There is something to be said about having a week off before delving into Big Ten play.
That’s how the schedule falls for Maryland first-year coach DJ Durkin, whose surprising Terrapins are idle this Saturday after opening 3-0.
When Maryland returns, it will host Purdue on Oct. 1. Until then, Durkin plans to work on improving a squad that needed double overtime to get past Central Florida last weekend.
”The timing works out well for us,” Durkin said Tuesday. ”We can rest up a few guys and, more than anything, continue to improve on work on areas we need to get better at as a team. There are plenty of those.”
Urban Meyer, coach of No. 2 Ohio State, also has Saturday off. He would prefer to build on the momentum created by a 3-0 start.
”I’m one of those guys that kind of wish we could keep going,” Meyer said. ”I wish (the bye) was a little later in the year, but I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about it. So we got it, let’s get healthy – we’ve got a few guys banged up – and let’s get a little better.”
Having already finished the non-league portion of its schedule, No. 11 Wisconsin (3-0) jumps right into Big Ten play Saturday by traveling to eighth-ranked Michigan State (2-0) in the first meeting between the teams since 2012. That’s the schedule, so Badgers coach Paul Chyrst is just going to deal with it.
”This is what we have, it’s great, so find a way to make it work for your team,” he said.
The way the conference is faring this year, every week from here on out will be a challenge. The Big Ten currently has five teams in the Top 25 , four in the top 11.
”We’ve always known there’s great football played in the Big Ten,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said.
Nebraska (3-0) jumped into the Top 25 after rallying to beat Oregon 35-32. Now ranked No. 20, the Cornhuskers hope to build on that comeback in a matchup against Northwestern (1-2) on Saturday.
”It was a great win for us at that particular time,” Nebraska coach Mike Riley said. ”We’ll see how we can capitalize on that.”
The two other league games Saturday are Iowa (2-1) at Rutgers (2-1) and Penn State (2-1) at Michigan (3-0). Minnesota (2-0) is coming off a bye and won’t start Big Ten play until next week. The Golden Gophers host Colorado State on Saturday.
Given his choice, coach Tracy Claeys would have preferred to take a break in October or November.
”I try not to worry about things I can’t control, but there’s no question I’d like to have it just past the middle of the year,” Claeys said. ”But it’s better to have one early than to not have one at all.”
Other notes from around the Big Ten:
STRONG ARMED ARMSTRONG
Northwestern has a tough task defensively Saturday against Nebraska’s high-powered attack. The Cornhuskers have rung up 130 points, including 85 after halftime. Tommy Armstrong Jr. has run for four touchdowns and thrown for 685 yards and seven scores.
”They’ve been very explosive” Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald said. ”I just believe that Tommy Armstrong is not only one of the best quarterbacks in the conference, but in the country. All he does is win.”
TAKING IT TO THE HOUSE
A very young Penn State team has a difficult task at Michigan on Saturday, but coach James Franklin hopes his players will enjoy the experience of playing in the Big House.
”I think it’s fun,” Franklin said. ”A historic program, a historic stadium. That’s why you come to play at a place like Penn State, to have these types of experiences. You embrace it, you look forward to it.”
The Nittany Lions stumbled against Pittsburgh before squeezing past Temple last week 34-27.
”We’re getting better,” Franklin said. ”We have 12 seniors total on our team. … I think Michigan has 13 on their two-deep on offense and 13 on their two-deep on defense.”
TIME TO REGROUP
A bye this weekend came at a perfect time for Illinois (1-2), which has much to do before taking on Nebraska on Oct. 1.
”We get to start over again,” coach Lovie Smith said. ”We have an opportunity to go back to some training camp-type practices and work on cleaning up some of the things we continue to do that cost us games. We’re going to look at all part of what we’ve been doing, whether it be changes in the lineup or some of the schemes.”
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