Injuries and late-game losses headline Big Ten

Only three Big Ten teams remain undefeated through eight weeks of play, leaving the Big Ten West up for grabs.


Katina Zentz

Illinois head coach, Lovie Smith, speaks during the Big Ten Football Media Day in Chicago, Ill., on Thursday, July 18, 2019.

Anna Kayser, Sports Editor

After a weekend full of mayhem for the Big Ten, the West is looking to be more of a dogfight than first expected.

Only three teams in the conference remain undefeated: Ohio State, Penn State, and Minnesota. The Gophers being the only team to represent the Big Ten West in that feat.

Wisconsin fell to No. 13 in the AP Top 25 following its last-second loss to Illinois on Saturday in Champaign, shaking up the conversation of which teams will travel to Indianapolis in December.

“On the inside, we felt like we’ve been getting better, but I guess on the outside as much as anything, it’s one thing to be getting better but to find a way to win a big game and to finish up the right way in the fourth quarter,” Illinois head coach Lovie Smith said.

Illinois WR out for season

Illinois, the team that everyone in the Big Ten West is looking up to after its historic upset, got some bad news on Tuesday regarding wide receiver Trevon Sidney.

Sidney went down with a leg injury against Minnesota on Oct. 5 and is out for the remainder of the season after having surgery this week. He currently holds 16 of the team’s receptions, good for third on the team, to go along with 123 yards.

Wide receiver Ricky Smalling also suffered an injury against Wisconsin, leaving Illinois’ receiving core thin. There’s no official word on a timetable for his return, as Smith said he would learn more about Smallings’ status later this week.

Wisconsin-Ohio State matchup

No. 13 Wisconsin travels to No. 3 Ohio State on Saturday for a game that would have been a top-10 matchup had Illinois missed one field goal.

Wisconsin was without offensive lineman Jason Erdmann and cornerback Deron Harrell against Illinois, but it is optimistic that both of them will be available this weekend.

“All the guys are working through everything at this point in the season,” Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst said.

Despite the loss to Illinois, Wisconsin’s defense is still one of the best in the country and will pose a threat for Ohio State head coach Ryan Day’s offense come Saturday.

The Buckeyes have given up 14 sacks this season, something that Wisconsin could capitalize on if the protection isn’t there.

“I think it’s a combination of a few things that have gone on this year,” Day said. “Some of it’s protection. Some of it also is that Justin [Fields] tries to create. He works through his reads. Then, there’s times where he wants to extend and create. That’s OK, too. It’s not the end of the world.”

RELATED: Iowa’s run defense, receiver depth key against Northwestern

Penn State facing plenty of penalties

Penn State’s penalties have increased in the past few weeks, but that’s not something that head coach James Franklin is worried about.

As one of the few Big Ten teams still undefeated, going from an average of three penalties a game to six over its past few contests comes with the game and physical Big Ten play.

“Yeah, I think there’s penalties that are avoidable, and those should never happen, ever,” Franklin said. “They are unacceptable. But then there’s aggressive penalties that are going to happen through a game. You don’t want them to happen, but they are going to happen.”

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