• Two years ago, the Vikings ranked 23rd in the NFL in fewest penalties committed, but the next year they were fifth, and going into Sunday they are tied for third. One of the reasons for the improvement is the fact that several local college officials work with the team in practice, including Big Ten official Rick Kruger, Kelly McCrary and Chris Rossini from the MIAC and Bob Norman from the NSIC. In addition, two-time Super Bowl referee Bernie Kukar works in the press box and advises coach Leslie Fraizer on whether to challenge a call.
• One thing the Syracuse football team has going for it against the Gophers in the Texas Bowl next week is the return of wide receiver Jarrod West, who has missed a month because of what’s only been called a “significant” injury by the Orange. West has 21 receptions for 359 yards and a touchdown this season. Also, Syracuse offensive coordinator George McDonald should be familiar to Gophers fans. He was wide receivers coach here under Tim Brewster in 2007.
• Speaking of NFL free agency, the Chicago Tribune reported this week that it looks more likely that the Bears will either have to sign Jay Cutler to a long-term contract extension or let him enter free agency. The $16 million salary cap hit the team would take if it franchise-tagged him would be too steep, according to the Tribune.