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The Whistlestop Tour : Week 4 of Big Ten Football

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The Big Ten went 12-1 during a very successful week, even beating three major conference teams!

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

College football is, indeed, a strange place. We are living in a world where Indiana can waltz into an SEC stadium and beat a team that was a missed field goal away from being undefeated in the SEC last year. That same team had won with ease last year in Bloomington. The Hoosiers' win over Missouri is, by far, the best win for the league at this stage, and probably the most surprising.

It was a pretty good weekend, as everyone won except for Michigan. I am not sure if that has ever happened on a Big Ten non-conference football weekend.

Iowa 24, Pittsburgh 20

Kirk Ferentz is gonna Kirk Ferentz. The Hawkeyes look like a team that is just awful for three quarters, then somehow pulls it out late. They renew the Most Hated Rivalry this week, but Black Heart Gold Pants has embraced winning ugly:

Iowa, fully embracing the "football is a game of two halves" cliche, rebounded from last week's gut-wrenching 20-17 loss to Iowa State -- and an alarming first half where they were largely pushed around on the way to a 17-7 Panther lead -- to beat Pitt, 24-20.  CJ Beathard replaced Jake Rudock at halftime and seemed to provide a spark to the Iowa offense -- most notably on a jaw-dropping 62-yard completion to Damond Powell (see below)-- but the game also turned on the ability of the Iowa lines to re-assert themselves.

Michigan State 73, Eastern Michigan 14

The Spartans could have easily hit 100 if they felt like it. At halftime they were up 49-0 and EMU had a single yard of offense. That's mind-boggling.

It was painful to watch, at times. I wanted Eastern to just run the ball and eat clock, which they refused to do. Their longest drive in terms of time of possession was 2 minutes and 24 seconds long. This resulted in 18 drives for EMU and 19 drives (17 not counting kneel-downs) for MSU. Since the beginning of 2012, MSU's previous high was 15 drives in a game. The offense couldn't help but score; Eastern forced the hand of Dantonio.

Northwestern 24, Western Illinois 7

No one will go winless from the Big Ten this year, so huzzah! This one was more a result of WIU being unable to finish drives than the Wildcats outplaying them. The Leathernecks outgained Northwestern by over 100 yards:

Fitzgerald will tell you that stats are for losers and that his annual FCS opponent is really good, but this was about as bad as a 24-7 win can get. The Wildcats gained a meager 4.29 yards per play. They were out-gained by 93 yards and put together far fewer good drives than the Leathernecks of Western Illinois. The passing game averaged 4.7 yards per attempt and 7.8 yards per completion - it was checkdown after designed short pass after checkdown.

Wisconsin 68, Bowling Green 17

Hold on, Melvin Gordon just scored again. The Badgers rolled up a Big Ten record 644 yards on the ground. We're going to die when they come to West Lafayette:

Saturday's rushing performance even surprised quarterback Tanner McEvoy, who rushed for 160 yards on 11 carries himself. Gordon said McEvoy is going to keep him on his toes by putting up rushing numbers like that. Even though Gordon may be watching his back to make sure McEvoy doesn't out-run him each week, he impressed his quarterback. While being interviewed, McEvoy grabbed a stat sheet and looked right to Melvin Gordon's stats.

Maryland 34, Syracuse 20

Hey, the new guys went on the road and beat a Power conference team! Great job, noobs!

On Saturday, Maryland had another key special teams play, blocking a Syracuse punt, their second of the season. They're tied for the lead in the NCAA in blocked punts with two and are tied for 2nd nationally with three blocked kicks. Add in Brad Craddock being perfect on the season in field goals and extra points and the home run threat of Diggs and Likely and you can see why this unit is so special this season.

Purdue 35, Southern Illinois 13

Hey, we'll take it. I ran into Boilerdowd at halftime and we both agreed that it was nice to just see us look better for once. It had been more than two years since we had been out to such a lead, and the Boiled Sports guys were pleased at Danny Etling's comfort level:

I've never seen Danny so comfortable. He was unfazed in the pocket, completing a few quick hits to keep the ever-elusive momentum with Purdue. His first touchdown was that beautiful fade to Deangelo Yancey at the end of a fantastic drive, and it was without a doubt the single best pass he's made as a Boilermaker. Etling made SIU pay after their second turnover by finding Danny Anthrop on a deep slant without safety coverage for a 44 yard touchdown. At this point, Purdue was on pace for a 76-0 win and I was happy about my blowout-win prediction.

Utah 26, Michigan 10

Ann Arbor is full of sadness, woe, and water. At least their only touchdown was a fat guy touchdown:

The defense outscored the offense. The offense did not reach the redzone once again.

In short, that describes Michigan's woeful 26-10 loss to Utah on Saturday. The Wolverines (2-2), who had a very similar showing offensively like it did against Notre Dame, once again out-gained Utah (3-0) 308-286 and failed to reach the redzone.

Rutgers 31, Navy 24

This makes the Big Ten 2-0 vs. Navy this year. Hopefully the Middies get on track for their cherished rivalry with Notre Dame later on:

I think this is the way every Rutgers fan wants to see the team play: a dominant rushing attack that keeps the game out of Gary Nova's hands with limited snaps for him. We now have enough games to see trends in the team, and the secondary still doesn't seem to be very good. Lots of open receiver running behind defenders, and Navy had plenty of drops that could have turned the tide of the game. Hard to win in Annapolis, so great to get a win.

Penn State 48, Massachusetts 7

This was 48-0 before Massachusetts scored on a very disinterested Penn State in the fourth quarter:

Yes, the competition is probably the worst PSU will face all season, but for a group like the offensive line that had been beat up, both literally and figuratively through the first 3 games, rushing for over 200 yards has to be a great feeling. James Franklin and Herb Hand have both said they had seen progress through 3 games, but to finally have some results to put behind that has to be helpful. With Northwestern and a bye week leading up to the next big test at Michigan (yes, that will still be a test), the opportunity is there to take another tangible step or two. Oh, and getting that Miles Dieffebach guy back in the next month won't hurt either.

Minnesota 24, San Jose State 7

Minnesota completed just one pass the entire game. Purdue is going to face some nasty rushing offenses in Nebraska and Wisconsin, but at least they can pass if they feel like it. Minnesota can't:

First...the good.  The Gophers rushed for a lot of yards today, 387 to be exact.  David Cobb had a really nice game, once again, with 207 yards on 34 carries, giving him a 6.1 per carry average for those of you mathematically challenged; and he tacked on 2 touchdowns as well.  Cobb was the only running back to carry the ball in the first half.  Streveler also ran the ball well picking up 161 yards on the ground.

Illinois 42, Texas State 35

Illinois continues to be a fourth quarter team. They trailed for a good portion of this one before scoring 17 fourth quarter points:

I don't know about Lunt. Sometimes he makes throws that show he has talent - they're accurate and powerful with just the right amount of patience before the receiver gets open - other times they are none of those -- a receiver will be completely covered, he'll ground an easy pass, he'll overthrow a streaking receiver by 5 yards. Lunt, can you just pick a side? Yes, I'll just throw to Martize Barr down the sideline. (Then he throws an unwise interception) I mean-- How about I hit Dudek in the back of the endzone. So is Lunt in 2014.

Indiana 31, Missouri 27

Wow. IU goes on the road to beat the SEC runner-up. The Hoosiers drove the length of the field for the winning score and never flinched in this one. Even for the most virulent IU hater (and really, IU football is a thing to be pitied more than hated) you have to give them credit for an impressive win:

It has everything you look for when it comes to big wins: middling team in a struggling conference heads into the house of a talented program in the nation's premier conference. They spend the entire game matching each punch with their own counter, somehow finding a way to summon up enough defense to prevent Mizzou from landing a knockout blow. Even when Andrew Baggett's 40-yard field goal gave the Tigers a 27-24 lead with a little over two minutes to play, this team dug deep and showed the kind of resolve that had been conspicuously missing for years.

Nebraska 41, Miami (FL) 31

I watched this entire game and it not that Miami played poorly. Nebraska just played that well. They simply rammed the ball down Miami's throats. On every critical third down the Cornhuskers converted and Ameer Abdullah was unstoppable even when you knew he was getting the ball:

Ameer Abdullah went for 229 yards on the ground, Nebraska won the turnover battle including a scoop and score, and a well played game became very chippy at the end. However, your Huskers go undefeated in the non-conference slate with a 41-24 victory over the Miami Hurricanes at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night in front of a record crowd of 91,585.

Non-conference opponents:

Western Michigan 45, Murray State 14 - Hey, the Broncos are 2-1 with their loss only loss to Purdue, so we're awesome!

Kansas 24, Central Michigan 10 - Really, Chips? You had to have your totally awesome game against us, but you lose by double digits to Syracuse and freakin' Kansas? Are you kidding me?

Notre Dame - The echoes were sleeping on bye.