Oct. 23, 2011
[ONE // a sparty spoiler and milestone win help division leaders]
What a way to put Big Ten Football Week 8 to bed, huh? We knew going in that Wisconsin’s high-powered offense would be a match for Michigan State’s top-rated defense, but in the end, it was a Hail Mary pass in a high-scoring game that made the difference. Spartan QB Kirk Cousins found Keith Nichol with a 44-yard prayer on the game’s final play for a tiebreaking touchdown, giving No. 15 Michigan State a stunning 37-31 win over No. 4 Wisconsin on Saturday night. With the win, MSU sits atop the Legends Division at 3-0 and 6-1 overall. In the Leaders Division, Penn State claimed a 34-24 victory over Northwestern Saturday night, moving the Nittany Lions into sole possession of first place in the division at 4-0 and giving Joe Paterno his FBS-best 408th career win. In other action, Nebraska defeated Minnesota 41-14, Purdue dropped Illinois 21-14, and Iowa bested Indiana 45-24.
[TWO // rollin’ on through northwestern]
Northwestern's Kristin Scharkey took over the Honoring Legends. Building Leaders. Mobile Tour blog, Twitter account and YouTube page while the tour was in Evanston this past week. Scharkey filled us in on the history of Homecoming at Northwestern, while following the Big Ten bus around campus to spots like the Norris Student Center, Henry Crown Sports Pavilion, the Homecoming parade, and Ryan Field for the Wildcats matchup against Penn State. For more on Scharkey’s reports, click here.
[THREE // gridiron greats honored nationally]
Earlier in the week, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins and Northwestern's Dan Persa were named two of 10 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, given annually to a senior with notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition. The Big Ten is tied for the lead among all conferences with two finalists after boasting eight nominees for the award, twice as many nominees as any other conference. Additionally, two other Big Ten quarterbacks were honored nationally this past week. Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase and Wisconsin's Russell Wilson were added to the watch list for the Manning Award, the only national quarterback award that includes the candidates' bowl performances in its balloting. The Big Ten now has six players on the Manning Award watch list, as Scheelhaase and Wilson join Michigan's Denard Robinson, Michigan State's Cousins, Nebraska's Taylor Martinez and Northwestern's Persa.
[FOUR // halfway home to all-america honors]
More national accolades were earned this past week by Big Ten football standouts. In fact, nine Big Ten players were named to midseason All-America teams by CBSSports.com, ESPN.com and/or SI.com. Four conference players were named first-team All-Americans by all three outlets, a group that includes Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus, Michigan center David Molk, Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy and Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still. Nebraska kick returner Ameer Abdullah was named a first-team All-American by CBSSports.com and ESPN.com. Four Big Ten student-athletes were honored by one outlet, including Purdue punter Cody Webster (CBSSports.com, first team) and the Wisconsin trio of punt returner Jared Abbrederis (SI.com, second team), quarterback Russell Wilson (ESPN.com, first team), guard Kevin Zeitler (SI.com, first team).
[FIVE // nine is fine, but fourteen is monumental for penn state soccer]
Congratulations to the Penn State women’s soccer team, which clinched the 2011 Big Ten Championship after earning its ninth consecutive conference win of the season on Sunday in a 4-0 victory at Michigan. The No. 14 Nittany Lions have gone undefeated dating back to Sept. 17, and have posted a 16-3 overall record this season. The title marks Penn State's 14th consecutive Big Ten title, including the most consecutive crowns by a Big Ten women's program in any sport. The win also clinches the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, which will be held on Nov. 2-6 in Evanston, Ill. Sophomore Taylor Schram scored the first Penn State goal in the 22nd minute. Maya Hayes added two goals in the victory, giving her four for the weekend. Illinois is second in the league at 7-2-1, followed by Wisconsin at 5-2-3, Michigan State at 6-4-0, and Iowa and Minnesota at 4-4-2.
[SIX // wolverines win share of field hockey crown]
With Michigan's 2-0 win over Michigan State Friday afternoon and Ohio State's 2-0 victory over Penn State on Saturday, the No. 7 Wolverines clinched a share of the Big Ten Championship. Michigan, which holds a 4-1 conference slate and a 12-3 overall record, earned its second consecutive Big Ten title and eighth overall. The Wolverines host No. 19 Indiana on Thursday, Oct. 28, in their final conference game of the season. A loss to the Hoosiers could open the door for 4-2 Iowa to claim the other share. Penn State and Ohio State sit at 3-2 in league play, followed by 2-3 Indiana and Michigan State and Northwestern at 1-4.
[SEVEN // time to get tourney tickets]
All-session tickets for the 2012 Big Ten Men's and Women's Basketball Tournaments are now on sale to the general public! Tickets can be purchased at the Conseco Fieldhouse Box Office, Ticketmaster outlets, www.ticketmaster.com or by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. For more information regarding how to purchase tickets within your university block, please contact your institution's ticket office. Conseco Fieldhouse is the site of the women's tournament from March 1-4 and the men's tournament from March 8-11, featuring 22 games over eight days. Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament all-session tickets for the lower and club levels are available for $325 through Big Ten university ticket offices only. All-session tickets for the upper levels are available for $240 or $175 (depending on seat location) through Ticketmaster or the Conseco Fieldhouse Box Office only. Women's tournament all-session tickets are available for $50 through January 31, which marks a 30 percent discount off the regular price of $70. In addition, the men's tournament will continue to feature a special discounted rate of $50 for all-session tickets available only to students of Big Ten universities.
[EIGHT // rank ‘em]
Speaking of men’s basketball, three Big Ten teams earned top-20 rankings in the USA Today/ESPN Preseason Top 25 Men's Basketball Coaches Poll released on Thursday. Coming off its second straight Big Ten Championship, Ohio State leads the Big Ten at No. 3. Wisconsin follows at No. 14, while Michigan is No. 18. Michigan State and Purdue sit just outside the top 25, giving the Big Ten five total teams receiving votes in the poll.
[NINE // watchin’ women’s hoops]
On the women’s side, the conference announced Friday that more than 90 percent of Big Ten women’s basketball home games are scheduled to be nationally distributed during the 2011-12 season through the conference’s media agreements. At least 65 contests will appear on national television on BTN, CBS Sports, or ESPN2. For the fifth straight season, every game of the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament will be nationally televised. In addition, approximately 100 games are tentatively scheduled to be streamed online at BTN.com.
[TEN // super six series]
Staying with women’s hoops, teams from the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Southeastern and Pac-12 conferences will once again take part in the Super Six Series, an annual showcase highlighting two squads from each conference in early-season inter-conference matchups. This is the second year of what has been extended to a four-year agreement between the conferences. Two teams from each conference will participate, resulting in six games played in on-campus venues. Each conference will have one home game and one away game annually. Games will be played during the beginning of the season each year. Illinois and Michigan represent the Big Ten in Year 2 of the challenge and each will face a Pac-12 opponent. Michigan will host conference newcomer Utah on Nov. 17, while Illinois travels to Oregon for a Nov. 18 contest. Last season, Big Ten Champion Michigan State and Minnesota competed in the inaugural challenge. The Spartans fell to Baylor, while the Gophers defeated Pittsburgh.
[ELEVEN // ready to flip]
All seven Big Ten men's gymnastics teams appeared in the top 10 in the GymInfo Preseason Coaches Poll, which was released this past week. Defending Big Ten Champion Illinois earned the highest ranking entering the season, holding No. 2 nationally, while Michigan followed at No. 3. Penn State checked in at No. 6, followed by No. 7 Ohio State, No. 8 Minnesota, No. 9 Nebraska and No. 10 Iowa.
[TWELVE // pioneers pictured on the big screen]
Finally this week, while talking about the current women’s basketball season and its broadcast schedule, it would only be appropriate to end by talking about “The Mighty Macs.” One could easily make the argument that the 1971-72 Immaculata College team had a great deal to do with the success of Big Ten women’s basketball. First and foremost, for those who are not familiar with “The Mighty Macs,” the small team from Pennsylvania became one of the original Cinderella stories in women's basketball as they won the inaugural AIAW Championship. This team paved the way for women’s college basketball as a whole, and two of its stars went on to long and successful stints as Big Ten coaches. Theresa Grentz of Illinois and Rene Portland from Penn State, were part of the 1972 championship winning team and helped guide Immaculata to the first of three straight AIWA Championships. For more on “The Mighty Macs” movie, click here.