Posted by Adam Jacobi
At Big Ten Media Days, one enterprising reporter for AnnArbor.com conducted an informal survey of 10 football players who were present for interviews. The players were anonymous, so as to ensure honesty in the answers. The entire survey is worth reading, and there are some entertaining points -- especially when one unnamed player said of embattled Illinois coach Ron Zook, "I've heard he's just kind of funny, and not in a good way."
One question stuck out, however: the dirtiest team of all the Legends and Leaders.
Which is the dirtiest team in the Big Ten?
Indiana - 3 “I was out that game, but I saw what went on and our guys were saying it was bad out there.” Ohio State - 3 Wisconsin - 1 N/A 3
That's not really great news for Indiana or Ohio State, although the fact that three players didn't think there was a dirty team in the conference means we're probably not dealing with an epidemic of unsportsmanlike conduct on the Big Ten gridirons or anything. Moreover, both OSU and the Hoosiers have new head coaches this year, neither of whom should be asked to answer for accusations of dirty play under coaches past. That wouldn't be fair. However, the reporter might have given up a little too much information with that quote.
Out of the 36 players there, nine were on teams that didn't play Indiana last year, and three more were from Indiana. Of the remaining 24 players, only two -- Iowa LB Tyler Nielsen and Penn State LB Michael Mauti -- were out of action in their games against Indiana. Nielsen had just suffered a broken neck (a relatively mild one, obviously; his spinal cord was fine and he's back atop the depth chart), and Mauti was dealing with an injured shoulder from the previous week's contest against Ohio State.
We're not going to press the respective athletic departments about who said what or demand any more definitive answers than this; the survey was anonymous for a reason, and we'll respect that. However, we would like to hear from Iowa and Penn State fans as to whether the Indiana games last year seemed especially dirty. Did knees get wrenched, eyes gouged, hits enlatened? Help us solve the mystery once and for all.
(For the record, the jersey-pulling depicted above is considered legal.)