BIG TEN FOOTBALL
Quarterback, quarterback, who's going to play quarterback?
That's the issue three Big Ten schools — Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota — face Saturday as they begin conference play.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, who always holds his cards close, kept them well hidden this week when discussing whether Jake Rudock will start over C.J. Beathard at Purdue (2-2).
Rudock, a two-year starter, suffered an undisclosed lower-body injury (reportedly a hip problem) late in the first half of last week's game at Pittsburgh. Beathard played the second half, rallying the Hawkeyes (3-1) from a 10-point deficit to a 24-20 victory.
Rudock has started 17 straight games, and Ferentz is nothing but loyal when it comes to keeping his quarterback in place. But Beathard, who completed 7 of 8 passes at Pitt, seems to add some juice to the huddle with his personality.
Michigan (2-2) and Minnesota (3-1) meet at 2:30 p.m. at Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines' quarterback questions are because of production, while the Gophers' are from injury.
Devin Gardner has started 20 games at quarterback for Michigan. But this season the fifth-year senior is 93rd nationally in total offense and he has more interceptions (6) than touchdown passes (5).
With the Wolverines only 4-8 in their past 12 games, fans are clamoring for sophomore Shane Morris to start.
The 6-foot-5 left-hander has started just once - a bowl loss to Kansas State when Gardner was out with a foot injury. Morris is a player the recruiting gurus have fawned over. But in taking over for Gardner in last week's loss to Utah, Morris completed only 4 of 13 passes with an interception. He has yet to throw a touchdown pass in his two seasons.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Monday he wouldn't commit to naming a starter and held firm to that stance through the week.
Michigan won't know who its opponent will start at quarterback, either, as Minnesota waits to see if starter Mitch Leidner, slowed by a strained knee and turf toe, can return after sitting out last week.
In Leidner's place, backup Chris Streveler ran for 161 yards in a 24-7 win over San Jose State. But Streveler, a sophomore, was just l-of-7 passing for 7 yards and an interception.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill said he knows his team has to throw the ball more and better to win in Big Ten play. That's especially true against Michigan, which is eighth nationally in rush defense at 80.3 yards a game.
Michigan, booed at home the past two weeks, really needs a win to calm the storm in Ann Arbor. Michigan 16, Minnesota 13.
Contact the writer:
OTHER BIG TEN GAMES
ILLINOIS (3-1,0-0) AT NO. 21 NEBRASKA (4-0,0-0) 8:10 p.m., BTN: Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt will cause the Husker defense some problems, but the lllini have no answer for Ameer Abdullah. Nebraska 49, Illinois 21
NORTHWESTERN (1-2,0-0) AT PENN STATE (4-0,1-0) 11 a.m., BTN: Northwestern is 106th in total offense, and that's after facing three average defenses. Penn State's defense is way above average — 10th nationally.
Penn State 28, Northwestern 3
IOWA (3-1,0-0) AT PURDUE (2-2,0-0) 11 a.m., BTN: The Boilermakers are a little better, but still aren't ready to win a Big Ten game under second-year coach Darrell Hazell. Iowa 27, Purdue 10
MARYLAND (3-1,0-0) AT INDIANA (2-1,0-0) 12:30 p.m., BTN: This is the best collection of big-play guys on one field this week. Maryland wants to win its first-ever Big Ten game. Indiana wants to prove the upset of Missouri wasn't a fluke. Maryland 38, Indiana 35
WYOMING (3-1) AT MICHIGAN STATE (2-1) 11 a.m., ESPN2: The Spartans likely will use this as another rehearsal for next week's game with Nebraska.
Michigan State 45, Wyoming 14
CINCINNATI (2-0) AT NO. 22 OHIO STATE (2-1) 5 p.m., BTN: This will be a good test for Ohio State after an open date as the Buckeyes prepare to enter Big Ten play. The 0SU offense needs to show it is figuring things out.
Ohio State 31, Cincinnati 17
TULANE (1-3) AT RUTGERS (3-1) 11 a.m., ESPNews: Rutgers suffered a big blow last week when star tailback Paul James (torn ACL) was lost for the season. Still, the Scarlet Knights should continue their strong start. Rutgers 33, Tulane 14
SOUTH FLORIDA (2-2) AT NO. 19 WISCONSIN (2-1) 11 a.m., ESPNU: The Badgers have won 31 straight home games against nonconference opponents. That streak is in no jeopardy here. Wisconsin 50, South Florida 15