Quick thoughts and takes on every Week 9 Big Ten game.
Illinois 24, Purdue 6
We live in a world where Illinois will probably go bowling. It has to beat Rutgers next week, and then it has to go to Michigan State and Iowa, but if all goes according to form, the Northwestern game in Champaign should be for the sixth win.
That’s how you prove the Wisconsin win wasn’t an aberration. In the miserable conditions, Brandon Peters only completed 3-of-6 passes for 26 yards, but the running game rolled for 242 yards on 131 from Dre Brown. There weren’t an turnovers, the O controlled the clock, and the defense was dominant against the sputtering Purdue passing game. The D line was fantastic.
Jack Plummer only hit 8-of-20 passes for 71 yards and a pick, And Aidan O’Connell connected on 7-of-13 throws for 65 yards and a score. The passing game just didn’t work against an Illinois D that was flying around and didn’t let Purdue get into any groove.
That’s no it for Purdue, but at 2-6, it’s close. The Boilermakers have Nebraska, at Northwestern, at Wisconsin and Indiana to go. They’re not winning out.
Iowa 20, Northwestern 0
Oh Northwestern. Aidan Smith tried to get the passing game going, but he only threw for 138 yards and a pick. Iowa didn’t allow a thing on the ground – giving up 64 yards and fewer than two yards per carry – and there just weren’t any sustained drives. The offense isn’t getting any better.
All Iowa had to do was not screw up. Nate Stanley only completed 12-of-26 passes for 179 yards and a score, and the running game only came up with 123 yards, but Tyrone Tracy came up with the one big pass play for a score, and that’s all the Hawkeyes needed. It wasn’t a special performance, and it wasn’t anything pretty, but it was a road shutout in the Big Ten West. Take it and move on.
Now the Hawkeyes are bowl eligible, but there’s still time to win the West if Minnesota falters at least one other time along the way. There’s two weeks off to prepare for the date at Wisconsin, and then comes Minnesota, Illinois, and a trip to Nebraska. It’s gravy time, but the offense has to be a whole lot sharper to make a real push for anything big.
Northwestern keeps playing great defense, but it doesn’t matter – the offense just isn’t doing anything. Even at 1-6, it’s not totally inconceivable that the Wildcats can win out. They have to win at Indiana next week. Do that, and with Purdue, UMass and Minnesota at home, and the regular season finale at Illinois to close, it’s not totally crazy, but … nah. There’s just no O.