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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 8 Of Big Ten Football

It was a week of triumph and heartache in the final minute around the Big Ten.


I still cannot get over how frustrating Saturday's game was. I told myself I wasn't going to get sucked in to avoid the heartbreak, only to get sucked in and have the heartbreak hurt even more. The good news is that was the theme on Saturday. We were not alone in our misery, as Michigan State, Northwestern, and Indiana all blew late leads to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

All we can do is move forward and try to win the remaining five games. There is no question that this team has the talent to take all five and if it plays the way it did Saturday it should be in all five. The last three games only feel like a giant missed opportunity, however.

Ohio State 29, Purdue 22 OT

The Buckeyes escaped from this one, and our friends over at Land-Grant Holyland knew they were very luck to stay undefeated:

While the exciting nature of the victory likely largely masked a number of issues including a wealth of injuries and less than optimal stretches on both sides of the ball, the Buckeyes are still unbeaten and 8-0. Miller's health status may ultimately determine how far this Ohio State team can go the rest of the way, but Kenny Guiton's calm demeanor under center will mean if nothing else the Buckeyes should have a steady hand to guide the ship.

Ohio State was far from perfect, but what is most aggravating is that Purdue was far from perfect and still should have one. Most people felt for Purdue to have a chance they would need to play absolutely perfect football and Ohio State would have to make a ton of mistakes. Instead, we made more mistakes in terms of plays that actually left points on the field when we needed only one more and we still nearly won. All Purdue needed to do was expand the lead beyond one possession and it would have been enough. The safety should have been that play, but because of the missed extra point after the Akeem Shavers touchdown, it wasn't enough. If Purdue makes that extra point the final minute doesn't matter.

Wisconsin 38, Minnesota 13

Paul Bunyan's Axe did not change hands for the ninth straight season as the Badgers had little trouble with our next opponent. Despite looking mortal at the beginning of the season Wisconsin is rounding itself into shape. The loss at Nebraska isn't bad and losing at Oregon State certainly doesn't look too bad now, either. Wisconsin is definitely looking like Wisconsin again:

The Badgers didn't quite match last week's unbelievable 467 yards on the ground, but Bret Bielema probably won't complain about his team's excellent 6.2 yards per carry performance. On a day where Joel Stave seriously struggled, going just 7-15 passing for 106 yards, the Badgers needed huge performances from White and Ball.

Our next opponent, the Golden Gophers, are still searching for two wins to reach the postseason. MarQueis Gray is now making a permanent move to wide receiver, handing the quarterback reigns over to Max Shortell or Phillip Nelson according to The Daily Gopher:

The story of the day was the very surprising move by Coach Kill to start Philip Nelson, his true freshman quarterback. Nelson is originally from Madison and dreamed of playing at Camp Randall...for the Badgers. His day was decent, about what you would expect from a true freshman making his first collegiate start. 13-24, 149 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions (one was tipped). He also chipped in 67 yards on the ground. The Nelson era didn't start out with fireworks and an epic upset of the Badgers, but he will get his opportunity to beat the Badgers a few more times.

Nebraska 29, Northwestern 28

It was all heartache for the Wildcats as seen by Sippin' On Purple's anguish:

Simply put, you gotta win that game. Nebraska put the ball on the ground three times - twice on punt returns! - and Northwestern recovered three times. The end result? Seven points. If it's ten or 13, Northwestern wins. That's true about a lot of things - the almost-safety in the first half, Jeff Budzien's oh-so-close last-second field goal that just went wide right, an almost-interception - but Nebraska gave Northwestern the opportunities to win this game and they didn't take it.

For Corn Nation, the opposite emotion was seen as the Cornhuskers kept their Big Ten championship hopes alive:

Frustrating game? Exhilarating comeback? That's the dichotomy of Nebraska's comeback win over Northwestern. When you look at the statistics, it looks like Nebraska dominated Northwestern. The Huskers outgained the Wildcats 543 yards to 301. Nebraska had 26 first downs; Northwestern just 14. Nebraska probably won between 80% and 90% of the plays in the game...but those plays that Nebraska lost, Nebraska lost big. The stat line that explains why the game was so close: Nebraska's three turnovers and Northwestern's zero.

Michigan 12, Michigan State 10

The Wolverines did not score a touchdown, but little brother is Little Brother again as they prevented the Spartans from winning their fifth in a row in this series for the first time ever:

Zero points for Michigan State at the half. Ten at the end of the game. Oh, and Le'Veon Bell? He saw saw 26 carries, only amassing 68 yards, for a 2.6 yard average. Before the game Bell was just about the only reason why the Spartan offense had a prayer, and Michigan absolutely removed him from the game. This forced the game into the hands of one Andrew Maxwell, who performed admirably yet failed to complete challenging throws.

There was sorrow in East Lansing, however, as Paul Bunyan is no longer residing by the banks of the Red Cedar:

Wisconsin seems a likely loss, if their recent resurgence is more than just a function of playing the bottom of the Big Ten (Purdue, Illinois, and Minnesota), though the defense will certainly keep us in the game. That means we need two out of three from Nebraska, Northwestern, and at Minnesota. Thanks to home field (and Minnesota being the weakest of the bunch), we're probably going to be slight favorites in all three - but we haven't handled close games well for much of the year, and our offense doesn't seem to be capable of making it not a close game.

Navy 31, Indiana 30

Like Purdue, the Hoosiers choked yesterday, mostly by some offensive miscues when a first down or two would have secured a victory on the road:

Navy then rallied with a long drive for a field goal to pull within six with 5:30 remaining. When IU desperately needed to run the clock and to get a couple of first downs to put Navy on the ropes, the Hoosiers produced their worst possession of the day. A busted play on first down for an incomplete pass. A 7 yard completion to give IU third and three. A busted play on third down that resulted in yet another incompletion. In short, it was IU's second three-and-out of the day and ran only 38 seconds off the clock. Navy then drove down for the lead, and that was that.

Of course, no one noticed because The Movement has Hoosier Hysteria last night. Basketball season has begun in Bloomington, so the football team will now quietly play out the string.

Penn State 38, Iowa 14

The Nittany Lions are officially rolling and playing like one of the best teams in the conference. They pretty much kicked Iowa's ass:

Bill O'Brien's 2012 squad went on the road to Kinnick Stadium, against a better-than-last-year Iowa defense, and played (almost) flawlessly in scoring 31 points in the first 30 minutes and 27 seconds of the game. And again - nearly all of these players were in Beaver Stadium last year.

In the words of Black Heart Gold Pants, everything sucked for the Hawkeyes Saturday night:

Everyone sucked. Want to point fingers? I hope you have a full complement of fingers, because there's plenty of blame to go around after last night's debacle. The offense? Yeah, they were pretty inept. The defense? Yeah, they couldn't stop much of anything. The special teams? Yeah, aside from one bright spot, they were pretty heinous. The coaching? Yeah, they did a pretty terrible job of both getting the team ready for that game and making in-game adjustments to try and salvage things. This was a total team loss, and the worst loss by an Iowa team in several years.

Non-Conference Updates:

Eastern Kentucky 42, Tennessee Tech 28 - The Colonels are now leading the Ohio Valley Conference

Notre Dame 17, BYU 14 - As I said yesterday, Catholic God 17, Mormon God 14

Eastern Michigan 48, Army 38 - The Eagles finally win a game!

Marshall 59, Southern Miss 24 - The Thundering Herd rolls over a winless team