Big Ten morning links

Hitting on the hottest topics in the Big Ten before sweeping through the league ahead of another critical non-conference Saturday.

1. Minnesota's QB quandary: There's not exactly a controversy under center, since the Gophers have made it quite clear that Mitch Leidner is the top option to lead the offense. But for the second week in a row, there have been questions about his health, and therein lies the uncertainty that could turn this into a more pressing issue for Jerry Kill. The Minnesota coach pegged Leidner at 100 percent on his injured knee last week, but Saturday something else popped up with his foot -- though Kill shot down reports of a broken bone and seemed puzzled by where they came from. Backup Chris Streveler has appeared in all three games and was needed to finish the last two, and at some point if he keeps handling himself well and if Leidner's bumps and bruises remain a weekly topic of conversation, perhaps the Gophers may find themselves in the midst of a real controversy. This week it probably won't matter given the way Minnesota ran the ball all over San Jose State last year. But Michigan is looming next week, and the Gophers would likely be better off if they didn't have to keep answering questions about their starting quarterback.

2. Waiting game for Buckeyes: From the outside, the case seems pretty open and shut regarding Noah Spence's latest failed drug test and what figures to be permanent ineligibility for the All-Big Ten defensive end. But there hasn't yet been an official verdict handed down, so Ohio State coach Urban Meyer confirmed after practice Wednesday night that Spence was still practicing with the team while "doing things to get healthy." Given what would seem to be a long-shot appeal combined with the serious tone from the Spence family when they addressed a "medical illness" to the Columbus Dispatch last week, it is somewhat surprising that the star junior would be back on the field at all right now while each of those separate, but related, issues are sorted out. Meyer stressed that Ohio State was doing what it could to support him, and if Spence is eventually cleared for a return, everybody involved would surely want him ready to play again. So unless or until the Big Ten tells him otherwise, Spence is still working out with the Buckeyes and waiting for the next update on his status.

3. Heat is on Hawkeyes: The running game is struggling. The kicking game looked like a fire drill even when the field-goal unit hit a clutch attempt last weekend. Kirk Ferentz is under fire with his clock management skills being questioned. And after dealing with all that in the aftermath of the loss to Iowa State, the Hawkeyes have to hit the road to play unbeaten Pittsburgh before diving into conference play. Maybe Iowa could actually use that traveling time to bond and rally against the odds that seem to be stacking up against the program, because it's pretty clear the team needs a spark. The Hawkeyes were a trendy dark horse pick to win the West, and no matter what happens at Pitt it should be fine next week at home to open conference play against Purdue. But it's time for them to show they really have what it takes to contend this fall.

East Division

  • Brady Hoke explained the reasoning behind his unwillingness to address injuries.

  • Michigan State right guard Connor Kruse could be back in the lineup as early as next week.

  • Keys for Penn State as it looks to move to 4-0 to open the season.

  • The secondary has been key for Rutgers defensively so far this season, and it will need its safeties to play a big role against Navy.

  • Fixing problems on third down has been a top priority for Maryland this week.

  • Indiana receiver J-Shun Harris II is developing into another weapon for the uptempo offense.

  • Just more than a year after believing his football career might be over, Donovan Munger is providing depth at defensive tackle for Ohio State.

West Division

  • Danny Etling knows how to prepare. The Purdue quarterback might be overdoing it though.

  • Nebraska defensive backs are preparing for "the fastest receivers" they've ever gone against.

  • It doesn't appear Pat Fitzgerald is easing off the intensity at all coming off the bye week and as kickoff draws closer.

  • Injuries are dominating the headlines at Minnesota, but the offensive line is coordinator Matt Limegrover's biggest concern.

  • A look at the Texas State defense, which has some athletes who can provide a test for the Illinois offense.

  • Pressing questions for Wisconsin as it gets back to work against Bowling Green.

  • Iowa linebacker Quinton Alston said the Hawkeyes needed a "kick in the butt" after losing to Iowa State.