The Whiststop Tour: Week 9 Of Big Ten Football

Patrick Smith

As we know, the Big Ten is a gigantic mess aside from Ohio State.

I have been watching Purdue football since the 1987 season. I went through Fred Akers, Jim Colletto, Joe Tiller, and now Danny Hope. I have had season tickets in all but one of those seasons (1994, because my sister got married and my parents could not afford them that year). I was even there for the worst season in Purdue history, 1993, when Purdue was 1-10 with only a win over Western Michigan. My dad's saying was, "We get to see a lot of good football, Unfortunately, none of it was Purdue. We get Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State..." In all that time, I have seen apathy, but I have never seen the hostility directed at a coach who is a good man, recruiter, and friend to the players. He is so disliked that Purdue fans are pretty much in open revolt.

Maybe it is because it is 2012, and people's opinions can be registered to thousands of people around the country in seconds. It is bad though. For example:

So yeah, it's bad. It was bad before Saturday's loss at Minnesota. I am still 100% behind the players, however. These guys put in too much time for us to turn on them. Robert Marve, who to everyone but whom is matters, has been better than Caleb TerBush even injured, will start on Saturday against Penn State. As long as there are games to play I am pulling for my Boilers to win. A victory on Saturday means a possible four-game win streak to close the season and a better bowl game than last year. It is not much, but it is still better.

Now, onto the Whistlestop Tour around the league.

Northwestern 28, Iowa 17

I saw the beginning of this and it seems as if Kain Colter has become a poor man's Braxton Miller or Denard Robinson. Venric Mark has also become quite impressive. That was enough for Sippin' On Purple to be very pleased:

Team Kain. Team Kain Team Kain Team Kain. Northwestern's offense was uninventive, but Iowa couldn't stop it, so it didn't really matter. Kain Colter absolutely murdered everything on the ground and although he had one pretty ugly overthrow that got picked, he showed that he could throw the ball downfield without the world ending, although the TD he tossed was kind of a duck. So that was nice. Only one pass for Trevor Siemian, and we could've done without it too. More of this, please.

Black Heart Gold Pants, who always refers to them as justNorthwestern, was lamenting another loss for the Hawkeyes to the Wildcats. Predictably, it was not pretty:

This offense is sick, by which I mean that it is coughing blood and in dire need of medical attention, not that it is totally cool, to use the parlance of today's youth. Its sickness was apparent early on, when Iowa could only muster a field goal to match Northwestern after their opening drive touchdown and when they intercepted a rare Northwestern pass immediately on their next drive and ended up punting. Its sickness was apparent in the three -- three! -- fucking delay of game penalties they took, including one near the end of the game when Iowa was trying to run its "hurry up" offense, another on 4th and 3 from the NW 33 in the first quarter, and one on the fourth offensive play of the game for Iowa. This with a fifth-year senior at quarterback.

Indiana 31, Illinois 17

The Hoosiers won a game. The Hoosiers won a Big Ten game. The Hoosiers won a Big Ten Road game. The Hoosiers control their own destiny to go to Pasadena with four games left in the season. All of those statements are true:

IU controls its own destiny for a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game. Wisconsin is now 3-2 in the conference, while IU is 1-3. If the Hoosiers were to win out (extremely unlikely, I know), then they would be 5-3 and would hold the tiebreaker over Wisconsin, which would have at least three losses. Obviously, it seems crazy to think that IU would run the table. But try on this scenario: IU beats a struggling Iowa team, pulls everything together to upset Wisconsin on Senior Day, plays respectably at Penn State but loses, and finishes off the Danny Hope era by beating Purdue in West Lafayette. Wisconsin bounces back from the upset in Bloomington to beat Ohio State at home, but loses the finale at Penn State. Such a result would put IU, at 6-6/4-4, in the Big Ten championship game. It's almost certainly is not going to happen. But I don't think it's crazy.

I'll now light myself on fire.

Meanwhile, the new SB Nation blog The Champaign Room has not come in at a happy time for the Fighting Illini. Given the dire basketball situation and the mess of football, I have to bump their readership up as much as possible here:

Honestly, there are a lot of problems with this Illinois team this season, but yesterday's game brought the biggest one to the forefront. This offensive line is terrible. I haven't gone over a replay of the game yet, but I'm terrified of what I'm going to see from this offensive line.

Minensota 44, Purdue 28

Enough of my emo rantings about Purdue. Let us bask in the joy of a fan base actually excited about a growing football program. I met Tom from The Daily Gopher yesterday and he was definitely elated at a probable bowl game for the Golden Gophers as long as they beat Illinois:

It was a fun game and much needed for the Gophers. I mentioned Nelson and Carter but many others also had very good games. Troy Stoudermire had a couple nice breakups and a pick that was called back because of an offsides, the defensive line got good pressure, Kirkwood ran for over 130 yards, the OL played great, AJ Barker played well, Gray made two great catches and I could go on.

On a good note, Minnesota is rallying around teammate Connor Cosgrove, who has been battling leukemia since 2010. Cancer sucks. My mom is a survivor, but I know too many people (including my sister's dad) that are fighting this godawful disease. The Daily Gopher is promoting donations for St. Baldrick's Foundation because Fuck Cancer, that's why.

Michigan State 16, Wisconsin 13 OT

This result pisses me off, mostly because we would still be in the Divisional race even if we had won last week and that's it. Sure, we need three Wisconsin losses and to win out to go to Indy, but we all know that is not happening. The Spartans may have saved their season however, when they broke a very long home winning streak:

None of the last three are gimmes, but all of them are winnable, and getting one of them is going to be much, much easier than getting two. We're not going to be going to Pasadena like we had hoped might happen at the start of the year, but finishing the year with a bowl game (likely the Buffalo Wild Wings, Car Care, or TicketCity Bowl at this point) would make this season a mere disappointment instead of a complete disaster.

The Badgers, at least, can rest in the knowledge that the eligible portion of their division is a combined 1-11 at the moment in league play:

This one hurts. There's no hiding that. It'll hurt more if Stave has to miss any time going forward, though I'm hopeful that he can play next week because the injury was to his non-throwing shoulder. Wisconsin still controls their own destiny in the Big Ten and can book a trip to Indianapolis easily, but this team has a lot of work to do if they're going to beat the eventual Legends Division champion and compete in the Rose Bowl.

As a side note, Joel Stave is out for the season with a broken collarbone and the ACL for us may be passed on to someone else with Josh Gasser out for the Badgers in basketball.

Ohio State 35, Penn State 23

The Buckeyes are going to go undefeated. We know this. Their athletic director is an idiot for not self-disciplining last year by avoiding the Gator Bowl too. They can still hope for an AP Poll No. 1 ranking, however:

At the end of the day however, 9-0 is the name of the game. The Buckeyes may have continued playing up and down to their opposition on the whole, but for this week (though hopefully not this week alone), that amounted to them playing quite up.

The Nittany Lions saw their momentum finally be broken. Now they come to Purdue, and it will be interesting to see what they bring:

The coaching staff, the team, the fanbase. Given everything that's happened in the past 12 months, tonight was supposed to be a celebration, and a statement that despite the sanctions and the penalties and all the crap we've taken, that Penn State Is Back. Failing that, a reminder that at least we're still going to be able to hold our own, and hang with the big boys, that our coaching staff would push all the right buttons and our players' energy and guts would at the very least keep Penn State in games through sheer power of will.

Nebraska 23, Michigan 9

The Legends Division is the better division in the conference by far this year when it concerns eligible teams. The Cornhuskers, however, are totally in the driver's seat now with wins over Michigan and Northwestern as their closest competition. The Wolverines will now have to move on without Denard Robinson though:

It's been in the back of our minds for some time now: what will happen when Denard goes down and can't come back to save the day? The answer came in the form of a harsh reality check, with Michigan fans across the country watching as the defense did it's best to make up for a complete lack of offensive production. Robinson produced 101 yards of offense in just under one half of play, and Michigan finished with 188 total yards of offense. Until he comes back everyone on the schedule is a threat, and Ohio State is a guaranteed loss.

Non-Conference Opponents:

Eastern Illinois 24, Eastern Kentucky 7 - This likely knocks the Colonels out of the OVC title race.

Notre Dame 30, Oklahoma 13 - At least for this year, the Fighting Irish have finally returned to the ranks of the elite for the first time in 19 years.

Bowling Green 24, Eastern Michigan 3 - At least they finally won a game last week.

Central Florida 54, Marshall 17 - The Golden Knights have a defense better than ours, apparently.

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