, I still think Michigan comes out on top. Michigan 28, Purdue 17

Central Florida at Maryland, Saturday, 3 p.m., FS1

Murphy: Kasim Hill got a week to get a little more up to speed after his impressive debut victory as the Terps’ starting quarterback against Towson. The UCF defense won’t be quite as easy to cut through, but with help from upperclassmen big-play magnets D.J. Moore and Ty Johnson, Maryland’s offense should be in good hands. D.J. Durkin & Co. start 3-0 for the second straight year. Maryland 33, UCF 24

Sherman: Maryland was off last week, and its visitor hasn't played since Aug. 31 because of Hurricane Irma, an unthinkably long layoff during the regular season. It stands to reason that the Golden Knights will experience a surge of emotion. It'll be enough to lead to a minor upset. UCF 31, Maryland 28

VanHaaren: UCF has only played one game so far this season, so we don’t really know much about the team yet. Maryland has been impressive in both of its wins, so I’m going with the Terps here because they’ve had success and have had more games to work out any issues. Maryland 35, UCF 24

Notre Dame at Michigan State, Saturday, 8 p.m., Fox

Murphy: These two teams almost always do something interesting when they run into each other. Here's hoping they live up to that reputation Saturday in East Lansing. Big plays are likely to come on the ground for both sides, but Josh Adams and Brandon Wimbush should have a little more help up front than their Spartans counterparts. Notre Dame 38, Michigan State 35

Sherman: Are the Spartans for real? Is Notre Dame for real? Questions abound for both teams in this historic series, but the best group of players on the field Saturday just might play defense for MSU. Michigan State 24, Notre Dame 20

VanHaaren: Notre Dame ranks fifth in rushing yards per game on offense, but 114th in passing yards per game. If Michigan State can make the Irish beat them through the air, I think they could have a chance. But Notre Dame is two points away from being 3-0 this season. I really want to pick Michigan State here, just based off of my gut, but I’m going to go with the Irish. Notre Dame 27, Michigan State 20

Other games:

  • No. 10 Ohio State over UNLV

  • Nebraska over Rutgers

  • Indiana over Georgia Southern