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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 4 of Big Ten Football

Someone is good, right?

Illinois v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Is anyone in this conference good? Michigan and Michigan State look the part. Maryland is 4-0. Penn State is good. Ohio State at least has a lot of good players. Everyone else? Yeeesh.

I suppose if you’re a Purdue fan it is encouraging that a large number of future opponents have not looked good for long stretches of the season. It doesn’t gloss over the fact that Purdue’s offense has looked really bad the last two weeks, but at least it gives some hope we can find three more wins against some fellow bad teams.

At least we’re 3-1.

Purdue 13, Illinois 9

We hired Jeff Brohm to score points, and if the defense is doing so well it is giving up less than 10 points, which it has now done twice, we should be blowing people out. Purdue won today basically because Illinois’ own offense was worse:

And just like last week, Purdue marched right down the field with a 10 play, 96 yard drive to take a 13-9 lead. O’Connell hit TJ Sheffield on a slant and the sophomore wideout took it 14-yards for the game’s first touchdown.

Unlike last week’s loss against Maryland, the Illini were able to muster up a drive. But after a 13-play drive, the Illini failed to convert on 4th-down in the red zone, and the end result is just another tally in the “L” column.

Iowa 24, Colorado State 14

The Hawkeyes actually trailed this game at halftime 14-7, but they came back for a relatively dull win:

After three games where the #5 Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0) were able to assert their will early and ride it out to early wins, the Hawks finally faced an outfit up to the challenge in the Colorado State Rams (1-3). In a game which was rarely easy due to the Rams’ management of field position, clock, and turnovers, the Hawkeyes prevailed 24-14.

Penn State 38, Villanova 17

This was closer than the final score, as Villanova got a pair of late TDs to make it look a little better:

No offense toward Villanova but the Wildcat front 7 is not one that should be able to negate the Nittany Lion rushing attack. Despite this, for most of the day on Saturday running lanes were few and far between for Penn State running backs.

Ohio State 59, Akron 7

Ohio State is still better than Akron at football, and maybe the rest of the state of Ohio, depending on how you view Cincinnati:

Well, there’s no doubt that it really matters whom you’re playing. And there’s no doubt that Akron is a very bad team. I don’t remember seeing a major college game where receivers dropped so many passes or that defenders simply waived at guys running by them with the ball. I’m not a gambling man (usually), but when I saw that initial 50-point spread, I figured “no way.” I thought that Akron, despite how bad they were reputed to be, would score at least 14, and the Bucks, with a new quarterback, weren’t likely to put up 65 to cover. No way.

Notre Dame 41, Wisconsin 13

Could Purdue beat Wisconsin? Obviously our offense would need to play significantly better, but the Badgers have been very bad offensively:

The Wisconsin defense was once again solid all day long on Saturday. Overall the group only surrendered 242 yards of total offense, including a ridiculous three net yards rushing by the Irish.

The defense forced a huge turnover and got to the quarterback for six sacks. A big reason for the pressure was the play of the Badgers defensive line. Four defensive linemen were credited with at least half of a sack, while outside linebacker Nick Herbig got home twice.

Michigan 20, Rutgers 13

It turns out Michigan is pretty good this year, as they survived a decent test from Rutgers:

The Michigan Wolverines moved to 4-0 on the season on Saturday with a 20-13 win over Rutgers, but it wasn’t supposed to be that comfortable and certainly didn’t feel like it would happen after the first half of football. The Wolverines did not fold in the last two quarters of play and were able to do enough to secure a win, but it has fans on the edge heading into a showdown with Wisconsin next weekend.

Rutgers wasn’t able to spring the upset, but a bowl game is possible for the Scarlet Knights:

There was plenty to be frustrated about but also encouraged by in Rutgers’ 20-13 loss to Michigan on Saturday. In the Big Ten opener for both teams, it really was a tale of two halves. The Scarlet Knights trailed by 17 points at the half, but fought back only to fall short in the end. They proved they can compete against anyone in the Big Ten. Here are five takeaways from the game and what we learned about this team in the process.

Michigan State 23, Nebraska 20 OT

Michigan State is the surprise of the conference so far, and survived thanks to a late punt return and stout defense:

The Michigan State offense severely struggled in second half, but somehow found a way to get the victory. Michigan State gained a total of 14 net yards — including just one yard in the fourth quarter — and didn’t gain a single first down in the half.

Nebraska has had a hard luck season with three losses so far:

Rather than getting embarrassed by ranked teams, the Huskers are now playing well enough to win, but finding maddening ways to lose.

Bowling Green 14, Minnesota 10

The MAC got its Big Ten win, and it was completely unexpected in a shocking upset:

The Falcons completed the biggest upset of the season so far as 31-point underdogs on Saturday, narrowly missing the all-time Top 10 upsets by point spread since 1980.

Bowling Green was 0-5 last season, had not beaten an FBS opponent since Nov. 2, 2019, and have not finished above .500 since 2015.

The Falcons ranked 155th in Sagarin (FBS/FCS) and 124th in ESPN FPI.

Northwestern 35, Ohio 6

The Wildcats blew out a bad Ohio team for their second win this year:

Northwestern got up by two scores quickly on an opponent that was blatantly overmatched, saw its offense stall during both the second and third quarters, hammered the run game to no end and lost its chance to get a shoutout via surrendering a meaningless late touchdown.

Maryland 37, Kent State 16

The Terrapins are now 4-0 as well and two wins from a bowl game:

With about seven minutes to go in the third quarter, Maryland football was up 30-9 against Kent State. Led by quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, the Terps’ offense was marching down the field again.

After passing the ball four yards to running back Isaiah Jacobs, Tagovailoa was just a few yards shy of hitting the 300 passing yard mark. A few moments later, Tagovailoa found Jacobs yet again on the right side, putting the quarterback at 307 passing yards just two and a half quarters into the matchup.

Indiana 33, Western Kentucky 31

The Hilltoppers had a chance down 2 late, but elected to punt in IU territory and the Hoosiers came down to get the winning TD.

Non-Conference Opponents

Oregon State 45, USC 27 - The Beavers move to 3-1 with a very nice road win. It was their first win at USC in 61 years.

Wyoming 24, UConn 22 - The Huskies came close to winning a game! They were stopped on a late deuce to tie.