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The Whistletop Tour: Week 7 of Big Ten Football

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Recapping Week 7 as we reach the halfway point of the season.

Iowa v Purdue Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In the midst of all the basketball recruiting news and coach firing news we still had actual Big Ten football this past weekend. There were six games overall, so let’s talk about the actual football that was played.

Iowa 49, Purdue 35

Black Heart Gold Pants was pleased that the offense got back on track for a relatively easy victory after struggling through two 14-7 wins on the road:

I said it in the week leading up to Saturday, and quite honestly, anyone with a pulse knew it had to happen, but Purdue is not good at stopping the run and with the concerns over Iowa’s passing game coming in, Iowa was going to have to try to establish the run. And boy did they establish it. Over, and over, and over again. Leshun Daniels Jr. finished with 156 yards and 2 TDs. Akrum Wadley had 170 yards.

If Iowa is going to be successful the rest of the way, they’re going to need sustained success running the ball. It will be a tall task against Wisconsin this week, but the offense as a whole goes as the run game goes.

Boiled Sports was contractually obligated to write about this game as much as we were:

After three and a half seasons, Darrell Hazell has made a bowl-eligible team into a team that can, at its best, play evenly with the next-worst team in the division, a similarly poorly-coached team that's provided Hazell with two of the only three conference wins he is ever likely to get. (If someone can explain the Nebraska win last year, I'd appreciate it.) Against a team that beat a terrible Rutgers team by 7 and lost to a bad Northwestern team, Hazell's Boilers gave up 269 rushing yards and 397 yards of total offense.

Ohio State 30, Wisconsin 23 OT

The Buckeyes survived on the road. That is now 20 straight they have won away from home, which is damned impressive:

But the Buckeye defense saved the game in the first half by bending but not breaking, forcing three field goals, then hardly even bending in the second half by allowing just one scoring opportunity during regulation. The Ohio State offense was sluggish through the air in the first half, but a second-half surge allowed the team to be far more effective both creating and capitalizing on scoring opportunities in the second half.

The Badgers now have two losses, but pretty much have a one game season in the west when they later play Nebraska. The second half of the schedule is much, much easier:

Avoid the trap. It's easy to say but hard to do. Coming off of a game full of so much emotion and importance, and waiting for a game against another top 10 Cornhusker team the next week, it wouldn’t be unexpected to see the Badgers come out flat against an Iowa team that has started to put it together after some tough losses in the beginning of the year. Strategically, if Dooley has to miss any time and Biegel can’t go, stopping the Iowa rushing attack will play a significant role in crafting a Badger win. The defense has stopped or at least limited potent rushing attacks in the past, but as injuries continue to mount it will be more challenging to take away the one aspect of offense that Iowa will want to hang it’s hat on.

Nebraska 27, Indiana 22

Purdue’s next opponent went up 17-0 and then held on for dear life. They didn’t score again until the fourth quarter, but it was enough for a win:

Newby stepped up in the running game when it mattered. He had some clutch runs on the final drive where Nebraska sealed the deal for the win. Newby finished with 22 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown. Not his best game of his career, but still helped Nebraska get the huge road win. The Husker run game finished with 45 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown. Nebraska needed to run the ball this game because Armstrong had his arguably worst performance of the year. Devine Ozigbo was also coming off of an ankle sprain during the bye week. Newby played well and without him, Nebraska probably does not win the game.

It was another close but no cigar game for the Hoosiers, who challenged another top 10 team but couldn’t close the deal:

It’s not to say the game would have played out the same way, but Kevin Wilson passed up two opportunities for 40-ish yard field goals — one on the first drive of the game and one in the third quarter while trailing 17-8 and really in need of some points. He seemed to finally trust his defense and punted a couple times when, in the past, he never would have considered it. But for some reason, he couldn’t bring himself to put 3 points on the board and trust his defense enough to think a couple field goals could go a long way.

Illinois 24, Rutgers 7

Good lord, if Purdue can beat Illinois and Illinois wins at Rutgers by 17, then how bad is Rutgers?

Lovie Smith now has his first FBS win as a college head coach. The orange and blue picked up a conference victory for the first time in 344 days against Rutgers on Saturday, shutting down the Scarlet Knights with a stout defense and a strong running game. Below we break down the three players of the game hockey-style.

As for Rutgers. Well, they scored:

The problem was the negative things that did occur, completely cancelled out everything else. Turnovers, a lack of execution, and mistakes at the worst times, sunk any chance Rutgers had of winning this game. And yet, the sun came up on this bright Sunday morning. Let’s all exhale and commiserate over all that took place during an extremely disappointing loss on Homecoming.

Minnesota 31, Maryland 10

The Gophers were dominant and completely controlled their game against Maryland, so it was pretty much the opposite of what Purdue did in College Park:

The big unknown leading up to this game was redshirt junior quarterback Conor Rhoda, a former walk-on forced into his first collegiate start after the concussion to starter Mitch Leidner against Iowa last week. Rhoda was far from spectacular, but avoided turning the ball over and played well enough to keep the Gophers in the driver’s seat. He finished 7-of-15 with 82 yards and one touchdown, which came off a screen pass to Shannon Brooks for six before halftime. Rhoda never looked very comfortable in the pocket and often panicked when pressured. He had a bit too much heat on a lot of his passes and a lack of timing with his receivers was evident. It could’ve been much worse for an inexperienced former walk-on, but if you were hoping to see Rhoda emerge as a viable alternative to Leidner, keep dreaming.

As for Maryland, they have looked pretty bad since beating Purdue, so I think we infected them:

True freshman quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome got his first career start with Perry Hills out, and Maryland’s offense looked similar to what we saw against Penn State, except worse. Minnesota’s stout run defense bottled up Maryland’s shifty backs, putting even more of the onus on Pigrome to get things done.

Northwestern 54, Michigan State 40

That was a completely unexpected result from Northwestern, who is getting it all together, finally:

This offense’s performance week-by-week has been documented and discussed at length with mixed reviews to start the season. But these past two games have shed light on the Northwestern offense. Against Iowa and Michigan State, we saw a Northwestern offense that appears to be approaching the game with a new and improved mentality, something that came as no surprise to the team’s head coach.

As for Michigan State, it is officially time to panic (It is only a video recap).

Non-conference Opponents

Tennessee State 35, Eastern Kentucky 28 – The Colonels officially fell to 2-4 and 1-2 in their conference.

Cincinnati – On Bye

San Jose State 14, Nevada 10 – In a defensive slugfest a touchdown with 50 seconds left sent Nevada to 3-4.