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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 5 of Big Ten Football

We learned a lot on the first full weekend of B1G play.

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Lots of lessons were learned on Saturday:

  • We learned that Purdue still lacks an offense against real teams.
  • We learned Indiana is still Indiana and incapable of having nice football things.
  • We learned the Northwestern was clearly sandbagging for Big Ten play.
  • We learned that Brady Hoke is a dick.
  • We learned that I should never question Ohio State's Ohio-and-0 stretch at the ‘shoe.

Here is your quick rundown around the league with thoughts from each SB Nation site:

Iowa 24, Purdue 10

The BHGP folks are naturally pretty pleased with Iowa, who showed more second half offense because the Purdue defense was exhausted:

Make no mistake about it: Iowa was the better team in West Lafayette Saturday.  Purdue seems to be building some talent, especially across the defensive front, but had neither the talent nor the depth to hang with the Hawkeyes over a long enough timeline (as it turned out, about 35 minutes).  It quickly became clear that Etling had no chance of generating anything in the passing game, allowing Iowa to focus on stopping Akeem Hunt.  And an Iowa defense that can key on the run is liquid hot death for the opposition.  We joked that Iowa could start taking knees with ten minutes left to play, but it actually was true.  The game was effectively over when Iowa went ahead.

The guys over at Boiled Sports asked some very good questions of Purdue:

Has there been improvement from 2013 to 2014? Isn't that what we asked for at the start of the season? Didn't most of us expect another non-bowl season and maybe 3-5 wins at best? I think the answers to all of those are yes. So why do we all find ourselves in this complete funk where - and I think I speak for many of us - we don't even want to watch anymore? It's simply not fun, I think that's what it is. And the easy answer, of course, is that when there is no hope of the offense scoring, well, that sort of takes some of the fun out of football.

Wisconsin 27, South Florida 10

This was a 3-3 game at halftime before the Badgers woke up and did what they needed to do:

Wisconsin went up primarily against a 3-4 base defense from South Florida. Obviously, the Bulls' athleticism was on display first and foremost in the first half, holding Wisconsin to only 139 total yards on 32 plays. Wisconsin, in keeping with its normal trend the past two weeks, ran the ball on a majority of its plays. Only against Western Illinois did the Badgers get close to a "balanced" offense (38 runs, 30 passes), while the other games they've hovered between 60-to-80 percent runs.

Rutgers 31, Tulane 6

Rutgers isn't bad, and now they have four wins from their non-conference schedule banked and are in the hunt for a bowl bid. Could two more be in store? With Michigan and Indiana still on the schedule, absolutely:

The Scarlet Knights mustered 462 total yards of offense against Tulane, including 171 on the ground in the first game after a season-ending injury to RB Paul James. Desmon Peoples got the start for the Knights, running for 83 yards on 21 carries, while Justin Goodwin added 82 yards on 12 attempts. Gary Nova continues to move on from the disastrous five-interception game against Penn State with another solid day slinging the ball. He finished the day with 291 yards on 14 of 21 passing, four touchdowns and one interception.

Michigan State 56, Wyoming 14

For the second straight week the Spartans bludgeoned a non-conference opponent. Now they get a damn good Nebraska team in a huge game that might take something out of them before coming to West Lafayette:

Two fumble recoveries and a Kurtis Drummond interception of Cowboys' QB Colby Kirkegaard are nice, but for Michigan State to get to where it wants to get come Dec. 6 in Indianapolis, its defense has to learn from lessons learned at Oregon and shore up the little things.

Northwestern 29, Penn State 6

I certainly did NOT see this coming. The Wildcats haven't been great on either side of the ball, but they jumped out to an early lead and kept the Nittany Lions down all game long:

The Penn State win has prompted a reevaluation. Were we underrating this Northwestern team? Did they finally, after weeks of lackluster performances, put it all together? Have they turned a corner? Or was this merely a positive blip in Northwestern's continuing downward spiral? Frankly, I don't know.

For Penn State, it was just as shocking:

In the words of iconic funnyman Fred Willard, "Wha happen" you ask? Well, Penn State got its ears kicked it by a lowly-regarded team it hadn't lost to in 10 years, that's what happened. In a game reminiscent of 2010 Illinois or 2013 Indiana, Penn State entered as the clear favorite on paper only to be outplayed in every facet of the game in a debacle nearly from start to finish.

Maryland 37, Indiana 15

The Terrapins are the only team in Big Ten history that has never lost a league game! Okay, it is still early, but this was a pretty impressive win for the new guys:

One week after getting utterly gashed on the ground by Syracuse and two weeks after allowing 700 yards to WVU, Maryland held Indiana - the best statistical rushing team of the three - to just 70 first-half rushing yards in an outstanding performance. Indiana rolled up some rushing yards in the second half, but you can attribute some of that to Maryland laying back to kill clock with a big lead. Overall, the defensive front got great pressure and containment across the line, the linebacking corps looked good led by a flying-around Cole Farrand and a few nice standout moments by L.A. Goree the Yannicks too, and Sean Davis, Anthony Nixon and Will Likely were beastly at the forefront of a very nice showing by the secondary.

Indiana laid an egg at home just a week after things were turning. It almost makes you feel bad for them, if they weren't Indiana:

This wasn't supposed to happen. After a week of celebration, excitement, and pure astonishment about a road victory over Missouri (who themselves had a nice come-from-behind road win yesterday at South Carolina), this was a supposed to be a new Indiana football team. The narratives had changed in the aftermath of that game - Indiana's offense was humming like we expected, the defense had greatly improved, and this team could compete with anyone, and maybe even win our division in the Big Ten.

Minnesota 30, Michigan 14

The Jug is back in Minneapolis for only the second time since 1986, so the Daily Gopher is full of joy:

The Golden Gophers have been not had very much success against Michigan in my lifetime.  I was born in 1977 and was technically alive for that season's 16-0 Gopher win.  I was barely old enough to remember the 1986 win in Ann Arbor.  I do remember the 2005 win, almost as clearly as I remember the 2003 loss in the Metrodome.  But those three wins are it.  Today was number four for me and this was an impressive one.

Meanwhile, pitchforks are being sharpened and torches are being lit in Ann Arbor. Most of it is centered now on Brady Hoke's callous disregard for his quarterback's health:

Hoke should be fired tomorrow. This is no longer about wins and losses. This is about a coach who is completely clueless on the sidelines to the point where he is putting his players at serious risk of injury. You saw what Hoke just did. Why would any parent in America want to send his or her son to Ann Arbor to play for Hoke after seeing what he just put Morris through? I certainly would not. And, if I was Morris' father, I would be absolutely appalled and irate at Hoke for his (in)action.

Ohio State 50, Cincinnati 28

The Buckeyes went to warp speed, racking up 45 first downs while dismantling another in-state team:

Just when you think the secondary could be slowly improving, they revert back to what is quickly becoming the norm in recent years at Ohio State. The Buckeyes faced a good quarterback in Gunner Kiel, who ended up throwing over 300 yards passing for 4 touchdowns. Chris Moore also hauled in a handful of receptions for over 200 yards, averaging over 70 yards per reception. Vonn Bell looked lost at times, while Eli Apple was in charge of covering Moore on several occasions and struggled for much of the night. Chris Ash and the defensive coaching staff are going to have to find something that works, otherwise history will continue to repeat itself.

Nebraska 45, Illinois 14

Ameer Abdullah is really, really good, and he is going to kill us on November 1:

So what did we learn from Homecoming 2014?  Nothing much that we didn't already know:  Ameer Abdullah is really, really good. Tommy Armstrong has a great arm, but sometimes still doesn't make great decisions.  The defense gets flummoxed on the first drive of the game and settles down as the game progresses.

As for Illinois, they have no run defense, their starting quarterback is banged up, and they still opened as a double-digit favorite over Purdue. I am going away from my "hoping for a Purdue win" stance. This is now a must-win game for the Boilers, or they will not win again in 2014:

So is it Cubit? Lunt? The tight ends? Lunt sometimes stares down receivers and these guys usually aren't the main route. Hopefully we can see them get some balls against Purdue.

Non-conference update:

Virginia Tech 35, Western Michigan 18 - The Broncos weren't terrible against next season's marquee non-conference opponent.

Toledo 42, Central Michigan 28 - As expected, the CMU game is looking like an awful loss.

Notre Dame 31, Syracuse 15 - If Notre Dame wins its first game against a real team this week against Stanford let the wanking begin.

Southern Illinois 34, Western Illinois 17 - Since SIU has a win over Eastern Illinois we are now the transitive de facto Directional Illinois champion (non-Northern Illinois edition)!