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Big Ten News Blog

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Posted Aug 11, 2008


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By
Tony Castricone

Illinois: The Illini head into their game with Eastern Illinois this weekend with a bruised ego on defense. Illinois has given up 101 points in the last two games, after getting torched by USC in the Rose Bowl to end last season. "We can't get in games like this and our guys seem like they wonder what's going to happen," coach Ron Zook told the Champaign News-Gazette. "We've got to go make things happen. That's still part of the growing process and the learning process that we're in.... They were going through us like crap through a goose." Part of the quest to improve is sure to include a greater emphasis on fundamentals like tackling ... The Illini played ten first-year players in the loss to Missouri, meaning they'll likely get even more playing time this week. ... Saturday marks the much awaited debut of the 'new' Memorial Stadium at Illinois after $120 million worth of renovations.

Indiana:
Saturday's game against Murray State will mark the season opener for defensive end Greg Middleton, who was suspended for the season-opening 31-13 win over Western Kentucky. Middleton led the nation with 16 sacks in 2007. Those also coming off suspension include tight end Troy Wagner, safety Brandon Mosley and freshman defensive end Kyle Kozak. ... No update yet on the status of IU wideout "Big Play" Ray Fisher, who left the game at the end of the first half with a shoulder injury. Head coach Bill Lynch seemed confident the injury wasn't serious. Fisher had five catches and a touchdown before leaving last week's game, and hauled in 52 catches with four scores in 2007.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes formally announced Monday that their 2010 season opener will be a home game September 4th against Eastern Illinois. Iowa is still looking to fill its final non-conference vacancy for the '10 season, with games against Iowa State and at Arizona already on the docket. The Hawks just completed their '09 schedule at the end of last week, welcoming Arkansas State to Iowa City on October 3rd. ... Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz told me during his teleconference today that linebacker Jeff Tarpinian is ready to return to action this week against FIU after sitting out last week with a hamstring issue. They'll also get some cornerback help back this week with the return of Drew Gardner.

Michigan: Rich Rodriguez said at his Monday press conference that his players were far less physical and far more tenative than they should have been during Saturday's 25-23 loss to Utah, and that improving in both areas will be a major area of emphasis in this week's game against Miami (Ohio). "I explained to them that our gameplan, particularly offensively, is probably as simple as it's ever been," he said, "and we've got to do things to expand the offense. But at the same time, we've got to be able to execute better. So we've tried to get some things cleared up, we talked about playing a little faster, and hopefully we'll do that this weekend." ... His quarterback situation remains unresolved, but the local media seems to think Steven Threet is the favorite over walk-on Nick Sheridan, after Threet led two scoring drives in the fourth quarter last week. "Nick and Steve both knew the mistakes I think they made as soon as they made them, and that's the first (step)," Rodriguez acknowledged. "Then it's simply not repeating them as we go play the next game."

Michigan State:
Penalty issues are back for the Spartans. Michigan State was 83rd out of 105 teams this weekend in penalties assessed, and 96th in penalty yards accumulated, meaning they're shooting themselves in the foot much the same way they did last year. ... MSU was credited for its ability to hang around in ever game last year. Nobody was able to blow the Spartans out, whether it was Ohio State (24-17), Michigan (28-24) or Boston College (24-21). But quarterback Brian Hoyer says from this point forward, close losses are no longer moral victories. ... Coach Mark Dantonio said in his Tuesday teleconference that he'll continue to use Javon Ringer on kick returns, despite the risk involved with having a starting running back play special teams. Last year, Devin Thomas averaged 29.1 yards per return for Michigan State. ... The Spartans are preparing for an Eastern Michigan team they've beaten handily in recent years, most recently 52-20 in East Lansing in 2006. But the Eagles started the season with a 52-0 thumping of Indiana State and will have a couple extra days of preparation after playing last Thursday night. The Eagles shocked eventual MAC champ Central Michigan in the finale last year, and are likely playing for coach Jeff Genyk's job. Genyk is 14-33 in his fifth year in Ypsilanti.

Minnesota: Freshman quarterback MarQueis Gray will not be eligible to play with the Gophers in 2008 due to an academic eligibility issue. Gray, who was arguably the team's most highly-touted recruit heading into this season, will have to retake the ACT before he can play at Minnesota, but he remains hopeful he'll get an opportunity to play for head coach Tim Brewster. ... The Gophers are gearing up for a shot at revenge as they battle Bowling Green this weekend. The Falcons stunned a BCS opponent in the season opener for the second straight year by winning at Pittsburgh 27-17 Saturday. Bowling Green beat Minnesota 32-31 in overtime last fall.

Northwestern: The Wildcats will get defensive lineman John Gill back from suspension this weekend when they look for revenge against the Duke Blue Devils. Gill racked up 50 tackles and four sacks last year for Northwestern. ... With the looming threat of Hurricane Hannah on the United States' east coast, it seems this year's rematch between the Wildcats and Blue Devils could be pretty sloppy. "It looks like the travel won't be impacted at this point," said head coach Pat Fitzgerald, "but it'll definitely be a factor on Saturday. Whether it's still raining, and the wind will be blowing, it'll be the same for both teams. You can't prepare for a hurricane in Chicago, but we'll go outside, it's supposed to rain here Wednesday and Thursday and be a little windy, so we'll be prepared for it."

Ohio State: Injured running back Beanie Wells did not practice with the Buckeyes on Monday and continues to wear a protective boot on his right foot. He left the third quarter of Ohio State's 43-0 win over Youngstown State writhing in pain because of what he called a "pop" in his foot, but X-rays proved negative. Jim Tressel said in his Tuesday teleconference that Wells is "doubtful" for this week's game against Ohio. ... The Buckeyes will be without defensive backs Donald Washington and Jamario O'Neal for the second straight game when they battle Ohio University this weekend. Both players are finishing up a two-game suspension to begin the season. ... Nader Abdallah remains ahead of Doug Worthington on the two-deep. Worthington sat the first three quarters of the Youngstown State game Saturday after recently being arrested for DUI.

Penn State: It looks like former walk-on Josh Hull will get the start at middle linebacker this weekend when the Nittanies welcome in Oregon State. Hull is the temporary solution after Penn State lost All-Big Ten candidate Sean Lee at the beginning of the year with an ACL injury. ... The Nittany Lions sure must not want to travel to Corvallis to return the favor next year. Penn State is paying Oregon State $800,000 to avoid having to return a home game to OSU.

Purdue: The Boilermakers open the season this weekend against Northern Colorado after being one of the few teams in college football to take week one off. ... UNC coach Scott Downing was an assistant under Joe Tiller at Purdue, which is the reason this game made its way onto the schedule as opposed to a closer FCS opponent like Indiana State or Eastern Illinois in recent years. ... The Boilers are feeling really good about their depth at wide receiver. Keith Smith is a converted quarterback turned defensive back turned wideout, who is physical at 226 pounds. Aaron Valentin is a JUCO transfer who Tiller seemed really excited about in his Tuesday teleconference. "He just gets better each practice out. We look for him to be a huge contributor this year." ... Purdue will be without running back Jaycen Taylor this year.

Wisconsin: Head coach Bret Bielema said in his Tuesday press conference that of the five potential starters who sat out last week's game against Akron, he hopes to have several of them back this week when the Badgers face Marshall. "(Tight end) Travis (Beckum) will play," Bielema said. "He completed all of our practice routines on Sunday. We'll go out there this afternoon, and he's set to go and everything. He felt pretty good on Sunday coming out." Beckum had almost three times as many catches as the next best receiver on Wisconsin's roster in 2007, hauling in 75 passes for almost 1,000 yards. ... "Jonathan Casillas, we hope to get involved in some part of practice today," Bielema said Tuesday. "We'll practice him Wednesday or Thursday and play on Saturday."