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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 11 of Big Ten Football

There was some brutally ugly football played this weekend...

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue may have lost on Saturday, but at least we didn't play a brutally ugly game. That was left to Indiana-Penn State and Northwestern-Michigan. Purdue was definitely unlucky in getting Michigan State as its second crossover opponent this season. If we had gotten Michigan, Penn State, or Rutgers it definitely would have been a more favorable opponent than the Spartans. That bad luck continues next season as Purdue must travel to East Lansing.

That may not be so hard though, as Sparty had a bad Saturday night at home against Ohio State. Everything is recapped here in the Whistlestop Tour.

Penn State 13, Indiana 7

There was a reason that our friends at Crimson Quarry used the #punttracker in this one. The teams combined for 20 punts and Indiana did not have a single scoring drive with their offense, as they only scored on a 47-yard interception return by Mark Murphy, which was the first defensive touchdown for IU in three years:

Robbins was doing an awesome job with the live tweets during the game yesterday, and he started a great hashtag: #PuntTracker. By the end of the first half, the teams already had 11 punts, and by the end of game, it was up to 20, with the Hoosiers punting 11 times (for 404 yards) and the Nittany Lions punting nine times (for 336 yards). Together, the teams combined for 740 yards of punting. That's 189 fewer more yards than the total offense put up by both teams combined. In terms of "gut-punching losses by less than a touchdown," I'll take the Bowling Green game over this one 10 times out of 10.

For Penn State, the game ended a four-game losing streak and keeps the Nittany Lions alive for a possible bowl game with one more victory:

14 points came in about as crazy a 20 second sequence as you'll find in football. Mark Murphy jumped a wide receiver screen pass from Christian Hackenberg, and returned in 47 yards for what would be the Hoosiers' only score of the day. On the ensuing kickoff, Grant Haley opted for a return out of the end zone, and was brought down at the 8. Apparently, that was exactly what PSU was looking for. On the first play from scrimmage, Bill Belton took a delayed hand off out of the shotgun, and went 92 yards for the longest touchdown run in Penn State's storied football history. Football is a weird game.

Minnesota 51, Iowa 14

Minnesota had to sit on losing to lowly Illinois for a week, and boy were they pissed! The Gophers scored 28 second quarter points to blow this game open and reclaim Floyd. It is the first time they have won Floyd and the Jug in the same season since 1967:

The game was essentially a pick-em per Vegas and Matt's Models and Bottles wasn't exactly encouraging for Minnesota fans, but the Golden Gophers got things rolling in their favor and never looked back.  429 yards of offense while holding Iowa to 205, +3 turnovers, 51 offensive points and it was largely backups playing the entire 4th quarter (including the backup kicker).  Iowa struggled to move the ball against the Gopher defense, got careless with the ball and was on their heels defensively for the majority of the game.

For Iowa, it was a bad, bad day:

This was no mirage; the Hawkeyes were dominated in every phase of the game.  The offense generated just 205 yards, with 81 coming in the final touchdown drive.  The Hawkeyes committed three first-half turnovers and had a punt blocked.  Quarterback Jake Rudock completed 10 of 19 passes for just 89 yards before being pulled in the fourth quarter (Beathard's 3/7, 32-yard performance wasn't much better).  Mark Weisman, who had destroyed Minnesota in the last two seasons, ran 14 times for 21 yards.  Iowa ran only 56 plays, racked up just 3.7 yards per play, and had nine offensive series with five or fewer plays.

Wisconsin 34, Purdue 16

The Badgers played well and Melvin Gordon did what Melvin Gordon does. It was pretty business-like for a team that now heads into the teeth of its schedule:

When Purdue started to creep back into the game, the defense stepped up and continuously forced Purdue's offense off the field. The Arandacona turned up the heat on defense. That allowed Vince Biegel to break through the offensive line. Derek Landisch squeaked through as well. Overall, the defense again played exceptionally well, only giving up 230 total yards and one big play on Purdue's lone touchdown.

Boiled Sports pointed out that Purdue continued its theme of fighting hard, but it was not enough:

If Purdue had been completely healthy coming into the game today, it would have been a tough game...But without their best playmaker in the defensive backfield, the best receiver...Purdue struggled just to stay in the game. It was an 18 point deficit at the half...and it felt like the dam would break early in the second half...but it didn't go that way. Purdue fought back a bit, got it down to an 8 point game...and a few Purdue fans dared to dream while on Twitter with their pals.

Michigan 10, Northwestern 9

Was this game uglier than Indiana-Penn State? Who knows. At least Northwestern had the balls to go for the win, or maybe even they didn't want to watch overtime:

I was trying to come up with a way to start this.  Some way to encapsulate how I feel.  I couldn't really come up with something better than that chart above (courtesy of ESPN).  That's the game.  Michigan's complete and utter lack of ability to do something-anything-at any point to take hold of the game.  If it weren't for Michigan's defense and its steady effort even when pressed up against a wall, Michigan might have lost this game in the fashion it probably deserved to.  But, Northwestern might be the only team more hapless than Michigan.  In the end, that was the difference.

InsideNU said we should embrace the suck:

Northwestern and Michigan played in a truly, truly awful football game. The scoreboard spelled "M00N" for far too long, and really, it was a lot of suck. That's fitting, since Pat Fitzgerald said earlier this week that the Wildcats were "embracing the suck." There was so much suck in this game, that we're dedicating an entire post to embracing it in Vine form. (Vines via ESPN).

Ohio State 49, Michigan State 37

The Buckeyes impressed with a convincing road victory to seize full control of the Big Ten East. It also proved that J.T. Barrett is far better than the vastly over-rated Braxton Miller, as he was excellent:

I don't think there's any doubt that redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett has been the most valuable player for this Ohio State team. Filling in for the injured Braxton Miller, Barrett has helped lead the Buckeyes to an 8-1 record and has them contending for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Once again Saturday, Barrett was calm and collected for much of the night in a hostile environment and came away with big plays both through the air and on the ground. Barrett finished 16-26 passing for 300 yards and three touchdowns, and also had 14 carries for 86 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

For Michigan State, they don't have much left to play for:

A fourth double-digit winning season in the last five years is still possible for Michigan State. And isn't that something all Michigan State fans would have killed for when Bobby Williams and John L. Smith were patrolling the sidelines?

Just think about that for a little bit...

Non-conference opponents:

Western Michigan - on bye

Central Michigan - on bye

Arizona State 55, Notre Dame 31 - The Sun Devils did the Lord's work by eliminating the National title hopes for Notre Dame and the Heisman campaign of Everett Golson.

Southern Illinois 32, Missouri State 22 - The Salukis are now 6-4 on the season and have a chance to reach the FCS playoffs.