Dec. 6, 2009
[ONE // football season concludes; seven teams earn bowl bids]
Following an impressive Wisconsin blowout over Hawaii and a heartbreaking Illinois loss to Fresno State, the Big Ten football regular season concluded this weekend with the conference office announcing the bowl destinations for seven teams. On Sunday, the league also announced it would be sending a pair of teams to Bowl Championship Series (BCS) games for the ninth time in the system’s 12 years. Big Ten Champion Ohio State and Iowa both earned trips to BCS contests, with the Buckeyes returning to the Rose Bowl Game for the first time since 1997 and the Hawkeyes earning their second trip to the FedEx Orange Bowl. In addition, Penn State was selected for the Capital One Bowl, Northwestern was chosen for the Outback Bowl, Wisconsin will take part in the Champs Sports Bowl, Michigan State will travel to the Valero Alamo Bowl and Minnesota will return to the Insight Bowl.
[TWO // finalists named for silver football]
Three Big Ten standouts were tabbed this week as finalists for the prestigious Chicago Tribune Silver Football, which has been given annually for the past 84 years to the Big Ten football MVP. Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham, Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark and Wisconsin running back John Clay will learn if they earned the coveted prize on Tuesday at 11 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network – the first time the award will be given away on television. Each conference coach is given a first and second choice for the award and is not allowed to select his own players. Illinois’ Red Grange was the inaugural honoree in 1924 and Iowa’s Shonn Green was last year’s winner. Recent history could bode well for Penn State’s Clark and Wisconsin’s Clay as a quarterback and running back have captured the award over the past four seasons.
[THREE // pair of conference defenders honored by afca]
Two football players not in contention for the Silver Football were already recognized nationally this past Thursday as First-Team All-Americans by the American Football Coaches Association. Michigan State junior linebacker and 2009 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Greg Jones and Penn State senior defensive tackle Jared Odrick each earned the top nod for their position by the nation’s college coaches. Jones, who is MSU’s first AFCA All-American since Charles Rogers in 2002, leads the Big Ten and ranks third in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision with 141 tackles, the eighth-best single-season total in MSU history. As for Odrick, the 2009 Big Ten Defensive Player and Defensive Lineman of the Year, he became the 94th Nittany Lion first-teamer after ranking eighth in the Big Ten with 6.0 sacks for minus-45 yards. He was also fifth on the team with 41 tackles while recording 10.0 tackles for loss, one blocked field goal, one pass break-up and three quarterback hurries.
[FOUR // big ten network enjoys impressive football ratings increase]
The Big Ten Network announced this past Thursday that ratings for its national football telecasts dramatically increased across the board in 2009, based on Nielsen metered-market data. The average for the network’s afternoon telecasts improved by 28 percent over the comparable period last year, while the average ratings for the network’s eight primetime games increased by a whopping 183 percent. In just its third season on the air, the network averaged a 2.3 household (HH) rating for its 12-week afternoon football window in its nine metered markets. The rating exceeded all other sports cable networks airing football during the same noon ET time period. For a closer breakdown of some of the BTN’s most-watched games this year, click here.
[FIVE // northwestern prevents penn state sweep…of postseason awards]
Penn State’s volleyball team completed yet another regular season with a perfect record, not to mention its seventh straight and 13th overall Big Ten title last week, but Northwestern’s Kate Nobilio made sure the Nittany Lions did not sweep the postseason awards, which were announced Monday by the Big Ten Network. Nobilio was tabbed the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year, while Penn State senior Megan Hodge was named Player of the Year, Darcy Dorton was selected as Freshman of the Year, and Russ Rose was honored as Coach of the Year by his peers and by the media. Additionally, Hodge notched her fourth All-Big Ten selection, becoming just the 10th standout in conference history to earn four nominations. She is one of eight unanimous selections to this year’s All-Conference team, joining teammates Blair Brown and Alisha Glass, as well as Illinois’ Laura DeBruler, Indiana’s Ashley Benson, Michigan’s Lexi Zimmerman, Minnesota’s Lauren Gibbemeyer and Ohio State’s Katie Dull. Completing the 2009 All-Big Ten team were Illinois’ Johannah Bangert and Hillary Haen, Michigan’s Juliana Paz, Michigan State’s Kyndra Abron, Northwestern’s Sabel Moffett and Penn State’s Arielle Wilson. For more on the conference’s postseason honors, click here to view the official release.
[SIX // volleyball squads advance in ncaa play]
Michigan, Minnesota and Penn State won their second-round matches on Saturday and will join Illinois in NCAA Volleyball Regional competition, while Michigan State and Ohio State saw their respective seasons come to an end this week. The fifth-ranked Fighting Illini swept IPFW on Thursday and then ousted Dayton in four games on Friday to advance to regional play. Top-rated Penn State ousted Binghamton and Penn in three games, while Michigan came from behind to win in five games against Ohio Saturday after sweeping Niagara on Friday. Minnesota also advanced to regional action after besting Louisville in four games and Tennessee in three. Ohio State took out Cincinnati 3-1 on Friday, but fell by the same score to No. 9 California on Saturday. Michigan State dropped a 3-0 contest to Kentucky on Friday.
[SEVEN // men’s basketball captures annual big ten/acc challenge]
Big Ten men’s basketball earned national recognition this past week when it captured its first Big Ten/ACC Challenge title in 11 years, besting its rival conference by a 6-5 margin. Penn State opened the Challenge on Monday with a 69-66 win over Virginia, and Northwestern (65-53 over N.C. State) and Purdue (69-58 over Wake Forest) helped the conference storm out of the gates to a 3-0 lead. The ACC answered with three wins to even the series, but Illinois stopped Clemson 76-74 to retain the lead for the Big Ten, before the ACC came back to win the next two. With the ACC clinging to 5-4 advantage, Wisconsin responded with a 73-69 upset over Duke and Ohio State clinched the win with a 77-64 victory over Florida State. In the past 10 years, the Big Ten had won on ACC home courts only eight times, but captured three road victories in this year’s Challenge.
[EIGHT // women’s basketball falls to acc in third annual challenge, begins league play]
Big Ten women’s basketball teams fell 7-4 to the ACC in the third annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge this week. Michigan State made headlines in the Challenge finale with a 72-66 upset over No. 4 North Carolina. Other Big Ten wins came from Illinois (65-50 over Wake Forest), Michigan (71-51 over Virginia Tech) and Wisconsin (53-48 over N.C. State). Shortly after the Challenge, the Big Ten got back on the hardwood to begin league play. Big Ten teams got an early start on conference action this year, with 10 squads playing their first league contests on Sunday.
[NINE // big ten hoops performing to a new beat]
The Big Ten debuted this week its new basketball public service announcements (PSAs) entitled, Big Ten Soundtrack. The PSAs feature musical backdrops by well-known artists Public Enemy and De La Soul as well as the contemporary, soulful music of JJ Grey and Mofro. The musical anthems were chosen for their cross-generational appeal and ability to showcase the best of Big Ten basketball, while recognizing the vast and diverse audience of Big Ten fans. The conference, which worked with Chicago-based TeamWorks Media on the campaign, has uploaded its two men’s basketball clips and one women’s basketball spot on its YouTube channel. Check them out now!
[TEN // grapplers do great at cliff keen invite]
A Big Ten wrestling contingent represented the conference well at this past week’s Las Vegas/Cliff Keen Invitational. Ohio State captured the team crown with 122.5 points, followed by Indiana (90.5) in sixth, Wisconsin (73.5) in ninth, and Purdue (58) in 13th. Michigan (47) placed 16th and Illinois (36.5) was 19th in the 42-team field. Indiana’s Angel Escobedo captured the tournament’s MVP award after taking home the 125-pound title. Ohio State’s Reece Humphrey won the title at 141, while Wisconsin’s Kyle Ruschell was first at 149. His teammate Andrew Howe won at 165, while Indiana’s Nate Everhart was crowned the winner at heavyweight.
[ELEVEN // fall sports standouts honored for academics]
As the fall term of the 2009-10 school year comes to a close, the Big Ten recognized Tuesday a total of 705 fall sports athletes who were named to the Academic All-Conference Team. The list of honored student-athletes features 60 men’s and 113 women’s cross country runners, 73 field hockey players, 193 football players, 60 men’s and 143 women’s soccer athletes and 63 volleyball players. To be eligible for Academic All-Big Ten selection, student-athletes must be letterwinners who are in at least their second academic year at their institution and carry a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher.