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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 13 of Big Ten Football

There were a lot of blowouts in the league this week, but the Bucket is home.

Indiana v Purdue Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Bucket is home safe and Purdue still has some football to play this year. While we worry about other schools coming around to poach Jeff Brohm from us we do, at least, respect that Brohm has had a wonderfully successful first year. He already has beaten more FBS teams and more Big Ten teams in year 1 than his predecessor did in four years. I don’t think anyone can call this year a disappointment, and it begins our look at the conference’s final week.

Purdue 31, Indiana 24

Bringing the Bucket back home after a long absence was huge, and Markell Jones did most of the work. As boiled Sports says, it was a team effort too:

It's still only been one year, but the returns on the football field on those investments have been magnificent. Yes there's a different energy around the program, and yes people are actually excited about this team, but the tangible payoffs are there as well. Recruiting has improved. The team is playing better on both sides of the ball (the defense, in particular, has been a revelation). And the team is winning again. Which leads us to today.

Purdue won by seven today, but they never felt out of control of the game. They scored first, by virtue of their defense (more specifically, the play of a substitute covering for one of Purdue's best players), kept IU and their beast of a WR Simmie Cobbs at bay. IU stubbornly kept rushing the ball, trying to open up more opportunities for their offense, but Purdue's defensive front wouldn't budge. And while IU did have some success for a time on 3rd down, they weren't able to generate enough of a spark to be truly threatening.

Over at Crimson Quarry they make some valid point. This was supposed to be a great year with everything Indiana had returning, but it was ultimately disappointing and the future is murky:

And it’s not going to get any easier next year either. In 2018, IU still has the Big Ten east schedule, an improving Purdue, a Minnesota team that struggled this season but has PJ Fleck rowing the boat, Iowa who keeps plodding along with 7-8 win seasons each year, and in out-of –conference play, there’s Virginia, who made a bowl game in Bronco Mendenhall’s second season, a trip to FIU, who’s been resurgent under Butch Davis, and Ball State. With all the losses for IU, there’s potential for 2018 to be a very long season.

The 2017 season shouldn’t have ended this way. Not for Tegray Scales, who has been as consistent as any football player over the course of 4 years at IU. Not for Simmie Cobbs Jr., who came back from injury better than ever and was a bright spot on offense. And not for the other seniors who anchored this defense and turned this into a top-30 unit nationally – Greg Gooch, Rashard Fant, Chris Covington, and Chase Dutra, to name a few.

Iowa 56, Nebraska 14

Iowa responded in a big way as they turned their offense back on and went off on Nebraska. Akrum Wadley finished with 159 yards and 3 TDs to roll over the Cornhuskers:

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, just when the offensive output of this football team turned downright offensive, just when we were all ready to turn our attention for the year to basketball, just when basketball gave us a week to wonder what we would turn our attention to next, just when we didn’t think it could get much worse...

The Hawkeyes went and hung 50 on perhaps our most arrogant rival to finish the regular season at 7-5.

Nebraska, predictably, fired Mike Riley after a 4-8 season that was almost much worse:

Nebraska finishes at 4-8 on the year, the most losses in a season since 1957.

Wisconsin 31, Minnesota 0

The badgers did it. They finally got that undefeated regular season, and now the Big Ten title game is a play-in game for the playoff:

Wisconsin’s 14th straight win over Minnesota was a complete team effort, as both the offense and defense completely overwhelmed their rivals.

UW (12-0, 9-0 Big Ten) only allowed 133 total yards of Minnesota offense, including eight first downs and three of 13 third down conversions. Wisconsin gained 456 yards (287 rushing, 169 passing) on the afternoon, with big plays seen in both the run and passing games.

Minnesota finished the year by not scoring a single point in its last two games, which is not a good look:

The Minnesota Golden Gophers’ extended their humiliating losing streak to the Wisconsin Badgers to 14 games with a 31-0 loss at home to close out their first season under new head coach P.J. Fleck. The Gophers were a never a serious threat to re-claim Paul Bunyan’s Axe, a “rivalry” trophy that Glen Mason, Tim Brewster, Jerry Kill, Tracy Claeys, and now Fleck have all failed to obtain in the last 14 years. Minnesota unrolled the welcome mat for the Badgers en route to their first 12-0 regular season in program history, allowing Wisconsin to gash their defense for 287 rushing yards. Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook barely broke a sweat and was 15-of-19 for 151 passing yards and three touchdowns.

But the Gopher defense was set up to fail by their teammates on offense.

Ohio State 31, Michigan 20

As usual, Ohio State beat Michigan because that is what happens this time of year:

Following the run game’s success against Michigan State and Iowa, we were maybe a little too optimistic about the offense relative to what the season-long stats projected for The Game. Michigan’s defense was just too good. After all, S&P+ projected a 32-21 win for Ohio State.

And for a lot of the game, the two teams followed the script set by the advanced stats. J.T. Barrett had completed just 3/8 passes for 30 yards, 25 of which came on one play. The run game was hampered by the lack of a passing threat. And Don Brown’s aggressive defense kept putting the offense behind the chains due to some incredible defensive play calling. And as a result of three three-and-outs to start the game, Barrett, the offensive line, and Ohio State’s offensive play callers couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm or carry out a coherent strategy in the face of the Wolverines’ front seven. (I’m very ready for Don Brown and Rashan Gary to head to the NFL.)

Michigan still has a lot of questions to answer offensively:

Michigan continues to show serious talent and potential on both sides of the ball. The defense keeps this team in games, allowing the Wolverines to compete with the top teams in the conference. But time and time again, down the stretch Michigan becomes outmatched and falls short.

Against Penn State it happened quickly — after rallying from 14-0 to make it 14-13 in the second quarter, the Maize and Blue were dominated for the remainder of the game. Against Wisconsin, Michigan held a 10-7 lead in the second half before falling 24-10. And then, of course, what happened Saturday against Ohio State — first blowing the early 14-0 lead, and then blowing the 20-14 second half lead.

Penn State 66, Maryland 3

Yep, I am still thankful for Ohio State and Michigan State ruining their season:

Any hope of the Maryland Terrapins making a game of it today relied on how many mistakes Penn State would make to make it easier the Terps to score. Muffed kicks on back to back games gave the Nittany Lions’ opponent opportunities to score early. An absolute meltdown last week made a lopsided game look competitive. This week, however, none of the issues that gave those teams hope were present in this game, and we saw the type of domination that hadn’t been seen since October.

All you need to know is that Maryland kicked a 42 yard field goal while trailing 52-0 at home in the third quarter:

The Terps dropped their final game of 2017 on Saturday, falling 66-3 at home to Penn State. It’s Maryland’s fourth straight loss to close the year, and the team finishes with a 4-8 record.

This game was never in doubt, as Penn State was up 28 points by the early second quarter. The shutout reached 52-0 before Maryland recorded a third-quarter field goal, but the clobbering resumed shortly after that.

Michigan State 40, Rutgers 7

The Spartans went from 3-9 to 9-3, closing out with a comfortable road win over Rutgers:

There are three things in life I absolutely love.

Bad wedding speeches. Green Lantern pizza. Blowout MSU wins.

Folks, we were blessed with one of those on Saturday. Our Spartans are coming from Rutgers High School with a ninth win on the season, all but completing an incredible turnaround on the season.

Rutgers struggled to score and their bigger news was plumbing issues with their stadium:

With Rutgers struggling to score all season, a 17-0 deficit even with three quarters to play may have been insurmountable. Rutgers went to halftime down 16-7 leaving the door open for the possibility of an interesting second half.

Northwestern 42, Illinois 7

The Wildcats close the season on fire by scoring 42 unanswered points:

In a commanding, businesslike romp over Illinois, the 2017 Northwestern Wildcats offered yet another example of how far they’ve come and closed out a 9-3 regular season that was both impressive and unfulfilling.

Northwestern went down 7-0 early but responded with 42 unanswered points against the outmatched Illini, extending its winning streak to seven games and keeping the always-important Land of Lincoln (HAT) trophy in Evanston for the third straight year.

Another Illinois season is mercifully over after ten straight loses to close out the year:

And let’s be honest: next year likely won’t be any better. Non-conference games against Kent State and Western Illinois are likely gimmes, but nothing else is certain after that. Yet, just like Michigan was once bad (hey, it wasn’t that long ago), Illinois will once again be good.

At this point I really don’t have many more reasons for my explanation.

We’re suffering together right now, and I wish we weren’t. I’m a junior at the University, and I can only imagine how much more fun it would be to cover a perennial powerhouse with a Heisman candidate, etc. But we don’t have that, and all we have right now is Illinois football.

Non-Conference Opponents

Louisville 44, Kentucky 17 – Will we get the other half of this game to close the season? That’s nice to think about.

Buffalo 31, Ohio 24 – The Bobcats close with two straight losses after blowing a shot at a 10-win season. They finish 8-4 and will go to the Bahamas Bowl.

Missouri 48, Arkansas 45 – After a 1-5 start the Tigers closed with six straight wins and Drew Lock was on a tear. This is a completely different team than the one Purdue blew out.