Season winds to close

first_imgWith BCS leader Ohio State (10-0, 6-0) at the top of theconference, the college football world’s eyes will be on the Big Ten and theBuckeyes as they attempt to remain perfect in the final two weeks. After theirwell documented struggles early on, the resurgent No.12 Michigan Wolverines(8-2, 6-0) will look to make a run at OSU and the Conference championship.Michigan would appreciate the help this weekend from conference rival Illinoisagainst the No. 1 team in the land before it takes on the Buckeyes next weekendin Ann Arbor.Illinois, too, would like to play spoiler this weekend asthey travel to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes. The Illini are familiar withplaying highly touted teams as they defeated then No. 5 Wisconsin in October.Illinois head coach Ron Zook does not necessarily see thisweek’s preparation as tantamount to any other circumstance.“Once again, we’ve got to take care of us,” said Zookduring the Big Ten teleconference Tuesday. “We told our team last night that theonly different thing is that you are preparing for the No. 1 team in thenation. The only thing that means is that you are preparing for an awfully goodfootball team. We’ve still got to do the things that we’ve done to get to thispoint.”Sitting in third place in the conference, Illinois islooking to continue its winning streak after two consecutive victories,including last week’s 44-17 stomping of Minnesota.”We know that we’re not what we are supposed to be, but weknow we are improving,” Zook said. “The one thing that that gives us is anopportunity as a program to see that we have made progress from the first gamethis year to now.”Now, we have to go see where we are, and this will be agreat measuring stick for us.” While OSU will look to stay unbeaten and play for a NationalChampionship, three Big Ten teams — Michigan State, Iowa and Northwestern — arestill searching for their highly coveted sixth win and Bowl eligibility.Northwestern hosts Indiana, Iowa faces Minnesota, but MichiganState faces the toughest challenge at Purdue. Even though the multitude ofthese Bowl games are often considered trite, all three schools would enjoy theopportunity to reach them in order to improve as football programs.”I think it’s very important we get to a bowl game,”Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said. At the same time, Dantonio emphasized the importance oftaking the football season one step at a time.”We’ve been sort of stuck on No. 5 for quite some time here,so we’ve been talking about it just as a reality,” Dantonio said. “We’re goingto continue to play it through. It’s got to go one play at a time.”Other teams in the Big Ten — Purdue, Wisconsin and PennState — are just trying to remain focused and jockey for a position that wouldplace them in a more prestigious bowl game like a trip to Tampa Bay for theOutback Bowl. Penn State plays out of conference at in-state rival Templethis week. These games have become common late in the season. Because of these quirks in the schedule, cellar-dwellerMinnesota (1-9, 0-6) has more to look forward to than Penn State, as they playin two straight “trophy” games against Iowa and Wisconsin. “I know since I’ve been on the job that I’ve learned a greatdeal about the trophy games and how important they are to all Minnesotans andhow important they are to the University of Minnesota to go play well againstIowa and win,” Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster said. “We have the Floyd ofRosedale here in our presence today, and we’d like very much to keep that pigright here in the Twin Cities.”These next two weeks will be amazing weeks for us allbecause we’ll be playing big rivalry games against Iowa and Wisconsin. It’swhat college football is all about.”With Minnesota still playing for pride, a pig and axe,three teams fighting for bowl eligibility, and the No. 1 team in the nationlooking to stay atop college football, the coming weeks promise to be excitingfor football in the Big Ten.last_img

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