The Whistlestop Tour: Week 3 Of Big Ten Football

Michael Hickey

Purdue's Big Ten slate is not looking as challenging as once thought.

My apologies to everyone for yesterday's emo post. I, like many of you, see what Saturday night was: hopefully a major step forward as Purdue unexpectedly was competitive in a game it was supposed to be blown out in. There were a lot of positives to take away, but Saturday night it was harder to see that. When Rob Henry's pass was intercepted and taken to the house by Bennett Jackson something happened. After enjoying the first three quarters and seeing the usually cocky and condescending Notre Dame fans actually afraid for once the end result was seemed especially cruel.

Like all of you, I didn't expect much, but got roped in. Once that happened I started believing that we were actually going to see a monumental upset. Instead, they roped me in and kicked me in the teeth again. Yes, I left early, but it was better for me to calmly leave early than explode in a completely inappropriate display of profanity and anger. A younger me wouldn't have calmly walked away, so I felt like it was the best decision I could make that didn't end in "pending litigation".

I blame my red hair, as always.

Of course, ours was not the only game in the Big Ten this week. For many it was much rougher. As I have done the first few weeks, here is your week 3 review in order from who looks the strongest in the conference right now to who looks the weakest.

Ohio State 52, California 34

No Braxton Miller, no problem for the Buckeyes. Kenny Guiton earned himself Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors as he threw for 276 yards and four touchdowns against no interceptions. He also ran for 92 yards. It was only 31-20 at halftime but the Buckeyes dropped 21 in a strong third quarter to pull away:

I really don't know what more you can say about Guiton that hasn't been said.  He ran Urban Meyer's offense like a conductor overseeing an orchestra, making great throws and runs all night.  He has the Cal defense off balance and one step behind all night, and he rolled up 368 yards of offense.

Arizona State 32, Wisconsin 30

Even though the Badgers lost I still think they looked like the second best team in the league. They went on the road to a now ranked opponent and, if not for dick-tripping on the final play and having the officials stand around like they were unaware a football game was still on, they probably get a win in the desert. Unfortunately, the ending is all people will remember:

But fact of the matter is, Wisconsin got hosed. The referees decided the outcome of the football game by taking the possible win/loss result out of the hands of the players. Plain and simple, that should never happen at the highest levels of college football. Saturday night wasn't just a shock to the system; it was an embarrassment to the sport.

Northwestern 38, Western Michigan 17

This felt like it was the forgotten game of the weekend and that is a very good thing for a Northwestern team that is lying in the weeds right now. After trailing 10-7 in the second quarter the Wildcats scored 24 straight points to end a MAC upset bid in Evanston. That Trayvon Green guy is pretty good too, with 158 yards and two scores. Northwestern has virtual bye against Maine before hosting Ohio State:

No, Northwestern did not cover the spread. They could have won by more. But hey won by three touchdowns, and didn't seem to assess any injuries with the real games a few weeks ahead. I think that's okay.

Michigan State 55, Youngstown State 17

Did the Spartans finally figure out how to get out of their own way on offense? At least they did what a Big Ten team is supposed to do against an FCS team: win by a lot and score close to 50. Connor Cook took the majority of snaps at quarterback and topped 200 yards passing at MSU cracked 500 yards of offense:

Everything went right. The blocking was there, the running game was there, the receivers were running great routes, getting open and holding onto the ball, Cook was (mostly) making good throws and the play-calling was great.

Yes, it was against an FCS opponent. But MSU couldn't move the ball against teams that lost to FCS opponents. Cook isn't suddenly the answer and MSU won't average 35 points from here on out, but it was a step forward and a confidence-builder, something MSU hasn't has in almost a calendar year.

Minnesota 29, Western Illinois 12

For awhile, the Golden Gophers were in danger here. They were trailing the Leathernecks 12-7 midway through the third quarter but recovered to avoid a fourth defeat to an FCS team in recent seasons. Of course, you can't blame them if they were distracted. Coach Jerry Kill once again suffered a seizure and was carted off the field:

This is the often unspoken (or obliquely spoken) concern that underpins a lot of the PR disaster arguments. I mean, these seizures have to be hurting the team right? It seems so logical. And it might very well be true to some degree. But as of yet, I don't think we've seen any proof that this is the case (or at least I don't think we've seen proof that the outcomes wouldn't have been the same without a seizure).

Michigan 28, Akron 24

What was that, Michigan? Seriously, what was that? The Wolverines very nearly left an epic mess on the rug a week after looking pretty darn good against Notre Dame. This might have been worse than the Appalachian State loss. At least that was to an FCS team that eventually won three straight national titles. Akron has won four games total in the last four years and hasn't won a road game of any kind in five years. They haven't beaten an FBS level opponent since 2010! Instead, they were two yards away from one of the biggest upsets in college football history:

With just under three minutes to go, the Zips drove down to the Michigan four yard line after starting at its own 25. With a 4th & 3 from the Michigan 4 and one final play to decide the game, the specter of Toledo and Appalachian State loomed once again (this Akron team is certainly worse than the latter, and probably isn't any better than the '08 Toledo team, which finished 3-9).

Pohl dropped back, and everything existed as a possibility, as the 22 players on the field moved to decide which universe would be chosen as the one that would exist in this realm of reality.

Washington 34, Illinois 24

I was curious to see what would happen at Soldier Field a week after Illinois unexpectedly dismantled a Cincinnati team that had looked very good against Purdue. I wanted to know if that was a one week fluke or if the Fighting Illini had turned a corner and found the stairs out of the Big Ten basement. We got something somewhere in the middle. The Illini aren't awful, but they aren't a Kurt Kittner/Juice Williams surprise run to Pasadena good, either:

Yes, the Illini played like crap for a lot of the game and only lost by 10 points. However, Washington also shot itself in the foot numerous times. The Huskies committed 12 penalties for 104 yards, a couple of which were personal fouls to extend Illini drives. The Huskies also turned the ball over twice. So, yes, it was nice to see the Illini fight back and lose by only 10 points to a team that appears to be very good.

But that doesn't change the fact that they were totally outplayed and that if the Huskies hadn't been spending so much time beating themselves, the Illini would have lost by a lot more than 10 points.

Indiana 42, Bowling Green 10

I am about to say words that have rarely, if ever, been uttered in reference to college football: An Indiana win turned on a defensive stop for the Hoosiers. Leading 10-7 in the second quarter after the usually IU comedy of errors that included a blocked punt for a TD and a fumbled kickoff Bowling Green had the ball 4th and 1 at the IU 22. In this situation, against Indiana, you ALWAYS go for it. Given Indiana's historically awful run defense it is a situation that every coach should feel comfortable in going for it. Matt Johnson was hit for a five yard loss and the Hoosiers went on to score 35 unanswered points. For now, a bowl game is still alive:

You've got to feel really good about Indiana's defensive performance. They went up against a decent, but not great spread offense and were quite effective. Nick Mangieri had a hell of a game at DE getting a crazy interception in the third quarter to go with a sack. Tim Bennett and Michael Hunter also deserve individual props. Both of those guys were quite good in coverage. They each had 7 passes defended against some bigger and more physical receivers.

UCLA 41, Nebraska 21

This was nothing short of a complete and utter meltdown by the Cornhuskers on defense. At one point Nebraska was leading 21-3 in the second quarter on its home field. Then, somehow both the offense took the rest of the game off and the defense gave up 38 uninterrupted points. Brett Hundley threw for three touchdowns in the third quarter alone as the Cornhuskers were just awful after taking an 18-point lead:

It was a combination of everything for the Huskers. Breakdowns and seemingly lack of in-game adjustments on defense, along with odd playcalling and questionable decisions on offense.

Central Florida 34, Penn State 31

Just last week I was praising the Nittany Lions that they had somehow fought back against the sanctions and looked to be in a good place as they headed through year two of the four-year wilderness they are in. then they go and lose to Central Florida, who had never before beaten a Big Ten team. They gave up over 500 yards of offense to a balanced attack at home no less:

This must be what Michigan fans felt during the Rich Rod era. Your offense gains nearly 500 total yards, pausing only when it stops itself. And though you fervently hope for a defensive stop of some kind - any kind, really - you're not getting one.

Notre Dame 31, Purdue 24

As things look right now Purdue is the lone Big Ten team with two non-conference losses. That will very likely change here soon, but for the most part we're already behind the ledger in getting to the six wins needed for bowl eligibility. That is what we get for only playing one patsy and three real teams on our non-conference slate.

There were some positives to take from this. In the continuation of the bizarre world where I am crying, "DOOM!", Boiled Sports was the voice of optimism and reason:

I can't speak for you, but I can tell you that I needed to see something from the team today just so I didn't have such a negative perspective about this young season.  The next step in this process is for the Boilers to finish out, and beat one of the good teams that they'll play in the next four or five weeks. Traveling to Madison to go toe-to-toe with a gaggle of angry Badgers, is a tall order....we'll see how quickly they can take this next step.

Can Purdue still make a bowl game? Absolutely! If it can somehow harness the same fire it showed against Notre Dame then home games against Northern Illinois, Illinois, and Iowa look winnable. Nebraska lacks a defense and Michigan State lacks an offense. Penn State and Indiana both don't look as good as originally thought, either. Sure, Purdue would still need to win five of those seven, but that is far from impossible and most people had us at 1-2 at this point anyway.

Iowa 27, Iowa State 21

By many this game was dubbed the Cripplefight in a Cornfield. I even called it the game to decide the second best team in the state of Iowa. Neither team has looked good, but Mark Weisman continued his brazen taunting of AIRBHG with 145 yards on the ground as Iowa pulled off the win on the road:

It's not that nobody on Iowa State is good; it's not even that most of Iowa State's players are bad. It's just that where the Cyclones are lacking, they are sorely lacking, and that includes places like "basically the entire offensive line" and "basically the entire secondary."

Non-Conference Opponents:

Cincinnati 66, Northwestern State 9 - The Bearcats rolled as Brendon Kay took over the starting QB roll and threw four touchdown passes. Hosey Williams also rushed for 117 yards and two scores as Cincinnati moved to 2-1.

Indiana State 70, Quincy 7 - The Sycamores finally get to play their own money game as they opened their home schedule against Division II Quincy. Mike Perish threw for 379 yards and four touchdowns while George Cheeseborough ran for two scores.

Northern Illinois 45, Idaho 35 - The Huskies took one of the longer and less traveled road trips at the FBS level and broke open a 35-35 tie with just under 11 minutes left. Jordan Lynch was Jordan Lynch with 152 yards and three TDs through the air and 159 yards and two scores on the ground.

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