Not unlike Penn State, the Iowa Hawkeyes are in an uncomfortable spot right now. They're winless so far in conference play and just trying to get moving in the right direction this weekend in State College.
The Hawkeyes have lost three in a row, falling at Iowa State, at Wisconsin and home last weekend against Indiana.
"More than anything, we just need to come off the field feeling good about our performance," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said yesterday on a conference call.
Iowa (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) has a struggling offense and a team-saving defense. The Hawkeyes rank 92nd nationally in offense. But they have the nation's 9th-ranked defense.
The key is putting it together in a Big Ten game as the conference schedule trudges on. And that hasn't really happened yet.
The problems -- mainly on offense -- have stemmed from a variety of sources. The offensive line is inexperienced, Ferentz said, and has been leaky from time to time. The wide receivers haven't always been crisp. With first-year starter Jake Christensen at quarterback, Ferentz said there have been some "breakdowns" at the position.
"We're just obviously having a hard time scoring points," Ferentz said. "That's a huge concern no mater who we're playing now."
However, Albert Young has been widely considered a top running back in the conference.
Though he doesn't have monster numbers this season, he's a small, gutsy runner cut out of a similar mold as Michigan's Mike Hart, who had 153 yards against the Nittany Lions (3-2, 0-2).
"I think Iowa has a very solid scheme, they know how to line up, they play hard and make some plays," Joe Paterno said yesterday. "They've gone through a little bit of a period there where nothing's gone right for them. I hope it continues for another week. But that's basically where they've been."
Carr: No comment
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr was asked about the specter of the Wolverines forfeiting their win against Penn State because a player did not meet eligibility requirements. He had little to say.
"I really don't have any comment on that issue," he said yesterday.
Carr was asked why he had no comment. He ignored the question and said nothing.
The player in question, freshman Artis Chambers, played in three of the Wolverines first four games. He had an assisted tackle against Penn State two weekends ago. It is still unclear why he is ineligible.
Watching the clock
Some coaches commented yesterday on the NCAA's rules for starting the clock. The NCAA shortened the length of games last season by about 14 plays per game with some tweaks to clock rules. During the summer, the NCAA rolled back some of those changes, agreeing on stoppage for possession changes and not starting the clock on kickoffs until the receiving team touches the ball.
Carr said the Michigan staff did a "study Sunday on a number of plays" in the Chicago Bears-Detroit Lions game. Those NFL teams are averaging 130 snaps per game, he said. The Wolverines are averaging 147, he said.
"It's too much," Carr said.
"I don't thing it's in the interest and welfare of our players. I think someone, somewhere needs to take hold of this issue and do some things to make the game better for the players."
Not all agree. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio likes the longer games.
"I like the clock rules the way there are right now," Dantonio said. "Then they changed the way they were last year, it really was a change for the coaches."
Playing the lines
Wisconsin, ranked No. 5 nationally, is a two-and-a-half-point underdog heading into this weekend's game against Illinois.
Granted, Wisconsin scraped out a 37-34 win at home Saturday against the unranked Michigan State Spartans.
And Illinois, which is hot off the heels of upsetting Penn State on Saturday, might be a program on the rise.
But Vegas thinks a top-5 team is a dog against an unranked opponent? At least one person doesn't see it.
"I don't think there's any way possible a team like us could be favored over a team like Wisconsin," Illinois coach Ron Zook said.
Sutton injury update
Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton will not play this weekend against Michigan State.
"Right now he's out for the week," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "That's about as much updating as I'm going to do."
Sutton, who suffered a right ankle sprain during the second game of the season, has been missed. The Wildcats are 2-0 with him and 0-3 without.
In his place, Northwestern has used junior Omar Conteh and senior Brandon Roberson. Conteh rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries Saturday against Michigan.
Quotes & Notes
Dantonio on Northwestern, which plays at Michigan State noon Saturday: "They'll come down here ready to go and represent." ... Ohio State, Wisconsin and Purdue, all 5-0, are one win away from bowl eligibility. ... With 14 straight wins, Wisconsin holds the nation's longest current winning streak. ... Ohio State has won 23 consecutive regular-season games. Penn State handed the Buckeyes their last regular season loss, 17-10, on Oct. 8, 2005.