Aug. 3, 2009
Big Ten Celebrates 114th Year: The 114th season of Big Ten football kicks off Thursday, Sept. 3, as Indiana hosts Eastern Kentucky in a primetime matchup to be shown live on the Big Ten Network. The conference's other 10 teams open their seasons on Saturday, Sept. 5, including eight which begin their 2009 campaigns at home. For the third consecutive season, Illinois starts its slate on neutral turf, taking on Missouri in St. Louis. Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin open play in front of their home crowds, while Minnesota heads out east to face Syracuse. Every Big Ten home game during the first week will reach a national television audience, broadcast either on ABC, ESPN or the Big Ten Network. The complete schedule for the opening week of the season can be found on the right-hand side of this page.
Big Ten in the Polls: Five Big Ten teams are ranked in various polls in college football preview magazines, including Ohio State and Penn State who are ranked by six outlets (Athlon, Sporting News, CollegeFootballNews.com, Lindy's, CBSSportsline.com and Phil Steele). The Buckeyes are ranked as high as fifth by Athlon, and also come in at No. 8 (Lindy's), No. 9 (Sporting News) and No. 10 (Phil Steele). The Nittany Lions achieved top-10 status in three polls, coming in at No. 5 by Phil Steele, No. 7 by Athlon and No. 9 by CBSSportsline.com. Iowa and Michigan State are each ranked in three polls, with the Hawkeyes coming in as high as No. 19 by CBSSportsline.com. The Spartans' highest ranking comes by virtue of the No. 20 spot by Athlon. Illinois is ranked in one publication, earning the No. 19 distinction by Phil Steele.
Big Ten on TV: The Big Ten Conference is enjoying its greatest national television exposure ever. For the third straight year, each Big Ten home game during the first three weeks of the season will be nationally televised either on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 or the Big Ten Network. These networks will combine to broadcast more than 20 contests in the opening weeks, including all nine home games in Week 1. During the past two seasons, the Big Ten's media agreements resulted in the most television coverage in history, with every home game televised nationally. Last year, 98 percent of the Big Ten's games were nationally aired, while no other conference had more than 75 percent of its games on national TV. Once again, every ABC game during the early or late afternoon window will be broadcast nationally, either on ABC or simultaneously on ESPN or ESPN2. The Big Ten Network is available to approximately 73 million homes in the U.S. and Canada through agreements with more than 250 cable or satellite affiliates.
Making the List: Sixteen Big Ten football players are on four preseason lists for national awards, including Michigan State's Greg Jones and Northwestern's Corey Wootton, who hold spots on two lists. Jones and Wootton are each on the watch lists for the Rotary Lombardi Award, which honors the College Lineman of the Year, and the Lott Trophy, which is awarded to college football's Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year. Two other student-athletes are up for the Lombardi Award, and another four are up for the Lott Trophy, which last went to Ohio State's James Laurinaitis. The Big Ten placed five student-athletes on the preseason list for the Rimington Trophy, which is given to the Nation's Most Outstanding Center. That award that was presented last year to Penn State's A.Q. Shipley. Three quarterbacks are in the running for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which honors the country's top senior quarterback. The list of Big Ten players on preseason awards lists can be found on Page 4 of this release. In addition, several other preseason lists are scheduled to be released in August.
Familiar Faces: Ten of the 11 Big Ten teams return at least half of their starters from a season ago, with Minnesota leading the way with an impressive 18 of 24 starters back on the field in 2009. Indiana brings back nine defensive starters from 2008 to lead the Big Ten. Michigan welcomes back 10.5 offensive full-timers from last season, most among conference squads. Both Iowa and Michigan State welcome back 17 total starters, including eight on defense. The Wolverines bring back 16.5 total starters while Illinois and Indiana welcome back 16 returning starters.
Buckeyes Look For Fifth-Straight Title: Ohio State has won at least a share of the last four Big Ten Championships and will look to become the first school in conference history to win five or more straight crowns on multiple occasions during the 2009 campaign. The Buckeyes shared the crown with Penn State in 2005 and 2008 and ended the 2006 and 2007 seasons alone atop the standings to compile a Big Ten mark of 29-3 over the last four years. OSU is the first conference team in over 15 years to claim four straight titles since Michigan won at least a share of five consecutive championships from 1988-92. Ohio State has clinched four consecutive crowns for the first time since posting a Big Ten-record six straight titles from 1972-77. Michigan and Ohio State are the only two teams in Big Ten annals to post four or more consecutive first-place finishes on multiple occasions, accomplishing the feat a combined seven different times.
Big Ten BCS Duos: The Big Ten sent two schools to BCS games for the eighth time in the 11-year history of the system and the sixth time in the last seven seasons. Since the inception of the BCS in 1998, the Big Ten has qualified 19 teams for BCS bowls, more than any other conference. The SEC ranks second with 17 BCS bids followed by the Big 12 (16), Pac-10 (13), ACC (11) and Big East (11). The Big Ten also sent a pair of squads to BCS games in 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007.
The Best QBs Return: The 2009 Big Ten football season welcomes back the top six conference quarterbacks in terms of efficiency rating from last year. Leading the charge is 2008 Freshman of the Year Terrelle Pryor from Ohio State as he posted a rating of 146.5 being closely followed by Penn State senior quarterback Daryll Clark who tallied a 143.4. These top passers each guided their squads to a Co-Big Ten Championship and a BCS Bowl last season. Illinois' Juice Williams also returns after throwing for a rating of 138.1 while junior Ricky Stanzi remains under center at Iowa after tallying 134.8. Minnesota's Adam Weber totaled a rating of 126.9 while Badger senior Dustin Scherer ended 2008 with a 120.7 mark.
The Juice is Loose: Juice Williams has been frustrating defenses with his arm and his legs for the past three seasons and in doing so has racked up a record number of yards. The senior quarterback has passed for 6,405 yards and rushed for 2,050 more, combing for a total offensive output of 8,455. At this pace, Williams stands to finish his career in the Big Ten's all-time top five total offensive leaders. His career rushing numbers rank him fourth all-time among conference QBs and needs just 100 more yards to move into second on that list. Indiana's Antwaan Randle-El holds the top mark with 3,895 yards. Williams also needs just 425 more total yards to become Illinois' all-time offensive yardage leader at 8,880.
Top Wideouts Remain: Four of the Big Ten's best wide receivers from last season will be split out wide in 2009 as some look to set all-time marks. Minnesota's Eric Decker led all pass catchers with 84 receptions, 1,074 yards and seven TDs, making him second all-time in Gopher history in catches (177), third in TDs (19) and fourth in yards (2,361). The two-sport athlete, who plays for the baseball team, has a legitimate chance to crack the conference's career top-10 list in all three categories. Illinois' Arrelious Benn finished the year ranked second among Big Ten receivers in yards per game, averaging 87.9. The junior totaled 1,055 receiving yards in 2008, becoming the first Illini to register over 1,000 yards since Brandon Lloyd in 2002. Benn also hauled in 67 passes which is the highest mark for Illinois since 1985. Michigan State returns the duo of Mark Dell and Blair White who combined for 79 receptions and 1,338 yards last year. Dell posted a conference-best 18.9 yards per catch average, making him a game-breaking threat.
Defense Remains Strong: The Big Ten welcomes back a wealth of defensive talent from 2008, including a majority of the conference's stat leaders. Of the top 10 tacklers from 2008, six will be returning to Big Ten fields, counting Michigan State's Greg Jones (127), Northwestern's Brad Phillips (109), Iowa's Pat Angerer (107), Penn State's Navorro Bowman (106), Michigan's Obi Ezeh (98) and Indiana's Matt Mayberry (89). Five of the top seven sack leaders will return in 2009, including Indiana's Jammie Kirlew (10.5), Northwestern's Corey Wootton (10), Michigan's Brandon Graham (10), Michigan State's Trevor Anderson (8) and Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan (7). Graham, Kirlew, Bowman and Wootton also return as four of the top six TFL leaders from last season. In the secondary, the Big Ten brings back six defenders who posted four or more interceptions last season, including Iowa's Angerer, Tyler Sash and Amari Spivey, Minnesota's Traye Simmons, Ohio State's Coleman, and Wisconsin's Niles Brinkley.
Superior Coaching: The Big Ten has a trio of current coaches who have reached a level of success that most collegiate coaches never achieve. Penn State's Joe Paterno has recorded 80 conference wins in his 16 years in the Big Ten, ranking sixth all-time and needing just two more to pass Michigan's Lloyd Carr for fifth place. Ohio State's Jim Tressel has compiled an impressive Big Ten record of 52-12 (.813) in his eight years with the Buckeyes which would put him second on the list of all-time winning percentage leaders among 10-year conference coaches. Michigan's Bo Schembechler holds the top spot with an .850 mark. Iowa's Kirk Ferentz just finished his 10th year at Iowa and in doing so adds his name to the list of top 20 all-time Big Ten coaching leaders in winning percentage with a .538 (43-37-0) tally.
A Numbers Game: Returning to Big Ten campuses this season are nine of the 14 statistical leaders from 2008 as shown in the box on Page 3. Juice Williams of Illinois ranked No. 1 in both passing yards and total offense with averages of 264.4 and 324.3, respectively. Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor returns as the Big Ten's most efficient passer with a rating of 146.5. Minnesota's Eric Decker had the best numbers among all Big Ten wideouts last year, averaging seven receptions and 89.5 yards per game as he laces up a final year. On the defensive side of the ball, Michigan's Brandon Graham comes back as the league-leader in TFLs with 20 while Iowa's Tyler Sash led the conference with five interceptions as he dons the Hawkeye jersey for a second year. On special teams, Penn State's Jeremy Boone and Iowa's Trent Mossbrucker return as the top punter and kicker from last season.
Paterno Still the One: Penn State's Joe Paterno ended the 2008 season with 383 career victories and currently holds the all-time victory record among Football Bowl Subdivision coaches. Paterno stands at 383-127-3 in his 43 seasons leading the Nittany Lions. Paterno has been on the sidelines for 513 career games, one of only three mentors in NCAA history to crack that barrier along with former Big Ten coach Amos Alonzo Stagg (548 games from 1890-1946 with Springfield, Chicago and Pacific) and Florida State's Bobby Bowden (508 games).
Purdue Has Hope: On January 1, 2009, Danny Hope became the 34th head football coach at Purdue University upon the retirement of Joe Tiller. Hope spent 2008 as an associate head coach working with the offensive line and managing all recruiting efforts. From 2003-07, Hope compiled a 35-22 winning percentage as head coach at Eastern Kentucky with a 32-8 mark in Ohio Valley Conference games. In his last year at EKU, Hope guided the Colonials to an OVC championship, the school's first since 1997, a No. 13 rank in the final D-I AA poll and named OVC Coach of the Year while also being named a finalist for both the American Football Coaches Association and Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year honors. Hope also served as an assistant under Tiller at Purdue from 1997-2001 and in 1996 at Wyoming.
Gophers To Kick Off 2009 In New Stadium: On September 12, Minnesota will begin the 2009 season in the newly created TCF Bank Stadium when the Gophers host Air Force. The 50,720 capacity seating monument, which includes 39 suites, 59 loge boxes and 300 indoor club seats, underwent construction in July of 2007. Highlights of the new stadium include views of both the campus and the downtown Minneapolis skyline and a 48 feet high by 108 feet wide video board.
Paterno Continues Climb Up Big Ten Century Club: Penn State's Joe Paterno is the lone active coach appearing among the list of 12 mentors to collect 100 or more wins at a Big Ten school. Paterno posted 11 triumphs last season to move past Illinois' Robert Zuppke and tie Minnesota's Henry Williams, coaches who combined for 51 years of Big Ten service. Paterno has built a mark of 136-60 since the Nittany Lions joined the conference in 1993 to rank eighth, just seven wins shy of Iowa's Hayden Fry (143-89-6) for fifth place. Among other active Big Ten coaches, Ohio State's Jim Tressel has racked up 83 victories in eight seasons with the Buckeyes while Iowa's Kirk Ferentz has totaled 70 triumphs during his 10-year stay in Iowa City.
Big Ten Takes on Bowl Teams: The 2009 Big Ten non-conference schedule features 20 games against 2008-09 bowl opponents, seven more than last season, as nine of the 11 conference programs will face at least one bowl team with seven teams playing at least two bowl squads. Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin will face off against three bowl programs, the most games among Big Ten teams. The Illini will begin the 2009 season by meeting Missouri (Alamo) for the third time in three years while finishing the season against Cincinnati (Orange) and Fresno State (New Mexico). The Spartans will meet up with Central Michigan (Motor City), Notre Dame (Hawaii) and Western Michigan (International). Notre Dame will finish its annual Big Ten three play against Purdue on Sept. 26, two weeks after the Boilermakers kickoff against Oregon (Holiday) and one week after they play Northern Illinois (Independence). Wisconsin also plays the Huskies this year and finishes its two-game deal with Fresno State before ending the year at Hawaii (Hawaii). Michigan will square off with Western Michigan and Notre Dame in its first two games of the season. Indiana plays the Broncos one week after Michigan. Ohio State opens its first two games of 2009 at home against Navy (EagleBank) and USC (Rose) while Minnesota will battle Air Force (Armed Forces Bowl) and California (Emerald) in its first two home contests of the year. Iowa welcomes Arizona (Las Vegas) to Kinnick Stadium on Sept. 19.
Bound for the Hall: Three former student-athletes from Big Ten institutions will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, the National Football Foundation (NFF) announced at the end of April. Iowa's Larry Station (1982-85), Ohio State's Chris Spielman (1984-87) and Penn State's Curt Warner (1979-82) will all be inducted in December.
NFL Selects 28 Big Ten Student-Athletes: Twenty-eight Big Ten Conference student-athletes were selected during the 2009 National Football League (NFL) Draft held in late April, including four first-round picks from three different institutions. The Big Ten boasted 15 players chosen in the first three rounds, ranking second among all conferences. Eight schools featured at least one selection during the seven rounds.
MLB Tabs Two More: Two more Big Ten football players were given the opportunity to play another sport professionally, as Minnesota's Eric Decker and Penn State graduating senior Anthony Scirrotto were taken in the 2009 Major League Baseball (MLB) First-Year Player Draft. Decker was selected in the 27th round by the Minnesota Twins, while Scirrotto was taken in Round 50 by the Kansas City Royals.
No Plays for 2009: Each year, two Big Ten teams do not meet. Below is the breakdown of "no-plays" in 2009:
Team -- Does not play
Illinois -- Iowa, Wisconsin
Indiana -- Michigan State, Minnesota
Iowa -- Illinois, Purdue
Michigan -- Minnesota, Northwestern
Michigan State -- Indiana, Ohio State
Minnesota -- Indiana, Michigan
Northwestern -- Michigan, Ohio State
Ohio State -- Michigan State, Northwestern
Penn State -- Purdue, Wisconsin
Purdue -- Iowa, Penn State
Wisconsin -- Illinois, Penn State