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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 5 of Big Ten Football

Purdue is back on the rise!

NCAA Football: Purdue at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

This was a solid week of football. The Penn State-Ohio State game was pretty good. Purdue won, which is always good. Northwestern blew a three-score lead and contributed to a bizarre trend: that every team who has beaten Purdue has not won since. They are a combined 0-7.

Onto the Whistlestop Tour:

Purdue 42, Nebraska 28

Our friends at boiled Sports bought into the whole “It’s a winnable game” moment and owned it:

It felt weird, but there wasn’t much behind-the-scenes nervous energy before the game. We were confident: this team was better than their 1-3 record, and though Frost will assuredly bring Nebraska around quickly, they’re floundering right now. Brohm and Co would undoubtedly take advantage and bring home the win.

Brohm’s Boilermakers delivered on our confidence, keeping the game out of reach from whistle to whistle with a final 42-28 victory. It was Purdue’s first victory in Lincoln.

Over at Corn Nation the Huskers are in an odd place, as Nebraska has now lost eight in a row for the first time ever:

Well, that sucked. It was a winnable game for the Huskers, but they dug too big a hole in the first half and couldn’t get out of their own way.

Ohio State 27, Penn State 26

Dwayne Haskins got better when he needed to, and the freshman quarterback is playing like the best player in the conference. His two late TD passes helped the Buckeyes escape:

Five different OSU receivers had more than one catch. Parris Campbell led the corps with seven receptions for 60 yards. He was also the most targeted OSU receiver, getting nine passes thrown to him. KJ Hill scored the game-winning TD with 2:03 remaining, via a 24-yard screen down the far sideline; Hill ended with six catches for 59 yards. The game-changing catch, though, came from Binjimen Victor. His 47-yard catch—with involved juggling the ball back into his possession and beating away two defenders—for a touchdown sparked the Buckeyes’ fourth quarter rally when they were down 26-14. He only caught one more pass and totaled 55 receiving yards for the game, but he was the absolute difference maker when the Bucks needed him.

For Black Shoe Diaries, the 4th and 5 call late will haunt them the rest of the season:

Then, with Penn State driving with just over a minute in Buckeyes territory, Franklin used the second of his three timeouts just after an Ohio State timeout on a fourth-and-5 with 1:22 to play.

Perhaps the biggest miscue proved the fatal one, as Penn State then handed the ball to Miles Sanders for a loss on 2 on the fourth down play, essentially ending the game.

Penn State is ready to make the step to the next level. The play on the field showed as much. Now the coaches need to take that step with them.

Michigan 20, Northwestern 17

It was a great comeback for the Wolverines, who kept pace in the East with a tough road win:

This wasn’t Shea Patterson’s best game as Michigan’s quarterback, he missed some throws today. Some passes sailed on him and and a couple bullets were dodged.

But when it really mattered, Patterson was on point, picking Northwestern apart with his arm and his legs.

Look no further than the drive in the waning minutes of the game to give Michigan the lead; Patterson converted a huge 3rd & 6 by scrambling, and then threaded the needle on a couple sizable gainers to Zach Gentry.

This was clutch.

Northwestern fell to 1-3, and has not looked the same since winning at Purdue:

If the Northwestern Wildcats, reeling from a brutal loss to Akron, were to fend off the No. 14 Michigan Wolverines at Ryan Field, they needed to punch their visitors in the mouth.

As 14.5 point underdogs, the Wildcats did exactly that, ambushing the vaunted Michigan defense with sharp execution offensively to take a 17-0 lead.

From there, Northwestern held for as long as it could. It was almost enough.

What’s that saying about horseshoes and hand grenades again?

Michigan State 31, Central Michigan 20

This was a 31-3 game before the Chips put up 17 fourth quarter points to make it much closer than it actually was:

Although, it didn’t stop the Chippewas from making things interesting in the fourth quarter. “Well as I continue to say, nothing’s ever easy. You get ahead a little bit, think things are going pretty well and then it gets interesting, but that’s football for you,” said Dantonio in reference to CMU’s late rally.

Central Michigan scored on three straight drives during the fourth quarter. It started with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Lazzaro to Julian Hicks, a field goal, and then a option double pass where the receiver was wide open in the end zone. The Spartan defense was undoubtedly the best unit out there for three quarters, but they seemed to lose focus during the final 12 minutes or so.

Indiana 24, Rutgers 17

The Hoosiers are 4-1, but certainly looking like Indiana a bit in a much-too-close win:

It’s not groundbreaking news to say that Rutger is one of the worst teams in the entire country, so it’s probably wise to take Indiana’s performance with a grain of salt. That being said, Indiana took care of business. Every year, it’s games against the likes of Rutger or Illinois that essentially make or break Indiana’s bowl game hopes. Win those games, and your chances of going bowling are within reach. Losing these games reduces the margin for error significantly.

It was at least improvement for Rutgers:

I imagine this feeling much like when your kid brings home F grades all year only to surprise you with a solid C-. What can you say really? It was nice to see the team show some fight in this one. It was far from a clean game but the way Rutgers has been manhandled this season, it was nice to see them put together a somewhat competitive game. More perplexing however is the shaky early defensive play that has plagued this team all season long. At this point the offense isn’t developed enough to rally back from 14 points plus deficits early. On a positive note though, Sitkowski looked much more comfortable in the second half.

Non-Conference Opponents:

Northern Illinois 23, Eastern Michigan 20 (3OT) – It was a rough one for the Eagles, who have now lost two consecutive overtime games.

Missouri – on BYE.

Boston College 45, Temple 35 – The Eagles bounced back with a win over a feisty Temple team.

Quickie Big Ten Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (5-0, 2-0) – That was an impressive comeback last night and they have a pretty easy run until going to Michigan State November 10th. That is, unless they get Harbored.

2. Michigan (4-1, 2-0) – Maybe Notre Dame is really good. The Wolverines have recovered nicely since week 1.

3. Penn State (4-1, 1-1) – The Nittany Lions can’t close it out for a second straight year against the Buckeyes.

4. Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0) – Wisconsin was off this week, but the West looks so bad it may not batter.

5. Michigan State (3-1, 1-0) – The Spartans finished the CMU game on full cruise control.

6. Indiana (4-1, 1-1) – Yeah, I am gonna put the Hoosiers here. The four wins are over no one, but they have at least avoided bad losses.

7. Maryland (3-1, 1-0) – We’ll see what happens after the bye week.

8. Purdue (2-3, 1-1) – Man, Purdue could be ranked this week. If it had just one loss instead of three it probably would be ranked.

9. Iowa (3-1, 0-1) – How Iowa responds after a week off will be key for the rest of their season. Purdue needs to beat them to have bowl hopes.

10. Minnesota (3-1, 0-1) – Another team that went into the bye week with a loss. How will they look against Iowa this week?

11. Northwestern (1-3, 1-1) – The win over Purdue is the only thing keeping them afloat for now.

12. Illinois (2-2, 0-1) – Illinois isn’t necessarily good, but they have been better than the two teams under them.

13. Rutgers (1-3, 0-2) – At least they weren’t blown out by Indiana.

14. Nebraska (0-4, 0-2) – I still can’t believe their 8-game losing streak is their worst ever.