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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 7 of Big Ten Football

There are some really, really bad offenses in the Big Ten.

Maryland v Purdue Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Right now qualifiers for the 2020 European soccer championships are going on and they have a lot of shutouts because, well, it is soccer. This week in the Big Ten there were a lot of similar results. It turns out there are some very bad offenses and very good defenses in the league. Four teams in the conference failed to find the end zone this weekend, and only two of them had the excuse of “we don’t have a scheduled game this week”. Iowa, Nebraska, and Northwestern have looked really bad on offense, giving me hope for four more wins this year.

Let’s review the week, shall we?

Wisconsin 38, Michigan State 0

That makes it four shutouts for the Badgers, who just keep rolling with a great running game and excellent defense that have given up only 29 points total in six games:

Wisconsin’s defense also continued its impressive play on the season, holding Michigan State to 149 total yards en route to its fourth shutout of the season. This is the first time since 1930 (5 shutouts) that a Wisconsin team has had four or more shutouts in a single season.

The school record for shutouts in a single season was set in 1901 when the Badgers recorded eight.

Michigan 42, Illinois 25

The Wolverines took a nice nap in this one and almost blew a 28-0 lead:

Let’s start out by saying that fans should absolutely be happy with a road win in conference play. It does not matter that Illinois is terrible. These are hard to get when you leave the friendly confines of your own campus.

That said, you’d be right to feel underwhelmed or even slightly embarrassed with Saturday’s effort, if even for just what went down in just over a quarter of football. Michigan led 28-7 at the half and it felt like they left some chances on the field for it to be even more. At the end of the half, the Wolverines’ fumbling problems re-emerged as Zach Charbonnet coughed up the ball near midfield, which led to Illinois’ first scoring drive of the game. After that, Michigan elected to go conservative at the end of the half and took three timeouts into the locker room with a 28-7 lead.

For Illinois, the 25-0 run jsut made the season that much more frustrating:

When asked about Illinois’ current situation compared to his own in the 1960s, legendary linebacker Dick Butkus offered a bit of advice for the Illini players, “You can get your ass beat, but you can let them know, ‘That’s a hell of a team.’”

Well, they definitely got their asses beat. But they never gave up.

“We chose to fight, fight harder,” head coach Lovie Smith said.

When down 28-0, the Illini did not quit. Instead they battled back to being down 28-25, before allowing 14 straight points to ice the game.

Indiana 35, Rutgers 0

The Hoosiers pretty much put this on cruise control because Rutgers is really, really bad:

On Saturday Indiana took a break from its Big Ten slate, hosting rutger for homecoming. The Hoosiers took the lead on the first play from scrimmage as Demarcus Elliot sacked rutger quarterback Johnny Langan, forcing a fumble that was picked up and returned from a touchdown by Reakwon Jones.

How bad is Rutgers? They had 1 passing yard against Indiana. They have 7 points total in four Big Ten games and need at least 69 points against Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State to avoid being worse than 1981 Northwestern as the worst Big Ten team of all time:

I won’t torture you with details of the game, but looking at the stats will give you all the nightmares any fan can bear. Indiana had 25 first downs and 557 yards of total offense, including a 6.8 yards per carry average. On the other hand, Rutgers gained just 75 yards of total offense, including just 1 passing yard on 5 completions. They rushed for the rest, but averaged only 2.2 yards per carry. RU was 0-11 on third down conversions.

Purdue 40, Maryland 14

The Boilers rolled behind their freshmen, while Maryland struggled to achieve consistency on offense:

Maryland (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten) allowed Purdue (2-4, 1-2) to convert 24 first downs and go 11-18 on third down. Plummer, who has averaged 182 passing yards in his previous two starts and only had 545 yards on 97 attempts in three games, led the Boilermaker offense to 420 passing yards and three touchdowns in the air.

The Terps entered the game with an impressive record in stops, ranking 21st in the country in opponent’s third down conversion rate. And this was an offense coach Mike Locksley’s squad should’ve handled easily.

Minnesota 34, Nebraska 7

The Gophers are rolling right now, sitting at 6-0 and in first place in the West before the schedule gets significantly harder. Purdue might be the best team they have faced:

On a windy, sleety, rainy, snowy night Minnesota’s rushing attack was once again in full force, racking up 238 yards on the ground, while the defense nearly handed Nebraska its first shutout in more than 20 years. Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks both racked up triple digit rushing totals (EDIT: Brooks had a TFL that dropped him below 100) and Tyler Johnson somehow managed 100 yards receiving as the Gophers ran Nebraska out of TCF Bank Stadium in a 34-7 rout.

Noah Vedral got the first significant action of his career and the Cornhusker offense was ineffective as a result:

I’ve kept my expectations pretty low for this one. Minnesota is a solid team and playing on their home field. Nebraska is a wounded team still trying to establish some kind of offensive identity outside of turning the ball over a lot. The weather will be crappy.

There is no reason to think the Huskers should even have a chance in this one.

Penn State 17, Iowa 12

It was tougher this week for the Nittany Lions, but their defense has now given up only 13 points in the last three games:

It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t all that much fun to watch. But Penn State, once again, slayed the beast that is a Kinnick primetime game, defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes 17-12.

In almost every sense of the word, it was a throwback game for Penn State. It leaned on its stellar defense, which held Iowa without a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter. Perhaps just as importantly though, it help set up two Penn State scoring drives by causing turnovers, playing a major part in gifting the Nittany Lions 10 of its 17 points.

Iowa is on the opposite end, as they got a late touchdown to avoid going 8 straight quarters without a touchdown:

It might have been a new look for Iowa in the uniform department, but it certainly was not a new look for the team that lost 10-3 to the Michigan Wolverines just a week ago. This week, it was a 17-12 loss to Penn State. The run game was non-existent, but the offensive line played better. The passing game was...yeah, until its last drive, which did manage to break the touchdown curse.

Non-Conference Opponents

Nevada 41, San Jose State 38 - Brandon Talton did it again as Nevada won for a second time this season on a walk-off field goal.

UNLV 34, Vanderbilt 10 - The Commodores were blown out at home by a two touchdown underdog.

TCU - On Bye