Big Ten: O.J. Ross

As spring practice kicks off around the Big Ten, we're taking a look at one potential breakout player for each team. We're looking for players who could take a major step during spring ball, so those who have started multiple seasons or earned All-Big Ten recognition in 2012 aren't eligible.

Purdue kicks off the series with ...

Dolapo Macarthy, WR, junior, 6-foot-5, 220 pounds

Purdue's mystery-filled quarterback competition will take center stage this spring, but the signal-callers also need some reliable targets in the passing game. The Boilers lose Antavian Edison to graduation, and O.J. Ross was indefinitely suspended last month. Macarthy likely would have moved into a bigger role regardless of Ross' status, but his responsibility now increases.

He finished fourth on the team with 28 receptions in 2012, racking up 252 receiving yards and a touchdown. Macarthy's size certainly jumps out, and he could be a bigger threat as an outside receiver in Purdue's new offense after averaging just 9 yards per catch as a sophomore. Macarthy came to Purdue as a walk-on quarterback after spending time at a prep school and a junior college. He moved from quarterback to receiver and seems to have found a home there.

Purdue kicks off spring ball March 18, and it will be interesting to see how coach Darrell Hazell and new offensive coordinator John Shoop use Macarthy alongside probable No. 1 receiver Gary Bush.
After a brief break for signing day, the postseason position rankings return with the wide receivers and tight ends. The Big Ten had only one team (Indiana) rank in the top 30 nationally in pass offense, and the league's overall depth at receiver and tight end wasn't good at all, but a few groups of pass-catchers stood out.

As a reminder, these rankings are based solely on performance during the 2012 season and factor in both star power and depth. Here's a look at our preseason rundown.

There's clear separation with the top three groups, while the bottom four could be rearranged just about any way you want (if you enjoy that sort of thing).

Now let's get started ...

[+] EnlargeCody Latimer
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsReceiver Cody Latimer should have a productive season in Indiana's pass-oriented system.
1. Indiana (Preseason ranking: 8): The Hoosiers attempted 58 more passes than any other Big Ten team, but they had plenty of reasons to do so and merit top billing here. Speedster Shane Wynn led the squad in receptions with 68, but Cody Latimer emerged into the star of the group, recording 51 receptions for 806 yards and six touchdowns. Like Latimer, Kofi Hughes stretched the field and averaged nearly 15 yards per reception. Tight end Ted Bolser also made nice contributions (41 catches, 445 yards). IU had five receivers or tight ends finish with at least 23 receptions.

2. Nebraska (Preseason ranking: 2): The Huskers' multitude of big-play threats nearly put them in the top spot, as they helped Nebraska finish with the Big Ten's top offense (460.8 ypg). Wideout Kenny Bell led the way with 863 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 50 receptions (17.3-yard average). Receiver Jamal Turner and tight ends Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton all averaged at least 13 yards per reception. Quincy Enunwa became a nice No. 2 target with 42 receptions for 470 yards.

3. Penn State (Preseason ranking: 7): Few saw this coming before the season, and our preseason capsule about the Nittany Lions began with, "Justin Brown gives the Nittany Lions a solid top option." Whoops. Even though Brown transferred in the wake of the NCAA sanctions, Penn State found surprise stars in wide receiver Allen Robinson and tight end Kyle Carter. Robinson won the Big Ten's Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year Award after leading the league in receptions (77), receiving yards (1,013) and touchdown catches (11). Carter (36 catches for 453 yards) might have been the league's top tight end, a position where Penn State had unparalleled depth. Players like wideout Brandon Moseby-Felder and tight end Matt Lehman emerged later in the season.

4. Purdue (Preseason ranking: 5): There's definitely a drop-off after the top three groups, but Purdue had a nice crop of receivers who likely would have put up bigger numbers if quarterback Robert Marve had stayed healthy all season. Wideouts O.J. Ross (56 receptions, 454 yards) and Antavian Edison (58 receptions, 682 yards) both finished in the league's top five in receptions, while Gary Bush also eclipsed the 40-catch mark. Young wideout Dolapo Macarthy showed promise, and tight ends Gabe Holmes and Crosby Wright combined for 47 receptions.

5. Michigan (Preseason ranking: 6): No offense to Denard Robinson, but Michigan's receiving corps truly got its chance to shine once Devin Gardner took control at quarterback. Michigan became a much more pass-oriented offense and stretched the field with several players. Jeremy Gallon turned in a very solid junior season with 49 receptions for 829 yards and four touchdowns (16.9-yard average). Roy Roundtree came on strong late in the season and made the catch of the year in the league against Northwestern to force overtime. Michigan received nice contributions from wideout Drew Dileo and young tight end Devin Funchess (five touchdowns), and Gardner himself made some plays early on before switching permanently to QB.

6. Ohio State (Preseason ranking: 9): Coach Urban Meyer is looking for much more from Ohio State's perimeter players, but in a pass-challenged league like the Big Ten, Ohio State's receivers and tight ends finish in the middle of the pack. Corey Brown quietly produced a 60-catch season, finishing fourth in the league in receptions (5 rpg). Devin Smith had half as many receptions as Brown but finished with nearly the same yardage total (669-618) as he became Braxton Miller's top deep threat. Jake Stoneburner had four touchdown catches, while sophomore tight end Jeff Heuerman showed some promise.

7. Northwestern (Preseason ranking: 1): Thanks to the emergence of Venric Mark, Northwestern became a much more run-driven offense than we anticipated before the season, although the receiving corps underachieved a bit. The Wildcats had no true stars, although they boasted some nice balance as four players recorded at least 29 receptions. The big bright spot late in the season came from freshman tight end Dan Vitale, who recorded 28 receptions for 288 yards and two touchdowns. USC transfer Kyle Prater wasn't much of a factor (10 catches, 54 yards). Quarterback Kain Colter might have provided the best performance from a Northwestern receiver when he moved there against Indiana and recorded career highs for both receptions (9) and receiving yards (131).

8. Michigan State (Preseason ranking: 11): It says something about the Big Ten when Michigan State's receivers, who received heavy criticism for much of the season, finish in the top two-thirds of the rankings. But the Spartans simply produced a lot more than the groups below them. They had arguably the league's top tight end in Dion Sims, who recorded 36 receptions for 475 yards before opting to skip his senior year and enter the NFL draft. Freshman Aaron Burbridge emerged at receiver during Big Ten play (29 receptions, 364), and the Spartans had three receivers record at least 36 receptions and two -- Keith Mumphery and Bennie Fowler -- with more than 500 receiving yards.

9. Wisconsin (Preseason ranking: 3): Wisconsin had a major shortage of depth, which hurt during a season where three different players started at quarterback. The Badgers had one of the league's best wide receivers in Jared Abbrederis (49 receptions, 837 yards, 5 TDs), and Jacob Pedersen won the Big Ten's Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year award, albeit in surprising fashion. But no other players recorded 20 receptions and Wisconsin ended up finishing last in the Big Ten and 111th nationally in passing.

10. Iowa (Preseason rank: 4): The Hawkeyes struggled to consistently pass the ball, and getting into the end zone proved to be nearly impossible as they finished with just seven receiving touchdowns. Kevonte Martin-Manley, the group's bright spot with 52 catches for 571 yards, was the lone Hawkeye with multiple scoring receptions in 2012. Keenan Davis fell short of expectations and while C.J. Fiedorowicz put up nice numbers for a tight end (45 receptions, 433 yards), many expected more from him as well. Like several Big Ten squads, Iowa struggled with depth at receiver.

11. Illinois (Preseason ranking: 10): We had concerns about Illinois' skill-position talent and depth before the season, and it proved true. Although the Illini had four players record at least 25 receptions, two of them -- receptions leader Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson -- play running back. Ryan Lankford was the team's top wideout with 469 receiving yards and five touchdowns, while Darius Millines once again struggled to stay healthy. Spencer Harris contributed 21 catches for 252 yards and two scores, but Illinois needed much more to spark the league's worst offense.

12. Minnesota (Preseason ranking: 12): Like many of their Big Ten brethren, the Gophers lacked playmakers on the edge to provide balance on offense. Their best threat, A.J. Barker, left the program in not-so-quiet fashion after a spat with head coach Jerry Kill. Barker appeared in only eight games but still had 11 more receptions than any other Minnesota player. Receivers like Isaac Fruechte, Derrick Engel and Devin Crawford-Tufts showed flashes, and tight end John Rabe had four touchdown grabs, but Minnesota needs a lot more from this group going forward.

Purdue suspends receiver O.J. Ross

February, 1, 2013
2/01/13
3:30
PM ET
Purdue has suspended wide receiver O.J. Ross indefinitely for a violation of team rules, the school announced on Friday. The team did not release any other details.

The 5-foot-10 Ross is the Boilermakers' leading returning receiver. He had 56 catches for 454 yards last season, second only to departed senior Antavian Edison in both categories. Ross also caught two touchdown passes.

Purdue is light in experience at receiver. Aside from Ross, the only returning players at the position with more than two catches last year are senior Gary Bush (41 catches for 360 yards and seven touchdowns) and sophomore Dolapo Macarthy (28 for 252 and 1).

Ross was also suspended for the 2011 Little Caesars Bowl because of academics, which briefly cost him his scholarship. He was reinstated the following spring.

The good news, if there is some, for Ross is that this suspension comes early in the offseason. He has plenty of time to work himself back into the team's good graces if new coach Darrell Hazell allows it.
Our snapshots of each bowl game featuring a Big Ten team continues.

HEART OF DALLAS BOWL

Purdue (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State (7-5)

Where: Cotton Bowl, Dallas

When: Noon ET, 11 a.m. CT

TV: ESPNU

About Purdue: The Boilers returned more starters (18) than any other Big Ten team, and fourth-year coach Danny Hope told anyone who listened that he'd have his best squad in West Lafayette. Purdue looked decent through the first four games, but things felt apart once Big Ten play kicked off. Blowout home losses against Michigan (44-13) and Wisconsin (38-13) led to a five-game losing streak to begin Big Ten play. Purdue lost an overtime heartbreaker to Ohio State in a game it controlled most of the way. To the Boilers' credit, they didn't quit and won their final three games to become bowl eligible. Hard-luck quarterback Robert Marve played despite a torn ACL and revived the offense down the stretch. A 6-6 record wasn't enough to save Hope, however, and Purdue dismissed the coach on Nov. 25. Wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins will led Purdue in the bowl game.

About Oklahoma State: It's a surprise to see Oklahoma State in this game as the Pokes figured to end up a little higher on the Big 12's bowl pecking order. Still, Mike Gundy's team dropped its final two games and three of its final five to finish 7-5. Despite losing quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon from the 2011 team, Oklahoma State displayed its typical offensive prowess, finishing fourth nationally in scoring (44.7 ppg), fifth in total offense (548.9 ypg) and seventh in passing (333.4 ypg). The Cowboys scored fewer than 30 points in just one game and eclipsed 50 points four times. Quarterback J.W. Walsh and receiver Josh Stewart spark the passing game, but Oklahoma State also can run the ball with Joseph Randle. The Cowboys struggle against the pass (112th nationally) and generated only 17 takeaways this season.

Key players, Purdue: Marve has been fairly effective even with the ACL injury, firing 13 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. He has several weapons to attack Oklahoma State's secondary in veteran receivers Antavian Edison, O.J. Ross and Gary Bush. Akeem Shavers is the Boilers' featured back, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Purdue's best player is senior defensive tackle Kawann Short, a potential first-round draft pick who recorded 14.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and four blocked kicks this season. The Boilers also boast playmakers at cornerback in Josh Johnson and Ricardo Allen.

Key players, Oklahoma State: The Pokes have no shortage of playmakers on offense, and it all starts with Walsh, who ranks fifth nationally in pass efficiency (165.7 rating). Stewart ranks seventh nationally in receptions (8 rpg) and 17th in receiving yards average (96.2 ypg). Randle led the Big 12 in rush yards (1,351) and ranks 18th nationally in rushing average (112.6 ypg). Senior linebacker Alex Elkins leads the team in tackles. Oklahoma State boasts an All-America kicker/punter in Quinn Sharp.

Did you know: The teams have met just once before in the 1997 Alamo Bowl, a 33-20 Purdue victory under first-year coach Joe Tiller. Purdue quarterback Billy Dicken passed for 325 yards as Purdue overcame a 13-10 deficit by scoring three touchdowns in the third quarter to secure the win. ... Purdue will play in back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2006 and 2007. ... Oklahoma State appears in a record seventh consecutive bowl game under Gundy, who has a 4-2 record in the postseason.
Purdue's 2012 season has been, if nothing else, a wild ride.

It started on a steady incline in nonconference play, with a small dip during a respectable loss at Notre Dame Stadium. The Boilers then went into a free-fall, dropping their first five Big Ten contests, four in blowout fashion (three at home). But the ride wasn't over. Purdue wasn't finished.

The Boilers needed to win their final three games to become bowl eligible, and, after some predictable bumps, they got there. Even Saturday's 56-35 triumph against Indiana in the Bucket game had some crazy twists and turns, but in the end, Purdue prevailed.

The game featured three lead changes and a 14-point, third-quarter Purdue lead squandered in a matter of minutes. But in the end the Boilers (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) received enough from senior running back Akeem Shavers and a host of playmakers on defense to retain the Old Oaken Bucket for the second straight season.

Shavers was brilliant from the start and recorded 126 rush yards, 99 receiving yards and three touchdowns (1 rush, 2 receiving). Quarterback Robert Marve completed 20 of 29 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns on senior day, while Crosby Wright, O.J. Ross, Antavian Edison and Gary Bush all contributed big plays for the Purdue offense.

Both teams had momentum-turning interceptions. A Marve pass late in the first half pinballed to Indiana's Greg Heban, who had a long return to set up the go-ahead score. Early in the third quarter with the game tied 21-21, Purdue's Frankie Williams went all Willie Mays and corralled an interception near the Boilers goal line. Purdue scored two plays later. But the biggest pick came with Purdue up 42-35, as senior safety Max Charlot squeezed a deflected pass from Coffman. Marve connected with Shavers five plays later and the Boilers never looked back.

Indiana (4-8, 2-6) received a huge first-half performance from running back Stephen Houston (123 rush yards, 3 TDs), but Coffman's three picks proved costly. Then again, Indiana's defense was so bad that it didn't matter. Purdue racked up 558 yards and routinely carried Hoosiers defenders down the field.

Kevin Wilson's team improved in Year 2 and should have a chance to go bowling next year with eight home games. But the defense still isn't at a Big Ten level. Not even close. Talent remains the biggest issue, but Wilson might need to look at his coaching staff as well after the way this season ended.

Speaking of coaching changes, will Purdue make one in the coming days? Danny Hope still wants more time to implement his master plan, but most Boiler fans want him out and attendance Saturday remained disappointing. Then again, Purdue beat the teams it was supposed to this season and nearly stunned Ohio State in Columbus.

Athletic director Morgan Burke, it's your move.
Hope or change?

That appears to be the decision for Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke, and evidence seems to be pointing to the latter. The Boilermakers have lost five straight games, four of them in blowout fashion, to drop head coach Danny Hope's career record to 19-27. One published report has said Burke has already put out back-channel feelers to potential replacements for Hope.

Asked about that on Tuesday's Big Ten coaches' teleconference, Hope said, "That's news to me." But he understands that the temperature is reaching boiling temperatures under his seat.

[+] EnlargeDanny Hope
Pat Lovell/US PresswireThe 2012 season hasn't gone as planned for Danny Hope's Boilermakers.
Hope said he will block out the criticisms and continue to concentrate on coaching the Boilers (3-6, 0-5 Big Ten), who can still go to a bowl game if they win their final three games, starting this week at Iowa.

"I'm not going to let a disgruntled fan or any one person take my spirit away or take away from what it is that we're here to do, and that's to coach football and have fun and to win," Hope said at his weekly news conference. "Obviously, the fans have a reason to be disappointed. We're very, very disappointed. But I don't let someone that demonstrates themselves in a small way set me back a whole lot, if you will. I certainly wouldn't let someone that has small character take my happiness away."

One big question remains: How did this happen? This was supposed to be Hope's best team in West Lafayette, and Purdue started off well, going 3-1 and playing Notre Dame to the wire on the road. Then things collapsed with blowout losses at home to Michigan and Wisconsin. The Boilers nearly upset Ohio State on the road but blew a late lead to lose in overtime. The last two games have brought double-digit losses to Minnesota and Penn State. Hope called it "surprising and baffling" but offered some reasons why the team has failed to perform."

"I think a lot of it has to do with where we're at from a physicality standpoint," he said. "We've had a lot of guys that have been banged up, and their level of performance has dropped off.

"I think Ryan Russell is a great defensive end, and I think when the season started off, he may have been one of the best defensive ends in the Big Ten potentially. ... He's had some injuries, and he has sucked it up and played injured on Saturdays, and we appreciate that effort, but he hasn't been as effective as he was earlier in the season. The same is true with Bruce Gaston and the same is true with Kawann Short and the same is true with Ricardo Allen, and O.J. Ross has been out of the equation and Raheem Mostert has been out of the equation, and those are our very best players."

Hope said some of the negativity also started to snowball for his team.

"You lose and you lose ugly, and then the fans turn on you in some ways and then doubt creeps in it a little bit," he said. "And maybe a guy doesn't play as well and then a few guys get injured and pretty soon you're not as good as you should be or as good as you were.

"It's hard to kind of hold all that together. And then the competition picks up and you get more guys injured and you lose some more and things become tough around you. "

But Hope isn't deflecting blame and says that "if we're not successful, then ... I'm the one that ought to be ripped. I'm the one that trained them."

Purdue fans are doing plenty of ripping on their head coach these days. It's up to Burke to decide whether Hope or change is the best course of action going forward.

Big Ten Tuesday personnel roundup

November, 6, 2012
11/06/12
3:15
PM ET
Some more personnel nuggets from around the league ...
  • Illinois LB Jonathan Brown (shoulder) is out for Saturday's game against Minnesota, coach Tim Beckman confirmed. Brown sustained the injury last Saturday at Ohio State and is "week to week," according to Beckman. Freshman Mike Svetina will step in for Brown, an All-Big Ten player in 2011 who is tied for the team lead in tackles (59) and leads the team in tackles for loss (9.5). He also has a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
  • Minnesota WR A.J. Barker (ankle) is doubtful for the Illinois game, according to coach Jerry Kill. Barker, the Gophers' top receiver (30 catches, 577 yards, 7 TDs), tried to play last week against Michigan but tweaked the injury in pregame warm-ups. He won't practice today. "Unless a miracle takes place, I don't look for him to play," Kill said. Another Gophers WR, Derrick Engel, is questionable for the Illinois game after injuring his hamstring against Michigan.
  • Penn State DT Jordan Hill (knee) and TE Kyle Carter (foot) are both day-to-day for this week's game at Nebraska, coach Bill O'Brien said. Carter sat out last week at Purdue, while Hill sustained a nasty-looking injury that turned out to be just a sprain. Decisions on both men will be made later in the week, while RB Curtis Dukes (head) is out for the Nebraska game. O'Brien also said Penn State's running back competition continues this week after Zach Zwinak shined in the Purdue game, while Bill Belton was a nonfactor.
  • Iowa likely will be without RB Mark Weisman (groin) for the second straight game Saturday against Purdue. Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz isn't overly optimistic about having Weisman, noting that the sophomore couldn't do anything in Sunday's workout. Weisman has logged countless hours in the training room trying to get back on the field, but as Ferentz noted, "Nature has to take its course."
  • Purdue WR O.J. Ross (toe) likely will play this week against Illinois, coach Danny Hope said, while RB/KR Raheem Mostert (knee) and DT Brandon Taylor (ankle) are doubtful. Senior DT Kawann Short (ankle) expects to play after seeing fewer snaps in the Penn State game.
  • Ohio State coach Urban Meyer says there's a better than 50 percent chance LB Etienne Sabino (leg) returns following the open week at Wisconsin. Sabino, who broke his leg Oct. 6 against Nebraska, recently met with the training staff. "We need him," Meyer said.

Midseason report: Purdue

October, 16, 2012
10/16/12
6:30
AM ET
PURDUE

Record: 3-3 (0-2 Big Ten)

Danny Hope told anyone who'd listen in the offseason that he would have his best team at Purdue in 2012.

Through the first four games, the Boilers looked the part, averaging 51 points per game at home and nearly upsetting Notre Dame in South Bend. But Purdue's defining stretch -- and perhaps the defining stretch of the Hope era -- always looked like the opening three games of Big Ten play. Purdue hosted Michigan and Wisconsin in the most anticipated games at Ross-Ade Stadium since perhaps the 2004 season. And the Boilers fell flat both times.

Purdue's future and perhaps Hope's future lurks murky after the team dropped the two games by a combined score of 82-27. Although much of the attention -- and criticism -- is centered on Hope's management of his quarterbacks, Purdue's defensive collapse has been stunning. A unit featuring several bona fide NFL prospects (tackle Kawann Short, cornerback Ricardo Allen) has surrendered 123 points the past three weeks and 771 rush yards in the losses to Michigan and Wisconsin. The Boilers' defensive line is supposed to be the team's strength, but it hasn't been the case lately.

Unless Purdue beats Ohio State in Columbus for the first time since 1988 -- and records its first road win against an AP Top 10 team since 1974 -- it will drop to 0-3 in the league and virtually out of the race to represent the Leaders Division in Indianapolis. Hope remains loyal to quarterback Caleb TerBush, a decision that will loom large in the second half. Purdue has the pieces to still have a decent season, but the turnaround needs to happen in a hurry.

Offensive MVP: WR Antavian Edison. No obvious choice here, but Edison has done his part as a playmaker from the slot receiver spot. He had 24 receptions for 285 yards and five touchdowns in the first four games, and though his production has slowed a bit lately, he boasts at least three catches in every Boilers contest. Edison is tied for third in the Big Ten in touchdown catches and has added 24 rush yards. Fellow receiver O.J. Ross also has been solid for Purdue.

Defensive MVP: DT Kawann Short. This is a harder sell after the past two weeks, but Short still has turned in a good first half as he aims to boost his NFL draft stock. The senior is tied for the Big Ten lead in tackles for loss (9), ranking 26th nationally, while leading Purdue and tying for fourth in the Big Ten in sacks (4). Short also continues to be a standout on special teams, leading the Big Ten with four blocked kicks. He also has a forced fumble and two pass breakups. Linebacker Will Lucas, safety Landon Feichter and cornerback Josh Johnson also merit mentions.

Wisconsin-Purdue pregame ponderables

October, 13, 2012
10/13/12
10:49
AM ET
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Greetings from Ross-Ade Stadium, where it's about 50 degrees and a little overcast. But the rain appears to be holding off.

How big is today's game between Wisconsin and Purdue? Boilermakers receiver O.J. Ross said on the Purdue pregame show that his team is approaching this as if it's "a championship game." And it basically is, in the Leaders Division. With Penn State and Ohio State ineligible for the Big Ten title game and Indiana and Illinois struggling, whoever wins this one will have a huge leg up on getting to Indianapolis in the first week of December.

So it's really a matter of which team shows up, for both teams. Will Wisconsin continue its slow but steady offensive progress and look like the team that has dominated the Boilers the past few years? (The Badgers have won six straight in this series). Or will Bret Bielema's offensive line struggle against a good Purdue defensive front, forcing redshirt freshman Joel Stave to make plays down the field? If that's the case and Montee Ball is not running wild, Purdue will like its chances. Jared Abbrederis is one of the best receivers in the Big Ten, but the Boilers' cornerback tandem of Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson is as good as it gets in this league. That should be a fun matchup to watch.

And which Purdue will we see? The one that took Notre Dame to the wire in South Bend, or the one that looked like an FCS team against Michigan last week in a 44-13 loss here? Players and coaches all said this week that their spirits were still high despite the disappointing showing last week, and the word around the team is that this week's practices were crisp. But this remains an outfit under Danny Hope that has struggled with consistency and discipline in big spots.

The Boilermakers will have to unleash their varied offense, utilizing running backs Akeem Hunt and Akeem Shavers -- and Ralph Bolden. The senior is expected to make his season debut today after recovering from another torn ACL that he suffered in last year's season finale. How effective he will be remains to be seen. Maybe we'll see Bolden and quarterback Robert Marve in the same backfield, which we could call the ACL festival. Caleb TerBush should start again at quarterback, but Hope won't hesitate to pull the trigger on fan favorite Marve early if TerBush has trouble.

Wisconsin's defense is an underrated crew that's playing pretty well, though Nebraska's spread and speed gave it major problems in Lincoln. Purdue could follow a similar blueprint.

This is also a huge game for Hope, whose support among the Purdue fan base would dwindle if his team falls flat in this one. With a trip to Ohio State looming next week, the Boilers can't afford another Big Ten loss. This is a must-win situation, and Purdue needs to come out firing as if it is indeed a championship game. Because, in all reality, it is.

Big Ten lunch links

October, 11, 2012
10/11/12
12:00
PM ET
Is this kindergarten or The Hunger Games?
Let's take a quick look at the two Big Ten contests on tap this afternoon:

Illinois (2-3, 0-1 Big Ten) at Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1), 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC regional/ESPN2 mirror: Both of these teams already have reached a critical juncture in their seasons after shaky starts. Things certainly are more dire for Illinois, which has been blown out in three of its past four games by a combined score of 132-45. The Illini rank last in the Big Ten in points allowed (27.8 ppg) after ranking 15th nationally in scoring defense (15.8 ppg) in 2011. Next to Illinois' defense, Wisconsin's offense has been the league's biggest surprise from a production standpoint, as the Badgers still rank last in the league in yards per game (309.2 ypg). Wisconsin showed some improvement last week at Nebraska and once again will turn to redshirt freshman Joel Stave at quarterback. The Badgers are getting healthy and will get defensive ends Brendan Kelly (hamstring) and Pat Muldoon (thumb) back for the game. Illinois defensive end Michael Buchanan will play, while linebacker Jonathan Brown (leg) is a game-time decision. The Illini haven't won in Madison since 2002.

Michigan (2-2) at Purdue (3-1), 4 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network: Although Nebraska-Ohio State and maybe even Northwestern-Penn State are getting more attention, the Michigan-Purdue game could be the most intriguing of the Big Ten's Week 6 slate. Michigan returns to the field for the first time since its turnover train derailment at Notre Dame. Purdue begins its defining stretch of the season -- Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State -- with a game some Boiler fans think is the team's biggest since the 2004 clash with Wisconsin at Ross-Ade Stadium. Speaking of Ross-Ade, the Boilers have been a juggernaut on their home field, averaging 51 points through the first three games. Michigan's defense appeared to turn a corner at Notre Dame but must contend with Purdue weapons like Antavian Edison, Gary Bush, O.J. Ross, Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt. On the other side, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson goes up against a talented Purdue defense led by Kawann Short, although the unit struggled to contain Marshall last week. Purdue has won 12 of its past 15 Big Ten openers.

Who will transform tomorrow?

October, 5, 2012
10/05/12
9:00
AM ET
Each Friday during the season, we'll be taking a look at a Big Ten player to watch when the games kick off Saturday.

This week's selection: Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush

Saturday assignment: vs. Michigan (4 p.m., Big Ten Network)

Saturday's clash is crucial for both the Wolverines and Boilermakers in their quest to win division titles. Michigan can't afford a loss with road games still looming at Nebraska and Ohio State, while Purdue begins its defining stretch of the year.

The Boilers are going to need a great game from TerBush in this one. Robert Marve might play, but we wouldn't expect him to do too much less than a month after an ACL tear, so this Purdue offense is all TerBush's. He threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns last week against a shaky Marshall defense. The challenge goes up several notches this week against a Michigan defense that has made steady strides since the season began and has had two weeks to prepare for this one.

TerBush won the starting job because of his decision-making, and he must take care of the ball this week. The Boilers can't have another showing like he had against Notre Dame, when he tossed two interceptions in a 20-17 loss. TerBush has lots of weapons around him, like Antavian Edison, Gary Bush, O.J. Ross and the two Akeems (Shavers and Hunt). If he can distribute the ball efficiently and avoid costly mistakes, Purdue will have a chance for an important win.

Big Ten lunch links

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
12:00
PM ET
Got football fever yet?
Purdue linebacker Dwayne Beckford and receiver O.J. Ross -- who were both suspended before the Little Caesars Bowl -- have been put back on scholarship and are expected play in 2012 coach Danny Hope said over the weekend.

Beckford was dismissed from school following a DUI arrest but has been reinstated, while Ross was taken off scholarship following academic problems. Ross practiced with the team this spring.

Beckford was the team's second-leading tackler in 2011, and the Boilermakers do not have much experience at the linebacker position. His trial on the DUI charge is set for June, and he also faces sentencing for violating his probation from a 2011 conviction for leaving the scene of an accident.

Ross was the team's third leading receiver a year ago, catching 33 passes for 356 yards and three touchdowns. Purdue's leading receiver, Antavian Edison, was arrested in Florida earlier this month on suspicion of carrying a concealed weapon. But he remains on the team, Hope told the Lafayette Journal and Courier.

“Right now, he’s in school,” Hope said. “Antavian has not been charged with anything. He’s in school, he’s on the team and he has not been dismissed.”

All three players will be key parts of what Purdue hopes is a breakthrough season after last year's 7-6 campaign.

Purdue spring wrap

May, 11, 2012
5/11/12
6:30
AM ET
2011 record: 7-6
2011 conference record: 4-4 (third place, Leaders Division) Returning starters: Offense: 9; Defense: 9; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
DT Kawann Short, CB Ricardo Allen, QB Caleb TerBush, QB Robert Marve, QB Rob Henry, RB Akeem Shavers, RB Ralph Bolden, DE Ryan Russell, WR Antavian Edison, DT Bruce Gaston, OT Trevor Foy

Key losses
LB Joe Holland, S Albert Evans, LT Dennis Kelly, OG Nick Mondek, WR Justin Siller, K Carson Wiggs

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Ralph Bolden* (674 yards)
Passing: Caleb TerBush (1,905 yards)
Receiving: Antavian Edison* (584 yards) Tackles: Joe Holland (94) Sacks: Kawann Short* (6.5) Interceptions: Ricardo Allen* (3)

Spring answers

1. Healthy QBs: After two years of dealing with injuries and inexperienced signalcallers, Danny Hope finally had enviable depth at the position this spring. With Robert Marve healthy, last season's starter Caleb TerBush a year wiser, and Rob Henry on the mend from a torn ACL, Purdue has three former starters at quarterback. Hope said the depth made for much improved offensive execution this spring, which should carry over into the fall. Now he just has to figure out whom to play and when, as it's likely more than one will see the field in the same game.

2. Defensive front and back set: The Boilermakers have a chance to be very good up front defensively, and it all starts with defensive tackle Kawann Short. He passed up the NFL draft, and could work his way into first-round status with a big senior season. Bruce Gaston returns along side him in the middle, and sophomore defensive end Ryan Russell looks like a future star after coming on strong at the end of last season. The secondary is also in great shape, with returning cornerbacks Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson possibly forming the best tandem in the league, according to Hope. Nickel back Normondo Harris had a big spring game, and Max Charlot returns at safety. Purdue should have the ability to generate a pass-rush and defend the ball in the air.

3. More confidence: There's little doubt that there's more confidence in the air around West Lafayette. That comes from the team making -- and winning -- its first bowl game under Hope last season, and returning 18 offensive and defensive starters. This is Hope's deepest team, and it should be his best. Some are picking Purdue as a potential Big Ten sleeper, and the players believe that talk is justified.

Fall questions

1. Linebacker Who? While the defense looks stout up front and in the secondary, questions remain at linebacker. Joe Holland, the team's leading tackler a year ago, graduated. Dwayne Beckford missed the bowl game after a DUI arrest, and his status for the fall remains in flux. Will Lucas is the only returning starter guaranteed to suit up in September. There's talk of using some 3-4 looks under new defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar, who implemented his system in practices closed to the media this spring. Does Purdue have enough linebackers to make it work?

2. Offensive line chemistry: The Boilers' offensive line didn't get a lot of hype last season, but it produced two NFL draft picks in Dennis Kelly and Nick Mondek. Trevor Foy is moving from right to left tackle, and Kevin Pamphile and Rick Schmeig worked at multiple positions this spring. Purdue will mix in some new faces and some veterans in new places this fall, and how well that unit comes together will have a large say in how the offense flows.

3. X-factors on offense: Some things we simply don't yet know include the following: Can Ralph Bolden successfully return from knee surgery? If not, is Akeem Shavers a capable every-down back? What will happen to leading receiver Antavian Edison after his arrest on weapons charges this week? Will fellow wideout O.J. Ross make it back from academic suspension? Can kick returning dynamo Raheem Mostert make an impact at receiver? Purdue has a lot more options on offense than in the recent past, but there also remains a lot of question marks.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

BIG TEN SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12