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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 9 of Big Ten Football

There wasn’t a lot of defense played all over the conference this week.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

A total of six teams are already bowl eligible in the Big Ten, with Iowa and Maryland each needing one victory to get there as well. Illinois, Michigan State, and Rutgers will be eliminated with one more loss each. That leaves Purdue, Northwestern, and Indiana somewhere in the middle. Indiana and Northwestern are probably in good shape though. Indiana still gets Rutgers and Purdue, while Northwestern still has Purdue and Illinois. Purdue obviously would need to win both the Northwestern and Indiana game, plus at Minnesota this week since a victory over Wisconsin is unlikely.

But it was a big week for a few teams. Minnesota got to bowl eligibility and Indiana got a critical victory towards its own postseason situation.

Penn State 62, Purdue 24

Boy, that escalated quickly. The game was still somewhat in the balance when DeAngelo Yancey caught a 62-yard TD pass late in the third quarters, but when you score 28 points on four possessions that start in opposing territory that normally means you win:

The Nittany Lions, however, woke up in the second half. As always, defensive adjustments from Brent Pry made all the difference, and everything that worked so well for Purdue in the first half suddenly stopped working. To make matters worse for the Boilermakers, they had four turnovers in the second half (only three during meaningful time), and suddenly a game that was within reach for Purdue quickly got out of hand.

The 62 total points given up and 45 in one half were both Ross-Ade records so Darrell Hazell keeps on giving:

As good as Barkley is, those offensive numbers that Purdue conceded were a reminder of how poor Hazell's last choice for DC was. Ross Els is unlikely to get another coordinator job after this mess - with any luck, the next coach will have a better eye for coordinator talent. Fortunately, most of the remaining schedule consists of teams with less potent offenses than Saturday's foe had ... even Indiana has slumped to 24.1 points per game prior to their game today against Maryland, so hopefully there won't be another 60-spot this season.

Michigan 32, Michigan State 23

At least Michigan State made Michigan work for this one. A 20-point second quarter broke open a tight game and led the Wolverines to a victory over their big brother for the first time in a long time:

Looking back, I think some of the concern over Michigan State’s success on the ground is slightly overblown. MSU was able to lean on a terrific running back in L.J. Scott and mixed in those runs with some outside looks to R.J. Shelton that they hadn’t shown on tape up to this point. Michigan only got outmatched when they were noticeably outnumbered at the line of scrimmage.

The Spartans showed some fight this week, but they still are likely not making a bowl game:

The story of this game will undoubtedly be the missed opportunities for the Spartans. Twice they turned the ball over on downs in the redzone as well as a missed FG from Gieger. This was slated to be a blow out from UM but Michigan State was able to keep things close while ultimately failing to convert in big down situations.

Ohio State 24, Northwestern 20

This was much, much closer than anyone expected, as the Wildcats were tied going into the fourth quarter before Ohio State pulled it out in the end:

It was somewhat surprising that Northwestern managed eight explosive plays and the Buckeyes again lost the explosive play battle 6 to 8. As the announcers repeated after multiple long runs, Ohio State's man coverage left some holes for Clayton Thorson, and some missed assignments led to big gains for Northwestern. That's been an issue (to some degree) for three weeks now, as Wisconsin was far more explosive than expected, and Penn State was their usual degree of explosiveness as well.

The Wildcats are coming around at the right time after a slow start to the year:

But the October blues seemed to return as the game got underway with Ohio State, looking to avenge a shocking loss at Penn State the previous week, got out to a 10-0 lead with under 10 minutes gone in the first quarter. But Northwestern weathered the storm and settled in, eventually putting itself in a position to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. The visitors could only muster a field goal, though, and the following Ohio State drive iced the game.

Wisconsin 23, Nebraska 17 (OT)

The Badgers prevailed in a must-win game for their divisional hopes thanks to a late stop in overtime:

Saturday night against the No. 7 Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Badgers wouldn’t let a second consecutive night game at Camp Randall Stadium fall through their hands. Call it moxie, resilience or that oh-so-popular buzzword “grit,” but UW fought through injuries, a lost lead and missed opportunities to defeat the Huskers 23-17 in another overtime thriller.

The Cornhuskers were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten, but are still in a solid position to win the division:

The Huskers won the toss and elected to go on defense. Clement carried a couple times for a first down. With the ball on the 13, the Badgers went back to Clement for two and then they brought back Ogunbowale who rumbled in for a Badger touchdown.

Minnesota 40, Illinois 17

Purdue’s next opponent didn’t do a lot offensively, but still managed 40 points three critical turnovers that gave them the ball inside the 20 yard line:

The Minnesota Golden Gophers were able to avenge their 2014 loss in Champaign with a 40-17 road victory over the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday. The Gophers have won three straight and are now bowl-eligible with a record of 6-2 on the season. With a conference record of 3-2, they’re also now tied for 2nd in the Big Ten West with Wisconsin, Iowa, and Northwestern. If they win out and Iowa loses another Big Ten game, the Gophers are headed to the Big Ten Championship. Very unlikely based on what we’ve seen from this team so far, but the fact that it’s a possibility is kind of crazy, right? Anyway, back to Illinois. Let’s break the game down into arbitrary categories — used simply for the sake of simplicity, and out of affection for Sergio Leone — that people will undoubtedly fixate on, rather than focusing on the supporting text that provides more detailed and thoughtful evaluation.

The long road back under Lovie Smith continues even as Illinois plays with a 3rd string QB:

On Homecoming weekend against Minnesota, the Illini were once again limited to third-string quarterback Jeff George Jr. under center. The redshirt freshman played well for the most part, and showed flashes that he can develop into a full-time starter at some point in the future. Unfortunately for the Illini, he is nowhere near ready right now, and the Illini were toppled by the Gophers, 40-17.

Indiana 42, Maryland 36

I dared to think Purdue could be competitive with Indiana, and was refuted by the fact that Indiana beat a team that beat us by 40 and ran up over 600 yards of offense in the process. Their offense was back for at least one week:

Kevin Wilson was fully aware of this as the Hoosiers turned to the unlikely duo of Natee and Diamont seemingly every time the Hoosiers crossed the 40 (though we did predict possibly more Zander in the game preview). Against Maryland’s horrendous run defense, Natee and Diamont were more than the Terrapins could handle (or were prepared for).

The Terrapins gave up 414 rushing yards and 6 TDs, so basically the complete opposite of what they did to Purdue:

I’m pretty sure Maryland’s run defense has been in “stock down” every single week, but there’s nowhere else for it to go after this game. Devine Redding finished with 130 of Indiana’s preposterous 414 yards. The Hoosiers ran right through the Terps with a wildcat attack that featured 260-pound running Tyler Natee just plowing through defenders and quarterback Zander Diamont going around them. Indiana finished with an astounding 414 yards on the ground. You’re probably going to lose 90 percent of games when that happens. This was a game full of poor tackling, worse defensive positioning and bad execution all around.

Non-conference Opponents:

Tennessee-Martin 33, Eastern Kentucky 3 – EKU now falls to 2-6 on the season.

Temple 34, Cincinnati 13 – The Bearcats are a mediocre 4-4 and just 1-4 in their own conference.

Nevada – On Bye