Big Ten Weekly Football Release - Sept. 10
Quick Start to the New Year: Through two weeks, five Big Ten teams have opened the season with two consecutive wins, including three from the Legends Division and two from the Leaders Division. Legends Division members Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern all boast 2-0 marks, while the Leaders Division duo of Indiana and Ohio State each have unblemished records through the first two games of the 2012 season. All five look to extend their winning streaks to three straight with home contests this week.
Trending at 2-0: The five remaining undefeated conference teams have a history of getting off to quick starts in the new season, and each looks to continue the winning ways this weekend and improve to 3-0. Indiana began the season with a 2-0 record for the eighth time in the last nine seasons and looks to move to 3-0 for the third time in the last four years. Michigan State reeled off two straight wins for the third season in a row, and aims for a 3-0 start for the second time in the last three seasons. Minnesota opened the season with a 2-0 mark for the first time since 2009, and could move to 3-0 for the first time since 2008. Northwestern made it six consecutive years with a 2-0 record after two weeks of play, and eyes a 3-0 start for the third time in the last five years. For the second straight year, Ohio State began the season with a 2-0 mark and could improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2007.
Where We Rank: Six Big Ten programs received votes in the latest Associated Press (AP) and USA Today coaches polls, including five teams among the top 25 in at least one ranking. Michigan State leads all Big Ten teams after moving up one spot in each poll to No. 10 overall. Ohio State jumped two spots to No. 12 in the AP voting, while Michigan also moved up to No. 17 in the media vote and No. 18 in the coaches rankings. Other Big Ten teams among the top 25 are Wisconsin (No. 22 in USA Today poll) and Nebraska (No. 24 in USA Today poll), while Northwestern also received votes in both polls.
A Threat to Run: Last weekend, eight Big Ten standouts rushed for more than 100 yards, five of which are quarterbacks. Michigan's Denard Robinson led all conference rushers with 218 yards on 20 carries, an average of 10.9 yards per attempt, and two touchdowns as part of his Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week effort in a win over Air Force. Ohio State's Braxton Miller rushed 27 times for 141 yards and three scores in an Ohio State victory over Central Florida, while Indiana's Tre Roberson recorded 114 yards and two touchdowns on just five carries in the first quarter before leaving with an injury against Massachusetts. Nebraska's Taylor Martinez finished with 112 yards and a touchdown on the ground on 13 carries versus UCLA, while Minnesota's MarQueis Gray had 17 carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns against New Hampshire. Running backs Venric Mark of Northwestern (123 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown), Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska (119 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns) and Illinois' Josh Ferguson (101 yards on 14 carries) also surpassed the 100-yards rushing barrier.
Offensive Minded: Four Big Ten quarterbacks went over 275 yards of total offense last weekend in leading their teams to 30 points or more. Michigan's Denard Robinson totaled 426 yards of offense (218 rushing, 208 passing) as the Wolverines scored 31 points against Air Force, while the Ohio State offense also finished with 31 points against Central Florida behind Braxton Miller's 296 yards (141 rushing, 155 passing) of offense. Nebraska's Taylor Martinez had 291 total yards (112 rushing, 179 passing) as part of the Huskers' 30-point performance, while Michigan State's Andrew Maxwell threw for 275 yards to help the Spartans to a 41-7 triumph at Central Michigan.
Ranking Among the Nation's Best: Through two weeks, numerous Big Ten standouts rank among the nation's statistical elite. Offensively, Northwestern's Venric Mark is second in the country in all-purpose yards per game, averaging 219.50 yards per contest. Two Big Ten student-athletes rank in the top six in rushing yards per game as Ohio State's Braxton Miller rates fourth nationally at 151 yards per game and Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell is sixth at 140 yards per contest. Penn State's Allen Robinson is seventh in the country in receptions per game (9.5). Defensively, Ohio State's Travis Howard and Minnesota's Derrick Wells rank first (1.50) and third (1.00), respectively, in interceptions per game. Iowa's Anthony Hitchens is fourth in the NCAA in tackles per game at 13.50, while Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman, Penn State's Deion Barnes and Purdue's Kawann Short are tied for 11th in sacks per game at 1.50. On the special teams units, Iowa's Mike Meyer's three field goals per game average is second nationally, Michigan's Will Hagerup is third in the country in punting average at 49.75 yards and Purdue's Raheem Mostert ranks ninth in the country in kickoff return average at 33.33 yards. A list of Big Ten standouts and teams in the NCAA rankings can be found on Page 3 of the PDF.
Lay it On the Line: Big Ten teams celebrate numerous trophy games and Michigan State will take part in one of its annual rivalry series this weekend. In primetime on Saturday, the Spartans will host nationally ranked Notre Dame at 8 p.m. ET, with the teams looking to claim the Megaphone Trophy. The Irish hold a 32-26-1 advantage in the series, and won last year's meeting in South Bend, but the Spartans have won 10 of the last 15 meetings against the Irish. It is the second of three straight weeks a Big Ten team will square off against Notre Dame, as Michigan travels to South Bend on Sept. 22, following Purdue's contest last week.