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The Whistletop Tour: Week 8 of Big Ten Football

Even in defeat, Purdue controls its path to Indy.

Purdue v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

Nothing really happened to derail the four-team race for the conference title this week. Even Purdue’s annual loss to Wisconsin was not completely damaging, as Purdue will win the Big Ten West if it wins its last four games, and it should be favored in three of them. The East is still Michigan vs. Ohio State and assuming the Buckeyes beat Penn State next week it all but locks that up.

I agree it is weird that Purdue is one of the four teams left with the best chances at the conference title, but I’ll take it without complaint. I don’t think anyone would be upset with a 9-3 season, divisional title, and a puncher’s chance in the B1G title game.

Wisconsin 35, Purdue 24

After being down for a few weeks we got to see good Wisconsin, mostly because they were Purdue and we always see that:

“It means a lot, Wisconsin, Camp Randall, it means so much to me,” Leonhard said. “To see the players respond to me and what my messaging is and the confidence that I am trying to pour into them, it means so much and coming back for homecoming, so many alumni back in town and seeing the support that I have from them, friends, family, coaches, you name it.”

Ohio State 54, Iowa 10

Another week, another dominant performance from the Buckeyes:

Folks around the country will look at the 54-10 final score and go “ho-hum.” But this strange, strange game was anything but a yawner. First of all, the Iowa offense is really terrible. That’s really all that I can say about them. The Buckeye defense, even given the “quality” of the opponent, was magnificent.

I guess that I’ve probably seen a game where one team got six turnovers – but I can’t remember when. It got so that I expected an interception or a lost fumble on every Iowa snap. Repeatedly, the Buckeyes got the ball with a short field. And then usually failed to take full advantage of the break.

With another defensive touchdown Iowa’s defense now has more touchdowns (3) than its passing offense (2):

Again, this defense should be applauded for carrying this team on its back for the umpteenth time. Whatever Phil Parker is getting paid, it’s not enough. Evans’ fumble recovery for a touchdown was awesome and even kindled an ember of hope. Seeing Cooper DeJean defend one of the conference’s best receivers in Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Kaevon Merriweather slice into the Buckeye backfield to make a stop behind the line was great. Iowa’s defense had one sack and five tackles for loss. Not a bad day against the nation’s second best team.

Unfortunately, the Buckeyes had five sacks and ten tackles for loss.

So once again, Iowa’s offense continues to be the liability holding this team back from what could have been a great season. It will be interesting to hear Kirk’s reasons for finally putting Padilla into a game after so much noise. But depending on his answer it could be quite damning.

Penn State 45, Minnesota 17

The Nittany Lions got back to winning in a big way:

Penn State stuffed the run, making star running back Mo Ibrahim work for all 102 of his yards with a good deal of those coming on a relatively meaningless, and time consuming, fourth-quarter drive. That put pressure on a first-time starting quarterback allowing just 2-of-13 third down conversions and Ji’Ayir Brown came up with a critical third-quarter interception.

The Lions will face their biggest challenge next Saturday when Ohio State Heisman hopeful C.J. Stroud and his talented group of wide receivers come to Happy Valley. It was nice to see Penn State answer some criticism heading into that matchup.

Since starting 4-0 and reaching the top 25 Minnesota has lost three in a row:

It feels like we’re at one of the lowest points of the P.J. Fleck era.

The 45 points the Penn State Nittany Lions scored Saturday night against the Minnesota Golden Gophers are the most that a Fleck team has allowed since Maryland put up that same number of points back in 2020. The week prior to that 45-44 overtime loss to the Terrapins, the Gophers gave up 49 points to Michigan in their season opener.

Rutgers 24. Indiana 17

In an astonishing stat, Rutgers won its first Big Ten home game since 2017 in this one, breaking a conference record 21 straight home league losses:

All questions were answered on Saturday afternoon as the Scarlet Knights snapped a 21-game Big Ten losing streak at home with a 24-17 triumph over Indiana in Piscataway.

With all three quarterbacks available, Campanile decided to go with Noah Vedral full-time. The speed of Aron Cruickshank on the edges was displayed while Johnny Langan was used in a limited role in the wildcat set.

Long story short, many positive changes were made on the offensive side of the ball.

Indiana continues to fall completely apart after their excellent 2019 and 2020 seasons:

Indiana’s offense gained 143 yards and scored 14 points in the first quarter. It proceeded to gain 129 yards, including -2 in the third quarter, and score three points in the next three quarters.

That feels like the story of the 2022 season so far, outside of the Illinois win (what happened there???). Every Big Ten game since then has followed a script.

First half scoring, second half futility and absolutely nothing in the fourth quarter.

Maryland 31, Northwestern 24

A late touchdown gave the Terps a big win and has them bowl eligible before the end of October:

Northwestern had just tied the game at 24 with three and a half minutes to go in the game. On Maryland’s first play of the next drive, the ball went to an obvious choice: the guy who carried Maryland’s offense in Tagovailoa’s absence. Running back Roman Hemby received the handoff and bolted for 75 yards all the way to the end zone, giving Maryland a lead it never relinquished.

Northwestern had one of its better games of the season, but couldn’t pull it out in the end:

The 31-24 loss did bring some positives, including an efficient first half from sophomore quarterback Brendan Sullivan in his first start. Sullivan went 18-for-24, throwing for 143 yards and rushing for the Wildcats’ first touchdown of the game. Evan Hull shone per usual, fostering a connection with Sullivan for 31 yards receiving and a modest 119 on the ground.

However, it was Maryland backup Billy Edwards Jr. and the Terrapin offense that came out with the win. Edwards Jr. accumulated 166 yards in the air, going 18-for-28, on top of 66 rushing yards and a passing touchdown. Redshirt freshman running back Roman Hemby tore apart Northwestern’s rushing defense, notching 166 yards and three touchdowns, and receiver Rakim Jarrett made an impact through the air with 82 yards on eight receptions and one touchdown.

Non-Conference Opponents:

Illinois State 27, Indiana State 21 – Brock Spack’s team sent the Sycamores to a sixth straight loss.

Clemson 27, Syracuse 21 – The Orange came very close to pulling off the road upset.

UTEP 24, Florida Atlantic 21 – The Owls lose on a walk-off field goal.