ERIC OLSON, AP College Football Writer
Some things to watch in the Big Ten during Week 9 of the season:
GAME OF THE WEEK: Michigan-Minnesota comes three days after Gophers coach Jerry Kill’s emotional retirement announcement and two weeks after the Wolverines’ last game, that excruciating scoop-and-score loss to Michigan State. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys takes over as interim coach at the start of a brutal stretch that takes the Gophers to Ohio State and Iowa the next two weeks. The Gophers took the Little Brown Jug with a 30-14 win in Ann Arbor last year. The Wolverines, who’ll put their nation-leading defense up against a struggling offense, need to get the jug back to keep Ohio State and Michigan State in sight in the Big Ten East race.
BEST MATCHUP: Maryland interim coach Mike Locksley is emphasizing the ground game over what’s been a terrible passing attack, so unbeaten Iowa’s stout run defense will be tested. QB Perry Hills has run for 294 yards in his last two starts, RB Brandon Ross has two 100-yard games this season, and the Terrapins are averaging 5.2 yards a carry. Only one Iowa opponent has run for more than 100 yards.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Illinois has won three of its last five Big Ten games and four of its last eight. In the 25 conference games before that, the Illini were 1-24. Illinois heads to Penn State looking for its first road win this season. The Illini beat the Nittany Lions 16-14 last year in Champaign but have lost 8 of 9 of the games played in Happy Valley.
LONG SHOT: Purdue is an 11-point underdog at home against a Nebraska team that has dominated the Boilermakers in two previous meetings. The Boilers are desperate for a win and could be catching the Cornhuskers at the right time. Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. missed practices early in the week because of an injured right foot, and the Huskers are coming off another devastating loss, this one at home against Northwestern.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Wisconsin QB Joel Stave had to leave last week’s game against Illinois in the first quarter after hitting his head while getting sacked, and Bart Houston played well in relief. Stave passed concussion tests this week and is expected to start at home against Rutgers. It will help if RB Corey Clement can return from his sports hernia surgery this week. If not, Stave will be asked to keep throwing at the high level he has since Clement went out early in the season.
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