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As Maryland prepares to start Big Ten play, some highlights of the league so far

As Maryland prepares to start Big Ten play, some highlights of the league so far
Ohio State running back Curtis Samuel (4) carries during an NCAA college football game between Ohio State and Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. (Sue Ogrocki / AP)

The Big Ten season started last week for eight of the league's 14 teams. The other six, including Maryland, begin conference play Saturday.

Here's a look at what has happened so far this season.

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BIGGEST SURPRISE: Wisconsin was supposed to be solidly in the mix in the West, but the Badgers have already staked a claim to be one of the best teams in the country with a win over then-No. 5 LSU at Lambeau Field and last week's road win at then-No. 8 Michigan State. Another test will come Saturday when Wisconsin, which took over the No. 8 ranking, visits "The Big House" for a matchup with No. 4 Michigan.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Coming off a 10-win season, Northwestern was mentioned as one of the many possibilities in the wide-open West. The Wildcats had a favorable schedule, with four straight at home to start the season. Close losses to Western Michigan and Illinois State raised the red flag, and a 24-13 defeat to Nebraska (after a 24-13 win over Duke no less) might have raised a white one as Pat Fitzgerald's team heads on the road to Iowa and Michigan State.

COACH ON THE HOT SEAT: Purdue's Darrell Hazell came into the season on shaky ground, with a 6-30 record in his first three years, including a pink slip-inducing 2-22 in the league. The Boilermakers have done little to change the temperature of Hazell's chair or the bleak forecast of his coaching future. The only thing that last week's comeback win over Nevada did was put off the inevitable given that Morgan Burke, the school's longtime AD, retired nearly a year before schedule and Mike Bobinski was brought in.

BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER:  After playing behind Ezekiel Elliott his first two years, Ohio State junior running back Curtis Samuel seems to be making up for lost time. In the first three games, the 5-11, 197-pound junior leads the Big Ten in all-purpose yards with an 173-yard average split nearly in perfect halves between rushing (260 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries) and receiving (259 yards and two touchdowns on 16 catches).

BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER:  Michigan's Jabrill Peppers ranks ninth in the Big Ten in tackles with 32, but nearly a third (9.5) are tackles for losses, second in the league. He also has 2.5 sacks. Given the way the Wolverines move Peppers around the field between linebacker and safety, the 6-1, 205-pound linebacker could be the player offensive coordinators throughout the league lose the most sleep about. Special teams coordinators, too, since Peppers leads the Big Ten in punt return yardage with 227, including a 54-yard touchdown return against Colorado.

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