Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, October 7, 2014

The sky isn?t falling on the Big Ten?s hopes of landing a team in the playoffs, as Mike Griffith of explains. Michigan State is positioned for a run at one of four spots. Of course, it must win out-which is possible.

In fact, Jerry Palm of has Michigan State in his playoff field as a No. 3 seed taking on No. 2 Alabama in the Rose Bowl. Check out this video.


Wisconsin?s struggles at quarterback are well-documented. And things may have reached a nadir on Saturday in a loss at Northwestern. Now, the Badgers say they will use Tanner McEvoy and Joel Stave this week vs. Illinois.

Rob Havenstein could play QB for Wisconsin vs. Illinois and the Badgers could win. But as the competition picks up, this quarterback situation could be ruinous to the Badgers.


Indiana has been up-and-down this season. But the offensive line has been consistently good. The unit was considered a strength before the season, and it has delivered on those expectations.

How good has the front been? IU is third in the Big Ten in rushing (300.0 ypg). Tevin Coleman thanks them.


Any Purdue fan will tell you that big plays were too few and far between last year during a brutal 1-11 season. Well, they haven?t been an issue so far in 2014. And that?s a good thing.

Thanks to those big plays, the Boilermakers tallied the Big Ten win of Darrell Hazell's tenure Saturday at Illinois. But the competition gets appreciably tougher this Saturday, when Michigan State visits.


No team could use a bye more than Maryland, which is banged up coming off that home loss to Ohio State.

And there is no quarterback controversy under center: C.J. Brown is the guy.

"C.J.'s our quarterback. Caleb's our backup," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. "I can't make it any clearer than that, guys. ? There's no controversy here, so don't try to start one."

Brown is completing 57 percent of his passes and had just 71 passing yards in the first half against Ohio State. He was pulled at halftime in favor of Caleb Rowe. But Brown gives the Terps the best chance for success.


If you haven?t had a chance to check out Michigan State safety Montae Nicholson, do it. The true freshman is good, getting his first start last week vs. Nebraska.

After watching film of the Nebraska game, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said Sunday that Nicholson graded out "pretty well." But he said the decision as to who will start Saturday against Purdue will be made this week based on practice performance.

Go with Nicholson.


As if Michigan needed more bad news in this oh-so-tough season: leading rusher Derrick Green is out for the season with a broken clavicle.

De?Veon Smith now becomes the man. He's never had more than 10 carries in a game, but Michigan believes he's ready to be the man. We shall see.

"He's been preparing to carry as many times as he needs to," Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said. "It's been a matter of circumstance, at times, and Derrick's done a really nice job. But if you look at the productivity in (Smith's) touches, it's been really good."


This is pretty neat: All-time Minnesota running back great Darrell Thompson ranks his top four running backs in recent team history.

No shock to see Laurence Maroney on top of the list. David Cobb didn?t make the cut-yet. But this season isn?t over. He has a shot at Maroney?s single-season school rushing record of 1,464 yards in 2005. I think he?ll get there.


Still can?t get enough of Rutgers? win over Michigan, Scarlet Knights? fans? Here is a nice breakdown of the key plays from RU?s win over the Wolverines.

About Tom Dienhart 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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