Ten weeks in, let's check out the portfolio ...
Michael Carter: The Minnesota senior cornerback has had an up-and-down career, but the arrow is pointing up now. Carter was named Big Ten co-defensive player of the week after an outstanding game against Purdue where he tied a program record with six pass breakups and returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown. "I'm excited for him," head coach Jerry Kill said. "He's gone through a lot of things to get to where he's at, but he has worked hard to get where he needs to be right now."
Indiana's ball security: One reason the Hoosiers' offense has improved is that they are holding onto the ball. Indiana is the only team in the FBS that has not lost a fumble this season. (Compare that to Nebraska, which is tied for last with 14 lost fumbles). "It's something we emphasize, but it's also a credit to our kids," head coach Kevin Wilson said. "Ball security is also the offensive line keeping hands down so you don't get batted balls, it's backside protection so your quarterback doesn't get hit, it's blitz pickups. So it's a commitment from everyone on the offense."
Bennie Fowler: The Michigan State receiver struggled with dropped passes earlier in the year and lost his starting job. So it was nice to see him get some redemption in Saturday's win at Wisconsin. Fowler had six catches for 48 yards, including the game-winning touchdown grab in overtime. Perseverance pays off.
Ohio State's defense: The Buckeyes were rightly criticized for some poor defensive efforts in the first seven games. It has been a different story the last two weeks, as Ohio State allowed fewer than 20 offensive points in each of the wins against Purdue and Penn State. Tackling has been better, as well as the pressure up front. Penn State managed only 32 rushing yards. "Fundamentally, I feel much better about where we're at defensively," head coach Urban Meyer said "I think our coaches have done a really good job taking 10 minutes, sometimes 15 minutes a day just working on fundamentals. This time of year that's almost unheard of, but you can see the improvements on the field."
Micah Hyde's speed: The Hawkeyes lost to Northwestern on Saturday, but Hyde might have gained some NFL money when he somehow caught Wildcats' speedster Venric Mark from behind to save a touchdown. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said that Hyde's speed might make him a good receiver but that he has been too valuable at cornerback. "Micah showed a different gear there," Ferentz said. "Maybe we need to try him at running back." When informed of this, Hyde screamed, "Nooo! Save me from the AIRBHG!" (OK, I made that last part up).
Danny Hope's Purdue future: Athletic director Morgan Burke put out a statement about the Boilermakers' football program on Monday. And while the statement didn't say a whole lot, Burke also never gave Hope any kind of vote of confidence (and never even mentioned Hope by name). The Lafayette Journal and Courier reports that Hope's buyout would be $600,000, and when you include the assistants and other amounts owed, a coaching change would cost around $1.4 million total. Burke may not have much choice if Ross-Ade Stadium is half-empty again this week against Penn State.
Michigan's offense: That's two straight games now and three on the season (Notre Dame being the other) where the Wolverines have failed to score a touchdown. Yes, Michigan State's defense and Denard Robinson's injury last week at Nebraska played key roles in the recent scoring failures. Still, Michigan should have enough talent to find the end zone despite adversity, and the team is averaging just 133 yards passing in Big Ten play, last in the conference. The lack of an alternative to Robinson, a conservative approach and the near-complete disappearance by Fitz Toussaint (he has 321 rushing yards and a 3.3 ypc average this season) are keeping the Wolverines in neutral.
Ohio State's punt team: The Buckeyes had a punt blocked for the third time this season on Saturday, and Penn State scooped up the latest block for the game's first touchdown. Meyer sounded exasperated by the problems when asked about them on Tuesday. He said the punt team has had seven different lineups this season in part because of injuries and that some of the inexperience and lack of cohesiveness is showing. If Ohio State is not careful, that deficiency might cost it a shot at going 12-0.
Wisconsin's QB health: As a reader in my Monday chat pointed out, perhaps it's time to start thinking about a AWQBHG (Angry Wisconsin Quarterback Hating God). Jon Budmayr can't get his arm healthy. Curt Phillips is finally back but has had all kinds of knee problems. Joel Stave broke his collarbone. Freshman Bart Houston was sidelined by a shoulder injury before he even arrived in Madison. Joe Brennan transferred out, and Danny O'Brien hasn't lived up to expectations since he transferred in. It makes you realize just how lucky the Badgers were to get Russell Wilson.
Illinois' special teams: Guess it wasn't all Ron Zook's fault that the Illini special teams are anything but special. Illinois is 117th nationally in punt returns (1.8 yards per return), 115th in kickoff returns (16 yards per return) and is just 4-for-8 on field goals (1-of-4 in Big Ten play). A fumbled punt return on Saturday led to a score in the team's 31-17 loss to Indiana. Just one more item on Tim Beckman's fix-it list.