Around the Big Ten in Week 7: Boilers play spoiler as Big Ten West race opens up

·9 min read

Penn State was one of a handful of notable programs taking the week off around the Big Ten. With Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan all idle in Week 7, there was plenty of time to focus our attention around everything else happening around the Big Ten. And what a good weekend for that to be the case as the Big Ten West Division took center stage in a massive way.

A week after rallying from behind to knock off Penn State, the Iowa Hawkeyes were dominated at home by the Purdue Boilermakers in a result few could have possibly seen coming. The loss by Iowa opened the door for a much more entertaining division race in the west for the second half of the season, although Iowa may still be the favorites in the long run. But now, Iowa has lost a bit of breathing room and the margin for error has essentially been erased.

Here’s a look around the Big Ten in Week 7, starting with the upset of the day around college football in Iowa City.

Purdue 24, No. 2 Iowa 7

Purdue didn’t just spring an upset of the Hawkeyes. David Bell and the Boilermakers completely dominated the Hawkeyes from start to finish. Outside of the game being tied 7-7 in the second quarter, this was almost a no contest in favor of the visiting underdogs.

After the game, Purdue’s social media team put it bluntly…

And that is as accurate a statement as could be said. Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell completed 30 of 40 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns against an Iowa defense that had been ripping apart quarterbacks all season long. Purdue’s three-quarterback rotation was effective as well with Jack Plummer and Austin Burton each contributing in part on the ground, but the player of the game was perennial Iowa nightmare David Bell, who hauled in 11 receptions for 240 yards and a touchdown. Iowa will be ecstatic to no longer have to go up against Bell after this season because he has been making a living against Iowa’s secondary, which had been so good this season.

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras was picked off four times in the game and Purdue limited Iowa’s Tyler Goodson to just 68 rushing yards. Once Purdue took away Iowa’s ground game, it was basically game over for the Hawkeyes, who will take a solid stumble in the rankings on Sunday. Purdue out-gained Iowa 464-271.

This was a game where anyone who hasn’t been watching college football this season would have been fair to assume Purdue was the No. 2 team in the country, not the other way around.

Iowa’s loss now opens up the entire Big Ten West race as they fall even in the loss column with Minnesota and Purdue, with Northwestern and Wisconsin now just one back in the loss column, both of whom will get their shots at Iowa in the coming weeks. Purdue, at least for one week, can think about their own division hopes now, although the Boilermakers face a challenging schedule that still includes Michigan State and Ohio State along with a home game against Wisconsin next week. But beat the Badgers at home and things will continue to be interesting for the Boilermakers.

Next: Purdue vs. Wisconsin, Iowa at Wisconsin (Oct. 30)

No. 10 Michigan State 20, Indiana 15

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The Michigan State Spartans figured to be in for a tricky road test against an Indiana team that had the potential to cause some trouble. And for a while, the Hoosiers did just that. The Spartans never really were able to deliver a total knockout blow against Indiana, so Michigan State once again had to find other ways to close out a tight one like they did against Nebraska a few weeks ago.

Payton Thorne didn’t have his best game, although he did make a heck of a catch, and Indiana did a good job of not letting Kenneth Walker III go off on the ground (84 rushing yards on 23 carries). But Indiana’s offensive concerns continued as backup quarterback Jack Tuttle completed just 28 of 52 pass attempts with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Stephen Carr had just 53 rushing yards. And Ty Fryfogle had seven catches for 65 yards but couldn’t come up with a couple of key catches in big spots.

While Michigan State remains undefeated and assures themselves of being undefeated when they next play in two weeks against Michigan, Indiana is suddenly up against the wall with bowl eligibility a season after their best year under Tom Allen.

Next: Michigan State vs. Michigan (Oct. 30), Indiana vs. Ohio State

Minnesota 30, Nebraska 23

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Speaking of bowl hopes that are on the brink of extermination, let’s check in on the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Nebraska has been on the wrong side of one-score games plenty of times this season, but they added another costly one to the pile in Week 7. Minnesota has been hit hard by injuries at the running back position this season but you wouldn’t know it by watching this game. Bryce Williams, a third-stringer at the start of the season, went for 127 yards and a touchdown as the Gophers scored a big win at home against Nebraska.

The importance of the win was realized later as Iowa went down, putting Minnesota in a position where it can control its destiny in the Big Ten West Division. Minnesota already has a head-to-head victory against Purdue and they will get Wisconsin at home in the regular season finale. A road trip to Iowa still looms in mid-November, however. But the division is somehow there for the taking for PJ Fleck and his program.

Fleck also took an apparent shot at Nebraska in his postgame remarks.

As for Nebraska, all they have to do is win three more games to secure bowl eligibility for the first time since 2016. And one of those games that might have been believed to be a winnable one just got that much more challenging.

Scott Frost is looking at four straight seasons without a single bowl trip at Nebraska. That would put him in company with William Jennings, the last Nebraska head coach to never coach a bowl game for the Huskers (1957-1961).

Next: Minnesota vs. Maryland, Nebraska vs. Purdue (Oct. 30)

Northwestern 21, Rutgers 7

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Northwestern came out of its bye week much more poised and collected after getting demolished by Nebraska two weeks ago. It helped Northwestern that they took on a Rutgers program that was in need of reaching a bye week themselves. Rutgers was coming off three tough matchups against Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State that turned a 3-0 season into a 3-3 season. And Northwestern just dropped the Scarlet Knights below the .500 mark.

Northwestern’s defense tightened things up against the run and forced Noah Verdral to beat them through the air. And that, he did not. Northwestern held Rutgers to just 222 yards of total offense in the game while the Wildcats racked up 402 yards with the football.

After the game, Pat Fitzgerald explained he wanted his team to put the first half of the season in the rearview mirror. Now, given the weekend’s results, Northwestern does have a shot at defending their division crown. It is probably not going to happen, but Fitzgerald knows a thing or two about getting his team up for anything.

As for Schiano, his team could use that same philosophy. They’ll return to the state of Illinois after their bye week for a chance to get back on the winning track against the Illini.

Next: Northwestern at Michigan, Rutgers at Illinois 10/30

Wisconsin 20, Army 14

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Wisconsin and Army was everything you would expect from these two programs, with running the football the bread and butter of the night. Wisconsin got the better of the Black Knights with 198 rushing yards, including 108 yards from Braelon Allen and two rushing touchdowns by quarterback Graham Mertz.

Army actually attempted six passes and completed five! But the Badgers defense was perfectly suited to not let the Army option game control the game.

Wisconsin still has to find a way to clean up some things with its offense after converting on just three of 10 third-down situations (they were 2-for-2 on fourth down though) and Mertz continues to have room to improve throwing the football. But against Army, Wisconsin had everything it needed to come away a winner in a low-scoring battle on the ground.

Next: Wisconsin at Purdue, Army vs. Wake Forest

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