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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 6 of Big Ten Football

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Michigan State over Michigan in Ann Arbor was definitely a surprise.

Michigan State v Michigan

Don’t let the absence of Rutgers fool you into thinking that they don’t suck. They were the only team on bye this week, but the bigger story was Michigan State’s surprising win at Michigan. The Spartans have made it a four-team race in the East now, while the West is still Wisconsin and six other teams.

Purdue 31, Minnesota 17

The last two minutes were incredible as a Purdue fan. Anthony Mahoungou had a great catch and run. Markell Jones stopped on a dime. Ja’Whaun Bentley closed it with a pick-6 that served as quite a cathartic moment for everyone. Like us, Boiled Sports thought it was for Joe:

Let’s be clear -- this wasn’t the prettiest game necessarily. But it was surely a game that the Purdue team of the last regime would have been rolled by halftime and have barely shown up for the second half at all. The Boilermakers played by far their worst first half of the season, turning the ball over four times before Minnesota turned it over even once. David Blough was not sharp, despite passing for a TD early to give Purdue a lead (followed by a missed extra point), 6-0. He then went and threw a couple of pretty horrendous interceptions -- they were jarringly reminiscent of 2016 Blough. In both cases, it was unclear as to what he saw or was thinking. So on came Elijah Sindelar and he was pretty sharp throughout.

Over at the Daily Gopher they are questioning where to go from here:

Much like the Maryland game, Minnesota will rue missed opportunities as this game was there for the taking. Minnesota forced four turnovers in the first half, but only mustered 14 points to lead 14-6 at half. Both teams struggled on offense. Purdue struggled to not give the ball to the Gophers. Minnesota struggled to put the ball in the end zone after Purdue turned the ball over. Most costly was when Rhoda fumbled the ball on the Purdue ten yard line late in the first half to take points off the board. On the bright side, we will have a future punting gif in our future as Ryan Santoso had a Mortellian punt in the first half that stood up perfectly at the one yard line.

Penn State 31, Northwestern 7

Yeah, this is a game that happened. Now Penn State is off for a week:

If there was any doubt that this defense is one of the best in recent memory, let this game be Exhibit F. The Lions did just about everything you could hope for against the Wildcats, making life difficult for Thorson and Jackson for the entirety of their game. Northwestern wouldn’t see the scoreboard until well into the fourth quarter, when the third-team defense was on the field. Penn State, once again, got multiple turnovers, setting up the offense with great field position. Even when the offense needs some time to adjust, the defense will be there to hold down the fort.

Northwestern did not have a great day offensively, and now they are really struggling to keep pace:

As a recap: Northwestern held Saquon Barkley to -1 rushing yards and took four of five drives into Penn State territory, and yet trailed 10-0 at the break. Four penalties, three sacks, three turnovers and a terrible punt will do that to you.

Michigan State 14, Michigan 10

The Spartans took advantage of a wealth of turnovers and bad weather to win an ugly slopfest:

For a team that was expected to fight for the chance to return to a bowl game, this win is huge. The Spartans now only need two more wins to become bowl eligible and could now play into a more elite game.

The Michigan offense was awful behind John O’Korn, and dropped passes did not help:

What exactly did the team work to improve over the bye week? Why did they look so unprepared? Why was the play-calling so uninventive? Is a red zone touchdown really too much to ask for? How can the defense lose so much experience from last year’s team and seemingly not miss a beat, yet the offense looks like they’ve never played a snap together?

Wisconsin 38, Nebraska 17

Purdue’s next opponent is looking good as it comes off of a comfortable road win where it dominated in the second half:

Wisconsin, however, responded with 21 unanswered points, locked down on defense, and steamrolled its way with a dominant offensive ground game in a 38–17 victory at Memorial Stadium. In the process, the Badgers again won the Freedom Trophy, going undefeated against the Huskers since the trophy was introduced in 2014.

For Nebraska, the 2-0 start in league play is forgotten as this team does not look great:

I do believe that the big picture is good. Maybe not great, but good. Riley didn’t inherit a team with a good roster. He inherited one with a depleted roster that he’s doing his best to upgrade without using the excuses of “nobody wants to come here” that were prevalent from the previous coach.

It’s nice to see someone in the media acknowledge that surrounding Nebraska football is an enormous hype machine, something I believe that gets us into trouble when we are confronted with the reality of last night in which a Wisconsin team bullied our beloved Huskers into the ground.

Ohio State 62, Maryland 14

Good God, there is blood everywhere:

Maryland had a 19% overall success rate and no explosive plays in non-garbage time. Outside of Johnson’s one 35-yard run and Maryland’s one fourth-quarter touchdown on a drive that started at the Ohio State 27-yard line, the Buckeye defense was completely dominant — even the second- and third-string players.

For Maryland, they need to forget it and move on:

One week after knocking off Minnesota on the road, the Terps couldn’t find any of that magic. The offense couldn’t move the ball. The defense couldn’t keep Ohio State off the board. Maryland was out-gained 584-66, and had two offensive plays longer than 10 yards.

Iowa 45, Illinois 16

The Hawkeyes had an 89-yard pick-six and that opened the floodgates:

Happy Homecoming, Iowa. Not only do you get the luxury to play a downtrodden Illinois team that had under 200-yards of offense last week against Nebraska before your bye-week, but you get to play a downtrodden Illinois team that had under 200-yard of offense last week against Nebraska with a new quarterback... IN THE RAIN.

Illinois now gets to prepare for the 2017 Big Ten Sadness bowl by hosting Rutgers:

It would be easy to let the second half disaster overshadow the first half, but there are some positives to take away. It is a disappointing result of course, but the team showed improvement and the playcalling was better on offense. The team is frankly a couple of years away from competing against a decent Iowa team on the road.

I’ll say it again (and every week if I have to), Illinois is the youngest team in the country and is starting the most true freshman in the history of the program. It’s not a team that is designed to go on the road at Kinnick Stadium and pick up a win. Not yet.

Indiana 27, Charleston Southern 0

This is a game that happened:

Tegray Scales and the IU defense dominated their opponent, allowing 134 rushing yards on 44 attempts. The scoreboard wasn’t the only place that the Hoosiers shutout Charleston Southern, as they formed a no-fly zone in Memorial Stadium, giving up zero passing yards on 0-10 passing for the game.

Non-Conference Opponents:

North Carolina State 39, Louisville 25 – The Wolfpack defensive line got after Lamar Jackson the entire game.

Central Michigan 26, Ohio 23 – The Bobcats got a late TD, but could not get the last stop needed to complete the comeback.

Kentucky 40, Missouri 34 – The Tigers looked better, but two late field goals by Kentucky was the difference.