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Big Ten West Review Week 8 Edition

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There’s a new squad in the division’s driver seat

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

College football is beautiful. Despite the consternation surrounding the shrinking in-person crowds, the “end” of amateurism within the sport, and the cynics who would tell you that the College Football playoff has destroyed the game, hundreds of thousands still flock to massive stadiums to watch their squads every Saturday.

College football is beautiful in its pageantry. It’s beautiful in it’s conjunction with the awesome metamorphosis of weather from scorching heat to pleasant autumnal breezes. It’s beautiful in its character and historic charm. (Where else do young men engage in a fierce three-hour affair for discarded items like a Little Brown Jug or an Old Oaken Bucket?) But most of all, college football is beautiful for its sheer, unadulterated inclination towards chaos.

Enter Week 8 in the Big Ten West. A week ago, I stated in this weekly post that “It’s pretty straight forward from here on out.” The Wisconsin Badgers quickly said, “Hold my beer,” and quickly put an end to that sentiment of simplicity. Minnesota is now in sole possession of first place in the division, all but two teams already have multiple conference losses, and a the reigning division champion still doesn’t have a tally in the win column.

Let’s just wrap up the week before I make any further misguided predictions about how this division is going to shake out.

Team-by-Team Summary

(Overall record, conference record)

Illinois Fighting Illini (3-4, 1-3)

Christmas came early for Santa Lovie and his pesky band of Fighting Illini as they defeated the Wisconsin Badgers 24-23 on a last second field goal in Urbana-Champaign this past weekend. The Illini were 30.5-point underdogs. Despite the long odds and trailing by nine points in the fourth quarter, timely play by quarterback Brandon Peters in conjunction with an excellent interception from defensive back Tony Adams set up kicker James McCourt for a 39-yard field goal as time expired. Illinois forced three Badger turnovers and contained the vaunted Wisconsin running game just enough to stay within striking distance throughout the game. Despite going only 2-10 on third downs, the Fighting Illini got their first conference win and tossed the Big Ten West into a bit of disarray.

Next Up: The Illini try to follow up their miracle with a win in West Lafayette against Purdue

Iowa Hawkeyes (5-2, 2-2)

The Hawkeyes were victorious at home against the visiting Boilermakers 26-20 this past Saturday. As they are wont to do, Iowa won without any eye-popping statistical representation of victory. They were 3-13 on third downs (woof). They averaged 3.1 yards per rush (meh). They were penalized seven times for 60 yards (both more than their opponent) yet they leaned heavily on punting and a staunch defense to end the game with a win. Quarterback Nate Stanley had a rather pedestrian day with 260 yards on 23 completions, no touchdowns, and an interception. Receiver Brandon Smith was the primary target of nine of those receptions totaling 106 yards receiving. A win is a win.

Next Up: Iowa travels to Evanston to face Northwestern. Two low-powered offenses collide!

Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-0, 4-0)

The Golden Gophers continued their historic roll through the opening portion of their schedule by dispatching of a hapless Rutgers team to the tune of 42-7 in Piscataway. Minnesota was never really threatened defensively creating three turnovers via interception including two by Antoine Winfield Jr, one of which he returned for a touchdown. The Gophers avoided turnovers and committed only three penalties. While only averaging 4.4 yards per rush, they cautiously executed their offensive play-calling with quality results. Receiver Tyler Johnson had 130 yards on six catches including a long touchdown from quarterback Tanner Morgan. This was about as routine as things get. Now the schedule’s fun truly begins...

Next Up: Minnesota hosts Maryland in an afternoon affair at TCF Bank Stadium

Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-3, 2-2)

The Cornhuskers had a bye week this past week.

Next Up: The Cornhuskers host a hot Indiana Hoosier squad

Northwestern Wildcats (1-5, 0-4)

The Wildcats were death-kill-murdered by Ohio State to the turn of 52-3. Writing any further about this game would probably be more painful for Wildcat fans so I will cease my review here.

Next Up: Northwestern hosts Iowa in what is sure to be a contest to set football back about a century

Purdue Boilermakers (2-5, 1-3)

The Boilermakers, heavily short-handed on both sides of the ball due to injuries, held their own in a tough away environment, falling to Iowa in Iowa City 26-20. Two turnovers doomed Purdue, who essentially had the same number of offensive yards as the Hawkeyes, a better 3rd down conversion rate, and fewer penalties. Jack Plummer was decent outside of one interception, going 30-50 for 327 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Wide receiver David Bell was a standout as he accumulated 197 receiving yards on 13 receptions, including a touchdown. It was overall a decent effort for the Boilermakers considering the circumstances.

Next Up: The Boilermakers host the Fighting Illini in a interesting contest for squad scrambling to become bowl eligible

Wisconsin Badgers (6-1, 3-1)

In what can only be considered stunning, the Wisconsin Badgers faltered on a last second field goal in Urbana-Champaign to the Fighting Illini in one of the biggest upsets in Big Ten history (per the men with tall buildings in Las Vegas). Three turnovers and peculiar play-calling doomed the previous undefeated Badgers who blew a 9-point lead with just over six minutes remaining in the game. Johnathan Taylor was his usual brilliant self with 132 rushing yards and a touchdown but had a crucial fumble and was not called upon enough to support an otherwise bland Wisconsin offensive attack. It was almost as if the Badgers were coasting in this game without realizing it wasn’t a blow out and the game hadn’t finished. The unexpected loss puts them in a tricky spot with games against Ohio State, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota still remaining. While a division title is still highly possible, this loss could be a harbinger for issues to come for the Badgers who’s only good win is against an equally questionable Michigan squad.

Next Up: Wisconsin travels to the Horseshoe to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes

Current Big Ten West Standings