The Whistlestop Tour: Week 10 of Big Ten Football
Just three more weeks, everyone, and we can get through this. Yes, It is 9:31am as of this writing and both Greg Hudson and John Shoop are still employed by Purdue, but basketball is here to save us all. Come, bathe in the healing light of Caleb Swanigan. Here is what else happened around the B1G:
Ohio State 28, Minnesota 14
The Buckeyes have now tied the nation's longest winning streak in regular season conference play with 29 straight B1G victories (The 2013 B1G title game loss doesn't count here). Their defense is, once again, really good:
Ohio State generated as many scoring opportunities as they did in their last week against Rutgers, but there are two key differences. First, they only generated scoring opportunities on 50 percent of their total drives, punting seven times with two three-and-outs. Second, when they did create a scoring opportunity, they averaged just 3.5 points per opportunity. Against Rutgers, they averaged 5.8 points per scoring opportunity. Yes, the Rutgers defense overall is far, far worse than Minnesota's. But amazingly, the Rutgers defense is actually statistically better in the red zone than Minnesota's, allowing an average of 4.8 points per opponent scoring opportunity (79th) compared to Minnesota's 5.2 (108th). Part of the inefficiency was due to a missed field goal and a fumble following two promising drives.
The Gophers have now fallen to 4-5 overall and are just 1-4 in a year where they were expected to contend for the West Division:
The Gophers played very well, outstanding really, for the first 25 minutes of the game. Unfortunately against a team with the overall talent of Ohio State, you have to make some luck along the way. Going toe-to-toe is usually going to result in a losing proposition, sometimes you need a bullet. And the Gophers really could have used on in that first half. Instead it was Ohio State who made the big play and secure momentum along with the early lead.
Nebraska 39, Michigan State 38
Nebraska bounces back from losing to Purdue by beating Michigan State, which no one saw coming:
It's been a long season, and Huskers everywhere needed this release. Did Nebraska get a gift call from the officials? For those of us in the stadium, we never saw a replay as conclusive as the one ESPN provided from the high camera. (Or in my defense, on the Alonzo Moore pass interference penalty either.) Sparty fan has a point...but Michigan State certainly had their opportunities to seal this victory. Arjen Colquhon could have ended it with an interception just before the game winner, and Mark Dantonio took the game out of Connor Cook's hands on their second to last series. And Connor Cook could have had a little more sense of urgency on the final play; did he think that a Big XII ref would give the Spartans a Mack Brown extra second?
For Sparty, the loss stings, but they are still alive to win the Big Ten:
Look, this MSU team probably had some red flags that I had been ignoring up to this point, and they came to a head in this game. But the season isn't yet over, theoretically.
After some #chaos got avoided in the afternoon slate of games (like FSU/Clemson or even IU/Iowa) it isn't hard to envision a scenario in which a 1-loss B1G champion gets into the playoff. The harder thing to envision in this scenario is beating Ohio State in Columbus. That's probably not happening with three true freshmen and a converted wide receiver playing significant time in the defensive backfield.
Iowa 35, Indiana 27
Iowa is still undefeated, and with Minnesota-Purdue-Nebraska and the combined four conference wins between them they appear to have a clear path to Indianapolis. They can likely even lose one game:
Iowa is 9-0 for the second time in program history, and also the second time in seven seasons. That's a seriously big deal. You'll hear plenty of intrepid souls tell you it's "not good enough for the committee" or somehow otherwise cheapened, but if 9-0 weren't worth celebrating, why doesn't it happen way more often?
Since Iowa's first 9-0 start in 2009, Ohio State is the only other Big Ten team who can claim two 9-0 starts (2012, 2013) and nobody else can even claim one.
The Hoosiers continue to play well against good teams, but can't break through:
A highly-ranked team came to Bloomington. Indiana played their asses off. Indiana is a pretty good team. Jordan Howard is a great back -- that can't seem to stay healthy for the first time in his career. Indiana drops a ton of passes. The defense can get stops sometimes, but gives up massive plays. Indiana's tremendous in the 3rd quarter. They collapse in the fourth. I don't know what else there is to say. It sucks. It hurts. Being competitive is fun as hell -- and at Indiana you can't forget that. It's easy to tell who suffered through the DiNardo years and who didn't with Indiana football -- see who wants to fire the coach tonight and who doesn't. Indiana still hasn't beaten a top-10 team since 1987 -- and hasn't at home since 1967.
Michigan 49, Rutgers 16
Jake Rudock has a career day as Michigan rolled with ease:
Jake Rudock was excellent today and played easily his best game of the season. He threw for 337 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-25 attempts. The most impressive part of all of that is the fact that he completed passes to ten players in those completions. Jim Harbaugh has a knack for getting everyone involved, and Rudock executed that perfectly against a defense that had no answers for the Wolverines.
Since beating Indiana, Rutgers has done absolutely nothing:
Jake Rudock, by no standards, was having a good year in 2015. He had 6 TDs and 7 INTs entering Saturday. Against Rutgers, he totaled 341 yards and 3 TDs (2 passing, 1 rushing). Rudock had the best game of his career and the Rutgers defense made him look like Nate Sudfeld, or Connor Cook, or Luke Falk, or JT Barrett, or any other QB that has played, and thrashed Rutgers. In the last 4 games, they have surrendered 198 points, that is nearly 50 points per contest. They are bringing back shades of the horrendous 2013 AAC defense. Ugh.
Northwestern 23, Penn State 21
The Wildcats won't win the West, but a 10-win season is in the cards after a late field goal gave them a nice road win:
The real story of Northwestern's 23-21 win over Penn State (7-3 overall, 4-2 Big Ten) wasn't the redemption stories of backup quarterback Zack Oliver and inconsistent but clutch kicker Jack Mitchell. It also wasn't the picture of Northwestern alumni Julia Louis-Dreyfus and George R.R. Martin. Nor was it dumb penalties from the Wildcats that allowed Penn State to claw its way back into the game. As hard as he might have tried, James Franklin's poor clock management wasn't the story either. If the Nittany Lions had won, running back Saquon Barkley would have been the story with 120 rushing yards on 25 carries with two touchdowns.
Penn State is now knocked out of the East race, but there is no reason to panic:
I see calls for a change in coaches. Some of these calls exclude defensive coordinator Bob Shoop from the sacrificial altar; some don't. Many of these calls coincide for pleas for O'Brien to come back to Penn State, or recollect days gone by of the PSU football program. Most, if not all, of these calls require one to have a selective memory of even the most recent history of Nittany Lion football.
Illinois 48, Purdue 14
Predictably, The Illini faithful were quite happy that Purdue's defense fixed the Illini offense:
Making his first start in over a month, Ferguson looked like he didn't miss a beat, eclipsing the century mark by rushing for 133 yards and gaining 41 additional receiving yards. Freshman back Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who started in Ferguson's absence, was an extremely effective second option (if you even want to call him that) as well. Having a solid run game is important for many reasons, but especially for an Illinois offense that desperately needed a spark. They got it today with over 380 total rushing yards, the most they've compiled in a conference matchup since 2010. It would be lovely if this continued as the team heads d own the stretch of the 2015 season and tries to gain bowl eligibility.
Let us enjoy the cynicism of Boiled Sports once again:
The Internet has stats to back this up...you can check them out...the only numbers you need to know are these: Purdue was destroyed: 48-14.
The offense looked neutered...the defense looked outmanned...the special teams were ill prepared...the coaches were out of their depth.
Nebraska must really suck. More later this week.
Wisconsin 31, Maryland 24
Wisconsin wasn't very pretty, but they were effective:
After a sloppy, anemic two quarters for the offense, Wisconsin came alive -- led by redshirt senior quarterback Joel Stave and the passing game. #AirStave took off in the third quarter and threw for 188 yards in the game, including 8-of-9 in that third frame.
The defense, after being scorched in the first quarter for 126 yards, came back and allowed only 316 total yards. Sophomore Jack Cichy, again stepping in for injured true freshman Chris Orr at inside linebacker, came up big once again. The former walk-on recorded 10 tackles, three for loss, and two sacks -- leading the team.
Maryland also joins Purdue in the ranks of bowl-less Big Ten teams:
The Maryland football team is 2-7 after Saturday's loss to Wisconsin. There will be no postseason play for the Terrapins this year, and that became official the day after Maryland's No. 3-ranked men's basketball program tipped off its preseason to much fanfare at Xfinity Center. In all likelihood, Maryland football is about to fade deep into the public background while the school's two basketball teams get churning.
But Maryland still has games to play. Those games could be valuable for what they tell Maryland's coaches about some of the team's young players. Then again, if this coaching staff is replaced after the season - a real possibility - even that might not matter. The only thing the Maryland football team is really playing for at this stage is the Maryland football team itself. That is sad, but maybe there's a trick or two up somebody's sleeve yet.
Middle Tennessee State 27, Marshall 24 - It took 3 overtimes and five missed field goals, but Marshall dropped its first conference game.
South Dakota State 59, Indiana State 13 - The Trees got blown out on the road and are likely out of the playoffs picture.
Virginia Tech - On Bye
Bowling Green 62, Ohio 24 - The Falcons are just rolling through the MAC.