What in the name of Woody Hayes is going on in the Big Ten this year? Part soap opera, part police blotter, the conference has had more than its share of interesting moments:
* Penn State Coach Joe Paterno gets up close and personal with an official after 42-35 loss to Iowa on Sept. 28.
* Wisconsin running back Anthony Davis, the Badgers' leading rusher, is charged with misdemeanor battery after a domestic dispute in which he was stabbed in the leg.
* Purdue quarterback Brandon Kirsch breaks his right pinkie in a fight at a fraternity house.
* But Michigan State takes the cake as far as drama is concerned. First, the team stinks up the joint after being ranked 18th entering the season. Then, quarterback Jeff Smoker is suspended by the team for the infamous "undisclosed reasons," setting off rampant speculation (anything from drugs to crime to wearing brown shoes with black pants were suggested). It's later revealed Smoker is battling substance abuse. Then, tailback and team captain Dawan Moss is dismissed from the team after being arrested for dragging a police officer with his car, as well as drunken driving. Then, Michigan hands the Spartans their worst loss in 55 years. To top it all off, coach Bobby Williams gets the axe, reducing the shamefully low number of black Division I-A coaches to three. It's not easy being green, I guess.
* Not all is bad. Sweater-vest sales are at an all-time high in Columbus, as Coach Jim Tressel has led Ohio State to a perfect season and a possible spot in the Fiesta Bowl. Plus, Coach Kirk Ferentz has Iowa eyeing a share of the conference title after years in the abyss.
Noon: The top games in this time slot (N.C. State-Maryland, Notre Dame-Navy) are both local and will receive better attention elsewhere than this space can provide.
3:30 p.m.: No. 2 Miami begins the make-or-break part of its schedule at Tennessee (WUSA-9, WJZ-13). The Hurricanes have been griping all week about their demotion to No. 3 in the BCS ratings, but they need to face one simple fact: They're simply not as good as last season, no matter how many games in a row they have won. The evidence is convincing. After going 27 straight without trailing in the second half, Miami has been in a hole in two of the last three games. The Hurricanes' special teams have been dismal (they've allowed three blocked punts and also missed an extra point last week). And their vaunted rush defense, so intimidating a year ago, ranks 77th in the nation at 165.5 yards per game. Miami probably will leap-frog Ohio State if it wins its last three games, but the Hurricanes musn't be too complacent.
7 p.m.: While battling a cold, Iowa State quarterback Seneca Wallace threw for a school-record 425 yards last week in a win over Missouri. "I play better when I'm sick," he said after the game. "Kind of like when Michael Jordan played sick." Air Wallace and the 21st-ranked Cyclones will have a tougher task this week against No. 12 Kansas State (TBS), which has the nation's third-ranked defense. The Wildcats, who strangely have yet to go paws up this season, have outscored their opponents by an average of 51-6 in its last three wins, over Oklahoma State, Baylor and Kansas. This is no surprise, as Coach Bill Snyder is infamous for running up the score against inferior opponents.
-- Matt Bonesteel