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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 4 of Big Ten Football

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Purdue was one of only two Big Ten losses this past week.

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

After this week these posts get a lot easier, as most of the non-conference games for Big Ten schools are done. Only Rutgers and Penn State have a game left. You already have a general idea for the postseason, as well:

Virtually assured of a bowl game:

Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa, Northwestern

In good shape for a bowl:

Penn State, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin

Need to go .500 or better in the B1G:

Nebraska, Rutgers, Maryland

Need a damn miracle for the postseason:

Purdue

The good news is that conference play cures all. The Boilers have strangely played Michigan State well under Darrell Hazell and maybe something strange will happen. Several teams that Purdue has played are a little shaky, so if something positive happens maybe some good momentum will finally turn things around.

Then again, maybe we won't win a game until we play Eastern Kentucky in about 11 months.

Rutgers 27, Kansas 14

We learned that Kansas is really, really bad:

After weeks of turmoil on and off the field, the Scarlet Knights finally did something positive. They head into their bye week with a 2-2 record and clear minds. Rutgers will have 2 weeks to prepare for #2 Michigan State, who they will battle under the lights of HPSS in the annual blackout game. Chris Laviano had an up and down day, but was fairly efficient for the most part.

Michigan 31, BYU 0

Not only does Michigan look pretty good with this win, the opening loss to Utah certainly does not look that bad with what they did to Oregon. This was a dominant defensive effort for sure:

Michigan's game against BYU was terrific in all ways. The defense held BYU to 55 passing yards (previously averaging 311 ypg), 50 rushing yards (previously averaging 122), and of course 0 points (previously averaging 30). There were no noticeable weak links on the defense as far as I can tell. I wrote last week that better offenses could expose Michigan's linebacker play. Well, this was a "better offense", and the only thing exposed was the bald scalp of LaVell Edwards, beneath his double facepalm.

Michigan State 30, Central Michigan 10

The Spartans, once again, did just enough to win with a dominant second half performance:

This was a tricky non-conference schedule. Oregon was obviously a huge game, but traveling to play a decent Western Michigan team in Kalamazoo, Air Force in the week after the Oregon showdown, and a frisky Central team were all more difficult games than your typical MACrifice. 4-0 still feels good.

Nebraska 36, Southern Miss 28

Are the Cornhuskers vulnerable? Could this be an avenue to a Purdue win? They certainly took vulnerable after struggle with Southern Miss:

At this point folks, get used to this. This is what this team is for 2015. Sloppy, undisciplined, never dominant, but never gives up. This is a recipe for heartburn-inducing scores as we enter B1G play. It should not be a big surprise that this team is still struggling to find an identity with new coaches and a new system, but the huge defensive breakdowns are alarming. However, one third of the way through the season the best we can hope for is band-aids. There won't be any big schematic changes or shifts in philosophy.

Bowling Green 35, Purdue 28

David Blough was great, but it was yet another frustrating loss that Purdue gave away:

We can talk about the specifics of the uneven pass rush, and the defense giving BGSU's receivers a 20 yard cushion for the entire first half, or the arm tackling, and the uneven offensive line play, and the lack of a single power run play, and the sudden disappearance of pretty-decent-kicker Paul Griggs another day.

Indiana 31, Wake Forest 24

It is dark world indeed when we are envious of Indiana's football success. The Hoosiers are 4-0 and given that they have games left against Rutgers, Maryland, Penn State, and Purdue they are all but assured of going to a bowl game, because they will win two conference games:

The guts of this team are the best they've been in some time. FOOTBAW IS WON IN THE TRENCHES, PAWWW but all over-used football phrases aside, the entire game, particularly the second half, was a clinic in trench play for the Hoosiers. Indiana blew Wake Forest off the ball both ways, giving the running backs plenty of space on offense and making the day a nightmare for Wake's true freshman quarterback on the other side of the ball. Yes, the competition has not been top notch, but it has been awhile since Indiana has looked this good on the lines through four games. The 4-0 start is no coincidence.

West Virginia 45, Maryland 6

We had a sad touchdown here, as Maryland scored after they were already down 45-0. Maybe there is a Big Ten team Purdue can beat. Too bad we do not play them until early October 2016:

Whatever steps toward respectability the Maryland football team might have taken by beating South Florida were erased and more on Saturday against West Virginia, in a 45-6 loss that was every bit that lopsided. The Mountaineers are very, very good, but that doesn't change that Maryland looks very, very bad. If you had fun watching Maryland flail away on all three sides of the ball against the Mountaineers, you'll also enjoy next Saturday. But more on that in a moment.

Iowa 62, North Texas 16

That is a lot of points for Iowa. Wow:

Okay, with that out of the way: the Iowa offense is on a totally different level than it was last year. C.J. Beathard completed all 15 of his passes in the first half for 254 yards and two touchdowns; he finished with an 18-21, 278, 2-0 line that'll still delight Hawkeye fans, but just know that were it not for sportsmanship, Beathard could have essentially named his yardage for the day. Beathard worked intermediate routes, led receivers on swing passes with frightening ease and even reminded Iowa fans that he's still got maybe the best deep ball of any Kirk Ferentz quarterback by hitting Tevaun Smith for an 81-yard touchdown on a deep post.

Minnesota 27, Ohio 24

The Golden Gophers are in trouble, as for the second straight week they survived a weak MAC team. Minnesota has a terrible offense and they are lucky to not be 0-4:

First we should talk about the offense, a unit that was dramatically more watchable than the previous couple weeks.  The key to today's improvement came from the legs of two freshmen running backs.  Redshirt freshman Rodney Smith and true freshman Shannon Brooks exchanged series and the two combined for 176 yards rushing.  Smith had 16 carries for 94 yards while Brooks piled up 82 on just 10 carries and found the endzone twice.  The improved ground game helped to open things up for the passing game.  Mitch Leidner was 22/32 passing with 264 yards.

Ohio State 38, Western Michigan 12

Could the Buckeyes be in legitimate danger when they visit Indiana? Maybe, as this was a third straight less than convincing win:

Jones looked the best that he had looked all season. He made the right decisions, and while he made some not so great ones, he clearly had more confidence in this game. They got off to a quick start with a long touchdown pass to Michael Thomas, and they never really looked back from there.

Penn State 37, San Diego State 21

It has not been pretty, but Penn State is winning football games:

This was a weird game. If you look at the stats, Penn State absolutely dominated the game. Really, it was two special teams miscues, and a big play, that gave San Diego State their 21 points. Yet I do not think I'm alone in feeling a little underwhelmed with things. Perhaps that's due to the injuries not only to Barkley and Lynch, but also Jordan Lucas (did not play), Marcus Allen, and Evan Schwan. PSU also settled for two field goals inside the ten yard line. Put one or both of those in the end zone, and maybe things feel differently.  I still do not feel like the Lions played all that poorly, just that there was more there.

Illinois 27, Middle Tennessee State 25

The Illini escaped here, as MTSU had a chance to win with 8 seconds left, but missed on a 43 yard field goal:

I'm not as concerned as other people with the game yesterday. Illinois defeated a good Middle Tennessee team that possessed an explosive, veteran offense. There are a lot of things to fix, but a win is a win. And hey, next week Illinois' got a Nebraska team that comes limping into Champaign after a rough non-conference schedule. Let's see what Bill Cubit can do.

Northwestern 24, Ball State 19

The Cardinals led at halftime, but a huge third quarter moved Northwestern to 4-0 on the season:

Obviously, we won't know the severity of the multiple injuries Northwestern suffered against Ball State for a few days. What we do know is that they bring NU's depth at several key positions into question. Injuries to safeties Godwin Igwebuike and Kyle Queiro forced Terrance Brown, a lightly used backup, into action which seriously hurt the secondary and may have to one or both of Ball State wide receiver Jordan Williams' two touchdowns.

Wisconsin 28, Hawaii 0

The Rainbow Warriors came to Big ten country twice but return to the islands without evens coring a point against Wisconsin and Ohio State:

Credit defensive coordinator Dave Aranda for his constant pressure and attacking schemes that harass opposing offenses nearly all game long. Even when it appears the Badgers have secured victory, Aranda still allows the second and third string guys to remain aggressive. He seems to really want those shut outs.

Non-conference Opponents:

Marshall 36, Kent State 29 2 OT - Technically coach Hazell's old team did better.

Indiana State - ON BYE

East Carolina 35, Virginia Tech 28 - Yeah, that happened.