Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, October 31, 2012

When it comes to biggest surprises of the 2012 season, the emergence of Philip Nelson as quarterback at Minnesota ranks right up there. Only one quarterback in the history of Golden Gopher football that has won the job as a true freshman and kept it for four seasons. That was Rickey Foggie. See what Foggie has to say about Nelson and check out other Big Ten news in my daily links.

The links start right now …


Look who?s getting reps at quarterback for Michigan? It?s Devin Gardner! Remember him?

Gardner hadn?t worked under in center in weeks, instead focusing on playing receiver. But with the way Russell Bellomy played in relief of an injured Denard Robinson last week at Nebraska, it seems the Michigan staff wants to have other options at quarterback just in case Robinson?s cranky elbow acts up again. How much did Bellomy struggle in the loss at Nebraska? He missed his first 10 passes and finished 3-of-16 with three interceptions.


If you are a fan of recruiting, don?t pay too much heed to those star ratings that are affixed to players. They aren?t usually accurate. Want proof? Check out these current Penn State players who were lowly two-star recruits but have turned out to play like five-star players.


If it?s not one injury for the Iowa running backs, it?s another. Mark Weisman will miss this week?s game at Indiana after being limited of late with a leg injury. That means Damon Bullock will have to carry the load in Bloomington.

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News of Weisman?s loss comes after Iowa actually was having some two-back prosperity, as he and Bullock played in tandem at times for two quarters at Northwestern last week. You just knew that wasn?t going to last, given the running back hex in Iowa City. Bullock is capable of carrying the load-and he needs to shine in what essentially is a must-win game for the Hawkeyes if they wish to reach a bowl.


The Wisconsin defense hasn?t gotten the credit it deserves for how well it has played in 2012. But if there is one area that needs to improve, it?s red-zone defense. It proved costly in last week?s loss to Michigan State.

According to Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal, in 20 chances, the Badgers have gotten only two stops (90 percent scores allowed). Wisconsin has allowed 13 red zone touchdowns, for a touchdown percentage of 65.0. Last season, the Badgers allowed 84 percent red zone scores overall (27 of 32) and 59 percent touchdowns (19 of 32).


Lee Barfknect of the Omaha World-Herald has it correct when he says the fortunes of Purdue and Indiana are flipping.

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The Hoosiers were supposed to finish last in the Leaders Division. The Boilermakers were picked by some experts (I?m looking at you, Kirk Herbstreit) to not just play in the Big Ten title game-but to win the Big Ten. Alas, Purdue is floundering with four losses in succession as its bowl hopes circle the drain. Conversely, Indiana controls its destiny in the Leaders. Life sure is funny.


Mark Tupper of the Decatur Herald-Review says that Illinois fans have a difficult time seeing much reason for hope during what has been a disappointing debut for Tim Beckman. But Tupper says some of the venom directed at Beckman has been over the top and unfair. Give the guy some time, people.


My take: Good! The Blackshirts wouldn?t mean as much if everyone on the defense got them. To wit: How many basements are filled with boxes of trophies given to the Zachs and Codys of suburban America for simply participating in 8-year-old soccer? Exactly.

My take: I?m not so sure about 3-1. I think 2-2 sounds more like it. I have losses to Wisconsin and Nebraska and wins over Purdue and Indiana.

My take: I don?t think that will happen when Nebraska plays at Michigan State this Saturday. This Spartan defense is, um, you know, pretty good.

My take: This is a tough one, but here it goes: Eric Crouch, Tommie Frazier, Johnny Rodgers, Mike Rozier. senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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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