The Michigan football team will take this week to prepare for a game against one of its top three rivals.
Purdue will take the week to emphasize recruiting.
Wisconsin will emphasize academics to its players and prepare for Iowa.
Indiana will do the same during its week off, but Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson said his team will also focus internally, in the wake of last weekend’s 63-47 loss at Michigan.
“Self-evaluation, self-critique, self-polish, and get ourselves ready to play again,” Wilson said. “Not just for Minnesota [on Nov. 2], but for the next five-game run.”
Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Purdue are the the four Big Ten teams with a late-October bye weekend — an anomaly, considering that the 2013 and 2014 schedules are two of the rare instances in which each Big Ten football team will get two bye weeks during the season. The two open dates during the season came to fruition as a result of the Big Ten moving the end of the regular season to after Thanksgiving and the addition of the Big Ten championship game, which elongated the season schedule.
“The 2013 and 2014 schedules were done before we had a championship game and probably when we were ending the season a week before Thanksgiving,” Mark Rudner, the Big Ten's senior associate commissioner for television administration, told ESPN.com earlier this year. “[The athletic directors] didn't really feel the need to look at [nonleague] dates other than the first four weeks.”
Because of the two bye weeks, Michigan’s schedule is almost sectioned into thirds. Its first bye week came after the fourth game of the season, following its 24-21 win Sept. 21 at Connecticut, and this week’s bye falls right before its final five games of the season, a slate that kicks off next Saturday at Michigan State.
In the wake of a season-high offensive output against Indiana, and with an offense whose line has been juggled several times this season, Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges considers the bye week a period of internal assessment.
In fact, if it was up to Borges, he’d likely want two bye weeks every season.
“I love this two-bye thing,” Borges said. “It gives us time to really evaluate where we are and what we’re doing. Sometimes you play bad after a bye, sometimes you play good after a bye. It gives us a chance to get our feet on the ground.
“The way it is now, we’ve been hit-and-miss in some games, and it’s always good to stop and take a breath and look and see what you’re doing, coaching-wise and personnel-wise. That’s what byes give you.”
Borges sees one drawback with a bye — a scenario that Michigan doesn’t necessarily face right now, given its up-and-down season thus far.
“The only problem with byes that I wouldn’t like as much, if you were really rolling, if you’re on an eight-game rampage, moving the ball and playing good defense, then I don’t think I’d like a bye,” Borges said.
Wisconsin’s first bye week came at the start of October, and Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen believes the second bye week comes at an opportune time, after wins Oct. 12 against Northwestern and Oct. 19 at Illinois.
“We’re going to treat this just like we did the first,” Andersen said. “We want to get prepared for Iowa. We want to get kids out there and get them used to schemes.
“Then, we’ll get fresh, walk away at the end of the week, and enjoy the weekend a little bit.”
When the bye week concludes, Purdue coach Darrell Hazell will prepare his team not only to host the No. 4 team in the country in Ohio State next Saturday, but for what he considers the heart of the Big Ten schedule — the final five games of the regular season.
Michigan is in a similar boat. After playing at Michigan State, the Wolverines host Nebraska on Nov. 9, play at Northwestern and at Iowa on Nov. 16 and Nov. 23, then close the regular season Nov. 30 in Ann Arbor against Ohio State.
“The real teams show up in November,” the first-year Boilermakers coach said. “Those are the teams that are successful. We talked about that when we got here in January, and we keep emphasizing that.”