The Whistlestop Tour: Week 5 Of Big Ten Football

Matthew Holst - Getty Images

Things could not have gone better for Purdue around the Big Ten.

The weekend could not have gone better for Purdue. Our Boilers were not active in conference play, but the only three teams that can get in our way to Indianapolis all lost to give us a half game edge before we even begin. More importantly, we avoided the "bad non-conference loss" that has become all too common under Danny Hope.

There was a definitely tone of negativity in the comments after Saturday's win, but this is still improvement from the past. I do not want to be the person that sees a double digit win and then complain about not winning by enough, not when we have lost these games for three years running.

As much as I want to finish ahead of Ohio State and Penn State too, we have to cheer for them, especially against Wisconsin. Indiana and Illinois are clearly in no position to even compete in a watered-down Big Ten. That leaves us and the Badgers to decide the Leaders Division. Now Wisconsin already has a mark against them. If we beat them in West Lafayette it means we would go to Indy with a record as low as 5-3 in the conference if they (likely) lose another game somewhere along the way.

That was only part of a good weekend in the B1G.

Northwestern 44, Indiana 29

I really can't call Indiana the worst team in the conference right now. Yes, the defense is still bad, but the offense is still scoring points even with a third string true freshman calling the shots, so credit where it is due. So many teams in this league are suffering from putrid quarterback play that Nate Sudfeld's emergence is a pleasant surprise. If the defense puts it together for even a day IU could shock someone. That is causing a quarterback controversy:

Of course, the main question going into next week will be whether Coffman or Sudfeld will start at quarterback. It's unmistakable that during the last three halves of football, IU's offense has been much more proficient under the guidance of Sudfeld than Coffman. Since halftime of the Ball State game, drives led by Coffman have accounted for 42 plays, 145 yards (3.4 ypp), and no points. Drives led by Sudfeld have accounted for 59 plays, 492 yards (8.3 ypp), and 36 points. I don't think that those numbers should be the only consideration. Sudfeld has been on the field for desperation time, and obviously in those circumstances there isn't any reason to hold back, and he probably has been playing against softer defenses that were trying to protect a lead rather than make something happen. Still, the numbers are eye-catching, and it will be interesting to see how it works.

Sippin on Purple was naturally excited about the day Kain Colter had in running through the Hoosiers:

Obviously, the big question is what we can learn from Colter's monster day about what the offense will look like during the rest of Big Ten play. Against Indiana, Colter's primarily came in to run plays like these, mostly in short-yardage and goal line situations, though he got a few drives as a changeup from Siemian's more balanced offensive package. I think that he can be effective in this role against other Big Ten teams. Though Indiana's defense is certainly less talented than most of the rest of the conference, all these runs were set up to gain a numerical advantage on the edge.

Penn State 35, Illinois 7

The Fighting Illini, on the other hand, do look like the worst team in the conference. Michael Mauti was a rampaging beast in the same vein as Kawann Short as the Nittany Lions rolled early and often. Black Shoe Diaries, as always, took the high road when it came to the earlier poaching of players controversy by Tim Beckman at Illinois:

Given the way Penn State's rolled the last three weeks, the weakness of the Big Ten, and, yes, the fact remains that the Lions should be 5-0 and on the road to something incredibly special rather than just 3-2, it's not hard to get ahead of ourselves. Ted Roof's defense has made unbelievable strides since its horrendous start--Illinois converted just one of twelve third downs against the first-team defense! The offense is continuing to gel--and now they've got a running back! But there were enough faults to give Bill O'Brien and crew a headache, and this team will have plenty to build on moving forward.

Illinois managed 366 yards but did virtually nothing with them. They only scored on a halfback pass from Josh Ferguson, who had more passing yards on one throw than rushing yards on five carries. Nathan Scheelhaase threw two picks. Hopefully he can turn it around with the Illini visiting Wisconsin this week.

Iowa 31, Minnesota 13

The Golden Gophers, along with the Illini, were among the most disappointing teams this week, but at least they lost on the road. I really thought they would retain Floyd against an Iowa team that pissed away a game against a MAC team last week. At least it was a team effort according to the Daily Gopher:

I would like to point out that apart from one quarter this was a relatively competitive game. But an anemic offense and a few big plays in the second quarter put the Gophers in a hole they were unable to recover from. We played OK, just OK, for three quarters and that might have been good enough to beat this average Iowa team. But Minnesota was awful for a full quarter and unfortunately that one counts as much as the other three.

Black Heart Gold Pants continues to sing the praises of Mark Weisman, who once again bull-rushed the Hawkeyes to victory with brute strength:

I don't want to belabor the point -- partly because Mark Weisman has been the headline figure for the last three Iowa games and partly because I'm working on an expanded look at his performance -- but there's no way to discuss Iowa's win over Minnesota without discussing Weisman's latest heroics. The Hebrew Hammer ended the game with 177 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries (a ho-hum 8.4 yards per carry average) and several punishing runs. His influence waned in the second half (not surprising, given the woes of the Iowa offense in general in that half), but overall it was another very fine performance for our latest hero, the third in a row. Enjoy the bye week, Mark -- you've earned a rest after the last three weeks.

Ohio State 17, Michigan State 16

Yes, Ohio State is 5-0 under Urban Meyer and Braxton Miller is awesome, but I am still not that impressed with the Buckeyes. How much of this had to do with the fact that the Spartans have an atrocious offense? The Spartans are having offensive troubles much like the rest of the conference and Le'Veon Bell was held in check, making their problems that much worse. MSU has done virtually nothing against the two good defenses it has faced in Notre Dame and OSU and it struggled against EMU and Boise State:

Still not good, but for the opposite reason as last week. MSU couldn't run the ball at all. Bell finished with 45 yards on 17 carries. If you think Bell should have gotten more carries, you didn't watch the game. The Buckeyes were stacking the box (surprise!), and were able to wrap him up every time. His longest run was eight yards, and MSU didn't rush for a first down. That tells you everything.

For the Buckeyes, they are still all Miller, all the time. I keep saying it will backfire, and since Purdue has strangely done a respectable job of late in containing running QBs, especially from OSU, maybe that will be in three weeks. This win wasn't pretty, but it was effective:

Ohio State got another strong performance from Braxton Miller, but things didn't come easy against a tough Michigan State defense that hit hard. Miller was ultimately forced out of the game in parts, and caused 3 turnovers. Miller went 16/23 for 179 yards, a touchdown, and a pick and also ran for a team leading 136 yards on 23 carries. Carlos Hyde got 49 yards on 11 carries, including multiple big carries in the 4th quarter, while Jordan Hall added 26 yards and a touchdown on 6 carries though left the game early due to injury.

Nebraska 30, Wisconsin 27

I watched part of this game and I still don't know what to think. Bielema is now playing the musical quarterbacks with Joel Stave and Danny O'brien. Montee Ball is now pronouncing his name Mon-tay and is fumbling at key moments. Wisconsin went up 20-3 and effective said, "Nah, we're good!" offensively for the next 40 minutes. The offense consisted of Jared Abbrederis and Ball slamming ahead for three yards at a time. That all means the Badgers are hurting right now:

Now, despite the hot start, the Badgers still find themselves with a whole world of questions to answer. Why in the world can't this offense consistently move the ball? Is it Ball's fault, or the offensive line's? And defensively, could more of a pass rush take the load off Marcus Cromartie and a group of defensive backs that has hardly impressed this year?

As for the Cornhuskers, we owe them a huge favor. I will take up collections from you readers to send them a fruit basket after giving our biggest rival in the division an important loss. Their own fans are encouraged because they look like the best team in the conference, at least this week:

If Nebraska isn't dropping the ball on the ground, the Huskers probably coast to a nice home win. Instead, everybody sweats out a first half letdown and leaves exhilarated by a nice comeback.

Non-conference Opponents:

Notre Dame: On Bye

Eastern Michigan: On Bye

Eastern Kentucky 28, Tennessee-Martin 16 - The Colonels are now 4-0 since losing the opener at Purdue and 2-0 in their conference.

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