We're just two weeks into the season and cruising toward Week 3, and already the physical toll of a football season is being exacted upon Big Ten teams as they vie for the conference crown.
Let's take a look at some of the men on the sidelines and what their absences mean for the Big Ten slate.
CB Blake Countess is out for the season with a torn ACL he suffered in Week 1 against Alabama. It seems increasingly likely that Countess' injury will continue to haunt the Wolverines over the course of the season, as Courtney Avery looks less and less like a high-level defensive back in Countess' absence. Avery still has the starting role for now, but per MLive.com, the competition for Avery's spot has spread to four different players.
Verdict: Michigan would win the Massachusetts game easily with a literal baby wolverine starting at corner, but it's obvious this team misses Countess and will likely do so for the rest of the year.
OL Blake Treadwell and Skyler Burkland—the two 2011 starters who were lost in Week 3 last year to season-ending injuries at Notre Dame—are both nursing minor injuries. Treadwell is shaking off a hairline fracture and should play, while Burkland is questionable with a hand injury.
Verdict: If Michigan State really needs Burkland, the Spartans will be able to get him on the field. This shouldn't be a serious issue.
RB Rex Burkhead sat out the Huskers' 36-30 loss at UCLA with a sprained MCL, and Bo Pelini has indicated that Burkhead will not return until he's 100 percent. Meanwhile, DT Thaddeus Randle continues to be limited in practice with a lingering knee issue, per the Lincoln Journal Star, while fellow DT Todd Peat Jr. recovers from his own ankle trouble after missing spring ball with a back injury.
Verdict: Pelini's wise to keep sitting Burkhead. Coming back too early from a knee injury can keep a player at 80 percent or so for the duration of a season, and Pelini has the luxury of a deep backfield behind Burkhead. When it comes to November (during which Nebraska will face Michigan State, Minnesota and Iowa—the top three Big Ten teams in total defense so far this year), Burkhead will be better prepared to be the main man for having rested.
RB Carlos Hyde's MCL injury from the first half of the Miami University game will keep him out against California. Likewise, RB Jordan Hall is still recovering from his foot surgery, but he has returned to practice, and while Ohio State hasn't given a public green light, we should see Hall at least get some playing time on Saturday.
On the other side of the ball, defensive linemen Nathan Williams and Michael Bennett both missed the Miami University game, and Bennett is probably out this week, as well. Williams continues to recover from microfracture surgery and may not be more than day-to-day over the rest of the year.
Verdict: If re-aggravating the foot injury isn't a serious possibility for Hall, he should get back on the field Saturday, even if Bri'Onte Dunn is still the starter, as Ohio State's depth chart indicates. Ohio State needs to have a more diverse ground game once the Big Ten season rolls around; as it stands now, the Buckeye attack needs to find some consistency and be more dynamic at RB.
Ohio State can manage the loss of Bennett, meanwhile, though the less the Buckeyes are forced to rely on true freshmen like Noah Spence, the better. Spence is a good one, but it's even better when he's providing depth.
QB Robert Marve is probably out for the year after sustaining another ACL injury. Marve had been splitting time with Caleb TerBush and Robert Henry at QB for the Boilermakers this year. Meanwhile, RB Ralph Bolden's ACL tear from last November has kept him off the field so far this year, and there has been no public indication that he'll be back for Week 3.
Verdict: TerBush is back in good graces after missing the first week due to a team suspension, and Henry was fine in Week 1 action, so while it's obviously bad news for Marve to see his career continually derailed by injury, Purdue's Leaders Division hopes are still where they were before Marve went down. Similarly, Purdue is stocked well enough at RB with Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt, so whatever the Boilermakers get from Bolden this season will be a welcome bonus rather than an integral part of the plans.
WR Jared Abbrederis is unlikely to play against Utah State, after sustaining a chest injury against Oregon State that required a brief hospitalization. He has not taken contact in practice but has not been officially ruled out. Fellow WR Isaiah Williams is suffering from a bad groin injury and won't be seen for a while. Also at WR, big target Chase Hammond may see his first action this week.
SS Shelton Johnson underwent surgery on a broken arm, and he's probably out until November.
Verdict: The Badgers will be hurting without Abbrederis in the lineup, but one week to get his injury cleared up isn't the end of the world, especially before the Big Ten slate starts. Williams' absence hurts in tandem with Abbrederis out, though. Also, Wisconsin cannot let Shelton Johnson's broken arm result in a more tentative defensive approach; Big Ten foes will eat a weak Badgers D alive.