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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 3 of Big Ten Football

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Purdue’s future head coach got a win over a Big Ten team this week, which can be said almost any week regarding its current coach.

NCAA Football: North Dakota State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

This was a good weekend for scouting opponents and getting excited to possibly beat opponents before remembering we have Darrell Hazell to screw it up. Nevada, Maryland, Illinois, Iowa, and Northwestern all looked beatable if we had any kind of coaching staff. Even Wisconsin, the highest ranked team left on our schedule, almost lost at home to Georgia State in a game they slept through. If it wasn’t for Michigan State doing the Lord’s work and both Ohio State and Nebraska getting big wins it would not have been a good weekend for the conference.

Basically, the top is really strong, but after the Big three in the East the conference looks bad.

Ohio State 45, Oklahoma 24 – It is amazing to see how easy it is to reload when you have an entire roster full of 4- and 5-star talents. There was weaping and gnashing of teeth over “how young” this team was with all the talent Ohio State lost. It turns out, when you replace talented players with talented players you keep winning:

Maybe the single most important statistic from the game was how relatively efficient the two offenses were when they created scoring opportunities. The Ohio State offense averaged 6.33 points every time they had a drive that crossed the Sooners' 40, while the defense held the Sooners to just 3.4 points per scoring opportunity. The Buckeyes were almost twice as efficient with their scoring opportunities.

Michigan 45, Colorado 28

Surprisingly the Buffaloes led this game 14-0 before a blocked punt returned for a touchdown spurred forth an avalanche of points from the Wolverines. It was 24-21 by halftime and Michigan ended up walking away with an easy win:

There is no sugar coating the start of this game. It was ugly on both sides of the football and Colorado punched the Wolverines in the mouth, going up 14-0 and then 21-7 to start the game.

Colorado was shredding the Michigan defense with the up-tempo spread attack that UCF had success with last week. Give the Wolverines credit for making adjustments after the first quarter, but they still need to clean up the big plays.

Wisconsin 23, Georgia State 17

Yes, the Badgers trailed this game 17-13 with less than 10 minutes left. Their offense was just awful for most of the day, getting pushed around by a winless Sun Belt team that lost to Ball State. They now have a new quarterback in Alex Hornibrook, who took over mid-game and salvaged a win:

The move may generate conversations heading into the Badgers’ conference opener against Michigan State, but Hornibrook led Wisconsin’s offense to 17 points and three critical second-half scoring drives in their 23-17 win over Georgia State at Camp Randall Stadium.

“It was kind of the same mindset as last week,” said Hornibrook, who finished 8-of-12 for 122 yards with a touchdown and an interception. “I was ready to go when they told me to go in, but I didn’t have any expectations.”

Michigan State 36, Notre Dame 28

The Spartans were up 36-7 in the third quarter, but still had to withstand a furious rally. The result is that Notre Dame’s season is basically over before the calendar turns to October and Michigan State is still a team to be reckoned with in the East:

If the second quarter looked good for Michigan State, the third quarter was on another level. Gerald Holmes rushed for two scores and LJ Scott added one of his own to make it 36-7 and it looked like the rout was on.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

The Irish stormed back into the contest late with Kizer throwing a touchdown pass to Equanimeous St. Brown, running one in himself and throwing another to Durham Smythe.

North Dakota State 23, Iowa 21

Purdue needs to take a serious look at hiring not just Chris Klieman, but the entire North Dakota State staff. The Bison are 74-5 over the last five plus seasons. They have won five consecutive National Championships, meaning there is not a single player on their roster that has ever been part of a non-championship season. They are 9-3 all-time vs the FBS level with six straight wins. They are so good, they are RANKED 28th IN THE FBS AP POLL THIS WEEK. Yeah, beating Iowa on a last second field goal was an “upset”, but if you watched the end of the game NDSU played as if it expected to win. After a late TD to cut it to one they went for the win on the two-point conversion, but failed. Instead of getting down, they forced a three-and out (and even got aggressive with a sack on third and long), got the ball back, RAN THE BALL to get into field goal range, and calmly kicked the game winner. The staff of this team has built a dominant, winning culture with less talent than Purdue has.

That still meant tears from OMHR, however:

All this is to say anything without giving credit to NDSU. The Bison would compete for the Big Ten West this year, FCS status be damned. The Associated Press sent an E-mail to AP voters saying NDSU is eligible for the AP Poll, because so many voters asked if they could cast a ballot for the Bison. Does any of that make this pill easier to swallow? No.

Nebraska 35, Oregon 32

The Cornhuskers got into the top 25 this week and they are looking the part of a team that will stay there for awhile. This was an impressive win that came on the same day they notched their 350th consecutive sellout in Lincoln:

Hat tip to Oregon. This was every bit the game we thought it would be. They were missing their All-American running back and had a chance to win this game at the end. Their gesture of placing flowers at the 27 yard line for Sam Foltz showed their class and won’t be forgotten by Nebraska fans any time soon. Thank you Ducks - see you next year.

Rutgers 37, New Mexico 28

Rutgers also fell behind 21-0 before storming back to beat the Lobos. It certainly was not a pretty victory, but Rutgers is not being graded on pretty, yet:

Besides Janarion Grant, Harris might be the best playmaker on the team. He simply ran right by a New Mexico defender for a 75-yard touchdown. Harris is now the leading receiver on the team with 140 yards and is tied for the lead with 2 scores. Remember when he was a 2-star recruit committed to Florida Atlantic? lol. Harris looks like another Kyle Flood diamond in the rough and that is not sarcastic. That was Flood’s bread and butter. So thanks for Harris, CKF, hope all is well.

Penn State 34, Temple 27

Penn State won a football game. I am honoring Joe Paterno by looking away:

Penn State averaged 1.64 yards per carry for the first 34 rushing attempts of the game. With just over seven minutes remaining and nursing a three point lead, Saquon Barkley took the 35th Penn State rushing attempt 55 yards to the end zone to provide the winning margin of victory. Barkley missed most of the game due to an injury he sustained on his first carry from scrimmage, which went for 8 yards. After the initial carry Barkley sat out most of the game until being reinserted late in the second half. He gained only 5 yards on 7 carries outside his first carry and the long touchdown, but that did not stop him from hitting the hole hard when the game was on the line.

Western Michigan 34, Illinois 10

P.J. Fleck has as many Big Ten wins this season as Darrell Hazell has in his entire Purdue career. This was a dominant WMU win where they held the Illini to three yards rushing:

It’s a tough pill to swallow midway through September, but this Illinois team has no chance of making a bowl game. Loviemania in the offseason talked many Illinois supporters into a six or even seven win season, but after seeing how the Illini got mauled physically by the Broncos, it will be hard to see this team winning more than three games this season. No one said rebuilding the Illini was going to be easy, but the road to relevancy is much longer than many hoped.

Maryland 30, Central Florida 24 2OT

The Terrapins are at a hard-earned 3-0 with two wins in the state of Florida to start the year and now they have a bye week before getting Purdue. They are easily in the running for Most Improved Team in the Big Ten:

The Terps came out of non-conference play 3-0, but they were only especially good in one game. They won in double overtime against Central Florida on Saturday, which is fine. But they needed two extra possessions against what’s likely one of the worst teams in the FBS, and even then, they needed a freshman quarterback to accidentally throw a backwards pass that set up a game-turning recovery.

Northwestern 24, Duke 13

It was virtually unwatchable football, but Northwestern won the NERD BOWL on Saturday night to get its first victory of the season:

Having a deep passing attack opens up every other aspect of the offense for Northwestern. Opposing teams can’t stack the box as much against Justin Jackson, and they also have to play off the receivers more, opening up short and medium routes. The third touchdown, to Carr, happened because Duke brought an all out blitz and Thorson was able to hit his wide open receiver for a score after solid pass protection. If this becomes a part of the offensive arsenal, then opposing teams can no longer blitz as much, relieving a bit of the pressure on the offensive line.

Non-conference opponents:

Ball State 41, Eastern Kentucky 14 – The Cardinals were up 27-0 at halftime and 41-0 into the 4th quarter before two EKU touchdowns in the last 4 minutes.

Houston 40, Cincinnati 16 – The Bearcats were leading this one in the 4th quarter 16-12 before Houston realized they are really, really good.

Nevada 38, Buffalo 14 – The Wolfpack rushed for 352 yards and easily beat a pretty bad Buffalo team before heading to Purdue.