Big Ten teams brace for month before championship

There’s a month left in the Big Ten season and the championship is far from claimed.

Although Michigan State (3-2), Wisconsin (2-2), Northwestern (2-2) and Purdue (2-2) have not been eliminated, it appears that the crown will fit a team with one or no losses. That leaves three candidates: Iowa (4-0), Ohio State (4-1) and Penn State (3-1).

Lions impressed by Wildcats

Joe Paterno can’t stop saying good things about Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald.

Quite a compliment for Fitzgerald coming from a Hall of Famer who was already in his ninth season as the head coach of Penn State when Fitzgerald was born in 1974.

JoePa is especially impressed with the way Fitzgerald settled the Northwestern program following the death in the summer of 2006 of coach Randy Walker.

“He’s gone out and he’s got some kids that believe in what Northwestern’s all about,” Paterno said. “They’re playing awfully well.”

Indiana still reeling after match against Virginia

Indiana blew a 25-point lead at Northwestern on Saturday and the 29-28 loss could have lasting ramifications on the Hoosiers’ bowl hopes.

But was it the most deflating loss of the season for the Hoosiers? Not at all.

“That (Virginia game) was hard to put behind you because we didn’t give them our best shot,” coach Bill Lynch said. “The Northwestern game, that was one of those crazy games that we’ve all been involved in, but we played hard.”

The Hoosiers (4-4) — with games remaining against Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State and Purdue — need two wins to become bowl eligible. No wonder Lynch doesn’t want to discuss what’s ahead.

“When you start getting ahead of yourself, then you’re not taking care of the things you have to do,” Lynch said. “Or looking back, and saying if we would have done this or that, that’s energy wasted.”

Michigan rebuilding offense

Michigan has hit a wall since the first month of the season.

The Wolverines have lost three straight Big Ten games after a perfect September to slump to a 5-3 overall record and 1-3 in the conference.

The Wolverines’ struggles last year were expected because Rich Rodriguez inherited an offense decimated by graduation, early departures for the NFL and transfers when he took over for Lloyd Carr after the 2008 season.

“Some of the issues and problems we have didn’t occur overnight and they won’t be solved overnight,” said Rodriguez, . “But we’ve got to solve them, and as coaches we’ve got to do our job identifying them first and then solving them.”