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Whistlestop Tour: Week 8

Outside of the Purdue game, it was a typical week in the Big Ten

Michigan v Penn State Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

With Travis travelling in the East Coast this week, I am taking care of this week’s Whistlestop Tour across the Big Ten. Outside of the Purdue game and Penn State steamrolling, it was a pretty typical week in the Big Ten as every home team won. Let’s get started.

Rutgers 14, Purdue 12

Yup, we lost to Rutgers. It might be a step back into reality for Purdue fans that this team still has some growing pains, as our brethren at Boiled Sports pointed out:

I think it’s important to look at it this way… this was the first game of the season where Purdue surprised us in a letdown kind of way. Whereas in previous seasons, every single week was a new kind of disappointment, this season’s first half featured competitive losses and exciting wins. And no faceplanting to speak of. In fact, when they looked as though they might collapse (i.e., letting Ohio march down the field in the first half or turning the ball over four times in the first half versus Minnesota), they immediately righted the ship and took control back. I kept waiting for that to happen in Piscataway yesterday but it became clear far before the end that it simply wasn’t to be.

Meanwhile at Rutgers, they now have won 2 consecutive conference games for the first time as Big Ten members. Things are finally starting to look up in New Jersey:

The reality is that the program has made real progress in the second season with Chris Ash at the helm. There is still a long way to go, there have been mistakes for sure and he is still learning on the job, but the culture he has built is starting to blossom. This team didn’t quit on him, his staff, or themselves entering the bye week at 1-4. They’ve now won the second most conference games in a season since Rutgers joined in 2014. The team has already won more games than last season and almost half of the schedule remains to be played. It doesn’t matter that the wins have come against two of the worst teams in the West division, or that Rutgers struggled at times against both of them. These wins are important for perception, recruiting, and most importantly, reinforcing the culture established under Ash and marking true steps forward in the rebuilding process.

#5 Wisconsin 38, Maryland 13

This was a typical win for Wisconsin, as they jumped out to a lead against the turtles on Homecoming and didn’t look back:

Homecoming weekend did not start off on a sobering note, as the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Maryland Terrapins 38-13 at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday. Wisconsin’s defense held the Maryland offense to 268 yards. Wide receiver D.J. Moore, who came into the game leading the Big Ten in a variety of categories, was contained to three receptions for 44 yards by defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard’s secondary.

Meanwhile for Maryland, injuries are continuing to hurt them in what could have been a great season for them. Of course, Wisconsin is still really good, but they have now lost three straight games:

Maryland played the undefeated Badgers close for much of the afternoon, but couldn’t capitalize on enough opportunities to hang for a full game. Wisconsin stretched a four-point lead to 25 in a span of four possessions, and the Terps couldn’t get back in it, even with a 10-0 run in the second half.

Northwestern 17, Iowa 10 (OT)

The most exciting play in this game might have been an 80 yard punt by Northwestern; a true B1G play. But for the Wildcats, what matters is that they could win in overtime thanks to their defense:

Suffocating defense, an anemic offense and a hard-fought win.

This time Northwestern beat Iowa, though.

Northwestern's 17-10 overtime win Saturday, which defensive end Joe Gaziano called a "prototypical Big Ten game," was ugly. Yards came at a premium. There were mistakes. The home fans at Ryan Field booed.

For Iowa though, it was a no good, terrible game:

Perhaps the coaching staff assumed they had a game plan in place that would eventually pile drive Northwestern into submission? That’s the way it looked on the first few drives of the game. Iowa came out throwing (to Nick Easley) and Akrum Wadley looked like the same dude that feasts ALL over Northwestern. But they couldn’t find the end zone.

In fact nobody could. After all, this is Iowa vs. Northwestern. At Ryan Field. It’s never simple.

#18 Michigan State 17, Indiana 9

It was an ugly win for MSU, but after going 4-8 last season, they are already bowl eligible and undefeated in conference play after being IU and regaining the weirdest trophy in the B1G:

Roughly 99 percent of Michigan State’s game against Indiana was downright offensive to most football sensibilities. Which, somehow, seems fitting given the game’s trophy.

However, for as ugly as the game was, Michigan State’s defense took charge and the offense did just enough late to earn the 17-9 win. With the win, the Spartans became bowl eligible and are almost certainly going to return to the college football postseason.

For Indiana, it’s another close lost to a fellow Big Ten foe. That one IU blog didn’t provide a write up as they have shifted to basketball season and tweeting about Purdue’s loss to Rutgers.

Minnesota 24, Illinois 17

It was ugly, but the boat rowers have their first conference win of the season:

Minnesota struggled much more than they should have with Illinois, but in the end the better team did what was needed and walked away with a 24-17 victory. The win is Minnesota’s first in the Big Ten, and moves the Gophers to 4-3 on the year. The game was put on ice by a huge pick six by linebacker Jonathan Celestin late in the 4th quarter and from that point on fans were just waiting for the clock to hit zero.

Another day, another Illinois loss:

The defense, despite giving up 292 yards, did their part by playing great red zone defense and grabbing 3 turnovers. The offense found a small spark by playing true freshman Cam Thomas, who finished his first career game with 79 yards rushing.

But, it wasn’t enough. The Illini couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities given to them in this game and fell short in a very winnable contest.

#2 Penn State 42, #19 Akron Michigan 13

Penn State made their statement last night that they deserved to be in the playoff talk and are worthy of being the #2 team in the country:

The Nittany Lions made the right adjustments in the second half, and prevented Michigan from moving the ball with the kind of ease they did in the second quarter. What they didn’t do, however, was take their foot off the gas. The Nittany Lions scored another 21 points in the second half, starters in throughout, to leave no doubt that they were out for blood in this game.

All in all, Penn State played a nearly perfectly the whole way. Aside from the one interception early in the first quarter, the Nittany Lions controlled the game, prevented Michigan from getting too comfortable on offense, and gashed a defense that had been shutting down opponents all season long. You couldn’t have scripted a better game.

Michigan wasn’t expected to win this game, and outside of two drives in the first half, it was just a bad game for Michigan, and worst under Harbaugh since they lost to Ohio State in 2015. They are now outside of the Top 25 for the first time since Harbaugh became coach. It’s become clear that 2017 is now a rebuilding year, and the Fightin’ Harbaughs need to focus on the 2018 season:

Now, it is time to hit the reset button and play for a strong finish as a springboard into 2018. One of those things should come in the form of making a change at quarterback. For as much as Brandon Peters has been clamored for this season, it now feels like the appropriate time to make the switch assuming he is up for the challenge.

The Wolverines now have a three-game stretch that will see them play two home games against Rutgers and Minnesota before traveling to Maryland. It could be a good opportunity for three wins against teams they should beat while giving their young guys a chance to get their feet wet moving forward.

Bye week: Ohio State and Nebraska

Purdue’s OOC Opponents:

Louisville 31, Florida State 28: Louisville stopped the bleeding against another struggling power ACC school. Lamar Jackson did his typical Lamar Jackson stuff.

The Ohio 48, Kent State 3: The Bobcats opened this game wide open in the 3rd quarter and didn’t look back. They are now bowl eligible with a 6-2 record, and have only 1 conference loss.

Missouri 68, Idaho 21: Mizzou finally won a game against an FBS* school and gets their 2nd win of the season! (*Idaho is leaving FBS after this season and becoming an FCS school)