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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 4 of Big Ten Football

A bad final week of non-conference play for the Big Ten actually gives Purdue fans hope heading into league play.


I don't think this final full week of non-conference action was very much fun for fans of Big Ten teams. The league suffered a few more high profile losses and even in victory some teams did not look that great. There are still three non-conference games left as Illinois, Wisconsin, and Purdue each have an out-of league game, but so far the Big Ten is pretty unbalanced. The Legends Division went 21-3 with losses only to UCLA, a good Northern Illinois team, and Notre Dame.

Fortunately for Purdue, we're playing in the perceived weaker division. The Leaders division went 14-7 with Illinois heavily favored of Miami (OH) this week, Purdue a slight underdog against Northern Illinois, and Wisconsin playing a decent BYU team later in the year. For those hoping for a bowl game (and that hope is gone if Purdue loses to Northern Illinois), we're at least in the right division to get there with the right crossover opponents to. The Boilers do not play the three undefeated teams left in the Legends Division, we've already gotten Wisconsin out of the way, and our pending huge upset of Ohio State is mere weeks away.

That really is my only hope right now. The rest of the conference does look to be much easier than originally thought short of Ohio State. Unfortunately, Purdue is part of that group.

Missouri 45, Indiana 28

When the game started it was supposedly an electric atmosphere in Bloomington. The Hoosiers had a big crowd in place and they were ready to claim a "name" win over the mighty SEC. In the end, the same old sorry-assed Hoosiers showed up too. Indiana provided no defense in the loss, was never really in it After Kony Ealy returned a 49-yard interception for a touchdown just before halftime.

Indiana gave up 623 yards of offense to the Tigers, but it was the offense that many IU fans on Twitter was telling me was unstoppable that did the most damage:

Saturday night's debacle is all on the offense. You heard that right, it's the offense's fault that Missouri was able to do what they did on Saturday. The defense pretty well did exactly what you would ask of them. They generated 6 stops in the first three quarters when the game was still in question. The offense in the mean time did squat to help the cause. Some of that is on Kevin Wilson and the coaches. Some of it was on a pretty poor performance by Nate Sudfeld and not much better by Tre Roberson and a good chunk of it was on the injury riddled offensive line. Either way, it was bad.

Illinois ∞, Bye Week 0

Iowa 59, Western Michigan 3

Where the hell did that come from, Iowa? Most fans over at Black Heart Gold Pants have been ripping on the Greg Davis offense for its inability to get out of its own way. In fact, they hold it in the same esteem as we hold the Nordfense. So, 59 points was a surprise for the Hawkeyes.

Much of it was on the Iowa defense, however. The offense did not crack 500 total yards, while B.J. Lowery returned two interceptions for touchdowns and Kevonte Martin-Manley returned two punts for touchdowns. It was a feel good day for all Iowa fans:

But for three hours, it didn't matter that Iowa was 4-8 last year, it didn't matter that Iowa gagged a game away to Northern Illinois in Week 1 and it didn't matter that Iowa probably won't have a winning record in Big Ten play this year. It was just pure, unadulterated bliss in the form of a 59-3 victory.

Michigan 24, Connecticut 21

What on earth is wrong with the Wolverines? They barely got by possibly the worst FBS team of the last few seasons, then had to sit back and wait for a team that got blown out at home by Towson to screw up before coming back to win late. This was the second straight outright crappy performance as Devin Gardner threw for only 111 yards and two interceptions.

As Maize N' Brew said, it was déjà vu all over again:

However, unlike last week, which was easy to cast aside as an unfortunate blip on the radar or the manifestation of the post-Notre Dame week hangover, it's difficult to explain this one away. With Michigan down 21-7 after UConn's Ty-Meer Brown returned a Devin Gardner fumble for a touchdown on the third play of the second half, a thought crept into my head that hasn't been there for quite some time: Maybe Michigan is just not a good football team?

Notre Dame 17, Michigan State 13

Did the Spartans become the latest victim of shady officiating in South Bend. I will let you be the judge, as this was considered pass interference on the Michigan State defender:



As expected, The Only Colors wasn't happy, especially after a cold Andrew Maxwell was put in for the final drive and was pretty awful:

The ND game-plan was clearly to pick on the deep sidelines of MSU's cover 4 defense, where the CBs would be one-on-one with no chance of safety help. And Waynes and Dennard accepted that challenge, played their asses off, and made Rees throw into these impossible windows between them and the sidelines again and again. And he. Could. Not. Do. It. Unfortunately, the refs bailed him out the 2 or 3 times ND needed to win the game.

Look, no one's saying MSU doesn't play physical pass defense. And no one's saying some of those calls weren't correct. But some of them weren't, and in a tight game where four of those five pass defense penalties were instrumental to ND scoring all 17 of its points... Gah.

Minnesota 43, San Jose State 21

And there you have it. The Golden Gophers are 4-0, almost assured of a bowl with remaining games against Iowa, Indiana, Penn State, and Michigan State, and receiving votes in the polls. San Jose State was looking frisky in the first half only to be undone by its own mistakes. Like last week, Minnesota rolled in the second half and cruised to an easy win. Things are going to be tougher in the Big Ten, but for now Minnesota is looking sneaky-good:

194 team rushing yards is a nice number, this is what the Gopher offense had at halftime.  The read-option, Golden-I and David Cobb cutbacks were rather effective today as the Gopher offense run over, around and through San Jose State for 353 yards en route to a 43-24 win.  Mitch Leidner tied a Gopher record with 4 rushing touchdowns to go with this 151 yards.  David Cobb rushed for 125 yards with 2 touchdowns and a 5.0 yard per carry average.  And Rodrick Williams Jr was also in on the party with 60 yards on 15 carries.

Nebraska 59, South Dakota State 20

After one quarter the Jackrabbits were leading 17-14 and it looked like Lincoln might burn to the ground if SDSU pulled off a massive upset. After the week that the Cornhuskers had, I think a loss would have set off the Nebraska fanbase. For one week at least, the dogs were called off in Lincoln:

The offense was close to perfect, while the defense was anything but.  Husker fans got a sneak preview of the future with freshman Tommy Armstrong's strong performance in his first action with a game on the line.  While redshirting freshman Johnny Stanton may have something to say about that, Armstrong made a strong statement that Nebraska will have a solid option at quarterback once Taylor Martinez graduates after this season.

Northwestern 35, Maine 21

This was likely the most dull game of the week. Northwestern let its opponent hang around a little bit and even score 14 fourth quarter points to make things a little interesting. The Wildcats did get a pair of defensive touchdowns, but pretty did what it needed to do in advance of Big Ten play:

Of course, this is disappointing, because it was against Maine, an FCS team. Northwestern was outgained. That is bad. Northwestern actually scored as many offensive points as Maine, but won because they had a pair of pick-sixes. To many, this was horrifically awful because the Wildcats are not ready for primetime if they can't beat a team from a lower level by a lot.

Ohio State 76, Florida A&M 0

I am going to go ahead and say it: Ohio State is a much more lethal team with Kenny Guiton at quarterback than Braxton Miller, and Guiton should be the starter if they want to go undefeated and win the national title. Guiton makes the offense far more balanced, while Miller, who is an excellent runner, is still a bit of a wild card. Purdue figured it out last year: you hit Miller on every play you can. This slows him down and he has already shown he is a bit injury prone.

Meanwhile, Guiton has a ton of poise and he showed it last year in the late drive against Purdue. The passing game is humming with him at the helm, and he is quite frankly a much better passer than Miller. I am afraid of Guiton. I am not afraid of Miller after the way Purdue has played against him. the only fear of Miller i have is that he might get hurt and bring in Guiton.

In the meantime, the FAMU game was an absolute bloodbath:

Led by fifth-year senior Kenny Guiton, the offense flexed its muscles early and often, while the defense was solid as a rock from start to finish. Guiton played tremendously in his second career start, throwing for a school-record six touchdown passes, and the defense did not allow the Rattlers to cross midfield.

Penn State 34, Kent State 0

A week after getting torched by Central Florida the Nittany Lions took care of business against coach Hazell's old team with relative ease. Zach Zwinak rushed for three touchdowns. The defense also only gave up 190 yards this week. While coach Hazell's old team is struggling big time with many of the same parts in place, Penn State at least looked better for a week:

This game wasn't perfect, despite what the box score might say. Once again, the turnover differential was not in favor of the Nittany Lions. Punting was once again not so good (though Christian Hackenberg did have our longest punt of the game in the first half-not necessarily a good thing). Our offense didn't look as good as it did the week before, played somewhat sloppily and left points on the board-as much (or more) to do with play calling than with anything else. The weather was teh suck, and there were likely less than 20k fans left when the team rang the victory bell (and probably less than 85k there at opening kickoff-which is actually kinda remarkable considering the deluge).

Wisconsin 41, Purdue 10

It was pretty simple, really: Purdue couldn't stop the run even though it knew it was coming. Neither side was much surprised by this:

Purdue's offense, led by quarterback Rob Henry, never established a comfort level. The Badgers' defense allowed the Boilermakers just 45 yards on the ground and 180 total, as the team only scored on a broken play that ended up being a 22-yard rushing touchdown for Henry and a field goal set up by an interception thrown by Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave.

"We did have a few things bounce their way and we responded well," Borland said. "Those things will happen from time to time, but I thought we played very well today."

Simply put, Purdue will never be competitive with Wisconsin until we can match them physically. It has been like this for a decade now with little sign of abatement. Purdue always gets beaten up physically by a bigger, meaner team in Wisconsin. Unless things change drastically tom Crean will get his first win against the Badgers before Purdue beats them again in football.

Did this end Hazell's honeymoon?

I heard another coach's first year being reviewed by some talking heads on EsPN...and they said that while the team wasn't winning a lot, the coach was setting a tone. Well, if Hazell is setting a tone, it sounds a lot like the brown note that Danny Hope's teams used to make.

The defense played their worst game of the season, Henry's accuracy and decision-making were, once-again, questionable...and that's the most- syrupy-sugar coating I can give it.

Other non-conference foes:

Cincinnati 14, Miami (OH) 0 - The Bearcats limited Miami to only 87 yards of total offense, but the worst news came after the game, when freshman offensive lineman Ben Flick died in a car accident.

Indiana State - ON BYE

Northern Illinois 43, Eastern Illinois 39 - Defense was banned as NIU needed a touchdown from Keith Harris Jr. with roughly eight minutes left to squeeze by the FCS Panthers. The EIU quarterback threw for 450 yards and six touchdowns, so this has to be the week Rob Henry moves the offense through the air.