Fans and administrators might have different views, but eight is enough from the perspective of Big Ten football coaches.
The coaches, who are preparing their teams for this week’s start of an eight-game conference schedule, are not enamored with the idea of the Big Ten possibly adopting a nine-game league schedule several years down the road after Nebraska joins mix next season.
“I’m also smart enough to know that what I think won’t factor into things at the end of the day,” said Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, whose preference would be to retain an eight-game schedule ending the weekend before Thanksgiving with a Big Ten title game played two weeks after the end of the league schedule.
Coaches understand the difficulty administrators have in securing nonconference opponents and their concerns about the increased cost of guarantees paid to foes in those games.
But, they prefer the balance that an eight-game conference schedule creates.
“I think an eight-game schedule is tough enough, especially when so many teams are playing at least one good out-of-conference team,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “I know that fans want you to play somebody good every week, but the idea of nonconference games is to give your team a chance to grow.”
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez prefers the balance the current set-up presents, with four Big Ten games at home and four on the road in addition to four nonconference contests.
He isn’t the only coach who sees potential issues with how playing four home Big Ten games one year and five the next — and the opposite on the road — could impact the conference race.
“I have some concerns with that, the inequity of it, but it does seem like we are headed toward nine games at some point,” Indiana coach Bill Lynch said.
Because of existing nonconference contracts, the timetable for the possible expansion of the league schedule remains somewhat fluid and is likely four-to-five years in the future at the earliest.
“I’m certain it is something that will be discussed at length in our future meetings, but at the end of the day it will be the administrators who will make the decision,” Tressel said.
Back on the job
It will be determined later in the week if Mark Dantonio will be on the sideline for Saturday’s game with Wisconsin, but the Michigan State coach is back on the job one week after a mild heart attack.
“I feel good,” Dantonio said. “I’ll ease back into it, just like an injured player would. The medical people around me will make decisions as we move through the week as to what I will and won’t do. Following doctor’s orders is the No. 1 thing right now. I’m trying to be a good patient.”
Dantonio called it “surreal” to watch his team’s 45-7 win over Northern Colorado on television last week.
“I did get to see things from a different perspective. The one thing we all came to see — and it’s what we hoped was the case — is that this is a program, not one person,” Dantonio said.
Cleared to go
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who left Saturday’s rout of Bowling Green in the first quarter with a bruised left knee, returned to the practice field Tuesday and was cleared for a full workout.
Wolverines coach Rich Rodriguez said Robinson will start Saturday’s game at Indiana and that Devin Gardner and Tate Forcier will receive equal repetitions in practice as they share the second spot on the depth chart.
“That’s why we know we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Indiana coach Bill Lynch said. “They used all three guys in their last game, and it didn’t slow them down a bit.”
Running on empty
Iowa isn’t the only team with a shortage of healthy running backs. Purdue is in a similar situation as it works through a bye week.
Returning starter Ralph Bolden is coming back from an ACL injury suffered in the spring, while second-team Al-Terek McBurse has been out with an injury, and backups Dan Dierking and Keith Carlos have been playing through minor injuries the past two weeks.
Indiana: Ben Chappell threw a career-high four touchdown passes in the Hoosiers’ 35-20 win over Akron, breaking a school record with his fifth career 300-yard passing game.
Northwestern: Only twice in the past 48 years the Wildcats have opened the season with a 4-0 record, something Northwestern accomplished with a 30-25 win over Central Michigan last week.
Purdue: Quarterback Robert Marve, injured in Saturday’s loss to Toledo, underwent an MRI to determine the extent of his knee injury. Redshirt freshman Rob Henry is his backup.
Wisconsin: Freshman James White matched a school freshman record with four rushing touchdowns and averaged 13.2 yards per carry in Saturday’s 70-3 win over Austin Peay.
By the numbers
115: Big Ten teams open the 115th season of conference football competition this weekend.
2005: Last time three Big Ten teams topped 60 points in a game in a single season, something Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin did Saturday
6: The Big Ten and Southeastern Conferences are the only conferences to have six top-25 teams
73: Ohio State’s 73 points against Eastern Michigan were the most by the Buckeyes since scoring 83 vs. Iowa in 1950