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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 4 of Big Ten Football

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Purdue won, Indiana lost, and Notre Dame lost. We don’t need much more!

NCAA Football: Nevada at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re big into Schadenfreude it was a fun weekend of college football for Purdue fans. Not only did Purdue actually when a football game against an FBS team, Indiana and Notre Dame both lost games they were expected to win at home against ACC foes. In Big Ten play it looks like Wisconsin is going to be the team to beat in the West, but they still have to play both Michigan and Ohio State. Aside from their surprising result in East Lansing things went mostly as expected.

Purdue 24, Nevada 14

As usual, we go to Boiled Sports for our secondary Purdue take of the weekend. At least it is nice to go to them after a win:

On the other hand, this entire post is about a home game against a very bad I-A team. Cal Poly scored 27 against them in their opener. Buffalo even posted 14 last week at Nevada. 466 total yards of offense, solid returns on both kickoffs and punts (Malik Kimbrough had a 42-yard punt return, Brian Lankford-Johnson returned the opening kickoff 45 yards) ... and 24 points. Ross Els' defense wasn't terrible for a change, and in fact the pressure they got helped keep the Boilers in the game when the offense was misfiring, but again, this was against a woeful I-A team, one that couldn't take advantage of a series of Purdue mistakes, including letting a receiver open deep for a possible TD (the pass was caught out of bounds and holding would have wiped out the play anyway) and leaving a hole in the middle of the defense for a team that loves to run its QBs (on the drive where Nevada missed a 27-yard FG).

Michigan 49, Penn State 10

The Wolverines completely dominated in this one and for haters of Penn State (like me) that was fun to see. At one point Michigan even called the same play eight times in a row:

“I think there was one drive in the third or fourth quarter where we called the same play eight times in a row,” he said. “We would just flip it back and forth. I started laughing looking at the play call because they would do the same signal and the same number every time.”

During those eight plays, the Wolverines pushed the ball down the field with their run game. Between De’Veon Smith, Karan Higdon, Ty Isaac, Chris Evans, Speight, Khalid Hill and Eddie McDoom, Michigan ran the ball 49 times for 326 yards and six touchdowns.

It was not quite as funny if you are a Penn State fan:

Penn State found itself out of middle linebackers halfway into the first half, after backup Brandon Smith was ejected for targeting (yes, it was a bad call, no, I’m not going into detail), and third-stringer Jan Johnson went out with injury. The Nittany Lions were out of linebackers before the first half came to an end. Unsurprisingly, they also found themselves down 28 - 0 come halftime.

The defense, shorthanded as it was, needed everything it could get from the offense. That side of the ball, however, couldn’t do anything against a Michigan defense that suffocated Penn State’s offensive line all day, leaving little room to run and getting to Trace McSorley early and often.

Iowa 14, Rutgers 7

Iowa beat Rutgers 14-7 in a game that counted in the Big Ten standings. That is probably the most notable thing you can say about this one:

You can exhale now, everyone. Iowa somehow managed to win out in New Brunswick, despite some pretty unimpressive play, a plethora of penalties, and getting carved up on the ground...again. There are two ways to look at this: either “just win baby” or “if we can’t dominate Rutgers, we are screwed against everyone else.” I will pick the former...for now. This game had an odd resemblance to 2014 at Maryland. That was a game where Iowa clearly had an edge in talent and let Maryland hang around just long enough to let them come back and bite. Iowa avoided the same fate here, but there are many things to work on going forward, obviously.

For Rutgers, they were competitive, but it was not enough:

The biggest positive about this game is that Rutgers finally looks like they are a true B1G team. They played against Iowa (if that counts for anything) in a low-scoring game. They played great defense and ran the ball very well. Despite the announced attendance of 44,061, the crowd was loud and definitely made a difference. This game was also incredibly even between the two teams. Rutgers barely out-gained Iowa 383-355 and had 21 first downs to Iowa’s 19. They also barely out-possesed Iowa, with a time of possession of 30:41. Many people expected a typical Rutgers blowout loss but credit the team for playing a gritty game and never giving up.

Wisconsin 30, Michigan State 6

This was a big victory for the much-maligned West Division in the Big Ten against one of the bad boys of the East. The Badgers needed at least one win in their three games against the Big three, and now they have it:

There’s a lot here, but let’s talk turnovers created by the Wisconsin defense first. Redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook’s performance was great (more on that in my Game Ball answer), but four takeaways led to 13 points -- both touchdowns -- and really altered momentum in the game. Senior cornerback Sojourn Shelton’s interception in the second quarter led to Corey Clement’s first touchdown six plays later, and D’Cota Dixon’s forced fumble allowed Leo Musso to scamper 66 yards while hitting the circle button on Tyler O’Connor for a touchdown in the third quarter.

For Michigan State, after such a big win in South Bend there is little margin for error if they want to repeat as conference champs:

All in all, Saturday was a tough one to stomach, but it won’t keep the Spartans from reaching their ultimate goal if they can win out. Doing that is obviously a very tall task to achieve, but the Spartans still control their own destiny with teams like Michigan and Ohio State still on the schedule.

Minnesota 31, Colorado State 24

Minnesota still isn’t looking great, but it has been enough to get through their non-conference schedule at 3-0:

The game was much closer than it should have been, but Minnesota rode a strong rushing attack to a 31-24 win over Colorado State at TCF Bank Stadium. Minnesota is now 3-0 on the season. Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks led the way for Minnesota accounting for almost 200 yards and three touchdowns between them. Mitch Leidner had a relatively steady game, and the defense made just enough plays to squeak by the Rams.

Wake Forest 33, Indiana 28

Richard Lagow threw for 496 yards, but he also had five interceptions in taking a page from David Blough’s book:

Richard Lagow's nightmare game led more than a few fans to call for Zander Diamont to enter the game, but Kevin Wilson made it clear in his post-game presser that option was never on the table. Lagow certainly made some poor throws and decisions yesterday, but after a summer of practice and three games, it doesn't seem like the coaching staff is considering a change. Lagow has been far more good than bad to this point, and shuffling the depth chart after one bad day at the office would probably smack more of panic than savviness. The conversation will focus on the interceptions, but Lagow made multiple jaw-dropping throws yesterday and that kind of arm doesn't come through Bloomington often.

Nebraska 24, Northwestern 13

The Wildcats might be the worst team in the Big Ten. The offense is putrid and the defense can’t do enough, which allowed a Nebraska to have a relatively easy win:

Yes, I have picked Armstrong to be the MVP on offense three weeks in a row. But that’s just how good Armstrong has been this season. Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf have done an incredible job developing Armstrong into an efficient quarterback. They have incorporated the quarterback run game in the offense, which has given Nebraska another weapon on offense. In this game, Tommy Armstrong led the team in rushing with 138 yards on the ground, a career high. Armstrong also had a a 37 yard run in the game. If Armstrong can keep improving, there is no reason this team can’t be undefeated going into the Wisconsin game on October 29th. Armstrong also was 18/29 for 246 yards and one touchdown. A very good showing for the first road game of the season.

Northwestern’s offense has been bad, but its defense is what faltered this day:

Despite optimism surrounding the defense’s ability to replace the talent exodus following last season, the unit has not lived up to even moderate expectations of continued success. After the first three games, the secondary was banged up, the linebackers had been inconsistent and the defensive line was getting very little push up front.

Then Nebraska’s offense came to Evanston and Tommy Armstrong Jr proceeded to torch Northwestern’s defense for 378 total yards on his way to a career night.

Non-conference Opponents:

Eastern Kentucky – BYE

Cincinnati 27, Miami (OH) 20 – Hayden Moore was out for Cincy as they won the 121st game in this rivalry. They now trail it 59-55-7, but have won it 11 times in a row.