Sept. 24, 2007
Big Ten Features Five Top 25 Teams: For the first time since the 2005 campaign, the Big Ten boasts five nationally-ranked programs with Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State and Purdue all appearing among the top 25 in the Associated Press, USA Today or Harris Interactive polls. The Big Ten's five top 25 teams ranks second among all conferences behind the SEC's six schools and ahead of the four programs each from the Big 12, Big East and Pac-10. The last time the Big Ten produced five nationally-ranked teams was on Dec. 5, 2005, in the final regular season polls of the season. The Buckeyes and Badgers both appear among the top ten in all three current rankings, making the Big Ten one of four conferences with two top-ten teams in all three polls along with the Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC. Penn State is also ranked by all three services while Michigan State and Purdue cracked the top 25 of the coaches' poll. The Spartans are also ranked in the first Harris Interactive ratings. Illinois, Iowa and Michigan also appear among the "others receiving votes" category in at least one poll, which means eight of the 11 Big Ten schools are receiving votes, a total that ranks second only to the SEC's nine programs receiving votes.
Welcome Back to the Top 25: While Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State have been featured in every national poll so far this season, Michigan State and Purdue return to the national rankings for the first time since the 2005 campaign. The Spartans last top 25 appearance occurred on Oct. 17, 2005, when the school was ranked 22nd in both polls. The last time the Boilermakers were nationally-ranked was on Sept. 26, 2005, when the team was rated 22nd by the Associated Press and 20th by the USA Today coaches' poll. In addition, Illinois is receiving votes in a national poll for the first time since the 2003 preseason USA Today rankings.
Still Perfect: The Big Ten is tied for second among all conferences with four unbeaten teams in Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin. Overall, only 23 Football Bowl Subdivision programs have not suffered a loss so far this season. The Big East (Cincinnati, Connecticut, Rutgers, South Florida, West Virginia) tops all conferences with five perfect teams while the Big Ten's four unbeatens are tied for second with the Big 12 (Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas) and Pac-10 (Arizona State, California, Oregon, Southern California). The SEC (Florida, Kentucky, LSU) boasts three programs with unblemished records, the ACC (Boston College, Clemson) features two unbeatens while Hawaii is also off to a 4-0 start. Of the 23 undefeated teams, 20 have produced 4-0 records, including all four of the Big Ten's undefeated squads. At least one of the Big Ten unbeatens will suffer their first loss next weekend when the Spartans and Badgers battle in Madison, Wis.
The Big Ten Unbeatens: Four Big Ten teams have yet to lose a game so far in 2007 with Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin boasting 4-0 marks. The Spartans have opened the year with four straight triumphs for the second time in the past three seasons after jumping out to a 4-0 start in 2005. MSU has not started a season with more than four wins since the 1999 campaign, when the program sprinted to a 6-0 record on the way to 10 victories and a triumph in the Citrus Bowl. Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel is off to a 4-0 start for the fourth time in seven seasons at the helm and the second straight year after recording a perfect 12-0 regular season in 2006. Purdue's Joe Tiller has started the season with four straight wins for the fourth time in his tenure in West Lafayette and the second straight season after the Boilermakers opened with a 4-0 record in 2006. The last time Purdue jumped out to a 5-0 start was during the 2004 campaign. The Badgers have opened with four straight triumphs for the third time in the past four seasons and the first time under head coach Bret Bielema, who led UW to a school-record 12 victories last season but suffered his only loss in the fourth game of the year. Wisconsin's last 5-0 start occurred in 2005.
Undefeated Teams Square Off Saturday: The second weekend of Big Ten action will be highlighted by two of the conference's four unbeaten teams squaring off when Wisconsin hosts Michigan State. The Badgers and Spartans have not met since 2004 and the two programs have split their last four meetings, with MSU claiming a 49-14 triumph in East Lansing in the last matchup. The Big Ten's two other perfect programs will also be in action on Saturday with Purdue hosting in-state rival Notre Dame and Ohio State playing at Minnesota.
UM's Hart Cracks Top Ten in Rushing Yards: With 153 yards on the ground against the stout Penn State defense on Saturday, Michigan's Mike Hart broke into the career top ten for rushing yards among Big Ten running backs. The senior standout now boasts 4,334 rushing yards during his time in Ann Arbor to pass Michigan State's Tico Duckett (4,212 yards from 1989-92) for 10th place on the conference career rankings. Hart ranks third in school history in rushing yardage behind only Jamie Morris (4,393 yards from 1984-87) and Anthony Thomas (4,472 yards from 1997-2000), the next two players on the Big Ten career rushing list in eighth and ninth place, respectively. Hart has also compiled 877 rushing attempts in his career, just six carries away from passing Minnesota's Thomas Hamner (882 attempts from 1996-99) for 10th place on the conference career rankings.
Four Big Ten Punters Named to Ray Guy Award Watch List: Michigan's Zoltan Mesko, Ohio State's A.J. Trapasso, Purdue's Jared Armstrong and Wisconsin's Ken DeBauche were named to the watch list for the 2007 Ray Guy Award, which honors the nation's top punter. Three Big Ten punters have earned the Ray Guy Award, most recently when the Buckeyes' B.J. Sander was honored in 2003.
Badgers' Winning Ways: Wisconsin picked up another win on Saturday against Iowa to extend the school's current victory streak to 13 games, the longest active winning streak among all Football Bowl Subdivision schools and the second-longest winning streak in program history. The Badgers have opened the 2007 campaign with four victories after ending last season with nine straight wins, including a triumph in the Capital One Bowl. The last time UW won more than 12 games in a row was more than 100 years ago, when the Badgers set the school record with 17 straight victories spanning the 1900, 1901 and 1902 campaigns.
Buckeyes Streaking in Regular Season . . .: With a win over Northwestern on Saturday, Ohio State continued to build upon a pair of impressive winning streaks including setting a new school record with 22 consecutive regular-season triumphs. The Buckeyes have not lost a regular-season game since dropping a 17-10 decision at Penn State on Oct. 8, 2005. The 22-game winning streak shatters the previous school mark of 21 straight triumphs set from 1967-69. The last Big Ten team to go undefeated in 20 or more straight regular season games was Michigan, which boasted a record of 17-0-3 in regular season matchups over three seasons from 1991-93. The last time a conference team won more than 22 straight regular season contests was when the Wolverines produced 24 consecutive victories from 1946-49, including back-to-back perfect seasons in 1947 and 1948. Penn State produced 23 consecutive victories from 1985-87 but did not play its first season of Big Ten football until 1993. Similarly, Michigan State won 28 straight regular-season games from 1950-53 but did not join the conference until 1953.
. . . And Big Ten Action: Ohio State also holds the longest current winning streak in conference play as the Buckeyes have extended their current string of success to 15 contests. OSU's 15-game winning streak is the school's longest since winning 15 in a row from 1979-80. The Buckeyes set a school record by winning 17 straight Big Ten games on three different occasions, most recently from 1974-76. Michigan is the only team to win more consecutive conference games, setting the all-time record with 19 straight victories from 1990-92. Wisconsin ranks second to Ohio State with a current eight-game Big Ten winning streak, the longest conference victory streak in program annals breaking the previous record of seven straight wins established during the 1999 campaign.
Another Big Ten Debut: Michigan State's Mark Dantonio will get his first taste of Big Ten action as a head coach on Saturday when the Spartans hit the road to take on Wisconsin. Dantonio, who joined MSU after serving as Cincinnati's head coach for the past three seasons, already boasts a history in the Big Ten with previous assistant coaching stints at Purdue (graduate assistant in 1981), Ohio State (graduate assistant from 1983-84; defensive coordinator from 2001-03) and Michigan State (defensive secondary coach from 1995-2000). Indiana's Bill Lynch and Minnesota's Tim Brewster both made their conference debuts last weekend.
Perfection: Michigan State's Mark Dantonio remains the only Big Ten head coach to never suffer a defeat after he improved to 4-0 last weekend with a victory over Notre Dame. Dantonio is only the second MSU head coach in program annals to start his time in East Lansing with at least four straight wins along with Bobby Williams, who won his first four contests including the 2000 Citrus Bowl and a 3-0 start to the ensuing campaign. Dantonio travels to Wisconsin on Saturday looking to become the first Spartans mentor to begin his career with five straight victories. Dantonio joins in-state rival Lloyd Carr of Michigan as just the second active conference coach to begin their tenure at their current school with at least four wins. Carr won his first five games with the Wolverines in 1995.
Bielema's Amazing Start: The 16-1 record for Wisconsin's Bret Bielema as head coach of the Badgers is one of the best coaching starts in Big Ten history. Only three other coaches in conference history won at least 16 of their first 17 games -- Michigan's Fielding Yost (55-0-1 from 1901- 05) and the Ohio State pair of John B. Eckstrom (16-0-1 from 1899-1900) and Carroll C. Widdoes (16-1 from 1944-45). Each of these three coaches lost their next game after the records listed above.
Boilermakers Play for Shillelagh: In a conference with 15 traditional trophy games, one more will be on the line on Saturday when Purdue battles Notre Dame for the Shillelagh. The two programs have competed for this trophy every season since 1958, with the Fighting Irish winning the last two contests to claim the honor in 32 of the 50 trophy games. Notre Dame was also involved in a Big Ten trophy game last week when Michigan State reclaimed the Megaphone trophy with its eighth victory in the school's last 11 meetings. Also last weekend, Wisconsin knocked off Iowa to retain possession of the Heartland Trophy and even the trophy series at two wins a piece since it's debut in 2004.
Big Ten Schedule Set for Oct. 6: The following schedule has been confirmed for games on Saturday, Oct. 6
Wisconsin at Illinois, 11 a.m. CDT, ESPN
Minnesota at Indiana, Noon EDT, Big Ten Network
Eastern Michigan at Michigan, Noon EDT, Big Ten Network
Northwestern at Michigan State, Noon EDT, Big Ten Network
Iowa at Penn State, 3:30 p.m. EDT, ABC
Ohio State at Purdue, 8 p.m. EDT, ABC
OTHER TOP PERFORMERS LAST WEEK
MICH RB Mike Hart: Career-high 44 carries for 153 yards (3.5 avg.) and the game-winning TD in the fourth quarter against Penn State, which entered the game as the nation's top rush defense.
MSU QB Brian Hoyer: 11 of 24 (45.8 pct.) for 135 yards and career-best four TDs at Notre Dame.
OSU QB Todd Boeckman: 11 of 14 (78.6 pct.) for 179 yards and four TDs, one shy of the school record, in just over one half of play against NU.
PUR WR Dorien Bryant: 12 catches for 150 yards (12.5 avg.) and two TDs at Minnesota to become Purdue's all-time leader in all-purpose yards.
WIS RB P.J. Hill: 29 carries for 113 yards (3.9 avg.) and one TD, including the game-winning score in the fourth quarter against Iowa.
IND CB Tracy Porter: Seven tackles (five solo), one TFL (-3 yards) and two interceptions vs. Illinois.
IOWA LB A.J. Edds: Seven tackles (four solo), an interception and a forced fumble at Wisconsin.
MSU DE Jonal Saint-Dic: Four tackles (all solo), one fumble forced and recovered, one PBU and two TFLs (-18 yards), including a 17-yard sack.
OSU DE Vernon Gholston: Three tackles (all solo), two sacks (-23 yards) and a 25-yard fumble recovery for a TD against NU.
PSU CB Lydell Sargeant: Career-high 10 tackles (seven solo), one TFL (-3 yards) and a pick.
PUR DE Cliff Avril: Two tackles (one solo) and an interception returned 43 yards for a TD.
WIS CB Aaron Henry: Three tackles (two solo) and a career-high 2.5 sacks (-7 yards) vs. Iowa.
ILL K Jason Reda: Two-of-two (45, 38) on field goals and three-of-three on PATs at Indiana.
MSU P Aaron Bates: Five punts for 207 yards (41.4 avg.), including three inside the 20-yard line.
PSU K Kevin Kelly: Three-of-three (28, 29, 31) on field goals at Michigan.
PUR KR Desmond Tardy: Took first collegiate kickoff return 95 yards for a TD at Minnesota.