This Week in the Big Ten

Northwestern earned its first bowl win since 1949 with a 34-20 victory over Mississippi State last Tuesday in the Gator Bowl.

Jan. 6, 2013

[ONE // wildcats earn first bowl win since 1949]
Behind huge interceptions early and late, the No. 21 Northwestern football team beat Mississippi State 34-20 in the Gator Bowl this past Tuesday and snapped the game’s longest postseason losing streak. The Wildcats (10-3) won their first bowl game since 1949, ending a nine-game funk that was tied for the longest in NCAA history. They also celebrated double-digit victories for the first time since the 1995 Rose Bowl season.

[TWO // big ten concludes bowl season]
Four other Big Ten teams competed in bowl games on New Year’s Day.  Michigan ended its season in the Outback Bowl, Nebraska concluded its 2012 campaign in the Capital One Bowl, Purdue finished its year in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and Wisconsin battled Stanford in the Rose Bowl.  For a complete look at the Big Ten’s bowl recaps, click here.

[THREE // former big ten players competing in nfl playoffs]
The NFL playoffs began this past Saturday with 80 former student-athletes from current Big Ten schools appearing on the active rosters of playoff teams. The Big Ten is one of two conferences to have every school with at least two players on playoff rosters and eight Big Ten schools feature six or more standouts taking the field during the postseason.  Only 13 college football programs will feature 10 or more former players in the playoffs, including Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes lead all Big Ten teams and are third among all schools with 14 former student-athletes taking the field.

[FOUR // michigan, ranked battles, upsets headline men’s basketball week]
This past week in Big Ten men’s basketball, No. 2/2 Michigan remained unbeaten at 15-0, just one win shy of tying the program’s best start, which is 16-0 in 1985-86.   The week, however, opened Monday with a top-20 showdown with No. 9/13 Minnesota defeating No. 18/18 Michigan State, 76-63.  On Wednesday, Purdue shocked No. 11/14 Illinois 68-61, but could not oust Michigan State as the Spartans beat the Boilers 84-61 on Saturday.  That same day, the Fighting Illini rebounded to upset No. 8/8 Ohio State, 74-65.  For a complete recap of last week’s action, click here to check out the Big Ten men’s basketball blog.

[FIVE // nebraska, purdue highlight big ten on cbs saturday]
It was also a full week of Big Ten women’s basketball action, highlighted by No. 25 Nebraska and No. 14 Purdue battling in an overtime thriller before a nationally-televised audience on CBS Saturday.  The Boilermakers prevailed 69-66 to remain unbeaten in conference play, joining Michigan and Penn State atop the league standings at 2-0.  It was the second straight overtime contest for the Boilermakers, who dispatched Illinois 67-66 in an extra session in Wednesday’s conference opener.   Overtime seemed to be the theme of the week as Iowa upset No. 24 Ohio State 77-71 in OT on Thursday.  Closing out the week on Sunday, Indiana and Michigan bested Northwestern and Iowa by identical 68-64 scores, respectively, while No. 9 Penn State dropped Michigan State 76-55, Illinois won 79-73 on the road at Ohio State, and Minnesota defeated Wisconsin, 60-55.  For a complete recap of last week’s action, click here to check out the Big Ten women’s basketball blog.

[SIX // illinois’ penn named national player of the week]
Illinois' Karisma Penn earned a host of honors following her 27-point, 19-rebound effort in the Illini's victory over previously undefeated Georgia two weeks ago. This past week, the senior won her fifth career Big Ten Player of the Week award and also claimed a pair of national honors by ESPNW and the USBWA. It marks the first national player of the week laurels for Penn, who is the lone conference standout averaging a double-double (19.8 points and 10.8 rebounds) this season.

[SEVEN // three teams sit tied atop wrestling standings]
Four Big Ten wrestling duals took place this week, with frontrunner and No. 5 Iowa claiming two conference wins.  The Hawkeyes defeated No. 4 Ohio State 22-9 on Friday and topped No. 21 Purdue 29-9 on Sunday.  Iowa now sits 2-0 in conference action along with Minnesota and Wisconsin for the league lead.  The Boilermakers earned a B1G win on Friday with a 26-10 victory at Michigan State, which then rebounded Sunday in non-conference bouts, beating Bucknell 28-11 and Lindsey Wilson, 28-12.  No. 6 Illinois stopped Chattanooga 29-10, while the Buckeyes earned their first conference win with a 33-6 result over No. 15 Northwestern. 

[EIGHT // indiana, michigan open men’s tennis campaign]
The Indiana men's tennis team opened the spring slate of competition over the weekend at the Four Conference Showdown, hosted by Florida Atlantic. The 22nd-ranked Hoosiers played singles and doubles against the players from FAU, Radford and No. 34 Louisville. The event was played with eight flights in singles and four flights in doubles.  IU went 18-5 in singles play and 4-4 in doubles on the weekend. The biggest win of the weekend came to freshman Sam Monette, who knocked off the highest ranked player in the tournament, No. 82 Sebastian Steifelmeyer of Louisville, by a score of 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-1.  Elsewhere, Michigan opened play Sunday at the Key Biscayne Individuals in Key Biscayne, Fla.  The Wolverines captured four singles wins in day one.  Complete results can be found here.

[NINE // swimming dives into the new year]
The Penn State men’s and women’s diving team, along with the Minnesota and Wisconsin men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs, were the first Big Ten representatives in the water during the New Year.  The Nittany Lions concluded competition at the Tennessee Collegiate Diving Invitational Saturday afternoon, with Alex Marchinski and sophomore T.J. Schenkel leading the Nittany Lions on the three-meter board.  On the women’s side, Megan Springsteen was the top performer for the second straight day, as she and Emily Stotesbery both competed on the one-meter board on the UT campus.  Minnesota and Wisconsin opened 2013 in Hawaii, taking part in a three-day training event, which included USC and host Hawaii.  Friday's competition consisted of all pool events, while Saturday and Sunday shifted toward the diving competition.  No events were scored.

[TEN // women’s gymnastics trio opens 2013 campaign]
The No. 10-ranked University of Michigan women's gymnastics team opened the 2013 season scoring 196.575 to win the Cancun Classic over BYU (194.475) and No. 9 Oregon State (193.600) this past Friday at the Iberostar Beach and Golf Resort. It was the highest score ever received by the Wolverines in a season-opening meet in program history.  Michigan went 1-2-3 in the all-around, led by junior Joanna Sampson, who recorded a career-best score of 39.425. Sophomore Sachi Sugiyama was second (39.300) and senior Katie Zurales was right behind in third (39.275).  On Saturday, the No. 14 Ohio State women's gymnastics team won its 2013 opener, 194.600-192.200, over Bowling Green at Anderson Arena, while 16th-ranked Penn State opened the 2013 campaign with a second place finish in its tri-meet with Denver and Lindenwood in Denver, Colo. The Nittany Lions finished with a team score of 193.725 while Denver's final score was 194.650. Lindenwood, which was competing in its first ever collegiate gymnastics meet, finished with a final team score of 184.150.

[ELEVEN // penn state off and running – and throwing – in 2013 track season]
The Penn State men’s and women’s indoor track and field teams were the lone Big Ten squads in action this past week.  Bolstered by 18 victories on the afternoon, the Nittany Lions got the 2013 season off to a stellar start, Saturday at the Penn State Relays at Ashenfelter III Indoor Track. Among the list of top-notch performances were school-record efforts in both the men's and women's 4x200-meter relay, along with meet-record setting showings by senior Jane Swenson in the women's shot, and freshman Victoria Gerlach in the women's mile.

[TWELVE // illini family loses two legendary coaches]
Finally this week, the Fighting Illini family learned of two former Illinois coaches passing away.  On Wednesday, legendary baseball head coach Lee Eilbracht passed away at his residence at the age of 88. Eilbracht is the winningest coach in Illini baseball history and earned All-America honors as a collegiate player. He compiled 515 wins in 27 seasons at the helm from 1952-78 along with being a three-time letterwinner as a player (1943, 46-47). The St. Louis, Mo., native won four Big Ten titles and led the Orange and Blue to the NCAA District Playoffs three times.  On Friday, former Fighting Illini head football coach Pete Elliott passed away at the age of 86. Elliott, a native of Bloomington, Ill., coached the Illini from 1960-66, leading Illinois to a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl victory during the 1963 season. He compiled a record of 31-34-1 in his seven-year tenure, which included four winning seasons.