Big Ten lunchtime links: Bacher, Painter still ailing

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Key injuries are piling up around the Big Ten as the season's most critical month kicks off Saturday. Here are some health updates and other happenings around the league.

  • Avoiding the "Same Old Spartans" label isn't easy for Michigan State, and even after ending its losing streak to Michigan, another test awaits this weekend, Joe Rexrode writes in the Lansing State Journal.

    "From this perspective, comparing the culture of MSU football now with MSU football 22 games ago is like comparing modern America with medieval France. Saturday's home game with Wisconsin, though, will serve as one more test of whether the Spartans champion democracy, have electricity and use deodorant."

  • C.J. Bacher's injured hamstring is improving, but Northwestern backup quarterback Mike Kafka is taking the snaps with the first-team offense at practice, Lindsey Willhite writes in the Daily Herald.

  • Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter didn't do much at Tuesday's practice and could be a game-time decision Saturday against Michigan, Tom Kubat writes in The Journal and Courier.

  • Iowa knows all about Illinois running back Jason Ford, who twice committed to play for the Hawkeyes before changing his mind, Scott Dochterman writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.

  • Penn State officials aren't commenting on Joe Paterno's future at the school, but the 81-year-old head coach has every intention of coming back in 2009, Bob Flounders writes in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News.

  • Dustin Sherer sports a camouflage huntin' hat, Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirts and the personality Wisconsin needs at the quarterback position, Mike Lucas writes in The Capital Times.

    "I don't really like hats," Sherer confessed. "It's the only hat I've ever worn, actually. And I wear it everywhere. The guys are always making fun of it. I'm called the redneck on the team. I don't know why. (Pause). Actually, I do know why. But we have some rednecks on the team besides me."