Six Big Ten teams already are bowl eligible. Iowa and Maryland each need one more win, and Northwestern joins Indiana in needing two more victories. The Big Ten had 10 bowl teams last year.
Minnesota got its sixth win last week and is among four teams tied for second in the Big Ten West, one game behind Nebraska. The Gophers were among the five-win teams that played in bowls last year because there weren’t enough six-win teams to fill all the slots.
”The bowl thing is all about consistency,” Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys said. ”It does show you’re consistent, and I do think that’s the most important thing. We don’t want to be a program that’s up and down. We want to be consistent each year.
”But as far as a big celebration… we have bigger goals than that right now. If we reach those goals, we’re going to be bowl eligible anyway, so we really haven’t talked about being bowl eligible.”
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson knows the topic of bowl eligibility will come up this time of year. In a program that’s had little to modest success, reaching that six-win threshold has become the symbol of a successful season.
Last year was a breakthrough, with the Hoosiers making a bowl for the first time since 2007. They need two more wins to be eligible this season, and they have a real chance with Rutgers and Purdue still on the schedule.
Wilson said Tuesday he met with his players to tell them to ignore the bowl speculation on social media and on the street. He said it’s never been his staff’s goal to be a team that just goes to a bowl.
”We’d like to have more than that,” he said. ”If you get enough victories you get bowl eligible, and if you get a lot of victories you get bigger and better bowls. The guys know the process.”
Other notes from the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference:
THE BOOK ON BOOKER
Ohio State linebacker Dante Booker hasn’t played since spraining a knee in the opener against Bowling Green even though he was medically cleared two weeks ago. Booker was 2013 Mr. Ohio Football, a five-star recruit and a big contributor as a freshman and sophomore. Coach Urban Meyer gave no indication when Booker would play.
”I’m not sure he’s 100 percent yet,” Meyer said. ”He’s medical cleared but he’s not 100 percent.”
WAITING ON WES
Illinois coach Lovie Smith remains uncertain of the status of quarterback Wes Lunt, who hasn’t played since hurting his back against Purdue on Oct. 8.
”We’re hopeful we can get him back out there as soon as possible,” Smith said. ”If not, we’ll go the way we’ve been going.”
Jeff George Jr. has started the last two games, completing a combined 20 of 49 passes for 251 yards, with one interception and two touchdowns. The Illini host Michigan State this week.
OVERCOMING MENTAL BLOCK
Gerad Parker likes how Purdue has played in the first halves of his two games as interim coach. The Boilermakers led Nebraska 14-10 at half and were tied 17-17 with Penn State. They went on to lose both games.
Parker said his biggest task is getting his players to truly believe they can win after so much losing in recent years.
”There have been a lot of bad feelings and bad results on the football field,” Parker said, adding that the losing becomes ”very heavy on your shoulders as players, coaches and everybody.”
”It’s my job to make sure these guys are still having fun playing a kids game and get them to believe in something bigger than themselves and that they can have great things happen to them,” he said. ”And then those things will sooner or later begin to happen.”
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