Tuesday links: Gophers rolling, Wolverines fiesty

Happy Tuesday! No doubt, the coaching offices at Minnesota still have to be filled with giddy Gophers assistants after that big win vs. Nebraska. Minnesota could get a lift in recruiting from the headline-making triumph on Saturday. Sure! It was a national story, and just the pick-me-up this program needed.

“The hard thing about it is so many [high school seniors] have already made up their minds,” Tracy Claeys said. “So it actually helps you with the following year probably more than it will this year.”

Minnesota is rolling. And, it’s good to see.

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Remember when Michigan lost 28-14 at Michigan State in 2011? Well, the Wolverines sure do. In fact, they say they were bullied. And they haven’t forgotten it and plan to be tougher.

“If someone came up to you and hit you right in the face, would you take that personally?” Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan told the media. “Yeah, I took it personally.

“No one likes to get bullied, and that’s what they did two years ago. They bullied us. That’s tough, for me, to admit. I don’t like getting bullied … We’re not going to get bullied this year.”

Michigan ultimately snapped its four-game losing streak to the Spartans last season in Ann Arbor by way of a 12-10 win. But, as this Mlive.com report notes, the Wolverines haven’t won in Spartan Stadium since 2007 game — the now infamous Mike Hart “Little Brother” game. I think it’s gonna be difficult for Michigan to win in East Lansing this Saturday, too.

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Big Ten standings
Leaders
Conference Overall
Ohio State 4-0 8-0
Wisconsin 3-1 5-2
Indiana 1-2 3-4
Penn State 1-2 4-3
Illinois 0-3 3-4
Purdue 0-3 1-6
Legends
Conference Overall
Michigan State 4-0 7-1
Michigan 2-1 6-1
Nebraska 2-1 5-2
Iowa 2-2 5-3
Minnesota 2-2 6-2
Northwestern 0-4 4-4

Michigan coach Brady Hoke said it, so it must be true: Michigan State has “five or six pros” on its defense.

I’m not going to argue with that. Look at the stunning numbers. The Spartans are ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense, surrendering 215.5 yards per game. They’ve allowed just 12 touchdowns in eight games.

“The consistency,” Hoke said, when asked what he admired most about them. “Really, their defense is as good as any. That’s going to be a big challenge for us. Probably five or six pro players on that defense. They do a nice job with it.”

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The list of owies for Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez continues to grow. Shoulder, toe and now hip pointer. This isn’t good. And the shuffling on defense continues, as the linebacking corps is shaken up in the wake of the loss at Minnesota.

On Monday, Bo Pelini talked at length about his defense. He wants it to be more physical, for one thing, which is one reason why the team practiced in pads Sunday night instead of its usual walk-through. Though the practice was of the same length, the Huskers went at full speed correcting some of the errors they made Saturday. I can’t imagine it was must fun. But now is the time to fix things with big games to come vs. Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa.

No doubt, Braxton Miller played like a Heisman contender on Saturday vs. Penn State. But he’s way too far behind guys like Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston, among others, to get into the race. And, that’s too bad.

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The Wisconsin-Iowa is a big one, as each school is trying to stay involved in their respective division races. And each team has some mojo. The Badgers expect star linebacker Chris Borland to be ready after getting hurt the last time out, at Illinois. Oh, and running back James White is finding more opportunities to contribute as a pass catcher and blocker. He’s the ultimate teammate, not sulking as Melvin Gordon continues to emerge as a top back.

“People don’t realize how much he does for us,” running backs coach Thomas Hammock said. “He is a grimy player. He gets down and dirty and does the little things that will help the offense be more successful.”

White has rushed 108 times for 672 yards with averages of 6.2 yards per carry and 96 rushing yards per game. He is a perfect complement to the explosive Gordon (9.5 yards per carry, 144.6 yards per game). However, Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out that White’s work as a receiver has become an integral part of UW’s offense. Jared Abbrederis leads the team in receptions in league play (27 receptions for 481 yards and two touchdowns) and overall (43-752-5). White is No. 2 in league play (13-123-1) and overall (21-189-1). He entered his senior season with 34 catches for 370 yards and one touchdown.

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If you need any more validation that Penn State’s Allen Robinson is a great receiver, check this out.

Robinson caught 12 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. He needs only 122 yards for his second straight 1,000-yard season. He could get there Saturday vs. Illinois. Only one Nittany Lion receiver has racked up two 1,000-yard seasons: Bobby Engram (1994, 1995). And Engram’s single-season yardage record of 1,084 yards, set in 1995, may be in peril.

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Octavias McKoy once was an Iowa commit. Don’t know who he is? Why should that matter? Well, last week, the Western Connecticut State running back rushed for an NCAA all-division single-game record 455 yards. He didn’t qualify coming out of high school in Connecticut and had to go to a JC. The rest, as they say, is history.

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What’s riling up Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald? Penalties. When Fitzgerald expressed his displeasure Saturday with the way his team has been playing, he sent his players a message they have needed to hear for weeks.

“Do your job, and don’t get penalties,” Fitzgerald said. “Unbelievable amount of penalties today.”

Penalties are just one of NU’s issues. Spotty offensive line play is another. And the receivers have had issues with drops.

***

Tough break that Illinois receiver Ryan Lankford’s career has been ended by a shoulder injury suffered last week vs. Michigan State.

He was the team’s top deep option, a true burner. Steve Hull must step up and play a bigger role.

***

TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: Interesting. I guess Minnesota wasn’t impressed.

My take: Fair enough.

My take: It was not a good day for the Nebraska defense … again.

My take: So there is that.

My take: This team is on a roll.

My take: Yes, these things take time.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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