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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 12 of Big Ten Football

Purdue’s upset win surprised almost everyone in the Big Ten.

Purdue v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Purdue is in the spotlight this week, as we were really the only underdog to win among the seven Big Ten games. Everything else went mostly as expected. Minnesota and Rutgers both faced road games where they failed to pack an offense. Northwestern continued it shutout streak over Minnesota. Indiana has two shutouts on the season for the first time in 24 years. Also, Illinois lost.

Here is a look at the week that was:

Purdue 24, Iowa 15

This win was surprising even to Purdue fans, as Boiled Sports all predicted a Purdue loss:

Nick Holt's defense was simply magnificent. When Purdue needed a stop, they generally did it on the back of an aggressive blitz call. Purdue had 10 tackles for loss...six of those were sacks. Purdue's front seven was as salty as two pounds of bacon sizzling in a pan on Sunday morning...and just as hot.

What about that offense?

I dunno...No Worship? No problem. Dinged-up Sindelar? Not even an issue. In fact, Purdue's Sophomore QB was a maestro behind center. The touch that we all have wished he had this season, showed up in a big way. Maybe his sore knee kept him from pushing off and firing the way he likes to. Or maybe, he's been listening to his coaches. Regardless of the reason, the Kentucky native had a ballgame. 22/37 229 yards, three TDs, ZERO ints. Solid.

For Iowa, much of the blame lies with the Ferentz family, as they got way too conservative just two weeks after going balls out against Ohio State:

There’s an old adage I’m sure most of you are familiar with: doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result, is the definition of insanity. Those words have never rung more true than this Monday morning. For some reason, after spending my life to this point rooting for the Iowa Hawkeyes - the majority of which has been under current head coach Kirk Ferentz - I continue to expect to show up to Kinnick Stadium or turn on the television on a fall Saturday and see something different. And again I sit here on Monday morning feeling disappointment and disgust.

Why? Insanity, I guess. And I’m clearly not the only one. There are, I’m sure, thousands and thousands of Hawkeye fans who woke up yesterday and today with a similar feeling. It’s a part of who we are as Iowa fans at this point. Win, get your hopes up, get disappointed. Rinse. Repeat.

Wisconsin 24, Michigan 10

Stop me if you have heard this, but Wisconsin used a stout running game and strong defense to earn a low-scoring, but solid win:

The Badgers’ defense shouldered the load throughout the first half before the offense finally game it some breathing room in the second half. While the defense didn’t get as many sacks as it did in previous games, a lot of pressure got to Peters, which forced him to eventually get knocked out of the game. The defense has been the team’s hallmark all season, and it was again on Saturday.

The Wolverines gave up a punt return for a TD by D’Cota Dixon and struggled offensively all day:

The schedule is never going to shake out perfectly for Michigan. Every year in the Big Ten there will be games on the road against top teams, and sooner or later the Wolverines are going to have to learn how to win some of those contests or the success that most expect to come will be unattainable.

Michigan and Wisconsin are very similar teams. They want to line up and run the ball. They want to control the clock and grind down opponents. They want to play stingy, hard-nosed defense. And this season in particular, they were both plagued with no signature wins on their resumes. For Wisconsin, the opportunity simply didn’t arise, based on its schedule — unless you count Iowa or Northwestern as “signature” games. For Michigan, the opportunities came and went.

Ohio State 52, Illinois 14

The Buckeyes clinched the East and J.T. Barrett became the only player in Big Ten history to throw at least 100 touchdown passes:

One of the greatest quarterbacks in Ohio State, heck, Big Ten history, then headed off the field, never to play in his home stadium again.

Barrett’s final legacy still has room for a few more chapters. After all, there’s another game against Michigan, another opportunity for a Big Ten title, and perhaps, despite those two losses, a trip to the College Football Playoff.

But there’s enough there to still tell a good story, no matter what happens the rest of this season.

For the Illini, the season is almost mercifully over:

Just about everyone I talked to knew this game was going to be a blowout. The discussion was whether or not Ohio State would beat Illinois by 35 or 55. I made my pick of 45-6 as the final score before I knew Chayce Crouch would start at quarterback, but I should haven known better anyways at this point in the season.

When Ohio State scored with about eight minutes left in the first half to go up 38-0, I should’ve just turned it off. But, alas, as an Illinois fan, I revel in self-deprecation, so I continued watching. Obviously, you know that it didn’t get any better (i.e. Urban Meyer essentially called off the dogs by the time the second half started).

Just about every weekend since I joined the Champaign Room, I’ve written a column on what happened during the football game each Saturday. It’s been somewhat the same message every week: criticize the bad, try and identify the good and stay positive as Lovie continues to push this program into the future.

Penn State 56, Nebraska 44

It had 100 combined points, but Penn State was firmly in control throughout:

The final score is not indicative of the defensive effort put forth by the Nittany Lions on Saturday. When the game was competitive, Penn State shut down Nebraska, forcing three and out after three and out, while scoring 42 in the first half.

Nebraska had just 81 total yards from scrimmage in the first half, but managed ten points thanks to a mismanaged punt return that resulted in a turnover, then a poor punt that gave the Huskers the ball only 36 yards away from the end zone.

For the Cornhuskers, Nebraska is probably looking at a coach firing after this Friday’s game:

Wanted to start off with what I feel is the best tweet I saw last night. And it really sums up how I feel. To those who say that Riley and Callahan are the same coach, I absolutely disagree. Callahan didn’t give a rip about Nebraska. When it comes to Mike Riley, I would say the exact opposite would be true. I think that means a great deal even though the results on the field have been truly disappointing.

Michigan State 17, Maryland 7

I guess this game happened. The Spartans recovered to get a win after getting blasted a week earlier:

If you’ve been reading these, you’ll notice this one is a little lighter.

It’s not because I’m lazy, I swear. It’s because that game...really didn’t leave a ton to talk about. Not complaining about it — especially after a 3-9 season — it just won’t be one we tell our children’s children about.

The Terrapins continue to deal with injuries on offense:

Maryland’s offense didn’t show signs of life until the fourth quarter gaining more yards (113) combined in the final frame than in the first three quarters combined (91). Max Bortenschlager struggled in the first half and was replaced by Ryan Brand in the third quarter, but Bortenschlager came back out for the fourth and led the Terps on two solid drives. Maryland scored a touchdown on the first, but Henry Darmstadter pushed a 36-yard field goal on the second.

The Spartans imposed their will on Maryland early, running for 198 of their 271 rushing yards in the first half. It’s the sixth time the Terps have allowed over 200 rushing yards this season. They haven’t won a game in which they’ve given up more than 100.

Northwestern 39, Minnesota 0

It was a dominant defense effort by the Wildcats as they held the Gophers at bay all day long:

Minnesota hasn’t scored at Ryan Field since 2013.

The No. 23 Northwestern Wildcats (8-3, 6-2 B1G) dominated the Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-6, 2-6) all afternoon, earning a 39-0 shutout victory. The last time the Gophers traveled to Evanston, they faced a ranked Northwestern squad and lost 27-0. Despite a new head coach and a team of fresh faces, the Gophers were even worse in 2017.

Minnesota now has a tall order to reach a bowl game:

For Jerry Kill, it was a 58-0 loss at Michigan in his first season at Minnesota.

For P.J. Fleck, it appears to be a 39-0 loss at Northwestern in his first season, with a regular season finale against Wisconsin at home looming next week.

You hope there are better days ahead, but that doesn’t make a humiliating loss like the one the Gophers suffered on Saturday any easier to stomach. It was the program’s worst loss since that beatdown courtesy of the Wolverines on Oct. 1, 2011. And that was the first year of the post-Tim Brewster era. I certainly anticipated a step back this season despite nine wins a season ago, but I never expected Minnesota to get obliterated by Northwestern.

It was embarrassing, to say the least.

Indiana 41, Rutgers 0

The Hoosiers completed their most complete game in years:

Behind a smothering defense & an offense that seems to be rounding into old form once again, Indiana delivered Rutger a mechanical, methodical 41-0 red-assing over the course of a nearly five-hour long day on Saturday afternoon. Despite a 90-some minute lightning delay, there was never any doubt en route to Tom Allen’s Hoosiers picking up the program’s biggest blowout win over a Power 5 opponent since 1990.

It’s hard to name a singular star, but Morgan Ellison’s 149 yards on 15 carries stands out and fills this line of text -- sure. Here’s three important quick takeaways from today.

Rutgers tried to see some positives, but it was still a disappointing result:

The morning after a terribly disappointing and shocking blow out loss to Indiana leads to several conclusions for the current state of Rutgers football. Despite real progress this season, the program still has a long way to go. In fact, after winning three conference games in four weeks, Rutgers has hit a brick wall since leading Penn State 6-0 midway through the second quarter in its previous game. Since that lead, Rutgers has been outscored 76-0 in its past six plus quarters of football. That’s awful, especially since the real embarrassment came at the hands of Indiana, not Penn State.

Non-conference Opponents

Louisville 56, Syracuse 10 – The Cardinals finally got a good performance out of their defense to move to 7-4.

Akron 37, Ohio 34 – The Bobcats were unable to lock up the MAC East title.

Missouri 45, Vanderbilt 17 – The tigers might be the hottest team in America after winning their 5th straight game.