Big Ten Notebook: Badgers, Boilermakers prepare for showdown


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Wisconsin was once the unanimously predicted winner of the Leaders Division, but not any more. The Badgers will have to battle Purdue — a team that finished the 2011 regular season with a 6-6 record — for temporary ownership of the division.

Ohio State and Penn State, both 2-0 in conference play, sit atop the Leaders Division, but both are ineligible for the Big Ten championship game this season. Wisconsin is third with a 1-1 record and Purdue right behind it at 0-1.

Both teams know that this weekend’s game in West Lafayette, Ind., could very likely determine who will compete in Indianapolis for the Big Ten title.

“It’s a huge game for both teams. The winner could easily be in first place in our division,” Boilermaker head coach Danny Hope said. “It’s not a one-game season, obviously, but it’s certainly a game that can affect our team and our season and would be a great springboard opportunity for our program in a lot of ways.”

The Gold and Black fell to Michigan last weekend, but Hope said he’s confident his team will be able to defend the Badgers’ spread offense because of his defensive coordinator, Tim Tibesar, spent three seasons in spread-heavy the Canadian Football League.

“We have a very good plan to defend a spread offense and I think Coach Tibesar’s background with the CFL gives us some ideas, and some edge, and some ways against some of these spread offenses,” Hope said. “Our personnel allows us to line up and play against big, strong power-oriented football team, as well.”

Hope said he recognizes the Badger offense, and although signal caller Joel Stave is a redshirt freshman, he’s not unlike past Wisconsin quarterbacks. The head coach said the Badger’s offensive line is “jumbo-sized,” but the running game is geared the same way it has in the past. He said he feels confident in his defense to face off with the familiar offense.

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, however, said Purdue’s up-tempo and no-huddle offense is a “challenge” for the Badgers. But Bielema said simply slowing the game down might make the Boilermakers antsy and disrupt their rhythm.

“For an offense that likes to throw the ball around, move it around, and play up-tempo, one of the most frustrating things to do is sit on the sidelines,” Bielema said. “Everybody has their own DNA of what they want to have success: For us at Wisconsin, it’s huddling up, taking our time, executing the way that we should and being able to play in a way that give us success.”

Bielema, however, cited Purdue’s “unique personnel groupings and alignments” as problematic, along with Boilermaker defensive tackle Kawaan Short, who can “change the game in a heartbeat.”

O’Brien makes it clear — he’s not thinking about Coach of the Year

Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien’s name has flown around the football community recently in whispers that he’s in the running for this season’s Coach of the Year. But despite taking over a dying team in its worst moment, then getting slammed with sanctions from the NCAA and Big Ten, O’Brien said he isn’t thinking about his accomplishments just yet.

“We’re 4-2, and we have murderer’s row coming up here, starting with Iowa,” O’Brien said in a teleconference on Tuesday. “There are a lot of great coaches in this country. I’ve only coached six games my whole career. That’s the furthest thing from my mind.”

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