Big Ten: Pressure time

first_imgAs November rolls in the pressure is on.With just three weeks remaining in the Big Ten season, the conference frontrunners –particularly No. 15 Michigan — feel the weight of the trap games ahead, as the rest of the conference feels the heat of trying to move up in the standings or gain a bowl game bid with that elusive sixth win.The situation at hand is a game between in-state rivals: Michigan versus Michigan State. “I think that pressure is something that young people in college football deal with every single week, whether you’re an undefeated football team right now playing, whether you’re looking for your sixth win or whether you’re trying to move in that direction such as Michigan is,” Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said during Tuesday’s Big Ten Teleconference.Michigan State has the No. 3 scoring offense, third-leading rusher in Javon Ringer and top receiver in Devin Thomas. Despite all this, the Spartans are losers of two straight and sit at 1-4 in the Big Ten and 5-4 overall.“What we have to do is make sure our players stay together and we come out and continue to work throughout the week and be emotionally prepared Saturday,” Dantonio said.The problem for Michigan State has been its inability to come through in close games. As frustrating as it may be, Dantonio wants to make sure that his players don’t beat themselves.“We need to build up our young people, not tear them down, and we’ll continue to do that, and I think we’ll learn from these things,” Dantonio said. “And ultimately when we start to win these games, we’ll begin to believe that when it comes down to crunch time we’ll win it.”After missing the past two weeks and a combined five games this season due to injury, quarterback Chad Henne and running back Mike Hart are practicing again this week. Still, Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr won’t know until later in the week whether his two offensive stars will be available Saturday.In order to remain neck-and-neck in the battle with Ohio State for the Big Ten title, Michigan will likely need those two players healthy.Northwestern failed in its quest last week to secure a bowl bid, losing 35-17 against Purdue. After finishing 4-8, 2-6 Big Ten last season, the Wildcats are 5-4, 2-3 this season. Running back Tyrell Sutton returned last week for Northwestern. The Wildcats will need Sutton to play to his potential as they make a push for their first Bowl game in two years. “It was just great to get him back out there,” Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “He just adds some more fuel to our fire.”Northwestern will face an Iowa team which pulled off an overtime win over Michigan State last week to also remain in the hunt for a bowl berth with a 4-5 record.For three straight weeks, Indiana has tried and failed to win a sixth game. Given that the program hasn’t appeared in a bowl game since 1993, and it dedicated the season to the late Terry Hoeppner, people may think that the Hoosiers and quarterback Kellen Lewis are playing a little anxious right now. But that’s just not the case.“Just because we’ve gotten beat in the last couple of weeks, I don’t think it changed our kids,” Indiana head coach Bill Lynch said. “I think the reality of it is we’ve played three pretty good football teams and we didn’t play well enough to win.”So unlike Michigan State or some of the other teams on the brink, Indiana isn’t getting bogged down.“I don’t think it has been a case where our kids feel pressured in anyway,” Lynch added.Indiana will go out of conference this weekend to face Ball State.Adding more conference gamesA thought has come up in the conference of removing two nonconference games out of the regular season schedule and adding two more Big Ten games. This would allow each team to face the entire conference.“I think there’s the advantage that the Big Ten Championship would be determined on the field and it would impact your home schedule, and that’s really the reason for the 12th game anyway — trying to get an additional home game to generate revenue,” Carr said.While it certainly would help the top teams separate themselves from the middle of the pack, it would also affect BCS standings as each team would face a higher chance of picking up a loss along the way, so the odds are that the notion won’t come to fruitionlast_img

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