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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 8 of Big Ten Football

We can’t even take joy in Ohio State getting a comeuppance.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Counting the College football playoff, there are 10 Big Ten bowl tie-ins for 14 teams. It is starting to look as if the Big Ten won’t have enough teams for all of them. Rutgers needs only one more loss to be eliminated. Illinois and Michigan State (of all teams!) need two. Purdue and Indiana would be next as each has four losses, and since they play each other still there is another loss to be added.

I say this because there is at least a small hope that Purdue can still reach a bowl game. It would take a home upset of Penn State, Northwestern, or Wisconsin plus road wins over Minnesota and Indiana, but after seeing Purdue at least play Nebraska tough on Saturday there is a small measure of hope, however unlikely that hope may be. I know it is more likely that Purdue only wins one more game at most, but at least we can see that Gerad Parker has them playing hard and with some passion.

Nebraska 27, Purdue 14

The Boilers led 14-10 at halftime and was the better team before halftime defensive adjustments kept Purdue’s offense under wraps. From there the Cornhuskers wore Purdue down to get the hard-earned win:

Unlike last year, there was a reason why Nebraska stopped running the ball: Nebraska’s beat-up offensive line simply couldn’t create any holes to run through. That’s downright alarming, considering that Purdue was ranked 124th nationally in rush defense. Purdue was giving up 264 yards each game; Nebraska could only rush for 157. 74 of that came in the fourth quarter.

Needless to say, this was not a good performance for the Big Red. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with being 7-0; last year proved that Husker fans should appreciate each and every win. But performances like this one won’t work the next few weeks.

Our friends at Boiled Sports are also leading the moral victory parade:

Purdue, for just one half, was fun to watch again. Even though our Boilers lost by 13 points (COVERED THE SPREAD THO), they made our late Saturday afternoon fun again. For a half, our Purdue Boilermakers thoroughly outplayed a top ten team on the road, complete with linebackers making solid tackles and a Replogle-less pass rush bugging Armstrong and receivers catching balls and stuff. They played with a freedom unseen so far this season, a direct result of the midseason coaching change.

It was awesome. It was competitive. It was…fun.

Penn State 24, Ohio State 21

Purdue’s next opponent upset the No. 2 team in the country, who had won 20 straight road games, but blew a 21-7 fourth quarter lead. Normally I would be laughing at Ohio state, but this is Penn state, so they were playing the weepy sonata music of “this program has suffered so much and needed this”, which is pretty disgusting:

Many in the stands and at home got emotional following the victory. On the streets of State College fans exchanged hugs and kisses with strangers as though a war had been won, and in some ways it had. After five of the toughest years in Penn State football history, for the fans and the team, a sense of relief blankets the community.

How many times have the team and coach Franklin been asked to answer for not being as successful as their Big Ten rivals while ignoring the unfair challenges that they face that others do not? Those days are now behind us.

I really, really want to pull off the upset this week. For Ohio State, the game was lost on Special Teams:

Well, if you’re going to blow a game, you might as well do it like Ohio State did, eh? Following a Penn State safety early in the third quarter, the Buckeyes led 21-7. Another touchdown—hell, even a field goal to push the Nittany Lions’ deficit to three scores—would have iced the game and given the visitors their third super-impressive road triumph of 2016.

Alas, Ohio State’s next five drives happened...

Punt. Punt. Punt. Blocked field goal returned for a touchdown. Turnover on downs.

It gets worse: Penn State won despite its starting quarterback (Trace McSorley) completing 35 percent of his attempts and its best player (Saquon Barkley) receiving only 12 touches.

Michigan 41, Illinois 8

I assume that the only reason Illinois scored is because Michigan was bored:

What more is there to say about this group?

They continue to beat up on inferior teams with their smothering style of play and they did not allow a completed pass until the third quarter. There were a few chunk yardage plays allowed, but they largely kept it going this week.

For Illinois, the wait for a Lovie Smith rebuild continues, but at least they got to see Jeff George Jr. make his debut:

Junior WR Malik Turner caught a 43-yard pass in the third quarter and a 43-yard TD in the fourth quarter, the first completion of Jeff George Jr.'s career. Turner entered the game with 39.2-percent of Illinois' receiving yards, the second highest percentage among Power 5 players, and had 90.5-percent vs. Michigan.

Wisconsin 17, Iowa 9

This was the most B1G game of the week. Wisconsin just sat on Iowa’s head for 3.5 hours:

Iowa was limited on offense without star wide receiver Matt VandeBerg, and tight end George Kittle may not have been 100 percent as well, but Wisconsin’s defense held a rushing attack that came in averaging 180 yards per game to 83. That’s the fourth time the Badgers have held opponents under 100 yards on the ground this season.

Kirk Ferentz settled for a field goal with his team trailing by 8 late at home. That’s all you need to know about their game:

Ya know, it’s not so much that Iowa lost to Wisconsin, yesterday. I think that was relatively expected. But as an entertainment product, Iowa is approaching “Battlefield Earth” status. Iowa’s plot doesn’t make sense, unless it’s executed to absolute perfection and you have the right characters in the right places. I think many Hawkeyes fans could have lived with the result yesterday if things weren’t so damn predictable. Punting on 4th and 1 from inside Wisconsin’s 45, going for the field goal with under 6 minutes left, abandoning the only offensive attack that was working (hurry-up). None of those things surprised us at all and that’s what makes yesterday’s loss so maddening.

Minnesota 34, Rutgers 32

Minnesota needed a late field goal to beat Rutgers. No, that is not one big typo:

In all facets of the game, the Gophers turned in their worst performances of the seasons. The offense was stagnant for much of the game. Mitch Leidner made multiple poor decisions and throws. While the interception had as much to do with his receivers running into each other as a poor throw, the senior quarterback overthrew and underthrew multiple receivers throughout the game.

For Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights were actually impressive in their fortitude to make a nice comeback:

Yes, he turned the ball over 3 times, but Gio Rescigno did plenty good to prove he is the best QB for this team and he will not have to look over his shoulder when out there. He threw for 3 TDs and displayed athleticism previously unknown the QB position at Rutgers. He was running all over MInnesota in the first half, but suffered what was described as a hamstring injury and was limited running the ball the rest of the game. He was still able to move the offense with half of his game absent. The most impressive thing about Rescigno is he made plays for his wide receivers. Previously, Rutgers could not make tough throws that allow a receiver make a play even if they are covered. Rescigno made throws that were good enough to be completions even if the receivers didn’t get open. He made so many throws yesterday that other QBs on the roster are physically incapable of making. Hopefully he heals up during the bye week and is ready to go for Indiana.

Northwestern 24, Indiana 14

Northwestern went up 24-3 at halftime and pretty much sat on cruise control for the afternoon. The once powerful Indiana offense was completely held in check:

Five weeks ago, Northwestern got its first victory of the season against Duke, scoring 24 points and gaining 406 total yards.

On Saturday, Northwestern got its fourth victory of the season against Indiana, scoring 24 points and gaining 408 total yards.

After Duke, the offensive output was remembered as one of the best in recent memory, as Thorson hit multiple receivers for deep touchdowns. Despite some inefficiency, the Wildcats were finally hinting at being a dual-threat offense. After Indiana, it’s still a positive offensive showing, except this time with a bit of staleness in the air.

For Indiana, Richard Lagow is officially struggling:

The completions / attempts numbers are gaudy, but the tape won’t be kind to Lagow’s performance today. Northwestern’s already less-than-good secondary was ripe for the taking after injuries, and Lagow couldn’t take advantage. Nick Westbrook, Luke Timian, and Ricky Jones were able to shake coverage all day long on deep routes, but the JUCO transfer quarterback continually underthrew his recievers -- leaving ample opportunity for Northwestern’s already-beaten defensive backs to get back into the play. Such underthrows led to both interceptions, on passes that could’ve been touchdowns if recievers had been hit in stride.

Maryland 28, Michigan State 17

The Terrapins are now a win from being bowl eligible:

Maryland football snapped its two-game losing streak with a 28-17 victory over Michigan State on Saturday night in College Park.

The win brings the Terps to 5-2, only one victory shy of bowl eligibility. This was much-needed, as Maryland still has its three-game stretch against top-10 opponents looming in a couple weeks. The team’s first crack at the magical sixth win will come next week at Indiana. If they don’t get it there, a Thanksgiving-weekend home game against Rutgers is their next-best shot.

Michigan State is also a complete mess now on a 5-game losing streak. The Only Colors didn’t even do a postgame wrap.

Non-Conference Opponents

Jacksonville State 24, Eastern Kentucky 7 – EKU quarterbacks combined to throw five interceptions in this game.

Cincinnati 31, East Carolina – For the first time this season Gunner Kiel got a start and he threw four TD passes.

Wyoming 42, Nevada 24 – Nevada gave up 289 yards and 3 TDs to one Wyoming running back in this one.