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It’s time to review Big Ten ‘preseason’

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Teddy Greenstein
September 29, 2010
— Big Ten coaches were peppered with big-picture questions Tuesday. And, true to form, they didn’t bite.

“Everyone wants to know who’s going to win the Heisman and how strong the league is,” Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz said on the weekly teleconference, “but I don’t think too globally when it gets to topics like that.”


Fair enough. But with conference play set to begin Saturday—Ohio State-Illinois and Northwestern-Minnesota will get it rolling at 11 a.m.—this is the perfect time to look back on what we learned and look forward to what we anticipate.


Top Heisman Trophy/Silver Football candidates: 1. Denard Robinson, Michigan: He might be the best quarterback and tailback (8.7 yards per carry) in the conference; 2. Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State: Accounted for six touchdowns (four passing, one rushing, one receiving) on Saturday. Even though they came against Eastern Michigan, they still count; 3. John Clay, Wisconsin: Quietly has had four 100-yard rushing games; 4. Dan Persa, Northwestern: Still eclipsing Tim Tebow’s national-best 2009 passer rating.
Don’t forget about the ‘D’: 1. Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue: Leads the conference in sacks (4.5), tackles for loss (12) and fumbles forced (4); 2. Greg Jones, Michigan State: Linebacker intercepted his first career pass Saturday. And his second; 3. Adrian Clayborn, Iowa: Preseason All-American has zero sacks. Asked to comment on Clayborn’s season, Ferentz said only, “He’s playing well.”
Most durable coach: Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, who will coach from the press box Saturday, less than two weeks after suffering a mild heart attack. “I’ll ease back into this, just like any injured player would,” he said.
Coach with seat warming: Tim Brewster. He awoke Tuesday to a St. Paul Pioneer Press report saying Minnesota would contact alumnus Tony Dungy if Brewster, who has lost eight of his last 11 games, gets fired. Minnesota officials reportedly spoke to Dungy four years ago after they terminated Glen Mason.
Coach with seat cooling: Rich Rodriguez. Being 4-0 must feel nice, but the Wolverines also swept last September. Michigan’s defense remains putrid, and an opening stretch of Indiana, Michigan State, Iowa and Penn State could leave Rodriguez vulnerable.
Coach with seat cooling, part II: Ron Zook. Illinois looks better, but Zook does not concur with those who say the improvement is a result of his delegating responsibility to new coordinators: “That (talk) makes for good writing … but I’m still involved in what’s going on.”
Best game: Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24. After the Irish took the lead on a 95-yard touchdown pass, Robinson led the Wolverines on a 72-yard victory march.
Worst game: Alabama 24, Penn State 3. Never a contest.
Worst game, part II: Wisconsin 70, Austin Peay 3. Next time, pick on someone your own size.
Strangest game: Ohio State 36, Miami 24. The Buckeyes’ 4-0 turnover edge and five field goals masked their special teams woes—touchdowns allowed on a punt and kickoff.
Toughest remaining schedule: Michigan State. OK, the Spartans don’t play Ohio State. Huge break there. But they open with Wisconsin and have to visit Michigan, Northwestern, Iowa and Penn State.
Easiest: Northwestern. The Wildcats visit Minnesota amid calls for Brewster’s head, then get depleted Purdue at home. And no Buckeyes or Wolverines to tangle with.
Luckiest team: Michigan. How was it lucky to have Robinson go down with a knee bruise Saturday? It allowed backups Devin Gardner and Tate Forcier to complete 19 of 22 passes and prepare for the next time the 193-pound Robinson gets decked and has to leave a game.
Unluckiest team: Purdue. What did coach Danny Hope do to deserve this? His quarterback, top receiver and tailback all have been sidelined with serious knee injuries.

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