By RUSTY MILLER
AP Sports Writer
Michigan first-year coach Rich Rodriguez has kept his composure this season despite leading college football's winningest program to its first losing season in four decades.
But Rodriguez seemed to approach a breaking point earlier this week.
"Y'all want to make everything so much drama," Rodriguez snapped at reporters. "This is unbelievable. Every time there's something said, everybody wants to make a big deal out of something and make so much drama about everything.
"That's why I don't tell y'all too much. You think I tell you a lot. I think I've been pretty transparent, but sometimes I don't because I don't know what y'all are going to take and make a big deal out of a wee little thing," he said. "Seems like for nine, 10, months that's happened. Oh, he said this. Let's psychoanalyze this, psychoanalyze that.'
"We're not going to a bowl game, but do you think we're going to pack it in? You think the guys are a bunch of quitters? I don't think we've got any quitters. You think the coaches are going to pack it in, not show up for work? Golly."
The once-mighty Wolverines (2-7, 1-4 Big Ten) have lost five straight -- since rallying from a 19-point, second-half deficit to beat Wisconsin -- and will have to win at Minnesota, against Northwestern and at Ohio State to avoid a school-record eighth loss.
DRIVER'S SEAT: Penn State is in prime position to capture its third Big Ten title and first outright since 1994.
The Nittany Lions (9-0, 5-0) play at Iowa (5-4, 2-3) on Saturday before closing at Beaver Stadium against Indiana (3-6, 1-4) and Michigan State (8-2, 5-1).
Should the Lions falter, a couple of teams are hanging around, ready to pounce.
Michigan State has games remaining against Purdue (3-6, 1-4) at home this week and then a bye week before going to Happy Valley.
Ohio State (7-2, 4-1) hits the road to play Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) on Saturday and Illinois (5-4, 3-3) before its annual curtain-closer against Michigan (2-7, 1-4).
In case of a two-way tie involving two teams, the conference's Bowl Championship Series representative would be determined by the head-to-head meeting. Penn State beat Ohio State, Ohio State rolled over Michigan State, and Penn State and Michigan State meet on Nov. 22.
Should the race end in a three-way deadlock, there's a long list of tiebreakers (see: www.bigten.org) to determine who grabs the conference's top bowl spot.
LIONIZING PENN STATE: Penn State was No. 2 in 1999 when it came to Iowa and beat the Hawkeyes in Kirk Ferentz's first year as a head coach. The Nittany Lions who come to Kinnick Stadium this weekend are No. 3. But that's just a number.
"This is a much stronger team," Ferentz said. "When you talk about November records, November polls, they're certainly deserving of their ranking. You can argue they deserve to be ranked higher. I know people have. I'll stay out of that one."
GOING GREENE: Coach Joe Paterno reached back into the Penn State annals when asked for his impressions of Hawkeyes tailback Shonn Greene. Iowa, whose school colors are black and gold, will be having a "Greene Out" in his honor at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday.
Paterno compared Greene to Lydell Mitchell, the outstanding running back who holds Penn State records for rushing touchdowns for a career (38) and season (26, as a senior in 1971).
With 11 touchdowns this season, Greene has a ways to go, though his 1,257 rushing yards on 198 carries have made him a marked man.
"He's one of those guys that takes a real good tackle and doesn't get knocked down. He's always going this way," said Paterno, as he quickly shot his hands straight out in front of him."
STILL IN UNIFORM: Illinois WR Jeff Cumberland will be in uniform when the Illini face Western Michigan Saturday in Detroit, even though he allegedly broke teammate Mikel LeShoure's jaw during a fight Saturday night.
Cumberland, a 6-foot-5, 247-pounder, reportedly accused the 240-pound tailback of taking his cell phone last Saturday after Illinois' 27-24 win over Iowa.
LeShoure, a freshman who has started one game, will miss the game against Western Michigan at Detroit's Ford Field, and may be out longer.
"It was a family dispute," coach Ron Zook said. "We are going to handle it like you would a family dispute. But things do happen."
And as the Illini make their way through a disappointing season -- they started the year in the Top 25 but now are scrambling to be bowl eligible -- Zook denied there were chemistry problems on his team.
"No, not in this case," he said. "There's absolutely not one iota that I'm concerned about right now."
KICKER CONFIDENCE: As Minnesota enters the home stretch of what has been a surprisingly successful season, coach Tim Brewster is trying to ready his kicker for what might lie ahead.
Joel Monroe missed a 20-yard field goal last weekend against Northwestern, a chip shot that proved critical in a difficult loss.
"Human nature after you miss a field goal, that's deflating," Brewster said. "What we want to do is lift him up and put his mind in a position where if he's in a position to win a game for us or make a kick, he's going to make it."
GREAT WHITE HOPE: Michigan State's Blair White has surpassed 100 yards receiving in consecutive games, the first Spartan to pull off the feat since Biletnikoff Award winner Charles Rogers did it in 2002.
Against Purdue on Saturday, the junior walk-on can join Andre Rison, Derrick Mason and Rogers as just the fourth Michigan State receiver to do that in three games in a row.
"He's a 36-inch vertical jump guy. He can run. And he's big -- 6-foot-2, 205 pounds," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "But what he has been able to do is find the seam, work in there and make the catch."
QUICK-HITTERS: Saturday's other games include Michigan at Minnesota and Wisconsin at Indiana. ... Players of the week: Northwestern QB Mike Kafka, Purdue QB Justin Siller; Northwestern S Brendan Smith; Michigan State K Brett Swenson. ... Everybody says the Big Ten's bad and doesn't play anyone. Then why are six conference members among the top 18 in the nation in strength of schedule this week? (And Penn State is 67th!)
AP Sports Writers Jon Krawczynski, Larry Lage and Luke Meredith, and Associated Press Writers Genaro C. Armas, Tim Martin and David Mercer contributed to this report.