Cluster on top proof of strong conference

Sarah Mitchell

Each week, the Big Ten battle for the Rose Bowl ticket is more and more clouded. After four weeks of conference play, four teams occupy the top spot in league standings.
Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern and Purdue all top the Big Ten with 3-1 conference records. Having played one less conference game than the top four teams, Ohio State is also in the mix with a 2-1 record.
Can anyone explain?
“There are a lot of good football teams in this league without question,” Indiana coach Cam Cameron said. “We probably don’t have as many marquis players maybe as a year ago, but some awfully good football teams.”
Not since 1990, when Michigan won the title, has a team with two Big Ten losses been crowned the conference’s champion.
“I think it proves without a question the competitiveness of the conference,” Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr said. “It speaks to the good coaching that’s going on in this conference and the kind of athletes being attracted to without question 11 of the finest universities in this country,”
Ray Guy Award
Six punters from the Big Ten are among 40 nominated for the inaugural Ray Guy award. Illinois’ Steve Fitts, Iowa’s Jason Baker, Michigan’s Hayden Epstein, Minnesota’s Preston Gruening, Purdue’s Travis Dorsch and Wisconsin’s Kevin Stemke have made the final Watch List.
The list will be narrowed to 10 semi-finalists on Nov. 8 and three finalists will be announced Nov. 30. The award will be presented on Dec. 12 in Augusta, Ga.
Players of the Week
This was a week of sharing in the Big Ten, as five players shared three conference awards.
Purdue quarterback Drew Brees was awarded offensive player of the week following the Boilermakers 41-28 defeat of Northwestern. Brees piled up 307 yards of total offense, completing 22 of 40 passes for 239 yards and five touchdowns and rushing 12 times for 68 yards.
The defensive award was shared by Wisconsin cornerback Mike Echols and Illinois defensive end Fred Wakefield.
Echols collected 10 tackles (seven solo) in his team’s first Big Ten win of the season, a 17-10 defeat of Michigan State. The junior also had two interceptions.
Wakefield recorded five tackles, three for a loss of 18 yards, and two sacks for a loss of 17 yards in the Illini’s 31-0 shut-out over Iowa. Wakefield also forced a fumble.
Special teams honors went to Gophers kicker Dan Nystrom and the Badgers Stemke.
Nystrom connected on all three of his field goals attempts against the Buckeyes and extended his consecutive field goals made mark to 10. He also cleared two PATs.
Stemke punted nine times for a 44.4 yards-per-punt average against the Spartans.