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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 3 of Big Ten Football

The ACC wins the ACC/B1G football challenge 3-2.

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in several years the ACC won the ACC/B1G Challenge. Victories by North Carolina, Miami, and Virginia Tech gave the ACC a 3-2 win in the football version. Revenge must come swiftly in December.

For the most part it was a weird day for the Big Ten on Saturday. Ohio State struggled mightily against the MAC. Minnesota looked awful. Illinois got pantsed on the road. Perhaps the strangest thing is Indiana is 3-0 by scraping out another close win. Let's get to the Whistlestop Tour

North Carolina 48, Illinois 14

Yikes. The Illini had given up only three points in two games, then got blitzed on the road:

Tim Banks' defense came into this game ranked first in the country in points allowed (just three in the first two games combined). Some were optimistic that the Illini D had finally turned a big corner, others were skeptical that it was more about the quality of opponents. Well, it was unfortunately the latter that was more accurate. UNC put up nearly 500 yards of total offense and scored 48 points. The tide began to turn early in the second half when the Illini put together back-to-back-to stands, but they quickly returned to their earlier form and went on to get embarrassed by the Tar Heel offense. It is clear that Illinois' incredible start to the year defensively was more myth than reality, and they were harshly slammed back down to earth against their first power-five opponent of the season.

Maryland 35, South Florida 17

After some early struggles in this one the Terps got a nice bounceback victory:

In his first start of the season, quarterback Caleb Rowe moved Maryland's offense effectively but struggled with ball security. His 297 yards and four touchdown passes were great, his three interceptions less so. Both wide receiver Taivon Jacobs and tight end Avery Edwards (twice) caught their first career touchdowns from Rowe, who won for the first time as a starter. His passer rating was a sturdy 161 despite the interceptions. The passing game drove Maryland's offense, which failed to get much traction on the ground against South Florida's 4-2-5 scheme.

Michigan 28, UNLV 7

The Wolverine offense is still not doing great, but UNLV really sucks at football and Michigan took advantage:

Outside of turnovers, Rudock has missed a handful easy throws. Against UNLV, he had Jake Butt wide open in the endzone from five yards out and couldn't hit him as well as a play where Drake Johnson was wide open in the flat with nothing but green grass in front of him. Two easy touchdowns gone because he was unable to make a fairly easy throw with pretty good protection.

Michigan State 35, Air Force 21

The nation's new No. 2 team got four TDs from Connor Cook and kind of slept through the second half with a 28-7 halftime lead:

After not allowing a sack through two games, Cook was sacked three times by Air Force, not having much of a chance on any of them. The run-blocking wasn't much better, with Madre London averaging 2.4 yards on 17 carries and LJ Scott averaged 2.1 on 11 carries. MSU's longest run on the day was just 11 yards. Air Force loaded the box and brought pressure, daring Cook to beat them over the top. For the most part, he did, but MSU kept the ball on the ground with the lead in the second half. On that note, MSU has been outscored in every second half this year, 49-34 total.

Minnesota 10, Kent State 7

Thank goodness Minnesota has a defense, because the Gopher offense was pretty horrible in scoring only 10 points and giving up an 80 yard fumble-six:

Minnesota had problems across the board on offense. The Gophers had tremendous difficulty remaining on schedule throughout the game. The Gophers ran the ball 60% of the time against Kent State, but they were predictable by down. Some of that is reasonable. Third down was pass heavy because of the large number of third and long situations. Limegrover had no option but to call a passing play.

Northwestern 19, Duke 10

This was a very good road win for the Wildcats, who suddenly look like they could be the best team in the Big Ten West:

Anthony Walker is playing at an All-Big Ten level through three games. He might even be playing at an All-American level. Up front, Dean Lowry and Deonte Gibson are bookend studs, especially against the run. Lowry was fantastic today with a JJ Swatt-like interception and another deflection that almost resulted in a touchdown. The secondary, led by Godwin Igwebuike, was terrific. Duke had one play over 20 yards, and there was a point in the ballgame when the Blue Devils had gained 12 yards or fewer on 8 of the last 9 drives. This unit was flat-out phenomenal. With the Northwestern offense basically non-existent for the wide majority of this game, the defense handled the read-option well all contest, and Thomas Sirk, a big-armed quarterback, didn't have many places to throw downfield. And holy cow, where did Keith Watkins II learn to hit? My goodness. If you're a fan of a solid defense that flies all over the field and makes tackles, you were a fan of today's performance. Almost everything Sirk threw was a short check down. From there, Northwestern closed and tackled exceptionally.

Miami (FL) 36, Nebraska 33 OT

What a bizarre game here. Miami led by 23 with 10 minutes left, but Nebraska was able to send it to overtime, where Tommy Armstrong Jr. threw an interception on the first play of OT, allowing the Hurricanes to escape with a win:

The crazy Fourth Quarter kicked off with another Badgley FG from 28 yards out to make it 33-10. That is when the Huskers came back. Nebraska started it off with a Armstrong to Alonzo Moore TD pass from 10 yards out with a 2 point conversion pass from Armstrong to Cethan Carter to make it 33-18. After a Miami punt (and all the penalties that came with it), Nebraska marched back down the field 80 yards in 9 plays, capping the drive with a Armstrong to Brandon Reilly TD catch to make it 33-25. Miami couldn't get a first down and had to give the ball up, setting the Huskers up for a chance to finish the comeback.

Ohio State 20, Northern Illinois 13

This game was actually tied at halftime. Northern Illinois had the football with a chance to tie three times in the fourth quarter and lost a total of 6 yards, so yes, the defense was the story:

The second straight game that Ohio State's offense has struggled to show any sort of resemblance to the 2014 unit that helped drive the Buckeyes to a national championship. The Virginia Tech game showed flashes of the potential of what the offense could be, but with lackluster performances against Hawaii and now Northern Illinois, it's become somewhat of a legitimate concern. The defense, however, has more than lived up to expectations.

Virginia Tech 51, Purdue 24

We have all vented here, but here is what the opposition thought:

The Virginia Tech, Purdue football game, the first ever and not to be repeated until this year's freshmen are saving for their kids' college days,  had to have been the most head scratching, aggravating, inconsistent, and frustrating performance this young season; and that was the first half.  The second half seemed to be an entirely different football game, played by another pair of teams, and by the middle of the 4th quarter had turned a closely contested 24 to 17 (Hokies) game into an absolute rout of 44-17.  Of course ‘Garbage Time' means something to the players who are up trying to make it to the field more often playing harder than most folks ever expect.  Consequently, Purdue put a TD on the board late in the 4th, and so Frank returned the favor, just to maintain the true nature of the defeat for the Boilermakers.  It was almost like Frank had his blood up. Who knew he'd ever allow the team to push past that Beameresque three score differential that in ages past had him shutting down the offense completely?

Wisconsin 28, Troy 3

Much like Ohio State-NIU and Minnesota-Kent State, you have to feel like the Badgers took out just enough to win:

The Badgers nearly equaled their rushing total coming into the contest as they pounded out 199 rushing yards on 35 attempts, good for 5.7 yards per carry. Redshirt freshman Taiwan Deal, splitting carries with redshirt junior Dare Ogunbowale, led the attack with 84 yards on 16 carries. Ogunbowale added 77 yards on 14 rushes, including a 17-yard scamper to put the Badgers in front 7-0 with 6:49 left in the first quarter.

Indiana 38, Western Kentucky 35

The Hoosiers are 3-0, but if not for three plays inside their 5-yard line, one in each game, they could be 0-3. It may be that Kevin Wilson has figured out how to win:

Indiana has now won their first three games by a total margin of only 18 points. Meanwhile, 100 miles south of B-Town, Louisville has started out 0-3, having lost these games by a total margin of 13 points. Yes, Louisville's competition has been tougher than Indiana's so it's not entirely a fair comparison. However, it just shows how narrow the line is between a victory and a loss in a sport where, with only 12 games on the table, wins and losses mean so much.

Penn State 28, Rutgers 3

Penn state is leading the Big Ten, and that is about the best thing you can say about this game:

It's no secret that Rutgers would be limping into Beaver Stadium on Saturday night after the suspension of head coach Kyle Flood this week, adding onto the loss of several players due to various off-the-field issues. However, no one knew how bad it would be until the Scarlet Knights played under the big lights in Happy Valley surrounded by a striped out blue and white crowd.

It is too bad Purdue doesn't play Rutgers for two more years. We might win a game:

Rutgers got dominated in the trenches and Penn State had a field day running the football. Rutgers couldn't do anything in the running game and Chris Laviano looked like 2014 Chris Laviano. Paul James is clearly not the same player he used to be. Darius Hamilton is clearly not close to being 100%. The secondary is the Rutgers secondary. Nothing new there.

Iowa 27, Pittsburgh 24

OMHR won its first game under the new permanent lights with a 57-yard field goal as time expired:

Marshall Koehn started the game by BOOMING a 64-yard punt down the field.  He ended the game by SMASHING a 57-yard field goal dead center through the uprights to win the game -- after Pat Narduzzi gave him a chance at a do-over by calling timeout before Koehn came up short on his initial attempt at the kick*.  Thanks, Pat!  Narduzzi made a few questionable decisions late in the game -- punting to gain 21 yards of field position when it was 4th-and-inches and Pitt appeared to have Iowa's defense on its heels was another one -- and Iowa was able to capitalize on those mistakes.

Non-conference opponents:

Marshall 45, Norfolk State 7 - This was even after Norfolk State led 7-0.

Indiana State 29, SE Missouri State 28 - The Trees scored with 41 seconds left to go up 29-22, but SEMO scored as time expired and failed to convert the deuce for the win.

Memphis 44, Bowling Green 41 - The Bowling Green offense is excellent, but their defense is horrid.