Badgers limp into Big Ten homestretch
With a game on the horizon against Iowa next week, the unbeaten Wisconsin football team is limping into the final month of the regular season.
Leading rusher Jonathan Taylor, leading receiver Quintez Cephus and leading tackler D’Cota Dixon are all listed as questionable for Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at Indiana.
“We’re getting through it, just like every team is getting through that right now. We’ve got a group that, a lot of guys on the list that you just see how the week goes,” Badgers coach Paul Chryst said.
“Guys have to step up when opportunities come their way, and other players and other starters have to carry a little bit of a different load. We’re probably no different than any other football team in the country.”
The difference for the only 8-0 team in the Big Ten lies in where the injuries are coming.
The biggest hits have come at skill positions, where the Badgers are thin at running back and receiver.
Taylor, who leads the Big Ten in rushing at 148.1 yards per game, suffered an ankle injury early in Wisconsin’s 24-10 win at Illinois and joins a lengthy list of injured Badgers’ running backs.
Taiwan Deal and Sam Brodner have already suffered season-ending leg and knee injuries, respectively and running back Chris James and fullback Austin Ramesh join Taylor as questionable this week with leg and head injuries.
Receivers Jazz Peavy and George Rushing are expected to miss the Indiana game, and Cephus joins Danny Davis as questionable.
“All you can do is go with what you have available,” Chryst said.
Husker growth: Northwestern takes a three-game winning streak into Saturday’s game at Nebraska, a team that shares second place in the Big Ten West with the Wildcats.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald said he saw growth in the Cornhuskers as they worked through last week’s 25-24 win at Purdue, a game decided on a two-minute drive at the end of the game.
“You can see after their bye week that they set out to do some things to improve,” Fitzgerald said. “We are going to have our hands full in one of the great, great venues in college football. Their fans, they’re rabid, and it will create a challenging environment to play in.”
The Wildcats’ Paddy Fisher was named Wednesday as the Bronko Nagurski national defensive player of the week for his work in a triple-overtime win over Michigan State. The freshman linebacker finished with 17 tackles and forced two fumbles in the victory.
Highway miles: Michigan State ended up taking the bus to Northwestern for last weekend’s game.
The Spartans had boarded an aircraft in Lansing, Michigan, for a flight Friday to Chicago, but mechanical issues led to a pair of aborted attempts to take off. That led Michigan State to seek another mode of transportation, turning an expected 30-minute flight into a rush hour-traffic adventure on Friday afternoon.
The decision to hit the highway also prompted Michigan State to skip a planned walk-through on Friday night at Ryan Field.
The following day, the Spartans dropped a 39-31 triple overtime game to the Wildcats to move to 6-2 and 4-1 in the Big Ten heading into a game this weekend against Penn State, which will be looking to rebound from its first loss of the season.
“We can’t change whatever happened in the past,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “What my mindset has always been is let’s get ready for the next challenge, whatever that challenge is. That’s what we’ve tried to do, and that won’t change now.”
Field view: Michigan offensive coordinator Tim Drevno has asked for and been granted a change of game-day scenery.
Following the Wolverines’ loss at Penn State, Drevno asked to move from his spot in the press box to the field, and he coached from the sideline last week in Michigan’s 35-14 win over Rutgers.
Arms race: Illinois announced a fundraising campaign Monday that will lead to $300 million in spending on athletic facilities, including a $79.2 million Football Performance Center.
“We’ve done a lot to try to improve the situation here for our athletes, and the facility means a lot and is necessary to compete at a top level,” coach Lovie Smith said. “We’re not going to have more than what everyone else has, but you do need to keep up.”
Scheduled for completion prior within two years, the 112,000-square-foot facility will be built adjacent to the Illini’s indoor practice facility and will included strength training, sports medicine, locker room and office space.
Tough tear: Indiana will be without J-Shun Harris for the remainder of the season.
Harris, who ranks second in the Big Ten in punt returns with an average of 19 yards per return, suffered his third torn anterior cruciate ligament in three seasons last week against Maryland.