Sept. 4, 2012
The Week That Was: For the second consecutive season, the Big Ten posted a combined record of 10-2 in opening games. Last week, conference teams defeated a top-25 squad, won three contests away from home and won seven games at Big Ten venues. Michigan State defeated No. 24/22 Boise State in East Lansing on Friday night, while Iowa, Minnesota and Northwestern each won their opening game of the season on the road. Meanwhile, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin opened the 2012 campaign with home victories on Saturday.
Winning Ten Times Over: For the seventh time in the last eight seasons, Big Ten teams combined for 10 or more victories during the season's opening weekend. Conference teams also combined for 10 wins in 2011, 2009, 2007 and 2005, while going a perfect 11-0 in 2008 and 2006.
Leading At Ten: The Big Ten is tied for the national lead with 10 conference teams winning their season openers, one of just two conferences to boast that feat. The entire Week 1 results can be found on the PDF.
Where We Rank: The Big Ten is one of three conferences with five or more teams among the top 20 in the latest Associated Press (AP) or USA Today coaches polls. Michigan State led all Big Ten schools and moved up two spots in each ranking to No. 11 after knocking off nationally ranked Boise State last Friday night. Wisconsin moved down one spot in both polls to rate No. 13. Ohio State jumped four spots to No. 14 in the AP rankings, while Nebraska moved up to No. 14 in the coaches poll and rose to No. 16 in the media vote. Michigan rounded out the conference’s top 20 teams at No. 19 in both polls. Northwestern also received a vote in the USA Today rankings.
Keeping Streaks Alive: Following wins last Saturday, eight Big Ten teams have now won two or more consecutive season-openers. Nebraska has not lost a season opener since 1985, winning 27 straight games to open the season. Wisconsin and Iowa also hold 10 or more consecutive season-opening victories, with the Badgers having won 15 straight season debuts, while Iowa has put together 12 straight wins to open a new campaign. Northwestern has run its streak of season-opening triumphs to eight straight, while Michigan State has four consecutive wins on opening day. Illinois, Ohio State and Purdue have each won their 2011 and 2012 openers.
Scheduling Up: The second week of the Big Ten non-conference season will feature seven matchups against teams from the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC or Notre Dame, with five contests on the road. The seven non-conference matchups among the leagues and Notre Dame is tied for the most in a single week among the above conferences, and the five road contests is the most in a single week among those conferences as well. This week’s matchups feature three games against the Pac-12 and one each versus the ACC, Big 12, SEC and Notre Dame. Road contests for Big Ten teams feature Illinois at Arizona State, Nebraska at UCLA, Penn State at Virginia, Purdue at Notre Dame and Wisconsin at Oregon State. Also, Iowa hosts Iowa State and Northwestern welcomes Vanderbilt.
Touchdowns Not Just for the Offense: During the opening weekend of the regular season, Big Ten defenses and special teams accounted for five touchdowns, two from interceptions, two on fumble recoveries and another off a punt return. Illinois' Ashante Williams returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown to seal the Illini's 24-7 win over Western Michigan. Northwestern's defense and special teams found the end zone against Syracuse in its 42-41 win. Venric Mark scored the Wildcats' first touchdown of the game by way of an 82-yard punt return, while C.C. Ariguzo returned a fumble 33 yards for a touchdown to open the second half. After a bad snap on a third-quarter Miami (Ohio) punt, Ohio State's Bradley Roby recovered the fumble for a touchdown, while Purdue's Landon Feichter returned a first-quarter interception 34 yards for a touchdown to give Purdue a 13-0 lead over Eastern Kentucky.
Running Past 100: Four Big Ten players broke the 100-yard rushing barrier during the opening week of the season. Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell highlighted the week of conference rushers, racking up 210 yards and two touchdowns against nationally ranked Boise State in a 17-13 win on Friday night. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller totaled 161 yards and a touchdown on the ground against Miami (Ohio), Iowa's Damon Bullock rushed for 150 yards and the game-winning score with just over two minutes to play against Northern Illinois, and Wisconsin's Montee Ball finished with a 120 yards and a touchdown in the Badgers' win over Northern Iowa.
Throwing It Around: Nine Big Ten signal callers threw for 200 yards or more, including five that passed the 250-yard mark through the air, in Week 1. Nebraska's Taylor Martinez topped all Big Ten quarterbacks this week with a career-best 354 yards and equaled a career-high with five touchdown strikes against Southern Miss. Purdue's Robert Marve completed 30 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns against Eastern Kentucky, while Indiana's Tre Roberson threw for a career-high 280 yards and a touchdown versus Indiana State. Minnesota's MarQueis Gray threw for 269 yards and two scores in a triple-overtime Gopher victory over UNLV on Thursday, and Penn State's Matt McGloin totaled 260 yards and two touchdowns in the Nittany Lions' opener with Ohio. Michigan State's Andrew Maxwell (248 yards), Wisconsin's Danny O'Brien (219), Ohio State's Braxton Miller (207) and Michigan's Denard Robinson (200) also met or exceeded the 200-yard passing plateau.
Purposely Gaining Yards: Seven Big Ten standouts surpassed 150 yards of all-purpose yardage in their Week 1 matchups, highlighted by the 281-yard effort by Northwestern's Venric Mark. Mark recorded 183 return, 82 rushing and 16 receiving yards against Syracuse, highlighted by his 82-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter. Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell totaled 265 yards (210 rushing, 55 receiving) against Boise State, while Michigan's Dennis Norfleet recorded 177 return yards against Alabama. Iowa's Damon Bullock finished with 176 total yards (150 rushing, 26 receiving), Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah (81 rushing, 39 receiving, 41 punt return) and Ohio State's Braxton Miller (161 rushing) recorded 161 yards, and Wisconsin's Montee Ball (120 rushing, 31 receiving) had 151 total yards against Northern Iowa.
Defense Never Rests: The opening weekend of the Big Ten season saw Big Ten defenses force turnovers and pressure opposing quarterbacks. In Week 1, conference teams combined to force 24 turnovers. Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State and Purdue recorded three or more takeaways, with the Illini's and Boilermakers' defensive units leading the way with four each. In addition, conference teams combined for 23 sacks, with eight conference teams recording multiple quarterback takedowns. Indiana led all defenses with five sacks, followed by the Husker defense with three. Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State and Purdue's defensive units finished with two sacks apiece.
Landmark Coaching Wins: A pair of Leaders Division coaches earned wins in their coaching debuts last weekend, while a Legends Division coach reached a milestone win. After recording 21 wins in three seasons as the head coach at Toledo, Illinois' Tim Beckman guided the Illini to a 24-7 victory over Western Michigan to earn his first win in Champaign. Following successful stops at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida, Ohio State's Urban Meyer recorded his first win on the Buckeye sidelines with a 56-10 win over in-state foe Miami (Ohio) on Saturday. Entering his fifth full season on the sidelines in Lincoln, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini notched career win No. 40 with an opening-day triumph over Southern Miss.
Renewing the Rivalries: Over the next two weeks, three non-conference trophy games will be at stake, including two this weekend featuring in-state rivals. Iowa and Iowa State renew their series, the 26th time the programs will meet on the gridiron. Iowa holds a 23-12 advantage in the battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy, and a 39-20 overall mark in the series, but looks to avenge a triple-overtime setback from 2011. Purdue is the first of three consecutive Big Ten opponents for Notre Dame, who will take on Michigan State in East Lansing on Sept. 15 and Michigan in South Bend on Sept. 22. The Boilermakers travel to South Bend on Saturday looking to reclaim the Shillelagh Trophy in the 56th meeting between the two programs. Notre Dame holds a 36-19 lead in the rivalry trophy series and a 55-26-2 mark overall.