This Week in the Big Ten

Michigan and Michigan State tangled outside in the Great Lakes Invitational at Comerica Park, in Detroit, Mich., over the weekend.

Michigan and Michigan State tangled outside in the Great Lakes Invitational at Comerica Park, in Detroit, Mich., over the weekend.

Dec. 29, 2013

[ONE // big ten opens bowl season]
Big Ten football opened the postseason with two bowl games this past week.  Despite returning to the sidelines for the first time in weeks, Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill saw his Golden Gophers fall just shy of Syracuse, 21-17, in the Texas Bowl on Friday.  The following day, Michigan fell 31-14 to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.  On Sunday, BigTen.org previewed the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, one of four New Year’s Day bowls for the Big Ten.  The Outback Bowl, Capital One Bowl, the Rose Bowl Game, and the Discover Orange Bowl will all be previewed this week.

[TWO // top of the class]
Penn State senior standout John Urschel was named the winner of the 2013 Senior CLASS Award in the sport of football, it was announced this past Monday. The award, chosen by a nationwide vote of Division I FBS football coaches, national football media and fans, is given annually to the most outstanding senior student-athlete in Division I football.  Urschel is the second Big Ten student-athlete to win the honor since it was first presented in 2008, joining former Ohio State standout James Laurinaitis, who won the award in its inaugural year.

[THREE // men’s basketball closes out non-conference play]
Big Ten men’s basketball closed out the final full week of non-conference play with a 6-2 record, including a 5-1 mark on Saturday.  Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Wisconsin all recorded victories Saturday, while Ohio State held Louisiana Monroe to just 31 points on Friday – the lowest point total for a Big Ten foe this season. 

[FOUR // hoosiers conclude non-conference play undefeated]
The Indiana women’s basketball teams scored a 62-55 victory at Xavier on Sunday to conclude its non-conference schedule a perfect 13-0.  The Hoosiers are one of four Big Ten teams to finish 2013 winning more than 80 percent of their non-conference slate, including Iowa (12-2), Purdue (10-2) and Nebraska (10-2).  The Big Ten went 3-2 on Saturday and a perfect 7-0 Sunday to card a 10-2 record for the week.

[FIVE // back on the rink]
Big Ten men’s hockey was back in action this past week, competing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  While the majority of the action occurred outside conference play, Michigan State did shut out No. 3/3 Michigan 3-0 at the Great Lakes Invitational at Comerica Park, in Detroit, Mich.  Penn State went 1-1 at the Three Rivers Classic at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa., while No. 14/15 Wisconsin outscored Alabama Huntsville 8-2 in a pair of wins.  Ohio State also garnered two victories over the same opponent this past weekend with 6-3 and 7-2 results over Mercyhurst.

[SIX // eight teams recognized in final volleyball poll]
Eight Big Ten volleyball teams are ranked or receiving votes in the final AVCA Division I Coaches poll of the 2013 season, which was released this past Monday. The conference boasts the nation's top two teams and five squads in the top 10. NCAA and Big Ten Champion Penn State leads the way at No. 1 and national runner-up Wisconsin is ranked No. 2. Nebraska checks in at No. 7, followed by No. 8 Purdue, No. 10 Minnesota, No. 14 Michigan State and No. 16 Illinois. Michigan was receiving votes.  For the full poll, click here.

[SEVEN // husker for honda?]
Nebraska women's volleyball player Kelsey Robinson was named a nominee for the Honda Sports Award for Volleyball, as announced by the Collegiate Women Sports Awards (CWSA) this past Monday. The Honda Sports Award is presented annually by the CWSA to the top women athletes in 12 NCAA-sanctioned sports and signifies "the best of the best in collegiate athletics."  The winner of the sport award becomes a finalist for the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year and the prestigious 2014 Honda Cup.  A native of Bartlett, Ill., Robinson earned first-team AVCA All-American honors this season after having been recognized by the AVCA for the past two years. She was named the 2013 Big Ten Player of the Year and earned All-Big Ten first-team honors.  For more on Robinson’s honor, click here.

[EIGHT // four named to top drawer]
The TopDrawerSoccer.com Best XI teams were announced this past Monday, with four Big Ten men's soccer players earning accolades. The Best XI teams are comprised of three national teams and two freshmen teams. The list of the Big Ten's representation on the Best XI teams include Michigan State’s Kevin Cope and Wisconsin’s AJ Cochran on the second team and Penn State’s Andrew Wolverton on the third team, while Indiana’s Tommy Thompson was tabbed as a Freshman Best XI first-team pick.

[NINE // btn to cover nine gymnastics meets]
The Big Ten Network announced this past week that it will televise a total of nine Big Ten gymnastics competitions this season, including four men’s matchups and five women’s meets.  On the men’s side, coverage will begin with the Ohio State-Illinois meet in Champaign, Ill., on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 2 p.m. ET, which will air via tape delay.  Women’s coverage begins with the Iowa-Illinois matchup in Champaign, Ill., which will air via tape delay on Saturday, Feb. 1.  Both Big Ten Championships meets will also be televised.  For a complete breakdown of the broadcast schedule, click here for men’s coverage and here for women’s.

[TEN // wrestling over the holidays]
Seven Big Ten wrestling squads hit the mat this weekend at Northwestern for the 51st annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships.  Sunday’s action featured two sessions, while the final session takes place Monday morning.  At the end of day one, No. 3 Iowa holds a commanding lead with 112.0 points, while No. 11 Illinois sits second with 57.0 points.  No. 19 Michigan (44.0) is fifth, followed by No. 23 Wisconsin (39.0) in a tie for sixth, No. 21 Purdue (36.5) in a tie for eighth, No. 16 Northwestern (34.0) in 10th and Indiana (33.0) in 11th in the 48-team field.  Also of note, future Big Ten member Maryland sits fourth overall with 46.5 points.  The action continues Monday with the third session, semifinals, consolation matches and seventh place matches at noon.  The Big Ten Network will air the finals of the 51st Ken Kraft Midlands Championship live at 8 p.m. CT on Monday.

[ELEVEN // ready for spring training]
Six Big Ten players were named Louisville Slugger Preseason All-Americans, as chosen by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. Indiana had four players named among the three teams, the second most of any team in the nation. Kyle Schwarber and Dustin DeMuth were named first-team catcher and third baseman, respectively, while first baseman Sam Travis was a second-team pick and pitcher Joey DeNato was a third-team choice. Two Buckeyes were named third-team All-Americans, utility man Josh Dezse, who missed all of 2013, and reliever Trace Dempsey.  In the publication's preseason poll, Indiana appeared at No. 7, while Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio State are among the teams also receiving votes.

[TWELVE // a walk out of this world]
Finally this week, several Big Ten student-athletes who have gone on to have professional careers outside the sports world would likely say competing in the conference has helped them prepare for the real world.  But for one former student-athlete, his experience as a former captain of the Illinois football team has helped give him a different perspective of the world.  This past week, Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post chronicled the recent work of UI graduate Mike Hopkins, who is now repairing the International Space Station as an astronaut.