Dec. 4, 2011
[ONE // the big ten is going bowling... big time]
For the first time in Big Ten history, 10 conference teams have been selected to participate in postseason bowl games, with two squads taking part in Bowl Championship Series (BCS) games. It marks the 10th time in 14 seasons that two conference teams will play in BCS contests. In addition, the Big Ten's total of 10 bowl teams marks a new conference record for most bowl berths in a season, bettering the previous mark of eight following the 2003 and 2007 campaigns. This season's bowl campaign will mark the seventh straight year that seven or more Big Ten programs have earned postseason berths, the longest streak in conference history. Two Big Ten schools will play in BCS games for the 10th time in the 14-year history of the system and the eighth time in the last 10 seasons. Big Ten Champion Wisconsin heads to the Rose Bowl Game for the second consecutive season and will face Oregon, while Michigan climbs back in to the BCS picture after being selected to the Allstate Sugar Bowl to face Virginia Tech. Nebraska will battle South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl, Michigan State takes on Georgia in the Outback Bowl, Iowa returns to the Insight Bowl to meet Oklahoma, and Ohio State is pitted against Florida in the Gator Bowl. In other bowl action, Northwestern plays Texas A&M in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas in Houston, Penn State meets Houston in the TicketCity Bowl, Purdue faces Western Michigan in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, and Illinois takes on UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
[TWO // wisconsin tops michigan state in inaugural big ten championship game]
Congratulations to the Rose Bowl-bound Wisconsin Badgers, who knocked off Michigan State 42-39 in the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. More than 64,000 people witnessed the rematch of the exciting regular-season contest between the two teams, and were treated to another thriller. Wisconsin's Russell Wilson was named the Grange-Griffin Championship Game MVP after finishing 17-of-24 passing for 187 yards and three touchdowns, while teammate Montee Ball finished with 137 rushing yards and four scores. Kirk Cousins led the way for Michigan State, recording 281 yards and three touchdowns on 22-of-30 passing. All three of those passing touchdowns went to B.J. Cunningham, who finished with five catches for 115 yards.
[THREE // a great gala before the game]
This past Friday, 25 trophy namesakes or their family members were presenters at the 2011 Big Ten Football Awards Gala, held in the Big Ten Fan Fest area of the Indiana Convention Center. These honored guests presented 17 trophies that were part of the Big Ten's enhanced football awards program, which made its debut this season. Among the 25 presenters were 15 former Big Ten football players whose names appeared on conference awards. Nine of the Big Ten's postseason award winners were also in attendance. In addition, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, Indianapolis Colts Vice Chairman Bill Polian and College Football Hall of Fame Members Archie Griffin of Ohio State and Anthony Thompson of Indiana addressed the crowd. The Big Ten also recognized the family of Amos Alonzo Stagg, whose name graces the conference's Championship Trophy. Click here for more information regarding the Gala, and check out the Big Ten Mobile Tour blog report from the incredible event.
[FOUR // three times as nice; men's basketball takes challenge crown]
This past week the Big Ten won the 2011 Big Ten/ACC Men's Basketball Challenge, 8-4, picking up its third consecutive Challenge title. The Big Ten set a conference record for wins and tied the record for wins by either conference in the Challenge. Four of the Big Ten's eight wins came on the road, also setting a Challenge record. Among the Big Ten victories, Illinois bested Maryland 71-62, Indiana topped NC State 86-75, Michigan State defeated Florida State 65-49, Minnesota ousted Virginia Tech 58-55, Northwestern took out Georgia Tech 76-60, Ohio State dominated Duke 85-63, Penn State beat Boston College 62-54, and Purdue dropped Miami 76-65.
[FIVE // twice the challenge]
Big Ten women's basketball teams were put to the test this week by competing in two inter-conference challenge series. The Big Ten hit the hardwood on Wednesday and Thursday in the annual rivalry with the Atlantic Coast Conference, and then battled the Big 12 over the weekend with the majority of the games on Saturday and Sunday. Against the ACC, each conference won six games, ending the 2011 edition of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge in a 6-6 draw. Among the Big Ten wins, Illinois bested Clemson 61-50, Iowa topped Virginia Tech 58-47, Northwestern beat NC State 76-59, Ohio State defeated Florida State 78-75, Penn State routed North Carolina 103-84, and Wisconsin took out Boston College, 58-50. Following eight games of the Big 12/Big Ten Challenge, the series is tied 4-4 with a pair of games scheduled in the coming days. Wins included Michigan over Iowa State, 56-49, Northwestern beat Missouri 74-70, Ohio State defeated Oklahoma 69-63, and Purdue bested Texas A&M 60-51. Games between Michigan State-Texas and Wisconsin-Kansas will be played later during the non-conference season.
[SIX // six volleyball teams having a sweet postseason]
Six of the eight Big Ten volleyball teams selected to the NCAA Championship are still alive and used wins this past weekend to advance to the Round of 16. Congratulations to Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue on their play so far. The Illini swept Central Michigan to open tournament play and then blanked Marquette in the second round. The Wolverines rallied to beat Baylor in four sets in their first match, followed by a 3-1 victory over No. 11 Stanford. Minnesota opened with a 3-0 shutout of North Dakota State and responded with a five-set thriller to beat Washington to advance. Ohio State defeated Middle Tennessee in four sets before taking down No. 14 Tennessee to earn a spot among the 16. Penn State dropped Liberty 3-0 and blanked Delaware by the same score to move on. Purdue earned a three-set win over Morehead State and topped Louisville 3-1 to earn a spot in the Round of 16. For a complete look at the Big Ten's run in the NCAA Championship, click here.
[SEVEN // honors handed out in volleyball]
The Big Ten announced its postseason volleyball awards this past Tuesday, with student-athletes from two schools earning recognition following the conclusion of the 2011 regular season. Purdue's Ariel Turner was named the Big Ten Player of the Year by a vote of the conference's coaches, while Boilermaker head coach Dave Shondell was tabbed Coach of the Year by Big Ten coaches and media. Penn State's Katie Slay and Micha Hancock also earned individual honors, as Slay was selected as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and Hancock took home the Freshman of the Year award. In addition, 15 players were tabbed All-Big Ten by the conference's coaches, with seven making the team via a unanimous vote, while the league also recognized 12 individuals for the Sportsmanship Award. View all of the postseason honorees by clicking here.
[EIGHT // soccer stars recognized]
Four Big Ten soccer representatives were honored this past week, including two student-athletes and a pair of coaches. In women's soccer, Penn State's Maya Hayes and Wisconsin's Laurie Nosbusch earned Capital One Academic All-America honors, as announced on Monday. Later in the week, Illinois head coach Janet Rayfield was named the NSCAA/Mondo Regional Coach of the Year for the Great Lakes region. Rayfield led the Fighting Illini to a 17-5-2 record, which included a second-place conference finish and a Big Ten Tournament title. On the men's side, Northwestern head coach Tim Lenahan earned the same honor -- NSCAA/Mondo Great Lakes Regional Coach of the Year. Lenahan guided the Wildcats to an 11-5-5 record, which included a Big Ten Championship and Big Ten Tournament crown.
[NINE // football finalists]
Three Big Ten football standouts advanced their names on national award ballots this past week, including a pair of quarterbacks and one of the nation's top defensive lineman. Michigan State's Kirk Cousins and Wisconsin's Russell Wilson were named finalists for the Manning Award, the only quarterback award that takes the candidates' bowl performances into consideration in its balloting. The two quarterbacks led their teams to the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game this past Saturday. On the defensive side of the ball, Illinois' Whitney Mercilus was named a finalist for the Hendricks Award, given annually to the nation's top defensive end. Mercilus is one of six finalists for the award, which debuted in 2002, with the winner being announced on December 7.
[TEN // handful of women's players named to naismith list]
Five other Big Ten standouts were named to a national award watch list this past Wednesday. In women's basketball, Iowa's Jaime Printy, Michigan State's Lykendra Johnson, Ohio State's Samantha Prahalis and Penn State's Alex Bentley and Maggie Lucas were included among the 51 players listed on the Naismith Award early-season watch list. That list of 51 will be trimmed to 30 in late February, then four finalists will be chosen in March. This year's winner will be announced in April. Earlier this season, Printy and Bentley were named to the Wooden Award and Wade Trophy watch lists, while Prahalis joined the two on the Wooden Award list. It is Johnosn and Lucas' first appearance on one of the season's major award watch lists.
[ELEVEN // what happened in vegas...]
It was a Big Ten wrestling shootout in Las Vegas this past weekend with rivals Michigan and Ohio State battling for the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational title. The Buckeyes captured the crown with 129 points, followed by Michigan in second with 116 and Nebraska in fourth with 106 points, while Indiana and Wisconsin also competed in the event. Among the highlights over the weekend, Ohio State's Logan Stieber captured the 133-pound title, Hunter Stieber was second at 141 as was Peter Capone at 285, while Johnni DiJulius finished third at 125. Michigan's Eric Grajales placed first at 149 and Justin Zeerip was second at 174. Nebraska had three third-place finishers, including James Green (157), Robert Kokesh (165), and Josh Ihnen (184), while Indiana's Matt Powless was second at 197.
[TWELVE // among the nation's best]
Finally this week, seven Big Ten women's gymnastics teams have been ranked in the 2012 NCAA Preseason Coaches Poll, which was released on Thursday. Newcomer Nebraska opens the season ranked sixth, followed by No. 10 Michigan, No. 13 Penn State, No. 15 Illinois, No. 18 Minnesota, No. 22 Minnesota and No. 25 Iowa.