Big Ten notebook: Purdue's Hope says program "in really good shape"
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Purdue's Danny Hope occupies the hottest seat in the Big Ten, but the fifth-year coach said he is close to turning the Boilermakers around.
“There's a lot of things about the program that are clicking on all cylinders for the first time in many years,” Hope said Tuesday during the Big Ten football coaches' teleconference. “I think the program is in really good shape.”
The standings tell a different story.
The Boilermakers are 0-5 in the Big Ten, 3-6 overall, and they have lost to Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State by a combined 80 points. Winning the rest of their games and becoming bowl eligible, however, is not out of the question.
Purdue plays at Iowa, at Illinois and hosts archrival Indiana it its regular-season finale. The three teams have a combined record of 10-17.
“We now have a one-game season, and we have to win against Iowa,” senior defensive tackle Bruce Gaston said. “We are disappointed at where we are, but we can still finish strong.”
Even a strong finish may not be enough to save Hope's job.
Yahoo! reported Tuesday that Purdue has gone through a third party to gauge interest in its head coaching job.
“That's news to me,” Hope said. “I haven't seen or heard anything about that.”
In the driver's seat
Nebraska can take a huge step toward winning the Legends Division with a win against Penn State.
The Cornhuskers are 4-1 in Big Ten play and are tied with Michigan atop the division. Nebraska, however, holds the tiebreaker against Michigan, and it has the easier remaining schedule of the two teams.
Michigan hosts Northwestern, the only other team that has a chance of winning the Legends Division, Saturday, and it still has to play at unbeaten Ohio State.
Penn State is the only team left on Nebraska's schedule with a winning record in Big Ten play.
Not that Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini is ready to start entertaining thoughts of winning the conference and representing the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl
“I don't talk about any of that,” he said. “Our guys know what's at stake. We talk about living the process and it's a pretty consistent message.”
On the Mark
Perhaps no Big Ten player has been more valuable to his team than Northwestern running back Venric Mark.
The junior leads the conference in all-purpose yards (184.1 ypg) and has scored 12 touchdowns this season.
Two of those came against Penn State, including one on a punt return that gave the Wildcats a double-digit lead at Beaver Stadium.
Mark is second in the conference in rushing (119.7 ypg), and his play makes it hard to believe he started his college career as a wide receiver.
“He's a big-play threat every time he touches the football,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke, whose team will try to contain the Northwestern star on Saturday.
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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