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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 10 of Big Ten Football

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Iowa just beat some ass on Saturday.

Illinois v Purdue

Holy hell, what was THAT Iowa? It is rare, but I think everyone enjoys it when Ohio State just gets its ass beat like it did on Saturday. It was the worst Big Ten loss for the Buckeyes in 23 years. It came out of nowhere, too. Usually the Buckeyes are the team delivering the beatings like that, but for one Saturday the Hawkeyes turned into Ralphie in A Christmas Story and just went apeshit on the unsuspecting Buckeyes. I don’t even hate Ohio State, but it was a glorious thing to watch and one of the things that makes college football so great.

Let’s take a look at what all happened around the league.

Purdue 29, Illinois 10

Yeah, it was a dull game for the most part, but we’re to the point where we can pick apart dull wins. The fact we can pick apart any wins is good, even if it was just Illinois:

Having said that, it was still a comfortable win over a bad team at home, which is something you have to do if you want to hang out in the bowl-eligible part of the standings. I'll also point out that unlike my pessimistic colleagues, I expected this. Illinois is bad. Purdue likes to run the ball. Illinois doesn't stop the run well. That's a setup for the type of game we saw here ... and with the Boilers having just 10 possessions (excluding the kneeldowns at the end of the game), the effective margin of victory was bigger than the scoreboard showed. Until the passing game is working properly, we'll have to settle for run-based wins, and without the deep threats that open up the running game, they're more likely to be lower-scoring games.

For Illinois, it is more about a rebuild that is going to take time:

Saturday wasn’t too bad, as Illinois was outscored just 3-0. But for the season, Illinois has been rolled to the tune of 48-13 in the third period.

Read that again. Illinois has scored 13 points in the third quarter in nine games this season.

When you have a team that relies as heavily on the run as Illinois does, falling behind in the second half is an easy way to fall behind quickly in games.

This is especially problematic because third-quarter woes can be attributed to adjustments at halftime. Lovie Smith is viewed as a great coach and Illinois certainly isn’t going to fire him, but coaching adjustments is an area the Illini expected to have an advantage over their opponents. That hasn’t been the case this year.

Iowa 55, Ohio State 24

It is jubilation in Iowa City after this one:

I’ve wracked my brain to come up with the perfect cliche to open with. You know, some catchy one-liner to break the ice. There are so many possibilities, and yet none of them do it justice.

Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.

There was no beer inside Kinnick Saturday, but it sure seemed like heaven.

The Hawkeyes blacked out the Buckeyes.

Iowa fans blacked out Kinnick, Buckeyes look to black out memory of Hawkeyes.

Nobody dots the “i” for the script Ohio, Hawkeyes prefer all caps I-O-W-A.

Seriously, I could go on for a while here, but the words just don’t do it justice. Really, there are no words. What we saw Saturday evening was beyond belief and completely out of the realm of possibilities any remotely rational Hawkeye fan had heading into the affair. It was unbelievable.

For Ohio State, it was pretty much a worst case scenario, and likely ended the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes:

There have been a few Ohio State losses recently, even blowout ones, but most of them felt relatively explainable. Maybe Ohio State just faced a team substantially better than them, like Clemson. Maybe their other structural flaws were exposed by a great team with an elite offensive weapon, like Oklahoma. Maybe bad luck and bad playcalling led to a close loss against a beatable opponent, like Michigan State.

But a complete and total asskicking by a team like Iowa? That’s new. Not just under Urban Meyer, but period. And fully diagnosing it feels more complicated of an endeavor.

Michigan 27, Penn State 24

It took approximately a week because of weather delays, but the Spartans continued the Lord’s work by eliminating Penn State from the Playoff race:

One week after setting the single-game MSU record for passing yards (445), Lewerke came out and decided “you know what, give me the silver medal too” and threw for 400 yards – good for second-highest of all time. He did it on 33/56 passing with just one interception, albeit on an incredible play by Amani Oruwariye. He was also huge in keeping the offense moving with 9/14 passing on third downs, as pointed out by Chris Solari.

The Nittany Lions dropped a close one for a second straight week because of late mistakes:

Are there always irrational overreactions after an emotional loss? Sure. Do these losses mean that the program has some fatal flaw that needs to be fixed? Probably not. But you’re perfectly justified in being angry or being hurt. This was “our year” and it just didn’t come together and that stinks.

Wisconsin 45, Indiana 17

The badgers spotted Indiana a 10-0 lead, then came back like someone started and “overrated” chant in Memorial Stadium to take care of business:

However, what can’t be lost in this game—which wasn’t always the most exciting to watch—is the attrition suffered by Wisconsin. Starting inside linebacker Chris Orr and emerging star wide receiver Quintez Cephus both left with leg injuries that appeared to be serious. Starting safety D’Cota Dixon also left the game after missing last week vs Illinois. The Badgers will need all of their talent over these next three weeks to try to remain unbeaten.

Our friends at Crimson Quarry are quick to point out that it is not time to talk about a regression:

There is no need to panic about Tom Allen and the state of Indiana football.

Yet.

Over the past few weeks as the Hoosiers have fallen to 0-6 in Big Ten play and put themselves on the brink of failing to reach a third consecutive bowl game, fans and former players have openly questioned the results produced 75% of the way through Allen’s first season at the helm and have proffered arguments that the program has regressed.

Rutgers 31, Maryland 24

Don’t look now, but Rutgers has three Big Ten wins and could get a fourth in two weeks in Bloomington:

Five weeks have passed since that well timed bye week and oh, how things have changed. After going 4-23 in their first 3+ seasons in the Big Ten, Rutgers has won three of their last four conference games. It doesn't matter that the three teams Rutgers has defeated sit at or near the bottom of their divisions. What does matter is that the Scarlet Knights are beating teams they lost to by multiple scores last season. Rutgers lost to Illinois and Maryland by a combined 35 points in 2016, but beat them both this season. That's tangible progress.

For Maryland, they are down to Testudo at quarterback:

Losing to Rutgers with a chance to put the team one game away from bowl eligibility and bury the Scarlet Knights in the process is even worse.

“We just didn’t make enough plays to win the game and they did,” a somber DJ Durkin said after the game.

Rutgers opened the game with a 13-play, 47-yard, six-minute 15-second drive, and even though it resulted in a missed field goal, it was clear the Scarlet Knights’ running game was going to give the Terps problems.

Northwestern 31, Nebraska 24

Purdue’s next opponent has now won three straight games in five total overtimes as they are back to being the Cardiac Cats:

Justin Jackson and Jeremy Larkin used a variety of jump cuts and field reversals to carve up Nebraska’s defense en route to 223 yards and 2 touchdowns combined on 41 carries. Neither of them had a run longer than 24 yards, but they continually picked up chunks when Northwestern’s offense needed them to. Both first half touchdowns were phenomenal, and the overtime game-winner was a result of the Wildcats wearing out Nebraska on the ground. The offensive line created good push all game, and that combined with the shiftiness of Jackson and Larkin kept the ground game churning and helped carry Northwestern over the finish line.

Nebraska couldn’t maintain the momentum of the last minute win over Purdue, and it likely means Mike Riley is gone:

Mike Riley came to Nebraska looking for “one last adventure,” but I’m not sure that “adventure” is the right word for what this has become. Nebraska football is adrift. Lost. Frankly, Husker fans can’t even tell if we’re in the middle of the ocean, a forest or a desert. All we know is that we don’t recognize where we’re at, and we don’t see any way out.

And perhaps more importantly, Mike Riley isn’t the guy to get us out of this spot.

Michigan 33, Minnesota 10

This game was also weather delayed, but it didn’t matter much as the Wolverines allowed very little after the first quarter:

For the second consecutive week, Michigan found itself tied 7-7 with an inferior opponent early in the game, only to completely shift gears and run away with a solid victory. First it was against Rutgers, and then Saturday it was against Minnesota to keep the Little Brown Jug in Ann Arbor.

By this point in the season, the team is starting to shake itself out. For the most part, we know what we’re getting on defense, or on special teams, and now even the offense is starting to come together. But that doesn’t mean from week to week we can’t still evaluate the squad and piece together some observations.

The Gophers struggled to get much of anything going, and now a 3-0 start has led to 4-5:

The run defense was a disaster. It was a combination of poor gap control and even worse tackling. As a team, the Wolverines rushed for 394 yards when you don’t subtract the -23 yards that Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters contributed from a couple sacks. Junior running back Karan Higdon averaged 12.5 yards per carry (16 carries, 200 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns) and sophomore Chris Evans averaged 14.7 yards per carry (13 carries, 191 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns). It was an act of mercy that Michigan even attempted a pass.

Non-Conference Opponents:

Louisville – On Bye

Ohio 45, Miami (OH) 28 – It was a dominant Tuesday win for the bobcats, who are an impressive 7-2.

Missouri 45, Florida 16 – If Missouri just quit against Purdue what on earth has Florida done?