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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 8 of Big Ten Football

What a week 8 in the league.

Purdue v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Wisconsin, go sit in the corner and think about what you have done.

The family and I were riding the Hawkeye Express back to our car when Illiinois stunned the Badgers with the walk-off field goal and the Iowa fans were elated to be back in the Big Twn West race. That leads off the Whistlestop Tour:

Illinois 24, Wisconsin 23

This is, quite simply, the biggest Illinois win since knocking off Ohio State in the ‘shoe in 2007:

James McCourt says he couldn’t breathe at the bottom of the pile.

A day that started with Illinois sitting as 31-point underdogs ended with a dogpile on the Illini’s kicker, who redeemed himself with a last-second field goal to cap the biggest upset of the season in college football: a 24-23 Illinois win over No. 6 Wisconsin at Memorial Stadium on Homecoming.

“Honestly, the only thing going through my head was oxygen because I was passed out at the bottom of the pile,” McCourt said. “Supposedly, Jake Cerny saw my eyes roll back in my head. I got lifted up, and I thought I woke up from a dream or something. It was unbelievable seeing everyone around. I can’t even describe it.”

The Badgers managed to trip over their own genitalia:

It all started out okay. The running game was inconsistent, but Jack Coan converted on several third downs. For most of the game, Coan was able to find the soft spot of the zone to Ferguson on several occasions.

Throughout the game, there was a lot of contact in the backfield, and the O-line play was wildly inconsistent.

Ohio State 52, Northwestern 3

There would be no late night Big Ten West upset of the Buckeyes this year:

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: Ohio State used a dominant second quarter to take a commanding lead against a feisty foe, sucking the life out of the opposition and eventually ending up with a blowout. Well, I am glad to inform you that it has happened again, as Ryan Day’s squad put up 24 unanswered points in the second quarter to take away any hope of an upset for the home team. If you’re keeping track, that is now a 231-31 first half advantage for the Bucks this season.

The Northwestern defense was actually a lot better than the final score would indicate, but the Wildcats could not get off of the field on third down. Ohio State converted on five of its first six third-down attempts with an average of eight yards to go on the sticks, including a crazy 3rd-and-15 conversion by Justin Fields, avoiding a sack and hitting K.J. Hill 20 yards downfield.

Nrothwestern was absolutely thrashed in this one in every way:

It’s true that Paddy Fisher and Co. have done an admirable job in mitigating the train wreck happening on the other side of the ball. However, we should probably relent from calling them one of the best units in the country at this point. Defensive Coordinator Mike Hankwitz’s “bend but don’t break” strategy dis wonders against the Wisconsins and Nebraskas of the world, but was easily exposed by Ohio State last night.

Minnesota 42, Rutgers 7

As expected, Minnesota rolled over hapless Rutgers, but the real story was Casey O’Brien, a walk-on for the Golden Gophers:

Casey O’Brien. If you’re unfamiliar with his story — first of all, shame on you — College GameDay aired a segment a few weeks back detailing his battles with cancer. The redshirt sophomore cancer survivor was inserted as placeholder for the Gophers’ final three point after attempts of the game and was mobbed by his teammates after the first extra point, before sharing an emotional moment on the sideline with head coach P.J. Fleck.

Rutgers at least scored, but now needs 61 points in its final four games against Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Illinois to avoid being the worst Big Ten offense of hte modern era:

The combination of Langan and the RU offensive line has no idea how to call protections. At times they did whiff on some blocks to make matters worse. In their defense though, so many Rutgers offensive line movements make absolutely no sense to me. People pulling to nowhere and too many unblocked defenders make it look like RU would be better off just blocking the man in front of them without trying too much finesse. More on a few plays to illustrate this later in the week.

Iowa 26, Purdue 20

Our friends at Black Heart Gold Pants were just happy to score multiple touchdowns and make sure David Bell left town:

As for the offense, they are still perplexing and I’m not as confident that there will be improvements here like I am the defense. Iowa attempted a balanced attack with 33 passes and 32 runs but the timing and sequencing of those attempts didn’t always make sense. Often, the play was either too predictable, like running left on a third and two, or too questionable, throwing incomplete down the field on first and ten with less than five minutes to play and with a two score lead. It’s been discussed ad nauseam, but the Ferentz’s need to honestly evaluate their offensive scheme and in-game adjustments. Being stubborn is not a way to raise up a program.

Indiana 34, Maryland 28

The Hoosiers are now a win away from bowl eligibility and could end up winning nine games. You wouldn’t know it, however, because once again, Crimson Quarry has not written about it. (Ed Note: They finally did!)

Being an Indiana football fan is not akin to being a fan of an unnatural, artificially permanent football powerhouse. Indeed, fans of Ohio State or Alabama often blind themselves to the stark reality of potential failure. It is more human, and thus more relatable, to be a fan of a team like Indiana. Hoosier football fans are constantly aware of the terrifying precipice of dissolution and catastrophe, often hoping merely to survive in a conference of structurally superior teams. It is from these baby steps that more stable forms of matter/college football programs eventually form...until they get complacent and fire everybody after going 4-8. Such is life.

The Terrapins had a chance to win late, but turned the ball over on their final two possessions:

Indiana used an eight play drive, capped off by a 26 yard completion, to take a 24-21 lead going into the break. Through the first half, every time the Terps tied the game or took a lead, the Hoosiers scored on the very next drive.

And though Maryland’s defense was able to come with stops in the second half, the offense’s two late turnovers negated any chance of victory.

“This has kind of been an Achilles heel for us, being able to execute when we need to in critical situations,” Locklsey said. “That’s on coaching, that’s on me. I’ve got to get these guys to be able to play in critical situations and perform at the level that they’re capable of in critical times.”

Penn State 28, Michigan 21

Penn State stays unbeaten and is a serious contender for the Big Ten:

The crowd inside Beaver Stadium was a factor all night and the atmosphere was as good as it gets in college football. It wasn’t easy, but the Lions have a record of 7-0 with a trip to East Lansing up next.

With so much focus on the four talented Penn State running backs, KJ Hamler and Sean Clifford had key runs that allowed the Lions to prevail in a tough Big Ten match-up. There wasn’t much rushing yardage to be had outside one long run by Ricky Slade, but the first downs on the ground kept the chains moving, and at the end of the game, the clock running.

Michigan continues to struggle against anyone with a pulse:

Michigan football went on the road against No. 7 Penn State and very nearly put themselves into position for another thrashing like the one they experienced at Wisconsin, but at some point, a switch flipped.

The Wolverines showed a pulse, and a fight, that we did not see in Madison early this season in an environment that probably surpasses the one that they saw when they played the Badgers. They had the ball with a chance to tie late.

Non-Conference Opponents:

Utah State 36, Nevada 10 - The Wolf Pack either score 30+ or struggle to score at all, it seems.

Vanderbilt 21, Missouri 14 - A week after a brutal loss ot UNLV the Commodores upset a ranked team.

Kansas State 24, TCU 17 - A couple of big plays were the difference.