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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 9 of Big Ten Football

Shock of shocks, the east is Michigan vs. Ohio State again.

Ohio State v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Big Ten semifinals are essentially set. In the East, both Michigan and Ohio State are undefeated with the other five teams all having at least two losses. It then essentially becomes a three-game lead since Penn State’s two losses are to both of them. The East will be represented by the Wolverines or Buckeyes barring multiple shocking upsets.

In the West, the November 12th Purdue at Illinois game will likely decide things. The Illini leads the Boilers by a game in the loss column, but Purdue can gain the vital tiebreaker there. Illinois is not only 4-1 in the conference, they are 4-0 against the West with only Northwestern and Purdue to play. That gives them a handful of tiebreakers.

We’re in the home stretch now. Michigan, Maryland, Penn State, Ohio State, and Illinois are bowl eligible. Purdue and Minnesota will both probably get there, as each has five wins now. It’s going to be a fun final month.

Ohio State 44, Penn State 31

Penn State led 21-16 with less than 10 minutes left, but the Buckeyes flattened them over the final 9:26:

I have been watching Ohio State football for a very long time, but I also have the memory of a goldfish, but I am still pretty darn comfortable saying that Ohio State edge rusher J.T. Tuimoloau just had the best game by a defender in Ohio State history. Sure, some of you people that actually have fully functioning neo-cortexes might be able to point to a better game in 1926 in which 5-foot-6, 162-pound linebacker Theodore Stimelweiss had 27 tackles, six fumble recoveries, and 13 tackles for loss, but I’m not having that.

The Nittany Lions can still have a solid 10-2 season, but their dreams in the East are done:

It was a valiant effort by the Nittany Lions, but they couldn’t overcome the turnovers and several missed conversions. Sean Clifford was 32 of 47 for 371 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions, with two coming in the first quarter and then the late pick-six. Kaytron Allen led the team in rushing with 12 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown, and Parker Washington had a fantastic day, with 11 catches for 179 yards and a score. The Buckeyes were paced by Marvin Harrison, Jr., who had 10 catches for 185 yards, and TreVeyon Henderson added two fourth quarter touchdown runs. Overall, the Nittany Lions out-gained the Buckeyes and had more first downs, but three interceptions and a strip-sack make it very difficult to win, especially against the second-ranked team in the country.

Michigan 29, Michigan State 7

Michigan was content to sit on the Spartans defensively, then field goaled them to death the rest of the night:

After Payton Thorne’s touchdown pass to Keon Coleman, Michigan marched 80 yards through eight plays for its first touchdown of the game. J.J. McCarthy would connect with Blake Corum for a 2-yard touchdown to reclaim the lead over Michigan State in the second quarter. Michigan entered halftime up 13-7.

With the score 19-7 after two more field goals, the game was clearly in Michigan’s hands at this point, the moment that seemed to seal the deal came in the fourth quarter. After Moody kicked his career long 54-yard field goal to put Michigan ahead 22-7, the Wolverines caught the turning point of the game.

It was a better than expected showing for Sparty, but it was marred by an ugly incident in the tunnel postgame:

The Spartans battled hard for most of Saturday night before some unfortunate mistakes iced the game in Michigan’s favor. Michigan State still have a chance to make a bowl game and make the most out of the remainder of the season.

Illinois is going to be a pretty tough test on the road, but with the promise the defense showed against the Wolverines, Michigan State might be able to pick up a win against a top-15 team on Saturday if the Spartans clean up the mistakes they made against Michigan. We’ll see what happens next week, and the Michigan State players and coaches have already turned their attention to the Illini.

Illinois 26, Nebraska 9

Folks, Illinois is for real and we can’t count on our winning streak in Champaign to carry us:

But we need to talk about the Illini secondary.

This is a group of guys that have been turned from relatively unknown prospects coming out of high school to one of the best units in all of college football.

The Illini currently hold the top pass efficiency defense in the country. They’ve had at least one interception in all 8 games this season and lead the nation overall with 15 picks. Among everything this Illini team is doing to have success, the play of their defensive backs may be the most overlooked yet most important because these guys have been playing at a historic level.

Nebraska is still trying to scratch its way to a bowl game:

Remember that Nebraska is not a great football team and what happened yesterday was what was expected. Let’s not overreact to that.

Illinois is the best team in the division and I’ll be interested to watch them in the conference championship game. It might be closer than we think.

Minnesota 31, Rutgers 0

The Gophers got their groove back:

Week in and week out, Ibrahim is the highlight of the Gophers’ offense. Saturday was no different, as he put the team on his back, rushing for 159 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries. Not only did he extend his streak of consecutive games with 100+ rushing yards to 16 games, but Ibrahim also became the program’s all-time leader in career touchdowns, breaking the record previously held by Darrell Thompson.

Rutgers accomplished absolutely nothing:

Rutgers rushed for a total of 48 yards in a 31-0 loss to Minnesota. This performance comes one week after Brown carried the load with 28 carries for 101 yards against Indiana. Now, the Scarlet Knights will need to find a way to run the offense without their main back.

“We thought he was going to be okay, and then each day, one test led to another test led to another test,” head coach Greg Schiano said prior to Saturday’s game via NJ Advance Media. “These tests are kind of the way that it happens in the order to get to the conclusion that we have.”

Iowa 33, Northwestern 13

Iowa managed to score three whole offensive touchdowns this week:

The Iowa offense needed something, anything, today, after a 3-game losing streak, and met the bare minimum against the Wildcats. Spencer Petras’s final line: 21-30 for 220 yards and two touchdowns, one throwing and one running. He was complimented greatly by the run game, where Kaleb Johnson carried the ball 14 times for 88 yards, Leshon Williams tallied 11 carries for 43 yards, and Arland Bruce rushed for 27 yards and the game-sealing touchdown. The passing game looked solid as well, with Nico Ragaini having his best game of the season with 4 receptions for 66 yards. Sam LaPorta caught 5 passes for 53 yards, and Luke Lachey had one catch for 6 yards and Iowa’s lone passing touchdown.

Northwestern continues to struggle big time:

If someone told you last weekend that Iowa would score 33 points and punt once in a game against an opponent from a prominent conference, what would you have said?

For nearly every Power Five team and its fanbase, the answer would be, “You’re out of your mind.” And if the Hawkeyes somehow pulled that off against their team, their reaction would likely involve a prolonged sense of shock.

Yesterday, that’s exactly what the 131st and worst total offense in the FBS did. This wasn’t against South Dakota State nor Nevada, this was against Northwestern. Yet, with the possible exception of Iowa’s first drive, when Kaleb Johnson and Spencer Petras came out guns blazing, there was no shock. Instead, there was apathy among NU fans — and lots of it.

Non-Conference Opponents:

South Dakota State 49, Indiana State 7 - The Sycamores drop one on the road to the No. 1 ranked team in FCS.

Notre Dame 41, Syracuse 24 - The Orange threw a pick-six on the first play and it was downhill from there.

Florida Atlantic 24, Alabama-Birmingham 17 - The Owls get an important home win and need two more for bowl eligibility.