Back to basics for Michigan during bye; Badgers battered
No sign of a team-wide hangover at the Big House, at least to coach Jim Harbaugh.
First, Harbaugh had his team run through what he described as a training camp-like practice last week. The next day, he ran drills as if it were spring practice. The Wolverines took a few days off and returned on Sunday to begin preparations for this weekend's game at Minnesota.
''I was really inspired actually,'' Harbaugh said Tuesday. ''We're mentally sharp. Physically, didn't show any signs of rust.''
Now those sharp practice performances must carry over to Saturday and the trip to Minnesota to reclaim the Little Brown Jug. The Golden Gophers claimed possession last year with a 30-14 win in Ann Arbor.
The trophy game is the highlight of this week's conference schedule.
''We'll fight awfully hard to do our best and keep it in the state of Michigan, but it will be a challenge,'' Minnesota associate head coach Tracy Claeys.
Oops, that's not what he meant.
''I mean in the state of Minnesota. Sorry about that,'' said Claeys, who filled in for head coach Jerry Kill on the Big Ten coaches' call.
All will be forgiven in Minnesota if the Gophers, who are also coming off a bye, can hang on to the jug.
Michigan is the only Big Ten team this week that can win its sixth game to get to bowl eligibility and join Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Penn State among postseason-bound schools.
Minnesota is two wins away but faces a three-week gauntlet that also includes back-to-back trips to face the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes.
Getting off to better starts would help. Minnesota has been outscored 47-10 in first quarters this season.
Wisconsin has weathered its own injury woes to stay near the top of the West division. The offense, especially, has been battered with injuries to running back Corey Clement (sports hernia) and several offensive lineman
The Badgers added two more key players to the list with starting center Dan Voltz (knee) out for the year and receiver Robert Wheelwright (leg) out indefinitely after getting hurt in the 24-13 win last week over Illinois.
''Certainly you want all your guys, and you do develop consistency,'' coach Paul Chryst said. ''And yet you've got to focus on the things that you can control.''
That means the never-ending task of getting backups ready for more responsibilities.
At least Chryst appears confident that starting quarterback Joel Stave will practice this week. Stave was going to through the concussion protocol after getting knocked out of the Illinois game.
BYE WEEKS: Ohio State, Michigan State, Northwestern and Indiana are off this weekend. ... Spartans coach Mark Dantonio's plans for his team's bye week included no padded practices. He said he was dialing the contact down with his team dealing with injuries. ''We need to be fresh going into November,'' he said. ... Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz took a similar approach for his team's bye last week. ''Certainly the least amount of contact in 16-plus years being back,'' said Ferentz, referring to his Hawkeyes tenure.
HEADED HOME: The Illini travel to Penn State on Saturday in what will amount to a homecoming game of sorts for Illinois interim coach Bill Cubit. He is from the Philadelphia suburb of Sharon Hill. Cubit's resume also included a successful five-year stint as head coach at Division III Widener in southeastern Pennsylvania.
SORE ILLINI: Cubit said that junior TE Tyler White would miss the rest of the year a torn ACL, the third such injury of his career. Running back Josh Ferguson (right shoulder) appeared likely to miss a third straight game. ''I would put him at very, very doubtful at best,'' Cubit said.
AP College Football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org/
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP