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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 7 of Big Ten Football

First place Illinois and Purdue? In October?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Nebraska at Purdue Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It is hard to believe that Purdue is 3-0 in the month of October this year. October is usually when Purdue seasons fall apart. Now Purdue has won four in a row overall, matching its longest win streak ever under Jeff Brohm. A win this week clinches a perfect month, keeps Purdue alive in the Big Ten West race, gives Purdue a five game win streak for the first time in 15 years, and it would end a 15 game losing streak against Wisconsin.

Yeah, I am scared too.

Things in the conference appear to be breaking Purdue’s way, and even the two teams Purdue has lost to are doing extremely well at a combined 11-1. Let’s take our weekly look around the league:

Purdue 43, Nebraska 37

Even though it was a loss, our friends at Corn Nation saw some positives for a zombie Nebraska team:

Purdue has one of the better rushing defenses in the country and Nebraska has had issues running the ball this season. Nebraska has also had issues protecting the quarterback. Both of those problems were seen early and often against Purdue but yet Nebraska was in the game at the end.

It is a credit to Mickey Joseph and this staff.

The game was also illustrative of the shortcomings of this roster. The lack of depth up and down the roster is a problem that will remain with this team all season long. The inability to pass block and stop the run is a bigger problem.

Michigan 41, Penn State 17

Michigan kicked Penn State around all day and ran the ball down their throats:

Following a blowout 41-17 loss to the Michigan Wolverines Saturday, Penn State head coach James Franklin addressed the media. During that time, Franklin didn’t mince words about his team’s performance.

“We did not control the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball,” Franklin said. “Although the score at the end of the first half, we were in the thing, we did not control the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball. They controlled the line of scrimmage and they controlled the game.

“They’re a good team, give them credit, but we didn’t play well.”

It really was that, as Penn State had only one first down at halftime:

Let’s start with the obvious: The only team in the Big Ten that has the ability to stay with the Georgias and Alabamas of the world is Ohio State. Coming from a fan of a team who just got its collective behind handed to them by the Michigan Wolverines, it may sound as sour grapes.

But the reality is pretty simple. This team has the same makeup, sans quarterback, as the one that was run off the field against Georgia a year ago. If this team does get their rematch against the Bulldogs, the result will likely be the same. Ohio State has the fire power, the talent, and the coaching to not only stay with, but potentially beat Georgia in this theoretical playoff (or Tennessee, who knows), but Michigan’s style of play can easily be shut down by a team who can stop the run and trust their secondary to make the quarterback beat them.

Illinois 26, Minnesota 14

Illinois is for real, and they have earned it by running right over Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota in consecutive weeks:

This one — a 26-14 victory over Minnesota on Homecoming weekend — felt like their most complete effort of the season outside of FCS Chatanooga.

Illinois made crucial plays throughout the day, Chase Brown’s historic season continued, the Illini defense made 6th-year senior Tanner Morgan look silly, and this nationally ranked Illini squad picked up another huge win that catapults them into the driver’s seat for a trip to Indianapolis in December.

I thought Minnesota was the class of the west a few weeks ago, but now they are well back and without the tiebreakers against Purdue and Illinois:

The most disturbing disparity between these two teams on Saturday was the talent at the wide receiver position. Illinois seemed to have a full arsenal of pass catchers to take advantage of the soft spots in coverage. Isiah Williams led the way with nine receptions for 62 receiving yards, combining with Pat Bryant and Brian Hightower to rack up 175 receiving yards on 19 receptions. No one stepped up at wide receiver for Minnesota, and I think wide receivers coach Matt Simon — and, by extension, head coach P.J. Fleck — needs to answer for that. Whatever credit he accrued for sending Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman to the NFL has dried up. The fact that the Gophers are so woefully outgunned at wide receiver in Year 6 of Simon’s tenure is an indictment of his recruiting and development.

Maryland 38, Indiana 33

The terrapins grabbed an important road win, but maybe at the cost of Taulia Tagovailoa:

After being attended to by the training staff, Tagovailoa was carted off the field, seemingly ending Maryland’s hopes at a comeback.

But, with redshirt freshman Billy Edwards Jr. in at quarterback calling the signals and redshirt freshman running back Roman Hemby carrying the load, the Terps pulled out a 38-33 victory in Bloomington, Indiana Saturday afternoon.

“When I got the play call, I gave it to them and I said ‘Let’s go to work,’” said Edwards, who has played sparingly when Tagovailoa has gone down on a few occasions this season.

The win moved the Terps to 5-2 for the first time since 2016.

It was more of the same for Indiana, as self-inflicted wounds were huge:

It wasn’t just one thing that caused Indiana football’s loss to Maryland.

Not the fumble by Andison Coby in the fourth quarter. Not either of the interceptions thrown by quarterback Connor Bazelak on the first plays of each half. Not an unsportsmanlike penalty on Devon Matthews on third down during a drive that ultimately ended with the Terrapins in the Hoosiers’ endzone.

It was all of that and more.

Something has just been wrong with Indiana football since the start of the 2021 season, a nightmare that ended with a 2-10 record and zero wins in the Big Ten. Were it not for an improbable comeback against Illinois in week one, this year may look the same.

Michigan State 34, Wisconsin 28 (2OT)

The game of the day saw the Spartans get a walk-off win in double OT:

The late-game strategy of “OH YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT! We have two dynamic receivers, let’s just send one up for them” paid off in spades for both overtime touchdowns. And on top of that, Reed joins a very fun group!

The Badgers, once favorites in the West, now have three conference losses:

In a match-up of teams seemingly headed in opposite directions — the Wisconsin Badgers (3-4, 1-3 conference), who came into the game off a 42-7 victory in interim head coach Jim Leonhard’s first game and the Michigan State Spartans (3-4, 1-3 conference), who came into the game losing four-straight contests, needed overtime to determine a victor.

With Michigan State prevailing, 34-28 after two overtime periods.

The Spartans opened overtime with a bit of trickery, as wide receiver Jayden Reed took a reverse from quarterback Payton Thorne and then threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Keon Coleman.

Non-Conference Opponents

Youngstown State 48, Indiana State 42 – The Sycamores lost in a road shootout.

Syracuse 24, NC State 9 – The Orange are 6-0, bowl eligible, and for real.

Florida Atlantic 17, Rice 14 – It was a comeback win for FAU, as they were down 14-0 at halftime.