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Big Ten shaping up to be brutal in 2013

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Big Ten shaping up to be brutal in 2013

Anyone wondering how tough the Big Ten will be this season should take a look at Iowa's plight.

The Hawkeyes (11-2) are flying high, having won six straight for their best start in eight years. They've got a pair of emerging stars in Aaron White and Devyn Marble and their league opener is already sold out. And yet the Hawkeyes will probably be underdogs in each of their first three Big Ten games.

Iowa kicks off play in by far the nation's toughest league by hosting fifth-ranked Indiana (11-1) on New Year's Eve. The Hawkeyes then travel to second-ranked Michigan (12-0) before a relative breather - No. 19 Michigan State in Iowa City.

``I think everybody in the preseason knew what this league was going to be, and that's what it's been,'' Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said after the Hawkeyes beat Coppin State on Dec. 22.

What it's likely to be this winter is a blast for fans - and brutal for members.

The Big Ten is first in overall RPI nationally as non-conference play winds down this weekend. Five league teams are ranked in the top 12 of the latest AP poll and at least eight of them have a good shot at reaching the NCAA tournament.

For now, the favorites to win the Big Ten are about the same as they were in October. The Hoosiers, Wolverines and ninth-ranked Buckeyes (9-2) currently look like the three teams most capable of winning the regular-season title.

Indiana was No. 1 for most of this season before an overtime loss to 18th-ranked Butler knocked the Hoosiers down a few pegs. Still, Indiana leads the country in scoring (89.1) and in point differential by outscoring teams by nearly 30 points a game.

Michigan can finish unbeaten in non-conference play for the first time in 27 years with a win over Central Michigan on Saturday. The Wolverines join top-ranked Duke, No. 3 Arizona and surprising Wyoming as the only undefeated teams left.

Ohio State has a pair of losses, though falling to Duke and Kansas is nothing to be ashamed of. The Buckeyes have depth beyond star Deshaun Thomas, who is averaging 20 points a game, and that should come in handy in the league.

``The Big Ten defensively is as good as there is in the country. Just having different guys out there that can knock shots down is something that is going to be advantageous for us throughout the season,'' Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.

What makes the Big Ten so tough this season is that it isn't just top heavy. The middle is pretty rough too.

No. 11 Minnesota (12-1) has wins over Memphis, Stanford, Florida State and USC, and is arguably the best team Tubby Smith has had in six seasons coaching the Gophers. Minnesota opens Big Ten play on Monday when it hosts Michigan State (11-2).

``I think we're in good position, but I know we have to play better,'' Smith said.

No. 12 Illinois has been the surprise of the league with its 12-1 start while the Spartans have wins over Kansas and Texas.

``It was a physical war and there were bodies everywhere. That's the way it is going to be in our league so we might as well get used to it,'' Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said after the win over the Longhorns.

Northwestern (9-4) suffered a major blow when it lost star Drew Crawford for the year with a shoulder injury, but the Wildcats nearly beat Stanford without him. Wisconsin is just 8-4, though its losses were against quality opponents like 14th-ranked Florida and 16th-ranked Creighton.

Nebraska (8-4) is still finding its way with new coach Tim Miles, and Purdue (5-6) is in rebuilding mode after losing Robbie Hummel and Lewis Jackson. Penn State suffered a massive blow when its best player, guard Tim Frazier, ruptured his left Achilles tendon and was lost for the year.

The true wild card in the Big Ten could wind up being those Hawkeyes. Iowa hasn't reached the NCAA tournament since winning the Big Ten tournament and earning a No. 3 seed way back in 2006. The Hawkeyes have wins over Iowa State and Northern Iowa, and their losses came against Wichita State and at Virginia Tech.

Iowa can play 10 guys comfortably for the first time in recent memory. McCaffery is going to need all of them for what promises to be as tough of a league schedule of anyone in the country.

``We have a better team. We're deeper. You have to be deep,'' McCaffery said.

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AP Sports Writer Rusty Miller in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

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Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP

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Lars Eller is out and John Carlson is a game-time decision for Game 1

Lars Eller is out and John Carlson is a game-time decision for Game 1

The Capitals will begin their first-round series against the New York Islanders shorthanded, though we are not quite sure how much yet. The team will be without center Lars Eller for Wednesday's Game 1 against the New York Islanders, according to head coach Todd Reirden. Defenseman John Carlson will be a game-time decision.

Eller left the bubble on Aug. 5 to be with his family for the birth of a child. He returned on Sunday and remains in his room under quarantine until he receives four negative tests over the course of four days. That meant it was theoretically possible that he could be cleared before Wednesday's game, but Reirden put the matter to rest on Tuesday saying Eller would not be available for Game 1.

Travis Boyd has played in Eller's spot on the third line and is expected to remain there for Game 1.

“You feel comfortable with the player that knows our system, knows the detail that is expected, understands his role on the team," Reirden said of Boyd. "He is very versatile we can use him in a lot of different ways and he is going to get that opportunity [Wednesday]. He has made well on this opportunity thus far. I think he has played well in both of the games he has been a part of and now it is where does he go from here?"

On the back end, Carlson's status remains unknown.

After getting tangled up in the team's exhibition game, Carlson did not play in any of the team's round robin games. This was believed to be just a precaution to save Carlson for when the games really start to matter in the playoffs. For that reason and considering how important a player he is, I would expect him to play or otherwise the injury is much more serious than anyone realized.

Carlson skated in both Monday's optional skate and Tuesday's practice.

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Big Ten announces cancellation of fall college football season

Big Ten announces cancellation of fall college football season

After speculation and uncertainty surrounding the college football season grew in recent days, the Big Ten Conference has announced that it is canceling its football season for the fall amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. “As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall."

In the release, the Big Ten announced it will "continue to evaluate a number of options regarding these sports, including the possibility of competition in the spring."

News from the Big Ten differs from speculation and reports coming out of the ACC which state that the conference is set on making the season work in the coming months.

The Mountain West Conference announced it would be canceling its fall season as well on Monday, with hopes to play in the spring instead. 

The Big Ten decision does not come as much of a surprise. It was reported that the Big Ten was going to call the season off on Tuesday. Dan Patrick reported that news and said that the conference had an internal meeting on Sunday resulting in a 12-2 vote to not play a college football season this fall. Nebraska and Iowa were the two conference programs to vote in favor of playing this season.

Additionally, signs of hesitation were shown in the days leading up to the announcement. The Big Ten recently postponed its ramping-up period that included full-pad practices. The Big Ten did, however, recently unveil its 2020 conference-only schedule, leading to confusion in terms of what its stance was on playing football in 2020. Now, there is no more speculation. 

The Pac-12 Conference is reportedly expected to make the same choice as the Big Ten, but has yet to make an official decision. 

While it's understandable that the conference is prioritizing the health and safety of its players amid a pandemic that continues to impact thousands on a daily basis, the news is sure to upset players and coaches around the college football world. Big names such as Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, among others, have been campaigning to continue the season with the #WeWantToPlay movement on social media.

With players from all Power 5 conference uniting, they have asked for universal health and safety protocols, opt-outs for athletes that want them, guaranteed eligibility and voices from all conferences to be included in the decision. President Donald Trump also weighed in, supporting the call to play football in the fall on Monday and reiterating that in statements on Tuesday.

Despite the large faction that was on board with the status quo for now, the Big Ten will not be part of a potential college football season in the coming months. There is a chance that the season is played in the spring. Reports indicated that Warren and leaders around the conference preferred that idea, but no decision has been made at this time.

The Big Ten has now spoken, and the Pac-12 is expected to follow suit soon. With two of the five major conferences backing out, it will be up to the SEC, Big 12 and ACC to dictate the future of a 2020 college football season. 

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