Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The regular season is finished, but there's still some news throughout the conference. Here's a closer look at five Big Ten teams.
Three players have left the program in recent days, and more attrition could be on the way. But head coach Rich Rodriguez expects freshman running back Sam McGuffie to return next fall, despite rumors of a transfer to a school closer to his home in Texas. McGuffie led Michigan in carries (118) and finished second in rushing (486), but he was overtaken by Brandon Minor down the stretch and dealt with some injuries, including two concussions that might require more medical evaluation.
"Sam has some tough issues," Rodriguez said. "He's a long way from home, trying to take care of his family. ... But hopefully Sam, he had a pretty good freshman year. He got banged up a little bit here at the end. But hopefully things will work out."
The Spartans' extra practice time in the coming weeks could jump-start what figures to be one of the Big Ten's most intriguing position competitions heading into 2009. With senior quarterback Brian Hoyer graduating, Michigan State will turn to either Kirk Cousins or Oklahoma transfer Keith Nichol to lead the offense. Cousins has looked good in relief work this fall, completing 7 of 9 passes with a 23-yard touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion in Saturday's loss to Penn State. The coaches don't need to see much of Hoyer until game preparation begins, so they should get an extended look at Cousins and Nichol in practice.
Head coach Tim Brewster on Monday announced the resignation of offensive line coach Phil Meyer, who will pursue other opportunities. Minnesota's offensive line became a glaring weakness as the season went along, and the Gophers ranked last in the Big Ten in rushing offense (105.8 yards per game) and 10th in sacks allowed (27). Inexperience and injuries contributed to the struggles, but Minnesota was manhandled down the stretch by Iowa and Michigan. Brewster will begin a national search for a replacement and could make a hire before Minnesota's bowl game.
The Wildcats hope to get two big pieces back for a bowl appearance. Defensive end Vince Browne will not require surgery on his knee, as originally thought, and should begin doing light running with the team when practices resume next week. Browne, who has four sacks and seven tackles for loss, sustained the injury on kickoff coverage Nov. 1 against Minnesota. Star running back Tyrell Sutton recently was fitted with a second cast on his injured wrist. Sutton will have the cast removed the second week of December, at which point he'll be re-evaluated. Northwestern won three of four games without Sutton but struggled to run the ball consistently.
Perhaps no player will benefit from an extended layoff more than junior running back Chris "Beanie" Wells. Wells re-aggravated a right hamstring injury in Saturday's win against Michigan and sat out the final quarter. Though he fully expects to play in a January bowl game, Wells welcomes the time off. He estimates that he hasn't been better than 80 percent healthy all season, dealing with a foot injury before the hamstring. If Wells gets near full strength for a bowl, he could have a huge performance in what could very well be his final collegiate game.