As 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 fruition
JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoAs the second quarter wound down Saturday afternoon, Wisconsin sophomore wide receiver Kyle Jefferson was hit by Minnesota linebacker Simoni Lawrence after receiving a pass over the middle. Jefferson was unconscious when the Wisconsin medical staff reached him. He was taken off the field via ambulance on a stretcher but was able to speak and move his arms and legs by the time he was taken away.“Any time one of your players is injured the way that Kyle was, you become very afraid of bad news and results that may come soon after,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “But preliminary reports are very, very encouraging.”Jefferson was tested for head and neck injuries following the hit. He was released from the hospital Sunday after it was determined he suffered a concussion.Anderson has career dayLast week, sophomore wide receiver Isaac Anderson was praised by his coaches for his impressive downfield blocking abilities. Saturday, Anderson did a little more than just block. He finished the game with a career-high 114 yards on six catches.“Any receiver is waiting for a game where he can break out for 100 yards,” Anderson said. “It’s just a blessing to have this opportunity to make plays.”His teammates weren’t surprised with the breakout game.“I definitely knew Isaac had this in him,” cornerback Allen Langford said. “Isaac is a guy who’s always working hard. Even when I’m staying after practice, Isaac wants to come and work with me.”Anderson dropped a ball in the second quarter that could have been a 63-yard touchdown.“I just dropped it, flat-out,” he said. “No excuse. It’s a ball I should have caught.”But he rebounded on the very next snap, converting a first down on a pass over the middle.“I just really thank the coaches for giving me another opportunity to make another play,” Anderson said. “I appreciate the opportunity that (offensive coordinator Paul) Chryst gave me the very next play, gave me a nice little slant pattern. I got a confidence boost from that also.”Anderson also connected on a fourth-quarter 39-yard strike from Dustin Sherer that was initially called a touchdown, but was overturned after further review.“We lined up and (wide receiver David Gilreath) said, ‘This ball’s coming to you,’ and luckily it did,” Anderson said.Jump Around battleDuring the famous Jump Around tradition between the third and fourth quarters, both the Wisconsin and Minnesota sidelines started to get riled up, almost egging each other on.“(Defensive line) coach (Charles) Partidge told us, ‘If they’ve got more guys jumping around than we do, it’s a problem,’ so we all were jumping around,” defensive end O’Brien Schofield said. “Coach Partridge started jumping around, and it just became a battle from sideline to sideline.”“It was almost like we were competing,” safety Chris Maragos added. “Everybody kept inching closer.”Although Bielema had to settle things down, the scuffle did seem to light a fire under the home team, which outscored the visiting Gophers 18-8 in the final frame.“The way that crowd reacted to start the fourth quarter was huge and something our kids really fed off of,” Bielema said.