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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 13 of Big Ten Football

Let’s take a look around the conference after rivalry week.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

And just like that, the regular season is over. Trophies were handed out yesterday and the Big Ten title game was set. As it turns out, we weren’t going to win the West anyway after losing to Northwestern. The Wildcats ran through the West undefeated and will get Ohio State, who destroy Michigan yesterday.

Let’s take a final look around the league.

Iowa 31, Nebraska 28

Miguel Recinos connected on a walk-off field goal and the Hawkeyes continued their recent mastery of the Cornhuskers:

In fact, under Kirk Ferentz the only two kickers that haven’t had a game winner (or an extremely late go-ahead kick) are Kyle Schlicher and Tim Douglas. Maybe it’s just the sort of moment that most Hawkeye kickers are destined to have.

Usually these dramatic kicks come against ranked opponents, but they’re all special. I mean today’s kick knocked off the Cornhuskers and meant the Iowa senior class has never lost to Nebraska. The Hawkeyes have won four straight in the series and five of their last six.

The Cornhuskers closed the year at 4-8, but certainly looked much better in the second half of the season:

Well that’s it. Time to hand in the equipment, sweep the floors and send the kids home. Time to shut off the lights.

For the fourth time in the past four seasons Nebraska lost to Iowa. The prior coaching staff made it easy for Iowa. This coaching staff appears to of at least changed that fact.

In the not too distant future these games on Black Friday will continue to be hard-nosed competitive games. At some point, the expectation is that the coaching staff will be able to shore up some of the deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball.

Purdue 28, Indiana 21

The Boilers kept the Bucket and will head off to a bowl game for a second straight season. The Hoosiers are left asking questions about where the program is headed:

Last year, Indiana lost to Purdue 31-24, in a game that sent 5-6 Purdue to a bowl game and ended 5-6 Indiana’s season. The seven-point final score was not as close as the score indicated, as Purdue was the more explosive team, and controlled the game throughout.

This year, Indiana lost to Purdue 28-21, in a game that sent 5-6 Purdue to a bowl game and ended 5-6 Indiana’s season. The seven-point final score was not as close as the score indicated, as Purdue was the more explosive team, and controlled the game throughout.

One thing is clear from yesterday – Indiana is a football program stuck in neutral, and the Hoosiers need to make changes from within to be more competitive next year.

Ohio State 62, Michigan 39

My goodness, the Buckeyes killed a guy! I thought the Buckeyes would win this, but not by this much. It was a complete obliteration:

A joyous, explosion of offense, and a shocking amount of solid enough defense led the way to Ohio State’s massive upset over Michigan on Saturday afternoon. Take that in for a second. Ohio State, in 2018, lit up an elite defense with a great balance of explosive and efficient plays. In the same game, Ohio State’s defense certainly wasn’t great, giving up 39 points to the Wolverines, but it was more than solid enough to help the Buckeyes win easily.

It is hard to see how Michigan recovers from this, as they had a two-game season and dropped both quite easily:

Most shockingly, the 62 points is the worst defensive performance in Michigan history, considering that the 2010 Illinois game went into triple overtime before the score read 67-65.

In the quarter and a half following Olave’s block, “The Game” turned into “The Joke.”

Penn State 38, Maryland 3

Yeah, I guess this was a Big Ten game yesterday. I mean, technically it was:

A much-needed impressive performance on both sides of the ball for the Nittany Lions, as they improve to 9-3 and await their bowl fate following next week’s championship game action. Did they do enough to get into the New Year’s Six? Stay tuned...

For Maryland, a tumultuous season ended short of a bowl after a promising beginning:

Maryland football’s season is over, finishing 5-7 overall and 3-6 in Big Ten play after a 38-3 loss to Penn State on Saturday. The Terps will miss the postseason for the second straight year, falling a win short of bowl eligibility.

In the finale, the Terps surrendered two first-quarter touchdowns and went into halftime facing a 17-3 deficit. Penn State added a score immediately after Tre Watson was ejected for targeting and Maryland couldn’t respond. Maryland’s only promising drive of the second half ended in a missed field goal from Joseph Petrino, and Penn State scored twice more in the fourth quarter from there.

Northwestern 24, Illinois 16

With only the LOLHat to play for the Wildcats completed a perfect season against Big Ten West foes:

College football rivalry week is riddled with streaks. Every year, some of them end, and others begin in their place. Notably, Minnesota took down Wisconsin yesterday for the first time in 14 tries, and Florida ended a four game skid against their in-state rivals.

And, a snapshot of the national landscape can be found within these streaks. Clemson and Alabama, rulers of the roost right now, each blew out their oldest rival for the fourth consecutive time last night. As Northwestern fans are well aware, yesterday night marked the program’s second such streak against their own nominal rival.

For Illinois, the Fighting Illini closed the season with another disappointing game:

One of the few bright spots on that side of the ball for Illinois was the first-career sack for freshman safety Delano Ware. Bobby Roundtree had little help on that side of the ball all season — specifically on the line with first-year defensive line coach Austin Clark — and any signs of life are welcoming entering next season.

And that goes for the entire team.

Minnesota 37, Wisconsin 15

In the most surprising game of the day, Minnesota was completely dominant to regain the Axe for the first time in 15 years and their first win in Madison since 1994:

The last time the Gophers won Paul Bunyan’s Axe was 2003 and the last time they won a game in Madison was 1994. There have been games where Minnesota has led at halftime, there have been games where the game was seemingly in hand, but the Gophers have found a way to lose those games for 15 years.

But today was different. The Gophers executed throughout and made fewer mistakes than Wisconsin to clinch the biggest win for Minnesota in a very long time.

The loss capped a very disappointing season for the Badgers, who started the season at No. 4:

Unfortunately, the Badgers’ defense hasn’t possessed the same bite as prior units, and it showed on Saturday afternoon. Minnesota utilized a strong running game to consistently move the chains. There weren’t many long chunks; rather, 4 and 5-yard plays that time and time again delivered body blows to the Wisconsin defense.

Heading into the fourth quarter, Wisconsin trailed 23–7 and in need of any type of momentum.

That developed when Minnesota’s Emmit Carpenter missed a field goal and the defense finally was able to get the Gophers’ offense off of the field. The bad part? It took 9:02 off of the clock.

With 5:37 remaining, the Badgers’ offense took the field looking to score quickly to attempt to get back into the football game. Unfortunately, Alex Hornibrook, who threw two interceptions on the day in his return from a concussion, was strip-sacked on second down, resulting in a Minnesota recovery.

Michigan State 14, Rutgers 10

This game just sucked:

The special day didn’t seem to have any affect on the offense’s ability to move the ball or produce points. MSU looked as gloomy as the weather did throughout the contest, but they never gave up. Despite only being able to produce 14 points of offense against a lackluster Rutgers defense they pulled off another comeback, scoring the final touchdown with 3:57 left in regulation.

“Big win for our football program,” said Mark Dantonio during his postgame presser.

Rutgers isn’t exactly going to be filed away as a signature win for the Spartans. That being said, reaching seven wins and looking forward to a bowl game is quite the achievement for this group (considering the circumstances), especially when you think of how horrid MSU’s offense played at times.

For Rutgers, they closed the season winless in league play yet again:

A good kick return by Pacheco and completion by Gio to Blackshear moved the ball to midfield. Then a 25 yard pass to Vokolek after a broken play got the ball to the MSU 25.

On 1st Blackshear was stuffed, on 2nd Gio scrambled for five, but on third a pass to Vokolek was over his head setting up fourth down and six from the 21 yard line. Gio threw into traffic that included Vokolek and Bo Melton, but the pass was intercepted at the 3 yard line with 1:32 on the clock. On 2nd an 8, MSU’s one remaining playmaker Connor Heyward ran 26 yards up the middle to seal the game. It was Michigan State’s longest play of the day. The Rutgers Football season ends on an uneven note with a 1-11 record, including 0-9 in Big Ten play.

Non-Conference Opponents:

Eastern Michigan 28, Kent State 20 – The Eagles will likely go to a bowl after finishing 7-5.

Missouri 38, Arkansas 0 – The Tigers had a really solid year going 8-4 after blanking Arkansas.

Syracuse 42, Boston College 21 – The Eagles head into the bowl season after losing their last three in a row to go 7-5.