Wednesday links: Could Gophers make title game?

Happy Hump Day, Big Ten Nation. There’s lots to cover. So, let’s get started. Check out this video of Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In it, he has five easy steps for the Gophers to reach the Big Ten title game. Yes, it’s possible—very possible. Minnesota has a good shot to beat Penn State at home this Saturday. Then, things get really tough with games at Wisconsin and then at Michigan State. Whatever happens, the Gophers can take comfort in knowing the Outback Bowl is keep an eye on them.

I never saw this coming in August. And neither did you. Pretty amazing.

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Brady Hoke? Demoralized after Michigan suffered its worst loss to Michigan State since 1967? Nope. But he says the coaches have to step up. And, he’s right.

Nick Baumgardner of Mlive.com says Michigan is playing with a young hand up front this season, but Hoke said that can’t be a crutch for this team moving forward.  The coaching staff, himself included, has to take a look inward and start preparing the group with a sense of urgency, day in and day out.

“Did we all have our best moment Saturday? No. Coaches included,” Hoke said. “Do we need to do a better job? Yeah. We do. Coaching. That’s always something we look at. We have to be able to push more. The kids have responded well. Was it represented (Saturday), no.

“(But) you get seven sacks and you snap a ball 20 yards, it doesn’t help your (rushing) yardage.”

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Big Ten standings
Leaders
Conference Overall
Ohio State 5-0 9-0
Wisconsin 4-1 6-2
Penn State 2-2 5-3
Indiana 1-3 3-5
Illinois 0-4 3-5
Purdue 0-4 1-7
Legends
Conference Overall
Michigan State 5-0 8-1
Nebraska 3-1 6-2
Minnesota 3-2 7-2
Michigan 2-2 6-2
Iowa 2-3 5-4
Northwestern 0-5 4-5

Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan has apologized for getting caught on camera yanking Michigan State safety Isaiah Lewis’ facemask in the Spartans’ 29-6 win on Saturday. Earlier, he picked up a personal foul for shoving safety Kurtis Drummond. Lewan could face a suspension from the Big Ten. He publicly apologized. And Spartans coach Mark Dantonio has accepted it.

“Football is football, it’s a tough game,” Dantonio said. “I accept people’s apologies. I don’t hold things against people. So, yeah, I accept his apology. No problem.”

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Hard to believe the criticism Brady Hoke has received in the wake of the MSU loss. He has a defender in Michigan state coach Mark Dantonio.

“I hear that Brady Hoke is taking some shots right now as all coaches do when you lose, but I think people should keep in mind that he has never lost a game in at the University of Michigan Stadium yet, which is pretty unbelievable,” Dantonio said.

Hoke also received a vote of confidence from athletic director Dave Brandon, which I think was unnecessary.

***

The coaching carousel has begun to spin. And, there’s report out there that says Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell has interviewed for the Florida Atlantic job. Fickell has been a hot commodity for a while. And, honestly, it may be time for Fickell to spread his wings.

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What did Hayden Fry do to fool Iowa fans in 1981? Well, it helped Iowa beat Purdue, this week’s foe. Fun stuff.

Back in 1981, a win at Purdue ended 20 games of misery to the Boilermakers. Since then, Iowa hasn’t had much trouble with Purdue. And, it shouldn’t this season, either, with the way the Boilers are playing. So, no need for foolery in 2013.

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BYU’s visit to Wisconsin is interesting. And, it’s also potentially dangerous for the Badgers.

The gang at Madison.com says BYU revamped its entire offensive coaching staff after last year’s 8-5 team finished in a tie for 64th in the nation in scoring (28.7 points per game) and 60th in total offense (400.38 yards per game). Former BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae was brought back to run the offense, after spending the previous two years as the offensive line coach at Arizona, including last year under coach under Rich Rodriguez. Anae has called it “a gift,” learning the fast-tempo offense under Rodriguez.

Look at the Cougars now. They average nearly 90 plays per game and hit a high of 115 in a 47-46 victory at Houston on Oct. 19. Buckle up, Bucky. This could be fun on Saturday.

***

I knew it was coming. Now, it appears change is on the way in the Purdue-Notre Dame series, which has run continuous since 1946.

The coming nine-game Big Ten schedule in 2016 is an issue for Purdue; Notre Dame’s commitment to play five ACC games each year is another factor in the change in the series.

“We’re going to play on a periodic basis but we’re not going to play every year,” Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke told the Lafayette Journal Courier.

It’s expected that next year’s meeting will take place in Lucas Oil Stadium as part of Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series, an Irish home game at a neutral location. The game was originally scheduled for South Bend. The Boilermakers and the Irish played in the Hoosier Dome in 1984, the first-ever game played in the venue.

***

In case you missed this, Bob Asmussen of the Champaign News-Gazette thinks Illinois coach Tim Beckman deserves at least one more year. And, when Bob types, you should read.

Asmussen notes that Beckman already has more wins than he did in 2012. And the team has been more competitive during his second run. Add it up, and that should be plenty to keep him around for Year Three. I concur. But, no doubt, the public is getting antsy. Coaches no longer give five-seven years to build. It’s about a two-three-year window. Sorry, Tim.

***

The injuries are starting to pile up for the Nebraska offense. And, that’s not good with a game at Michigan on Saturday.

Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald says that after a 27-24 Hail Mary win over Northwestern, the Huskers are far from beaten down. But they are beaten up. Especially on offense, where six preseason starters could miss Saturday’s game at Michigan. Quarterback Taylor Martinez is among those still dinged. And, it sounds like he may not play in Ann Arbor.

“I don’t have any sense right now,” Bo Pelini said of Martinez’s return. “It depends on his degree of health and where he is. There’s a lot of speculation there. I deal with that when we come to that crossroads.”

So, it looks like Tommy Armstrong/Ron Kellogg likely will run the show vs. Michigan.

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Nice list of the top 15 Big Ten hoopsters by Cleveland.com. But, Aaron Craft No. 1? Really? I don’t think so.

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TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: Oh, it’s gonna happen. Soon.

My take: That’s all well and good. But, it’s still Buffalo. C’mon. Nice try, though.

My take: Some folks would Tweet every word out of every coaches mouth that they cover. It’s called “overkill.”

My take: More proof of how good this Spartan defense is.

My take: My thoughts exactly!

My take: Fans are, well, fans.

My take: Some high-quality losses … I guess.

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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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