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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 12 of Big Ten Football

Shutouts and blowouts galore!

Wisconsin v Purdue Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The penultimate week of the season was a bit of a boring one. Of the seven games, two were shutouts and two more saw the losing team score 19 points or less. We now have the following championship scenarios:


Michigan – beat Ohio State and they are in

Penn State – in with a win and a Michigan loss

Ohio State – need a win and a Penn state loss to Michigan State


Wisconsin – beat Minnesota and they are in

Nebraska – need to beat Iowa and have Wisconsin lose to Minnesota

Iowa & Minnesota – if Iowa beats Nebraska and Minnesota beats Wisconsin we have a four-way tie between all four. Wisconsin likely gets the bid in that case, with a 2-1 record against the other three along with Iowa, but Wisconsin beat Iowa. Who knows for sure, however.

Here is how the rest of the week went:

Wisconsin 49, Purdue 20

Wisconsin only needed eight minutes to assert its dominance. Purdue actually won the remaining 52 minutes by a 20-14 score, but scoring 35 points in eight minutes will do a lot of good things:

It was an uncharacteristic start for Justin Wilcox’s squad, giving up 76 passing yards in the first quarter alone and committing a couple of offside penalties. They also surrendered the huge 75-yard bomb from quarterback David Blough to wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey in the second quarter, but the Badgers’ defense quickly asserted itself with the three turnovers in those 15 minutes. That translated to 14 points and ultimately shifted the game back to UW’s favor.

For Purdue, Boiled Sports is like us in that we just want this disastrous season to be over with some good news on the coaching front:

Purdue competed for a quarter and one-half before the dam ruptured and flooded the once thriving Purdue football village with destruction and Badger points. When Blough rolled left and TJ Watt snatched the pass out of the sky for a subsequent pick six, every Purdue fan knew that was the moment in which the game had turned. Four offensive plays later, and with just five more yards of offense on the board, Blough threw another pick. That's kinda all you need to know, as a Purdue fan.

Ohio State 17, Michigan State 16

The Buckeyes won thanks to a critical interception on a two-point conversion as the Spartans went for the win:

But still, if you would've told me that Ohio State would win the turnover battle and hold Michigan State quarterbacks to 8/21 passing, then I would've predicted the blowout that the advanced stats did. But as the volatility stats show -- Ohio State is the 13th-most volatile team in the country -- the Buckeyes are capable of incredible week-to-week variation in play. And this week that showed up in the offense's inability to take advantage of scoring opportunities and in losing the explosive play battle.

After a nightmarish season for the Spartans, this game was encouraging:

I went into this game thinking that we were going to get housed. I know I am the optimistic one on the podcast every week but a season of 3-7 knocked the wind out of my sails. Not for the program but for this team in particular. Add that to the fact that Vegas had Sparty as a 23 point dog and I thought it was going to be a long day for MSU.

Well, I was wrong. Michigan State stated the game with a 2 play, 75 yard drive that saw LJ Scott catch a back door screen pass for a 64 yard touchdown. Things were looking up. While we have been in this spot before (this team has led in all of its 7 losses) things were feeling pretty good in Sparty land.

Michigan 20, Indiana 10

We got a snow game! That was about the only pretty thing here, as Michigan at least won after the last minute loss in Iowa City:

We all know what is on the line next week. Is this team ready? Who the heck knows.

Michigan is going to need a great week of practice to go down there and have a chance. It is a rivalry game with major stakes and Jim Harbaugh treats every week as a Championship week, but this is the single-biggest hurdle this program has faced since he has been in Ann Arbor.

To some, OSU will feel like a death march, and that’s fair, but this team has the ability to control the line of scrimmage against a Buckeye team that has been pushed around at times this season.

Indiana will needs a win for a bowl game, and they get Purdue now as an excellent chance to get it:

The Hoosiers led Michigan 10-6 in the third quarter, then allowed two scoring drives in three series before shooting themselves in the foot down the stretch, falling in the Big House 20-10.

This isn’t a new story. It’s been pretty much the IU mantra for two seasons. But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

Penn State 39, Rutgers 0

The Nittany Lions still need some help from Ohio State, but they can win the Big Ten after disposing of Rutgers:

This is yet another game where there isn’t much to say. Penn State went on the road, faced a team that was severely overmatched, and did enough to put the game away early enough to give backups some run. They also left with no major injuries, which this team cannot afford any more of. Now the Lions get to focus on the last game of their schedule, and hope the pieces fall into place for something more.

Rutgers is also really, really, REALLY bad at football, as they have been shutout in four Big Ten games:

Despite a spirited effort by the Rutgers defense on senior night, the loyal sons laid down their swords to Penn State by the score of 39-0. The offense could not get anything going and eventually the defense could no longer hold the wall alone. After leading 9-0 at halftime and struggling to finish drives against the Scarlet Knight defense, Penn State broke through in the second half with a 16 point 3rd quarter. It was over at that point.

Nebraska 28, Maryland 7

The Cornhuskers were defensively dominant at home as they stayed alive in the Big Ten West race:

With its nine regular-season wins in 2016, Nebraska has improved its regular-season win total by four games after a 5-7 regular-season record in 2015. This marks just the sixth time in school history Nebraska has improved by four or more regular season wins from one year to the next. It is Nebraska’s best regular-season win improvement since jumping from a 3-6-1 record in 1961 to an 8-2 regular-season record and 9-2 overall mark in 1962.

Maryland still needs a win for a bowl game, but here comes Rutgers:

The regression of the offense has been downright depressing. Gio came into the second half of the Illinois game and played through the Minnesota game with flare and made some big plays. He suffered some type of hamstring injury in that second game and hasn’t been the same since. His ability to run was what made him most effective, but he hasn’t attempted to use his legs much at all in the past three games. And as each one passed, his ability to throw effectively diminished with it.

Iowa 28, Illinois 0

Iowa was dominant to the point that it never even received a kickoff in this game:

Back to back weeks, back to back stellar performances for the Iowa defense. The numbers speak for themselves: 41 passing attempts for 137 yards; 24 rushes for 61 yards; 0 TDs across the board; 0 points; 1 INT. I get it, Illinois is always going to be Illinois. They are generally just not good at football, regardless of the talent they recruit or the head coaches they hire. But those are damn good numbers against anyone. For comparison’s sake, #1 world-beater Alabama gave up 114 passing yards on 24 attempts, 70 rushing yards on 30 carries and 3 points this week. Against Chattanooga. Iowa isn’t Alabama, but Illinois isn’t Chattanooga and I like what I’ve seen out of this defense for the last couple weeks. If only we saw that against NDSU or Northwestern.

Illinois also continues to suck at football, just not as much as Rutgers:

With temperatures in the 40s at kickoff and 20-25 mph winds whipping through the stadium, both offenses were going to struggle Saturday. Iowa was able to control the game on the ground and wear down the Illini over the course of the game.

The Illini’s (3-8, 2-6 Big Ten) defense performed admirably but got no help from the other two phases of the ball as Iowa (7-4, 5-3) scored via a punt return in the first half to take a seven-point lead into the halftime break. The Illini were limited to just 198 yards for the game.

Minnesota 29, Northwestern 12

The Gophers have hardly been dominant, but they are 8-3, and that is more important:

With two games left in their college careers, this senior class holds a 30-20 overall record the last four years. They’ve won eight games in three of the last four seasons. They’ve beaten Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, and Penn State, with a chance to beat Wisconsin next week. They helped lead the Gophers to their first New Year’s Day bowl game since 1962. They’ve reached a bowl game each of the last four seasons, including the program’s first bowl win since 2004. They even came within one game of winning the Big Ten West in 2014. What this senior class has accomplished in four years is remarkable. Gopher fans everywhere owe them a debt of gratitude.

Northwestern fell back to earth after their dominant performance at Purdue:

The loss leaves fans and those who follow the team thinking, ‘Is this the same team we saw go toe-to-toe with Ohio State in the Horseshoe? Is this the same team that went into Kinnick and shocked the Hawkeyes?’

Trying to understand Northwestern’s inconsistency is difficult. Sometimes the team fires on all cylinders, and sometimes the team looks completely overmatched to teams that conventional wisdom says Northwestern should beat, or at least compete with.

Non-Conference Opponents:

Eastern Illinois 24, Eastern Kentucky 0 – EKU closes the season at 3-8 and had only 152 yards of offense on the day.

Memphis 34, Cincinnati 7 – The Bearcats have now lost four in a row and have scored only 26 points total in that stretch. Glad we could make them look great!

Nevada 38, Utah State 37 – A TD from Ty Gangi with five seconds left led the Wolf Pack to snapping a four game losing streak.