INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Potential distractions seem to be popping up all around the Big Ten this November.
Coaches at Illinois, Maryland and Minnesota are still trying to demonstrate they should keep their jobs. Northwestern and Penn State are discussing new football facilities. Five teams are still chasing bowl eligibility while No. 14 Michigan State and No. 15 Michigan are hoping to get back into the Big Ten East title chase.
And, of course, No. 2 Ohio State and No. 8 Iowa continue their pursuit of perfection and a spot in the College Football Playoff.
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But don’t expect to hear a debate inside the locker rooms.
”Probably about 30 seconds,” Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said when asked how much time he talks about CFP rankings with his team in a given week. ”I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way, but for coaches and players I don’t really see the point of it right now. If you can run the table and win your conference championship game, then you’ve got a chance to be in the discussion.”
The Spartans and Buckeyes were poised for a division showdown next weekend – until a questionable call at Nebraska ended a potential battle of unbeatens. That loss also put Michigan back in the picture as it heads to Indiana.
Michigan State will try to rebound by getting coach Mark Dantonio his 50th victory in conference play when struggling Maryland comes to town with interim coach Mike Locksley.
Dantonio wants to turn the page on what happened Saturday in Lincoln but during the league’s weekly coaches conference call, he was asked what the takeaways were from that loss.
”Basically that life’s never going to go the way you want it to go and you have to adjust,” he said. ”We haven’t been in this situation in a while. It’s how you respond.”
Even in Columbus, the focus hasn’t changed.
When the Buckeyes face the underrated Illini on Saturday, J.T. Barrett will start at quarterback and converted receiver Braxton Miller is likely to play. As for that eagerly anticipated matchup with Michigan State or the Michigan-Ohio State game next week, coach Urban Meyer isn’t giving them a thought.
”I think what I’m focused on is what everyone else is focused on,” Meyer said. ”And that’s the task at hand.”
TOUGH LOSS: When Golden Gophers coach Jerry Kill announced his retirement two weeks ago, it hit Ferentz hard. ”It was heart-wrenching for anyone involved,” he said. ”Jerry Kill, to me, was a football coach, that’s what he was born to do. That’s what made that press conference so hard to watch. He didn’t start in the penthouse, he’s really built an impressive resume and he’s done it the hard way.”
LEADING THE WAY: Iowa cornerback Desmond King picked off his eighth pass of the season Saturday, tying the school record and retaining the national lead. Penn State’s Carl Nassib broke the school’s single season record with 15 1/2 sacks last weekend, also tops in the nation. And when Rutgers kickoff returner Janarion Grant scored on a 98-yard return, he tied the conference record with three TD returns on kickoffs in one season.
– Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said he would take time out from his football work Friday night to attend Indiana’s basketball season opener against Eastern Illinois so he can watch brother-in-law Tom Crean on the sideline.
– Ohio State can clinch the East Division with a win and victories by Indiana win and Maryland.