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The first thing to know about Purdue — the thing you pick up when watching a Boilermakers game on TV or in person — is it has two mascots: The official one — The Boilermaker Special, a train — and the other one, “Purdue Pete,” a buff dude in a hard hat with a helmet.
The second thing to know is Boilermakers get very upset if you don’t acknowledge both mascots and their superiority to all other mascots in the Big Ten. (As well as the buffness of the person inside the “Purdue Pete” suit. Just sayin’.)
Which, c’mon … A TRAIN. If we wanted to cheer for antiquated modes of movement that excel at traveling long distances in mostly straight lines, we’d be going over footage of Michigan’s new offense.
And also, Purdue: PICK ONE. Here you have two mascots when there’s a whole fifth of the conference without any at all: Pity poor Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, left to root for outdated/outlawed/out-khaki’d mascots of the past. (We’d say the loser could even transfer into Mel Tucker’s program, along with the rest of college football, but Sparty’s not losing his starting job anytime soon in East Lansing, no matter the competition.)
Which is why, while we here at the misery index are definitely a pro-Big Ten rankings/blog/platform, we kinda sided with quasi-ACC member Notre Dame when the Irish blocked the Purdue marching band from bringing its quasi-mascot, the “World’s Largest Drum,” into Notre Dame Stadium.
Sure, they blamed it on the small visitors’ tunnel — constructed, suspiciously enough, in 2017, right when the Irish and Boilermakers were setting up their football contract for this decade — but we know Notre Dame was just tired of ALL THE MASCOTS.
Look, the Irish have a wee mascot who changes color when he gets angry and stumbles over bad jokes on national TV — no, wait, that’s coach Brian Kelly. But anyway, Notre Dame’s leprechaun mascot is small and brings a pot of gold with him (where did you think the money from the NBC contract went?) while Purdue is over here trying to bring “Snowpiercer” and Neil Peart’s kit into the stadium?
In any event, the Great Bass Standoff of 2021 came to a (drum)head when the marching band performed its halftime show without the drum (for the first time in 42 years) and merely pantomimed playing it. (Much like Purdue running backs have just been pantomiming rushing yards this year.)
The Purdue band also broke out a semi-impromptu rendition of the drum moving down the field, which we’re pretty sure just gave Jim Harbaugh and Josh Gattis an idea for another formation that features Cade McNamara not passing.
But while they’re sketching that out — look out, Rutgers! — let’s run through the misery index, from least miserable to most:
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BIG TEN STANDINGS: Big Ten football standings 2021: Where each team stands in conference
14. Penn State: W, 28-20, to Auburn
Record: 3-0. Last week: 12.
The Nittany Lions got the (eventual) winning touchdown on a direct snap to a third-string tight end named Tyler Warren. Somewhere, coach Harbs was watching that and diagramming a play featuring four tight ends, a formation shift and two offensive linemen reporting as eligible receivers.
13. Michigan State: W, 38-17, over Miami (Fla.)
Record: 3-0. Last week: 13.
Shoutout to Miami for cannily ending its first drive of the game with a fumble on MSU’s 38. Spartans can’t gain 75 yards on their first play from scrimmage if they don’t have 75 yards to go. Of course, giving up a 9-yard rush, followed by 445 more yards by the Spartans (including 172 on the ground for Kenneth Walker III) en route to 38 points, wasn’t a great follow-up, but it’s the thought that counts.
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12. Michigan: W, 63-10, over Northern Illinois
Record: 3-0. Last week: 6.
The Wolverines used six quarterbacks, but didn’t quite get to their full roster, as Harbaugh suggested after the game: "One of the big thrills today was being able to use close to 106 players in the game.” (The player participation report listed 81, which, uh, is still a lot.)
U-M REPORT CARD: Not just offense, but every aspect near perfect in blowout win
11. Minnesota: W, 30-0, over Colorado
Record: 2-1. Last week: 3.
Speaking of quick-thinking coaches, credit P.J. Fleck, who upon being informed that the Gophers’ last road shutout of a Power Five team came on Nov. 12, 1977 (against Illinois), quipped: “"Wow, I was negative-3."
10. Rutgers: W, 45-13, over Delaware
Record: 3-0. Last week: 9.
More canny coaching: The Scarlet Knights got ready for this weekend’s visit to Ann Arbor by playing the other team that wears
maizeyellow and blue winged helmets. They also got ready for the Wolverines by allowing the Blue Hens’ running backs to rush for 204 yards on 28 carries, a 7.3-yard average.
9. Iowa: W, 30-7, over Kent State
Record: 14. Last week: 3-0.
The Hawkeyes have won nine straight games, never trailed Saturday and outgained the Golden Flashes by 154 yards … so of course Kirk Ferentz was fired up after the game over a missed call by the referees (in his usual “Iowa nice” sort of way) on an overturned reception in the third quarter: “I felt bad for the officiating crew because that’s a good crew, they worked a good game today. And they looked like fools out there today because they’re at the mercy of whatever decisions get made upstairs."
8. Wisconsin: DNP
Record: 1-1. Last week: 10.
The Badgers’ strength of schedule got a boost on Saturday when both their opponents won. Week 1 victor Penn State took down a ranked Auburn team, while Week 2 loser Eastern Michigan took down winless UMass. Uh, never mind.
MISERY INDEX RECAP
7. Nebraska: L, 23-16, to Oklahoma
Record: 2-2. Last week: 4.
Sure, the Huskers were three successful kicks away from winning this one — Connor Culp’s awful season continued with two missed field goals and backup Kelen Meyer’s PAT attempt in the third quarter was blocked and returned for a defensive 2-point conversion — but, hey, we’ve seen this movie before: When the going gets tough, coach Scott Frost will recruit a kicker from the women’s soccer team. (Or was that just the plot to Necessary Roughness?)
6. Ohio State: W, 41-20, over Tulsa
Record: 2-1. Last week: 1.
Giving up 20 points to a Tulsa squad that only scored 17 two and a half weeks ago in a loss to UC Davis (of the Football Championship Subdivision) probably won’t quell those worries about who the defensive play-caller is … buuuut the Buckeyes got 277 rushing yards from TreVeyon Henderson, third-most in school history and the most by a freshman, and that’ll paper over a lot of potential misery, for now anyway.
5. Maryland: W, 20-17, over Illinois
Record: 3-0. Last week: 8.
The Terps were flagged eight times on Friday night in Champaign, including a chop-block call on two members of the offensive line that negated a 44-year touchdown pass. It was not lost on coach Mike Locksley: “This year, we had two questions that had to get answered: Would we be a team that played with great discipline this year? Will we be a team that would be able to handle adversity? Today we got the second question answered.”
4. Purdue: L, 27-13, to Notre Dame
Record: 2-1. Last week: 11.
All drum foolishness aside, here’s hoping star receiver David Bell — who suffered a brutal hit in the third quarter and was carted off the field — takes his time getting healthy before he gets back on the field for the Boilermakers.
3. Northwestern: L, 30-23, to Duke
Record: 1-2. Last week: 7.
We’d make the joke that this was actually a halftime score from January, but we’re not sure A.) the Wildcats’ hoopers could break 20 in a half against the Blue Devils and B.) the Wildcats could hold the Blue Devils to 30, either.
2. Illinois: L, 20-17, to Maryland
Record: 1-3. Last week: 2.
The conundrum facing us Friday night as the Illini held a seven-point lead for 12 minutes in the fourth quarter: Is it more chaotic if Illinois can only beat Nebraska, or if Illinois can only beat Big Ten teams? The Terps’ 10 points in 2:13 to close out the game means we may never know.
1. Indiana: L, 38-24, to Cincinnati
Record: 1-2. Last week: 5.
The Hoosiers’ uniforms were a faux-throwback tribute to the school’s most successful period of football – 1986-94, when they went 59-43-3 with six winning records over nine seasons (yes, really) under coach Bill Mallory. The offense and defense, however, were faux-throwback tributes to the following two decades of misery, as the Hoosiers blew a 14-point lead, got just two TDs out of four consecutive drives within Cincy’s 10, lost their top defender to a questionable (putting it nicely) targeting call and saw star QB Michael Penix Jr. get X-rays after the game for an injured left arm.
But at least they didn’t have a drum to worry about.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Big Ten football misery index: Drumming up anger at Notre Dame