Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Big Ten looking for some BCS love

Four weeks into the 2002 season, the Big Ten conference faces its biggest test of the young season.

Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State all take the field against top-25 teams in hopes of staking the Big Ten’s ground as the conference to beat this year.

With three contests pitting the upper echelon of collegiate football squads against one another, the notion of whether or not the Big Ten conference belongs at the top of the elite conferences relies on Saturday’s performances.

However, exactly how this weekend’s match-ups will weigh in significance throughout an entire season remains up for debate among the conference’s coaches.

“I think [high profile games] make a statement about the conference,” said Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr. “The objective is always to win, and you make a statement every time you go on the field.”

No. 7 Michigan (2-0) travels to South Bend to make its statement against No. 20 Notre Dame (2-0), who has yet to score an offensive touchdown on the board this year. The heavyweight bout reconvenes for the first time after a two-year hiatus.

No. 6 Ohio State (2-0) and its explosive set of tailbacks faces No. 10 Washington State (2-0) at the Horse Shoe in Columbus. Buckeye’s head coach Jim Tressel doesn’t regard this game as an integral part of the entire season.

“We’re trying not to get caught in a make-or-break situation [against Washington State,]” said Tressel, whose biggest test will be Nov. 23 when OSU hosts Michigan.

Penn State (1-0) hosts eighth-ranked Nebraska (3-0) in Happy Valley. The game marks the first time since 1982 the two teams have clashed, and head coach Joe Paterno is a seasoned veteran when it comes to big non-conference games.

“My feeling is one week doesn’t make a difference,” said Paterno.

Penn State will provide the first real test for Husker quarterback Jammal Lord, who has been an offensive force in his first three starts of the season, racking up 506 yards passing and rushing and six touchdowns. More importantly, this weekend permits PSU to make a push back onto the national scene.

“I think you have to be careful when saying this is the week the Big Ten can establish it is the best conference,” commented Paterno. “One week is not going to prove anything.”

With the Bowl Championship Series considering losses and strength of schedule to determine who will play for the national championship, teams who possess preseason match-ups that include high profile teams have the most to lose or gain. Contrary to what the coaches say, it seems to be a no-brainer that this weekend will weigh heavily not only in the national title picture, but also in the perception of the league nationally.

After failing to put a team in the national championship since the BCS has been instituted, maybe this will be the weekend for the Big Ten to make a serious statement to the rest of the nation.

Purdue pondering

When Purdue running back Montrell Lowe concluded his junior year, he did it with a false sense of security. Thinking he was a lock for the tailback position for his senior campaign, Lowe hoped to continue his climb through the Purdue record books and add to his 2,479 career rushing yards that has him placed as the Boilermakers’ fifth all-time leading rusher.

Enter junior tailback Joey Harris.

Harris, who possesses blazing speed, made a sizeable impression on the coaching staff during the prior year and especially during the off-season.

“Gradually, we would like Joey to take over a greater role,” head coach Joe Tiller said. “We did learn something last year, that we need to substitute for [Harris] early and keep him fresh later on.”

Finishing runner-up in the Texas High School 200-meter championships as a senior (11th best nationwide), Harris has learned a few things that have allowed him to greater utilize his outstanding speed.

“[Harris] is playing with more confidence,” said Tiller. “He’s running with good vision and with his blockers.”

His maturity has been obvious in games versus Illinois State (23 carries, 144 yards, 2 touchdowns) and last week’s loss to Notre Dame, where he ran for 109 yards on 25 carries.

“I have slowed down more,” said Harris. “I’m not always looking around at who’s going to hit me. I have become more confident as a runner and more physical than last year.”

Somber victories

Last August, tragedy hit the Northwestern University football team’s members.

Senior safety Rashidi Wheeler collapsed in preseason practice with bronchial asthma and died. The Wildcats bounced back in the season opener beating UNLV 37-38.

Fast-forward a year: another Big Ten team, another tragedy. Two Sundays ago, the Minnesota Golden Gophers lost lineman Brandon Hall in a horrifying shooting episode in downtown Minneapolis. The Gophers, just like the Wildcats, played their next game in name of their late teammate and came away victorious, defeating Louisiana-Lafayette 35-11.

“These are young kids,” Gophers coach Glen Mason said. “They’ve got a lot on their plate. From a mental standpoint, they were not there. But that’s understandable. Heck, I’m a grown man, and my mental state wasn’t there.”

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