This Week in the Big Ten

Jan. 25, 2008

by Jeff Smith

[ONE // big ten gridiron stars prepare for senior bowl]
Eleven Big Ten football players will play one more game as a college athlete as they will take part in the 2008 Senior Bowl this weekend. The 59th Under Armour Senior Bowl, which takes place Saturday at 4 p.m. ET at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., features players from seven league teams. Michigan leads all Big Ten squads with three representatives in Jamar Adams, Shawn Crable and Chad Henne. Both Indiana and Purdue have two standouts in the game, while Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State are represented by one lone player each. This week the Big Ten Network's Chris Martin caught up with some of the Big Ten's finest as they prep for the game on Saturday.

[TWO // big ten part of big time bowl ratings]
The official numbers are in and yes, the Big Ten played a role in the three most-watched college football bowl games this year. The BCS National Championship, which featured Ohio state, was seen by more than 16 million people on FOX, while 12.5 million fans tuned into watch Illinois in the Rose Bowl on ABC. The third most-watched bowl game was Michigan's upset over No. 9 Florida in the Capital One Bowl, which was viewed by over 10 million spectators on ABC. In addition, the Rose Bowl and the BCS National Championship were the top-two attended postseason games this season, as 93,923 and 79,651 people packed the respective venues.

[THREE // speaking of big games...]
There will be one on the ice this weekend as the Michigan and Michigan State men's hockey teams will battle for state bragging rights in one of college hockey's most competitive rivalries. The top-ranked Wolverines will host the No. 5 and defending national champion Spartans on Friday and then turn around and travel to Michigan State on Saturday. Over the last three seasons, the teams have met 16 times with both teams posting a record of 5-5-6. The two teams' 265 previous meetings are tied for second among the nation's most-contested rivalries.

[FOUR // a salute to a tennis and indiana icon]
Congratulations to Indiana women's tennis coach Lin Loring, who earned his 700th career win this past Sunday. Now in his 31st year in Bloomington, Loring is the winningest coach in Division I women's tennis and the only coach to have won 700 matches. In fact, 658 of those victories have come during his time as a Hoosier. As a part of the Big Ten's 25th Anniversary of Women's Championships last year, Loring and his successful career was featured on

[FIVE // honoring two more career milestones]
Ohio State's Marscilla Packer, who was profiled earlier this year on, set two significant marks this week in her basketball career. The Buckeye sharpshooter eclipsed 1,000 career points and also tied her career high with 32 points this past Sunday against Wisconsin. Earlier this week the Big Ten Network had a chance to visit with Packer, which can be seen by clicking here. Unfortunately for Packer and the league-leading Buckeyes, OSU ran into a tough Minnesota squad Thursday night in Minneapolis. It was Leslie Knight's turn for a career night as she netted a personal-best 33 points to lift the Golden Gophers over No. 15 Ohio State, 79-70, which stopped the Buckeyes winning streak at six.

[SIX // several men's soccer players taken in mls draft]
Speaking of the Buckeyes, men's soccer standouts Roger Espinoza and Eric Brunner were the first of four Big Ten players taken in the four-round MLS Draft last Friday. Espinoza was the 11th overall pick to the Kansas City Wizards, while Brunner went 16th to the New York Red Bulls. The Buckeye duo will be joined by familiar faces as Northwestern's David Roth was taken in the fourth round at No. 44 by the Red Bulls, while Michigan State's Rauwshan McKenzie was selected 53rd overall to Kansas City. In the 2008 MLS Supplemental Draft which took place this Thursday, two other standouts were selected, including Big Ten Player of the Year Xavier Balc, who went second to Toronto FC. Michigan State's Kevin Reiman went to Real Salt Lake with the 31st pick.

[SEVEN // from drafted stars to rising stars] released on Thursday its list of 15 "rising stars" in volleyball, which included Illinois' outside hitter Laura DeBruler and Penn State middle hitter Arielle Wilson, who was featured earlier this year on Wilson's impressive freshman campaign helped Penn State to the NCAA Championship this past December. Her 1.8 blocks per game ranked third in the nation overall, while her hitting percentage of .446 was fifth. Tops among freshmen in kills, DeBruler ranked 22nd in the country with 4.89 kills per game.

[EIGHT // the diamond is a girl's best friend]
Three Big Ten softball teams rank among the nation's top 25, as the 2008 USA Today/NFCA Preseason Softball Poll was released on Wednesday. Northwestern leads the conference trio at No. 7, followed by No. 12 Michigan and No. 23 Ohio State. Northwestern has reached the semifinals of the Women's College World Series in two straight seasons, while Michigan claimed the 2005 NCAA crown.

[NINE // another wildcat in the spotlight]
A few weeks back we directed Big Ten fans to a moving piece that's Andy Katz penned on Northwestern basketball player Kevin Coble. As some of you may remember, Coble missed the first half of the season as he was home in Arizona taking care of his mother Carlys, who was fighting breast cancer. Recently, Ann Kreiter and the Big Ten Network chronicled the Coble family's battle and return to basketball. This past Tuesday, Marlen Garcia of USA Today did the same in this piece. I suggest you first read Garcia's feature, grab a tissue, and then watch this wonderful seven-minute segment done by the BTN. Very well done!

[TEN // nation's top wrestling squad suffers minor takedown]
Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands announced Thursday that 165-pound defending national champion Mark Perry has undergone knee surgery and is expected to miss up to three weeks of action. The three-time All-American. who is currently ranked first nationally at 13-2, has a team-best nine pins this season. But while the Hawkeyes will miss their top senior in the weeks to come, Brands and the squad are convinced the surgery was a success.

"We had the best doctor on the planet do the surgery," said Brands.

[ELEVEN // a-train pulls into station one last time]
Former Purdue standout and six-time Pro Bowl fullback Mike Alstott announced his retirement from the NFL on Thursday. Alstott played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 12 seasons after spending 1992-95 in West Lafayette. He is the Bucs' all-time touchdown leader and is arguably the most popular player in franchise history. During his time in the NFL, he rushed for 5,088 yards and also recorded 2,284 receiving yards and a Super Bowl Championship as well. While at Purdue, Alstott was an All-American who rushed for 3,635 yards and 39 touchdowns, and was inducted into the Purdue Hall of Fame in 2006. Congratulations Mike on a wonderful career!