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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 5 of Big Ten Football

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The Big Ten has a heavy top and a heavy bottom.

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

Another weekend of Big Ten football has come and gone. The league now has five teams in the top 11 of the AP Poll, and for our Boilers, we’re looking at a “win three of four” season unless we pull off a pretty big upset of Iowa, Michigan State, or Ohio State. I still think there is a decent chance of one against Iowa due to Purdue having a bye week and they have a top 5 matchup, plus David Bell owns them, but the missed opportunity against Minnesota leaves a narrow path to a bowl game that only gets narrower if Purdue cannot beat Wisconsin or Nebraska in those next two games.

As for the rest of the league, Penn State looks really good, while Iowa’s defense is elite. Those two are the favorites right now to have a rematch in Indy, but Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State are still good. Here is how everyone did in the league this week.

Iowa 51, Maryland 14

Iowa’s defense forced five Maryland turnovers and ended this one very early:

To make matters worse for the Terrapins, Iowa got the ball to start the 2nd half and Spencer Petras connected with Goodson for a 67 yard touchdown pass. Iowa’s offense played a stress free game and did everything they wanted. When something didn’t go well, Maryland’s undisciplined play and penalties aided Iowa’s effort. It was a landslide victory for the Hawkeyes.

It was a disaster of a night for Maryland, as their undefeated season came crashing down:

Maryland football seemed to be finding its footing trailing 10-7 in the early stages of the second quarter of its matchup in College Park against the undefeated No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes, but things on the field went from bad to worse in the blink of an eye.

Senior wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. fumbled a kickoff return back into Iowa’s possession, which led directly to the Hawkeyes’ second touchdown of the night almost right away. Assisted by glaring mistakes from Maryland’s offense, Iowa then added on two more quick touchdowns to balloon its advantage to an unreachable 31-7 margin.

Minnesota 20, Purdue 13

It wasn’t pretty for the Gophers, but they were able to do just enough offensively to win in the rain:

The Boilermakers have a formidable receiving corps, especially when David Bell is healthy. Bell and co. certainly forced the Gophers’ secondary to bend, but they rarely broke, only surrendering one touchdown through the air as Purdue accumulated 371 passing yards. Minnesota made plays when they needed to, recording eight pass break-ups and one interception. Two pass break-ups that come to mind both came courtesy of true freshman cornerback Justin Walley, who had a game of peaks and valleys.

Penn State 24, Indiana 0

The Nittany Lions took an early lead and never relinquished control in this one:

In game five, however, it wouldn’t be too unrealistic to wonder where the offense went. The 24 points scored were the fewest since that opening game against Wisconsin. The offense seemed to be off, with receivers dropping passes, Clifford throwing errant passes, and the offense looking more like the output of last season than the efficient machine that they are this year.

Indiana was shut out for the first time since a 58-0 loss to Michigan way back in 2000.

Ohio State 52, Rutgers 13

Ohio State looks like Ohio State again, but the Big Ten East is still a bear going forward:

Finally. A complete game. A blowout. And against a team not called Akron. All week we heard about how this Rutgers team is different from the other seven who fell mightily to the Buckeyes since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten. They didn’t look that different yesterday. After watching Iowa beat Maryland and Michigan beat Wisconsin, I was impressed again just how important quarterback play and turnovers are to the final outcome of a football game. C.J. Stroud was superb for the Buckeyes, the offense didn’t turn the ball over, and the defense picked off three Rutgers passes. An easy win. In the first quarter, after the failed fake punt, the 44-yard TreVeyon Henderson touchdown run, and the Denzel Burke pick-six, it was over at the 11:33 mark. I had a couple of concerns – and I’ll raise them below as I discuss the offense and defense – but, overall, it was quite a satisfying win, one that makes it look as though the Buckeyes really are back on track.

Rutgers struggled in consecutive weeks to Michigan and Ohio State:

I love how the Rutgers coaching staff plays to win with aggressive game plans, but the fake punt from midfield on the first drive of the game was a terrible mistake. I know the Schiano defenders will scream that if it had worked, it would have been a brilliant call. Absolutely not. When you have Adam Korsak and lead the nation in net punting average coming into the game and have an opportunity to pin an explosive offense like Ohio State deep in their own territory to start the game, you do it. Make the Buckeyes go the length of the field against your defense rather than gift them great field position that puts your team in a major hole right out of the gate.

Michigan 38, Wisconsin 17

The Wolverines continue to just be dominant on the ground:

This team continues to grow and show improvements across offense, defense, special teams and coaching. Saturday represented the first true road game for much of this roster and only served to motivate the Wolverines in taking the next step in their development.

I will say this: Wisconsin has not looked good and Purdue is not going to have a better chance to end their streak of futility against the Badgers than this year:

The Wisconsin offensive line continues to be a work in progress at best.

Michigan had a great scheme to put pressure on the quarterback and take away the Badgers rushing attack, but the offensive line was also downright bad. Overall they surrendered six sacks and only managed to lead the running game to 82 rushing yards without sack yardage included.

Paul Chryst acknowledged after the game that this offense is searching for an identity, and for the better part of 30 years that identity has aligned to running the ball behind a physically opposing offensive line. That has not been the case this year.

Nebraska 56, Northwestern 7

The Cornhuskers had one of their best games yet under Scott Frost:

It took exactly one play to make it clear this week was going to be different.

Adrian Martinez stepped back in the pocket, rolled out to the right to escape some pressure, and heaved the ball deep, seemingly into double coverage.

Wait. We’ve seen that part before. The rest, though...

Samori Toure curled across the field, leaped and snagged the ball in front of the Northwestern safety who thought he was going to be the latest Wildcat hero against the Huskers. Toure finally was tackled at the NW 5, and two plays later, Martinez scampered into the end zone. The rout was on, not even one minute into the game.

Northwestern has not looked good and might be the worst team in the conference a year after playing in the B1G title game:

It’s not funny anymore. The Kenneth Walker III 75-yard dash up the left sideline was so sudden that no one really knew how to react. Duke blitzing Northwestern in a flurry of Gunner Holmberg passes and mind-boggling turnovers was brushed off as a Hunter Johnson-centered disaster that would never happen again.

But this ... this was something else. Admit it, the moment Samouri Toure snatched that 70-yard reception out of the air, you knew it was going to be a rough night. This version of Northwestern does not just spiral, they roll downhill at speeds that break the sound barrier. The defense looked completely dead, overmatched and unprepared, and the offense looked unqualified to try and lift the team out of the doldrums.

Michigan State 48, Western Kentucky 31

The Spartans completed their non-conference scheduled at 3-0:

Following an uneven performance against Nebraska the week prior, the Michigan State Spartans shined on offense Saturday night. The Spartans improved to 5-0 on the season after a 48-31 win over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Mel Tucker’s team remains undefeated, but will face stiffer challenges ahead as they head into Big Ten play.

Illinois 24, Charlotte 14

At least the Illini won:

Led by Chase Brown, the Illini beat the Charlotte 49ers, 24-14. Illinois got its win over a Conference USA team, after the brutal loss to UTSA.

With 257 rushing yards on the day, Brown now holds the fourth-best single rushing game in Illinois history. He passed Illini legend Red Grange and others to do so.

Non-Conference Opponents

Oregon State 27, Washington 24 – The Beavers lead the Pac-12 North after this and look like a better version of Minnesota at 4-1.

Vanderbilt 30, UConn 28 – The Huskies very nearly won this, scoring twice in the last 6 minutes, but losing on a walk-off field goal.

Cincinnati 24, Notre Dame 13 – I feel bad for IU fans losing to Cincinnati twice in 3 weeks.