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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 4 of Big Ten Football

The rest of the conference had a much better week.

Boston College v Purdue Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Suddenly Purdue’s outlook for the rest of the season looks a lot better after just one win. We ended the 18-game losing streak to ranked opponents and even gained territory in College Football Imperialism! It made for a good week as we start off on the Whistlestop Tour.

Penn State 63, Illinois 24

Illinois actually led this 24-21 with about 10 minutes left in the third quarter then got absolutely blitzed. Penn State ran wild in the final 25 minutes:

Penn State reverted back to its 2016 ways — that is, being a second half team. Miles Sanders scampered for 48 yards to give the lead back to the Nittany Lions, and from there, it was pure domination from James Franklin’s crew. Trace McSorley found Juwan Johnson on a pivotal third down to make it 35-24, and then following a Jan Johnson interception, No. 9 found KJ Hamler to put the game out of reach at 42-24.

The Champaign Room didn’t quite know how to respond:

There’s not much to say here. Getting outscored 35-0 after trailing just 28-24 is not the way any Illini fan wanted to see the game end. There’s been a lot of debate between “the players just ran out of steam” and were outmatched by Penn State’s roster, and Lovie and his staff did not make the proper adjustments.

I think giving up 5 touchdowns in a quarter might be the result of a little bit of both these things. Against South Florida, Illinois was outscored 18-0 in the fourth quarter.

Purdue 30, Boston College 13

While Purdue fans were elated, our friends over at BC Interruption were not so pleased:

AJ Dillon put up a depressing 59 yards on 19 carries. Anthony Brown completely fell apart going 13-27 (48%!) for just 96 yards and a whopping 4 interceptions. The defense could not get off the field on third down seemingly at any point in the day. The game was effectively over early in the 3rd quarter, and it was pretty depressing.

Boiled Sports was very optimistic after the win:

But it all came together Saturday against Boston College. The team that we expected to see showed up and ground B.C. into the Ross Ade dirt. And the energy is back. The road ahead is hard, and a bowl might still be out of reach, but this team will not roll over and show its belly. That in, and of itself, is worth it.

Ohio State 49, Tulane 6

This was the expected blowout as the Buckeyes had no trouble at all:

Dwayne Haskins may very well be the best passer in Ohio State history. With Urban Meyer coming back to the sideline, there was maybe a slim possibility that the head coach would nudge Haskins to be a more balanced QB, rather than being a gunslinger. Against Tulane, it appears that Meyer is letting the redshirt sophomore do what he does best.

In the first half, Haskins hit 87.5 percent of his passes en route to another 300-yard afternoon in The Horseshoe. On top of that, five touchdowns were lobbed by the Maryland native. The passing game was one of the very (very) bright spots from the OSU team when Ryan Day was the interim head coach. Now back full-time, Meyer appears to be picking up right where Day left off.

Wisconsin 28, Iowa 17

The Hawkeye held a 17-14 lead entering the last minute, but the Badgers added a pair of TDs to get the critical road win:

On a crucial, potentially season-defining drive, the No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers came up big with a go-ahead score from the arm of Alex Hornibrook.

With under a minute left, Hornibrook found A.J. Taylor from 17 yards out on a bullet to take a four-point lead. Then after a late T.J. Edwards interception, senior Alec Ingold sealed the game with a touchdown for a 28-17 win over Iowa in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday night.

It was a missed opportunity for Iowa:

What if?

What if Iowa had kicked the field goal on its first drive, instead of calling the QB sneak? What if, instead of a mishandled punt, the Hawks drive the ball down the field for a touchdown instead of giving up 6 easy points?

The opportunities were there in Iowa’s 28-17 loss to Wisconsin tonight. They were there in abundance. But as Kirk Ferentz would say, the Hawks didn’t execute.

Michigan 56, Nebraska 10

Michigan beat the brakes off of Nebraska and the Cornhuskers are 0-3 for the first time since 1945. It gets the Wolverines off to a great league start:

The Michigan Wolverines would have won this game by a good margin anyway, but it appears Nebraska head coach Scott Frost motivated the team quite a bit heading into Saturday’s tilt. The game ended with Michigan coming out on top 56-10.

As head coach of Central Florida in 2016, Frost said that his team “outhit” Michigan despite losing the game 51-14.

Wolverine veterans Devin Bush, Jon Runyan, and Chase Winovich didn’t forget Frost’s comments, including defensive coordinator Don Brown.

The Cornhuskers are really lost heading into a home game with our Boilers:

I had a feeling that there was so much anticipation surrounding Scott Frost’s first game and when it ended up getting rained out that the fan base and the team appeared to be in a funk leading up to the Colorado game. Then we make all the mistakes everybody knows about and Adrian Martinez gets hurt. We lose. Then we have Andrew Bunch try and win against a scrappy Troy team. He doesn’t. So now we are 0-2 in like 2 million years and heading into a Michigan team with a great defense and we crap the bed.

So if we played Akron, would we have had the mistakes (knocking off the rust) against Colorado which led to the loss and then maybe Martinez doesn’t get his leg twisted and thus we don’t lose to Troy and we go into Ann Arbor with a 3-0 record and maybe actually show up like we want to be there.

Michigan State 35, Indiana 21

The Spartans keep the Spittoon in East Lansing by controlling this game from beginning to end:

This was a great game for the defensive line, who has struggled the first two games to get a consistent pass rush. Our Spartans delivered four sacks and nine tackles for loss, led by Kenny Willekes and Andrew Dowell each having one sack and two TFLs.

For Indiana it was a familiar script after a promising start to the season. At least they get Rutgers next.

Buffalo 42, Rutgers 13

Relegate Rutgers:

At the beginning of the season, there was hope that Rutgers football could take a step forward and be competitive against the top tier teams of the Big Ten. On Saturday, Rutgers couldn’t even stay in the game before halftime against MAC contender Buffalo. After stopping the Bulls on a three and out on the first drive, followed by the offense producing a field goal, the game went downhill fast. Despite intercepting Jackson on a drop by a Buffalo receiver on the following drive, the Scarlet Knights couldn’t capitalize. The opportunity to take control of the game soon passed. The playmaking ability of quarterback Tyree Jackson was then too much for a Rutgers defense that collapsed by the second quarter. With an offense that continued to struggle, it was clear Rutgers had zero chance to come back in the game. Buffalo steamrolled the home team to a 35-6 advantage at the half and ultimately won the game by the final score of 42-13.

Maryland 42, Minnesota 13

After a bummer of a loss to Temple the Terps responded with an impressive home win:

The Terps had scores of 26, 81, 54, 64 and 21 yards on offense in addition to a 36-yard pick-six. For everything that didn’t go right last week, everything seemed to click for Maryland against Minnesota.

On the defensive side of the ball, third-down defense and stingy red zone play kept Minnesota out of the end zone and kept the score tilted in Maryland’s favor. The Golden Gophers entered the red zone four times, but only scored twice: once on a 33-yard field goal and once on a 17-yard pass. Maryland forced turnovers on the other two trips, both on fourth down needing a touchdown in lieu of a field goal.

Minnesota not only lost, but lost their best defensive player in Antoine Winfield Jr. for the season. Not a good weekend:

The Gophers’ passing game. I went back and forth as to whether this facet of the game belonged under “The Meh” or “The Ugly,” but I settled on the former because, honestly, I would have had to leave this space blank otherwise. The pass protection was abysmal — more on that in the next section — and true freshman quarterback Zack Annexstad, in his first career road game, was never comfortable in the pocket. Nearly every throw was under duress, including the first two interceptions of his career, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

Non-Conference Opponents:

Georgia 43, Missouri 29 – The Tigers held their own against Georgia, but couldn’t get enough stops.

San Diego State 23, Eastern Michigan 20 (OT) – SDSU tied it on a 50 yard FG with 1:16 left and won it in overtime with an interception and another field goal.

Quickie Big Ten Power Rankings:

1. Ohio State (4-0, 1-0) – It is looking like a one game playoff for the East, and it is this week vs. Penn State.

2. Penn State (4-0, 1-0) – Holy hell that was an annihilation against Illinois in the fourth quarter.

3. Michigan (3-1, 1-0) – Michigan’s offense has definitely woken up after the Notre Dame game.

4. Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0) – The playoff hopes are dead, but Wisconsin is winning the West again.

5. Iowa (3-1, 0-1) – The Hawkeyes let that game get away from them. How will they respond now?

6. Michigan State (2-1, 1-0) – If the Spartans had not played a night game in the middle of a desert they are probably undefeated.

7. Maryland (3-1, 1-0) – The Terps beat down Minnesota, but can they get a win against the Big Four in the East?

8. Indiana (3-1, 0-1) – Certainly looks like the same Indiana: 0-4 against the Big 4, but they can definitely get three more wins.

9. Minnesota (3-1, 0-1) – I think the Gophers are going to start slipping. Their two best players re done for the season.

10. Northwestern (1-2, 1-0) – The Wildcats don’t look great, but they had the week off.

11. Purdue (1-3, 0-1) – Purdue very easily could be 4-0 and probably should be at least 3-1.

12. Illinois (2-2, 0-1) – The Illini hung around far longer than anyone expected vs. Penn State.

13. Nebraska (0-3, 0-1) – Only one of the losses has been to a non-Power 5 team.

14. Rutgers (1-3, 0-1) – Clearly should have picked Buffalo to get the New York market.