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Saturday, October 11, 2008
Big Ten early roundup: Gophers make a statement


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

What a wild day in the Big Ten so far. Minnesota is back, Iowa might be on its way, Michigan looks down and out and Illinois can officially be labeled overrated. You've got to love the unpredictability of college football.

I'm about to head over to Camp Randall Stadium, but here are my thoughts on what has transpired in the Big Ten so far Saturday.

MINNESOTA-ILLINOIS

It seemed fitting that Minnesota sealed a defining road win against Illinois with big plays on defense. The Gophers' transformation behind first-year defensive coordinator Ted Roof has been truly stunning, as Illinois found out today. Defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg was draped over Illini quarterback Juice Williams all game long, and Simoni Lawrence scored what turned out to be the decisive touchdown. Illinois took too long to get its big-play offense going, and Williams' tendency to hold the ball in the pocket ended up hurting him on two fourth-quarter turnovers. Kudos to second-year coach Tim Brewster for bringing in the right type of talent to engineer a quick turnaround.

TOLEDO-MICHIGAN

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez has not done well, despite his sparkling track record, in his first season at a new school. The troubling trend has continued, and Michigan suffered the worst loss in recent team history to Toledo, which came into the game at 1-4. Folks, this is worse than Appalachian State. The Wolverines entered the game with a 24-0 record against MAC teams, and Toledo's lone win had come against Eastern Michigan. Michigan's quarterback situation is a complete mess, with neither Steven Threet nor Nick Sheridan having any kind of success against the Rockets. Rodriguez has to stick to the system he believes in, but he should consider playing to his quarterbacks' strengths.

IOWA-INDIANA

Well, the Hawkeyes finally figured it out. This was a much, much better team than its 3-3 record indicated, and Iowa executed in all areas to pound Indiana 45-9. The Hawkeyes now boast a legit two-headed rushing attack, as freshman Jewel Hampton has joined junior Shonn Greene as a backfield threat. Both Hampton and Greene eclipsed 110 rushing yards against a soft Hoosiers defense, and Ricky Stanzi had an efficient, intelligent performance. But this game was won on the defensive side, as Iowa's ferocious front four contained Hawkeye-killer Kellen Lewis. Indiana continues to give away the football and really misses big-play wideout James Hardy.