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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 4 of Big Ten Football

Ohio State is good, Wisconsin rolled, and Indiana beat a high school team.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Wisconsin Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

There was no Purdue this week, but Big Ten play mostly got underway in earnest. Some of the last non-conference games took place as well, including some incredible dedication to getting a fünfer.

Ohio State 76, Miami (OH) 5

The good news for the Redhawks is that they started off with a 5-0 lead. Unfortunately, Ohio State then showed up:

Ohio State continued its early season dominance on Saturday afternoon, knocking off Miami (OH) 76-5 to close out the non-conference schedule. The Redhawks looked prepared for the challenge in the opening minutes of the game, but those dreams very quickly came crashing to the ground as the Buckeyes just straight up out-manned their fellow Ohioans for the next 50 minutes of play.

After an interesting first quarter, one that saw Ohio State leading just 7-5 through 15 minutes, the Buckeyes opened up the floodgates in the second quarter. Dominating in every single facet of the game, OSU outscored Miami 42-0 behind a swarming defense and incredibly efficient offense headed by Justin Fields.

Wisconsin 35, Michigan 14

The Badgers finally gave up some points, but they were already up 35-0 in this one by the time the Wolverines scored:

After a bye week to prepare, the Wisconsin offensive line responded in a big way against much tougher competition.

The Badgers were able to run for 359 yards and five touchdowns. The team averaged 6.3 yards per carry, with nine different players carrying the ball.

Once again, the Wolverines failed on the big stage:

Head coach Jim Harbaugh said that throughout the week Mason received reps at running back, and Mason was a battering ram at times as a fullback in 2018, but the result here was pretty much of the ‘worst case scenario’ variety.

The fumble by Mason marked the third consecutive game for Michigan in which their first possession on offense ended with a turnover. Football is a physical game, but it’s oh so mental, and starting the game off with turnovers on offense, especially deep in the red zone, can really make a unit feel down in the dumps.

Indiana 38, UConn 3

Indiana’s joke of a non-conference schedule is over and now they have to get back to playing real teams. They trailed UConn 3-0 before rolling the rest of the way:

Hey did you know that the Hoosiers could run the football? It’s something that they hadn’t done particularly well to this point in the season, but today they did just fine. As a team IU averaged 4.5 yards per carry. Stevie Scott carried the load, leading the team with 21 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown. He was the only Hoosier with more than five carries in the game. Scott didn’t make many terribly big plays, but managed to pick up yards in chunks which was enough today. The Hoosiers did manage to get some bigger plays from other guys. David Ellis had one carry for 17 yards and Whop Philyor had a carry for 11 yards. IU will need to continue to be relatively consistent on the ground moving forward if they want to pick up a few more wins this season.

Michigan State 31, Northwestern 10

A week after managing only seven points the Spartans jumped to a 14-3 lead at halftime and let its defense dominate. The Only Colors has not provided a wrap yet, but InsideNU is blaming the coaching:

On a milestone day for Northwestern’s class of 2023, it was Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcat coaching staff that were taken to school. Michigan State (2-1, 1-0 B1G) demolished NU (1-2, 0-1) 31-10 in a game that wasn’t even as close as the scoreline indicates, and the decision-makers in purple can be held accountable for much of that result.

A number of questionable decisions from a typically solid group put Northwestern in a position that couldn’t be escaped. Offensively, defensively and in all phases of the game, the players just weren’t put in a position to win. NU’s on-field execution was most definitely lacking, but even a near errorless game from those between the lines wouldn’t have overcome the domination that occurred across the two sidelines.

Boston College 30, Rutgers 16

If Boston College had lost to Kansas and Rutgers in consecutive weeks I think they would have been kicked out of the ACC. Instead, Rutgers just did not have enough offense. Now On the Banks is calling for Chris Ash to be fired:

While Rutgers was competitive for stretches of Saturday’s game against Boston College, there were far too many mistakes for them to seriously challenge for the lead in the second half. Despite having two weeks off to prepare, they committed 11 penalties for 100 yards and had a -2 turnover margin. There were three punts from enemy territory. Even with Quarterback Artur Sitkowski throwing for over 300 yards and looking good at times, the game wasn’t all that close against a team that was embarrassed by Kansas last weekend. It was just more of the same that Rutgers fans have come to expect during Chris Ash’s 3+ season tenure.

The truth is Rutgers hasn’t improved in the slightest from last season and hope is officially dead that significant improvement will occur. This was the game they needed to propel this program forward and show real progress is taking place. It’s time for a change. It’s time for the Ash Era to officially end.

Nebraska 42, Illinois 38

This was a weird game where Illinois led at halftime and the Cornhuskers dominated statistically, but a Wan’Dale Robinson TD run with 8 minutes left was the difference:

Could it be because players and coaches were looking ahead to Ohio State? I actually hope so. The whole “trap game” excuse can actually help me wrap my brain around what happened last night. However, if that lame excuse doesn’t hold up then grab on tight or let go because we are in for a long season.

For the Illini, it was another frustrating result in the Lovie Smith era:

There’s literally no answers at this point. I don’t know the path forward. The play on the field had its terrible moments, even if the penalty count decreased significantly. The coaching staff still made some boneheaded mistakes, and the Illini — in true Illini fashion — couldn’t capitalize enough on four forced fumbles as they allowed more than 700 yards of offense.

Non-Conference Opponents

Nevada 37, UTEP 21 – The Wolf Pack are now 3-1 after beating a woeful UTEP team.

LSU 66, Vanderbilt 38 – There were lots of points and no defense in this one as Vandy fell to 0-3.

SMU 41, TCU 38 – The Horned Frogs struggled mightily on defense in a shocking loss to the Mustangs.