Big Ten teams use last nonconference games to clean up acts
The last Saturday in September will be the last chance for Big Ten teams to work out their kinks before conference play begins.
Meyer, whose team hosts Western Michigan ahead of its conference opener against Indiana, is looking for improvement in all areas from an offense that accounted for 13 points and five turnovers in last week's 20-13 win over Northern Illinois.
''One of the worst-executed performances since we've been here, so we'll get that corrected,'' Meyer said.
Minnesota (2-1) hopes what's been a woeful offense starts moving against Ohio before opening Big Ten play at surprising Northwestern. Injuries have forced shuffling on the offensive line. As a result, the running game has been stymied and Mitch Leidner has been forced to throw too much. Leidner's two interceptions in a 10-7 win over Kent State led to calls for him to be replaced. Coach Jerry Kill has offered no hint that will happen.
''Nothing is ever easy, but I think we can certainly improve this week. I really do,'' Kill said. ''I'm looking forward to it because controversy sometimes makes you better. I've had a lot of that in my life, and kids, it makes them mentally tougher.''
Nebraska (1-2) needs to shore up a pass defense that ranks among the worst in the country before next week's Big Ten opener at Illinois. The Huskers will get a good test Saturday against Southern Mississippi's spread offense.
Some other Big Ten teams' areas of concern as nonconference play winds down:
- Illinois (2-1) had its rushing defense exposed when North Carolina ran for 254 yards.
- Indiana (3-0) has the same problem as always - defense. The Hoosiers have given up an average of 544 yards and 35 points against undistinguished competition.
- Michigan State (3-0) didn't close games against Western Michigan and Air Force as strong as coach Mark Dantonio would like. ''In both cases, though, we were comfortably ahead so it didn't cost us anything. In the Oregon game, we needed to finish, and we did,'' he said.
- Northwestern (3-0), led by a stout defense so far, is going to need Clayton Thorson to be better than a 50-percent passer.
- Wisconsin (2-1) is humming along, but any injuries along an offensive line that has three new starters could spell ruin.