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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 9 of Big Ten Football

Minnesota needs to sit in the corner and think about what it's done.

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Even though Purdue didn't play on Saturday it felt like we lost. That's because Minnesota, our most recent opponent against whom we blew a double-digit halftime lead, went to Illinois and dick-tripped on their way to the Big Ten Championship game. Really, that's the only way you can explain it. The Gophers had one of the best ground games in America and were playing one of the worst run defenses in America, but still lost. That game leads off the Whistlestop Tour

Illinois 28, Minnesota 24

David Cobb had 118 yards and two TDs, but overall the ground game was much, much worse than it was against Purdue. Minnesota had three turnovers, including a fumble return for a touchdown by V'Angelo Bentley with 6:33 left that was the difference. As expected, the Daily Gopher is distraught:

I'm not about to say that we gave this game away.  Illinois outplayed the Gophers and deserved to win, they made the necessary plays to finish off a close game.  We are an improved football team that is capable of playing with and beating most teams.  But our margin for error is slim.  We cannot afford mistakes, we cannot take a quarter or more to get in rhythm.  Interesting that I put three keys to a win in the text of the Open Thread.  They were to control the clock, limit big mistakes and come to play early.  We failed all three and we won't beat anybody else on our schedule if we play like this.

The Champaign Room, on the other hand, was delighted:

It seemed that for the first time in a while the Illini won the little things. The defense was able to create turnovers in key situations, another thing they did well on Saturday. Mason Monheim had a big INT (nothing came of it though), and V'Angelo Bentley returned a huge fumble, which was forced by TJ Neal. And ET3 had a big sack and fumble recovered by Jihad Ward. This helped push the defense over the edge against the Gophers.

Wisconsin 52, Maryland 7

Well, so much for that hope that Wisconsin was vulnerable. Melvin Gordon is rolling and this could be a preview of a few weeks from now:

The Badgers finished with 527 total yards on offense, while their defense held the Terrapins to just 175 yards. Gordon turned in another noteworthy performance, running for 122 yards on 22 carries and scoring all three of his touchdowns in the first half. Stave earned a much-need confidence boost from the win, as he went 9-for-15, throwing for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Erickson led the team with five receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown. The Badgers earned their second straight conference victory, making their record 2-1 in the Big Ten and 5-2 overall.

For Maryland, they have played well in two Big Ten games and got drilled in the other two:

There wasn't much positive to take from this game for the Terps. Wisconsin kept rolling down the field, even up 45-0 with big runs and intermediate passes, taking advantage of an already gassed defense. The Badgers would roll another run into the end zone, extending their lead to 52-0 with just over four minutes remaining.

Nebraska 42, Rutgers 24

Another week, another record for Ameer Abdullah. We're going to have a hard time slowing this guy down:

Abdullah, the SR from Alabama that had been seemingly forgotten about in the Heisman Trophy chase, notched a school record 341 All Purpose yards, breaking the previous record held by Roy Helu Jr. against Missouri back in 2010. His combination of 225 rushing yards, 90 return yards and 26 receiving yards along with 3 rushing TD's were the main cogs on offense.

Rutgers fans are lamenting the possible loss of Gary Nova, their starting QB:

Now the truly bad news: Gary Nova left the game with a potentially serious knee (and also maybe ankle) injury.  And it did not even have to happen.  Rutgers was down 21-7 one minute before the half, and they started the drive on their own 2 yard line. Most coaches probably would have run three times and ran the clock to zeros before heading to the locker room.  Instead, Rutgers came out throwing.  The first 2 passes went incomplete, and only burned nine seconds of clock. Nova connected for a first down to Andrew Turzilli on third down. Nova was then slammed to the ground while trying to keep a play alive, and was in visible agony on the Nebraska turf.  He limped off with the support of two trainers, grimacing.

Michigan State 35, Michigan 11

The Michigan State defense is ramping up again, but it gave up a touchdown to Michigan for the first time in 11 quarters:

Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has earned the trust of Michigan State supporters everywhere and we have to maintain that faith in him and Dantonio that they both will get the defense to where they want it to be in hopes of having an opportunity to repeat as Big Ten champions later on this year.

Then you have Michigan. If they needed more reason to fire Brady Hoke they how have one:

Where do I even start this thing? Seriously. When I first started this series I thought I'd be taking a look at one or two key plays within a game that either contributed to a loss or something that was just a huge question mark within a game...even if Michigan got the "W". Now? The entire program is in flames, as Zach rightly pointed out (and I'm stealing--sorry, Zach), and the best way for me to write the piece would be to say, "Just go watch the game again." I usually go back and watch the game a second and third time while writing this, but I just can't do it this time around, so I shouldn't ask you to do it.

Ohio State 31, Penn State 24 2 OT

The Buckeyes are still alive for the playoff, but just barely:

This was the first trip into a truly hostile environment for this young Ohio State squad, and you could certainly tell. Ohio State was able to ride their interior rush game, and added enough timely defense top grab a 17-0 lead, but a total offensive meltdown in the second half let Penn State claw back into the game, tying it with 9 seconds left on a Sam Ficken 31 yard field goal. Bill Belton plunged into the endzone in the first overtime to give Penn State their first lead of the game, but J.T Barrett led a punishing run game across two overtimes to jumpstart Ohio State's offense just enough to win.

For Penn State, they were kind of screwed by incompetent officiating:

What can I say about this game that hasn't already been said? The refereeing was a catastrophe, such a joke that Brad Nessler got pissed and the mothership weighed in mid-game--and postgame. Any other team would be well within reason to fold after that joke of a first half--hell, I would have expected it out of THIS team four weeks ago. But this Penn State squad rallied, fought back, and played their hearts out--nearly beating out both the Buckeyes and the refereeing crew that previously gave the squad defeat from the jaws of victory, and taking an Ohio State squad that Urban Meyer declared needed a statement victory and giving them more than they could handle.

Non-Conference Opponents:

Western Michigan 42, Ohio 21 - The Broncos are now 5-3 and a win from bowl eligibility.

Central Michigan 20, Buffalo 14 - The Chippewas are also just one win from bowl eligibility.

Notre Dame - on bye, but still whining about the FSU penalty

Indiana State 41, Southern Illinois 26 - The Mighty Trees got themselves a nice road win.