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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 7 of Big Ten Football

Don’t worry kids. It’s almost over.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

December Big Ten football is weird. We have two more weeks left and no idea how this “Champions Week” is going to work out. It is very likely going to be Ohio State vs. Northwestern in Indianapolis, then Indiana vs. probably Iowa somewhere. After that, every remaining team has exactly two wins. It is a mess. The league has said that they want to avoid having regular season rematches, so that means Rutgers is out for us. We’re likely to get Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, or Maryland, and no idea where.

And then what about bowl games? Eight bowl games have already been cancelled, including the QuickLane, Holiday, and Pinstripe that have Big Ten tie ins. There is also no rule about teams with losing records going to games, so it is a real crap shoot. What is the point of playing the Outback Bowl when you can’t sell any tickets to it? Would Purdue go to a bowl if offered at 3-5 after a mythical Champions Week win? What if we swing the upset in Bloomington?

Why are we even still doing this? Just have an 8 team playoff and that’s that.

Nebraska 37, Purdue 27

After a season of struggle Nebraska fans feels good today, but playing Purdue the last four weeks tends to do that:

Exactly what we expected.

We all expected Nebraska to go up 17-0 with 5:59 remaining in the first quarter against the Purdue Boilermakers.

No, we did not expect that to happen.

The start of the second half began with an 11 play 75 yard touchdown drive by Nebraska instead of an immediate three-and-out.

No, we did not expect that to happen.

Ohio State 52, Michigan State 12

The Buckeyes went to East Lansing with half a team and no coach, but won by 40. They are literally now in “Show up vs. Michigan and advance to the B1G title game”:

Before things even kicked off on Saturday, we knew Ohio State would be in for an interesting afternoon. We had heard during the week that the Buckeyes would be a bit shorthanded as a result of positive COVID-19 cases and the residual contact tracing, however we did not know the full extent on who would be out come game time.

About an hour before things were scheduled to begin, we finally got to see the availability report. Ohio State is without three starting offensive linemen — Josh Myers, Thayer Munford, and Nicholas Petit-Frere — and OT Paris Johnson Jr. as well. On defense, the team is missing Tuf Borland, Tyler Friday and Josh Proctor. Obviously these are some massive losses, as the Buckeyes offensive line has paved the way for Justin Fields and company all season long, while Proctor has been perhaps the team’s best defensive back.

Like so many other teams in the conference, it has been a forgettable year for Michigan State:

But was it too much to ask for the team looking competitive for maybe even four seconds? First drive for OSU they have four botched snaps en route to an opening touchdown drive that looked simple.

On offense, the Spartans had five three-and-outs or worst (the end zone interception) and just two first downs — one which was given via penalty — in the first seven drives. The offense gave the defense enough time on the sidelines to maybe grab a sip of water and get three breathes of air before it was time to stop the Justin Fields Show.

Indiana 14, Wisconsin 6

Indiana’s dream season continues and now they have a real chance at one of the big money bowls. The offense didn’t do much, but the defense was excellent:

Can you imagine even thinking about rewriting the conference charter midstream to keep this group from playing for a league title? *coughKevinWarrencough* Well, we certainly cannot.

Anyway, we’re not going to wade into those weeds just yet. For all we know, it might be moot in the coming days. What we do know is No. 12 IU just beat No. 16 Wisconsin for the first time since 2002, marking the first time in school history the Hoosiers have recorded wins over Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin in the same season. So it’s a really big night — another big night in a season full of them. So let’s try to live in the moment.

The Badgers have had a terribly disjointed season and never got into a rhythm:

To be honest, I could have easily copied and pasted some large sections of this from the Badgers most recent loss to Northwestern. In fact, the story on offense was eerily similar to the last four non-OSU losses that Wisconsin has had going back to 2019.

Against Indiana, the Badgers once again had the advantage in both of the categories highlighted, but penalties (eight of them for 81 yards) and an inability to convert in the red zone (six points on three possessions inside the 25) haunted them.

Iowa 35, Illinois 21

The Illini jumped in front early, but Iowa came back to earn a comfortable victory:

Your #19 Iowa Hawkeyes scored 35 unanswered points to dig themselves out of an early 14-0 hole to beat the HATED Illinois fighting Illinoisans, 35-21.

Iowa’s fifth consecutive win was a rollercoaster of emotions. We aren’t strangers to any sort of feelings during a Hawkeye football game, but I can say with certainty that I didn’t see this one ending in such a confident celebration from my couch.

The Illini continue to have moments of competence and moments of frustration:

It was a tale of two halves for Illinois.

“Disappointing, of course, not to get the win, especially when you get off to a hot start like that,” said head coach Lovie Smith after the Homecoming loss.

The second-ranked rush offense in the Big Ten attacked Iowa’s defense though the air. Brandon Peters started the game 8-of-8 for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

But the rest of the game was a different story. Peters completed just two of his next 10 throws for 15 yards. Six punts in a row later, Isaiah Williams was in at QB for Illinois.

Penn State 23, Rutgers 7

For the second straight week Penn State was able to put something together and get a win:

Not to take anything away from the Penn State coaching staff on Saturday, but Penn State simply just had better athletes than the Scarlet Knights.

Both the offensive and defensive lines dominated. The running backs made plays. The linebackers flew around the field and the corners shut down the Rutgers wideouts. It was thoroughly dominating physically.

Sure, NOW Rutgers had to suck again:

Saturday marked the most disappointing performance by Rutgers this season, as they lost decisively to Penn State. After trailing 17-0 at the half, they continued to battle the entire way and were close to making it a one score game at times, but ultimately fell 23-7. After last week’s upset victory over Purdue, there was hope this team had turned a corner and were going to finally beat the Nittany Lions for the first time as Big Ten foes. Despite a down season for Penn State, it was clear after this game that their talent level, depth and overall potential is far above that of Rutgers.

Head coach Greg Schiano was blunt in his assessment, saying after the game that “The players fought throughout the game. But overall we didn’t coach well enough or play well enough to win, so Penn State deserved to win today more than we did.”