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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 6 of Big Ten Football

Even with Purdue sitting at home there was a lot of action.

NCAA Football: New Mexico at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Even without Purdue playing this week you all still get a Whistlestop Tour post. Luck you, everyone!

Ohio State 49, Indiana 26

The Hoosiers did not go quietly in this one, but in the end Ohio State was Ohio State and still won by 23 despite being really disinterested:

Another Saturday, another “wow” performance from quarterback Dwayne Haskins. It didn’t start off as the greatest of days— he threw two interceptions— but as the game went on, the Buckeye signal-caller found his groove.

When all was said and done, he threw for 455 yards and six touchdowns. Four-hundred fifty-five yards. Six TDs. Whoa. Between the six scores and 33 completions, those both tied OSU single-game records.

Indiana did lead 17-14 in the second quarter and trailed by only 8 at halftime, but IU did steal a great running back from them:

That’s strange, and maybe it’s possible another reason emerged as to why James would want to stay closer to home. But it’s a hell of a flip for Indiana to steal a kid from out from under Urban Meyer & Co. when it’s one they actually, really wanted.

Michigan 42, Maryland 21

This one started with an extended weather delay, but Michigan’s offense still had few problems:

With the exception of the botched fourth down play in the first half, the offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage, routinely opening up gaps for running back Karan Higdon and keeping the pocket clean for quarterback Shea Patterson. Michigan totaled 171 yards and a score on the ground (averaging 4.3 yards per carry), and gained 294 yards through the air.

It wasn’t just the offensive line that was strong in protection. Running back Tru Wilson was great in pass protection, and fullback Ben Mason displayed the toughness we’ve gotten used to seeing from him (and a hurdle).

On the other side of the ball, Maryland struggled to gain any momentum at all:

The Terps only had two offensive touchdowns. The longest was a 15-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a jet sweep by Javon Leake early in the fourth quarter. The kicker: it came a play after running back Ty Johnson was helped off the field with an apparent injury. Hill was pulled for the game after a fourth-quarter interception turned into a pick-six, before Tyrrell Pigrome added a garbage-time score, but it was too little, too late.

Wisconsin 41, Nebraska 24

I know it is shocking, but Wisconsin ran the ball well:

Jonathan Taylor ran for 221 yards and three touchdowns as the Wisconsin running game seemed to get back on track to what it had done in the first couple of games this season, and, for the most part, last season.

While the production itself hadn’t waned, the large chunks of yardage Badger fans had become accustomed to seeing Taylor rip off weren’t happening over the last few games. Gains of six, five, seven, four, five, etc., were more the style for Taylor, who finally got off of the schneid on Saturday night. Runs of 88 and 21, along with a 20-yarder for a touchdown by Taiwan Deal and a 24-yard carry from Garrett Groshek, gave the Wisconsin offense the pop it needed to finally wear down the Huskers up front.

Now having lost 9 in a row, Nebraska is still searching for answers:

For the first time this season I’m excited for what is to come.

If you can’t walk away from the loss yesterday at Camp Randall with reasons for optimism, then there is nothing I can do for you.

All of the offensive weapons we knew about coming into the season, and a couple that weren’t on campus until Frost showed up came to play last night.

Northwestern 29, Michigan State 19

Finally, a team that beat Purdue won a game:

Thorson overcame a bad interception in the first half to throw for 373 yards (a conference play career high) and three beautiful touchdown throws. The senior’s poise was on full display as he guided the offense on four touchdown drives.

“You can just see him getting stronger each week,” Pat Fitzgerald said of Thorson. “The way he threw the ball today, he was really driving off that surgical knee, and I think he’s finally getting himself closer to 100 percent, and I think that gives him a lot of confidence.”

For Michigan State, the Spartans are a little disappointing and out of the top 25:

Michigan State had trouble finding offensive success of any kind their 29-19 Homecoming loss against Northwestern Saturday, especially in the run game. The Spartans finished with 96 rushing yards.

Due to injuries, there has been a lot of inconsistency surrounding quarterback Brian Lewerke and who joins him on the field. This has left a lot of room for “too many missed opportunities,” as head coach Mark Dantonio discussed after the game.

Lewerke said that he is “not sure” about what to do to fix the shortcomings.

Illinois 38, Rutgers 17

Illinois won a Big Ten game! This broke a 13 game losing streak in conference play:

It was good to see AJ Bush healthy again, if only for the fact he’s a more effective option in the run game than MJ Rivers.

It was more of the same for the story of the season for Illinois so far. The offensive line opened up holes, and the talented backs did exactly what they were supposed to do. The Illini bludgeoned their beaks, and ran roughshod on Rutgers, accruing over 300 yards on the ground.

The Scarlet Knights seemed to hit a new low:

I don’t recall ever feeling that this team was as miserable a task to follow as it is today. What we are experiencing is joyless, soulless football. The passion, the fire, the heart isn’t just absent from the program on the field on Saturdays, it’s sucking the life out of the fan base.

Iowa 48, Minnesota 31

Floyd will be staying in Iowa City:

Starting their drive at the Hawkeyes 47, Brian Ferentz opened up the game with a passing play to Nick Easley on a quick gainer. After stalling out short of the sticks, Kirk elected to go for it on fourth-and-two rather than sending Miguel Racinos out on the field for a long attempt. With five wide, Stanley rolled out right and found an open Ihmir Smith-Marsette for the first down.

I repeat. I fourth-and-two, Iowa not only went for it, but went for it through the air and completed it. Take a big deep breath in. Now, exhale. We’re all good.

The Gophers at least had a solid run defense on the night:

The Gophers’ run defense. This was a point of emphasis for me going into this game after Minnesota allowed Maryland to run wild two weeks ago, racking up 315 rushing yards. The Gophers were much improved in this regard against Iowa, limiting the Hawkeyes to 106 rushing yards on 40 attempts (2,7 yards per carry). Granted, Iowa does not have the same kind of athletes at running back as the Terps, but I was very impressed with how Minnesota was able to stifle the Hawkeyes’ ground game for the most part.

Non-Conference Opponents:

Western Michigan 27, Eastern Michigan 24 – Yet again, the Eagles lost a close game. They have now lost three in a row by a field goal.

South Carolina 37, Missouri 35 – This was a weird, weird game with weather delays, downpours, and two late field goals.

North Carolina State 28, Boston College 23 – The Eagles were without AJ Dillon in the tough road loss.

Quickie Big Ten Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (6-0, 3-0) – The Buckeyes are clearly one of the best teams in America. Will they have another tough game until Michigan?

2. Michigan (5-1, 3-0) – This has not been the same team since losing to Notre Dame. They look tough.

3. Penn State (4-1, 1-1) – The Nittany Lions are probably going to go 10-2 or 11-1, but miss out on the playoff because of the collapse at home vs. Ohio State.

4. Wisconsin (4-1, 2-0) – It may take a while for them to get going, but this is like a typical Wisconsin team.

5. Iowa (4-1, 1-1) – The Hawkeyes are closing in on the top 25 and would be there had they held on vs. Wisconsin.

6. Indiana (4-2, 1-2) – The Hoosiers are actually pretty good. They hung with Ohio State longer than most expected.

7. Michigan State (3-2, 1-1) – That was a disappointing afternoon from Sparty for sure. They still have the other big three to play in the East.

8. Maryland (3-2, 1-1) – The Terps still have that very nice Texas win to their credit.

9. Northwestern (2-3, 2-1) – Strangely, the Wildcats are 2-0 on the road and 0-3 at home.

10. Purdue (2-3, 1-1) – The Boilers face a must-win at Illinois for bowl hopes.

11. Minnesota (3-2, 0-2) – The Gophers have not looked good against Big Ten competition on defense.

12. Illinois (3-2, 1-1) – A win over Purdue and the Illini can seriously think about a bowl game. It is kind of a loser leaves town match there.

13. Nebraska (0-5, 0-3) – At least they aren’t Rutgers?

14. Rutgers (1-5, 0-3) – Why?