Sept. 27, 2010
Big Ten Title Chase Begins: The 115th Big Ten football season kicks off on Saturday with 10 of the 11 teams opening conference play. Over the last decade (2000-09), seven different teams have won the conference title either outright or as co-champions. Ohio State leads the way with six championships over the last 10 years, including first-place finishes in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Michigan (`00, '03, '04), Iowa (`02, '04) and Penn State ('05, `08) have each won multiple titles in that time span, with one championship each for Illinois ('01), Northwestern (`00) and Purdue (`00). The title has been shared by at least two teams five times in this span, with a three-team tie in 2000 and two teams atop the standings in 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2008. Last season, the Buckeyes earned a share of their fifth straight Big Ten title. OSU has won 34 Big Ten crowns, which ranks second only to the 42 titles earned by the Wolverines.
Scoring Explosion: On the final Saturday of non-conference play, Big Ten offenses piled up the points as seven conference schools produced at least 30 points last weekend, including three teams lighting up the scoreboards with 60 or more points. Ohio State led the way with 73 points against Eastern Michigan, the most points in a game for OSU since the 1950 season. Wisconsin tallied 70 points against Austin Peay, breaking the previous school record of 69 points set during the 1962 season. The Buckeyes and Badgers are the first Big Ten teams to crack the 70-point barrier since Sept. 4, 1999, when Penn State produced 70 points against Akron. Michigan cracked the 60-point barrier for the second straight season with 65 points against Bowling Green on Saturday. The Wolverines tallied a conference-high 63 points last season against Delaware State. The last time three different Big Ten teams scored 60 or more points in a game in a single season was in 2005, when Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin accomplished the feat. Over the previous three seasons (2007-09), only three Big Ten teams surpassed 60 points in a game - Michigan last season and Penn State and Purdue during the 2008 campaign.
Big Ten Tied for National Lead with Six Top 25 Teams: For the second straight week, the Big Ten and SEC are tied for the lead among all conferences with six top-25 teams each in both the Associated Press (AP) and USA Today coaches polls. Prior to this year, the last time six Big Ten programs were ranked among the top 25 in both polls was on Sept. 13, 2004. In the latest rankings, Ohio State continues to top all conference teams at No. 2 in both the AP and coaches polls, followed by No. 11/9 Wisconsin (AP/USA Today), No. 17/18 Iowa, No. 19/19 Michigan, No. 22/20 Penn State and No. 24/21 Michigan State. Northwestern is also receiving votes in both polls.
Big Ten Tied for Conference Lead With Six Unbeatens: Through four weeks of play, the Big Ten is one of only two Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences to feature six undefeated teams and is the only conference with five schools standing at 4-0. Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State and Wisconsin have all opened with four straight triumphs, while Indiana stands at 3-0. After nine teams suffered their first losses last weekend, 25 FBS programs remain undefeated, including 21 schools standing at 4-0. The Big Ten and Big 12 top the country with six unbeatens each, followed by the Pac-10 and SEC with four schools each boasting perfect records.
Matchup of Unbeatens: Four of the Big Ten's undefeated teams will square off on the opening Saturday of conference play, as Wisconsin plays at Michigan State and Indiana hosts Michigan. The conference's other unbeatens will both face road tests, with Ohio State travelling to battle Illinois and Northwestern playing at Minnesota.
Chasing Perfection: Each of the Big Ten's six undefeated teams this year has jumped out to a similar hot start recently. Michigan has opened the season with four consecutive victories for the second straight season for the first time since the 1996 and 1997 campaigns and is aiming for its first 5-0 start since winning 11 straight to begin the 2006 campaign. Michigan State has jumped to a 4-0 record for the first time since a 4-0 opening run in 2007 and is looking to begin a season with at least five triumphs for the first time since starting 6-0 in 1999. Northwestern is off to a 4-0 start for the second time in three years after jumping out to a 5-0 mark in 2008. Ohio State has won its first four contests for the third time in five seasons, including a 10-0 start in 2007 and a perfect 12-0 regular season in 2006. Wisconsin has opened with a 4-0 mark for the fifth time in the last seven seasons, including 5-0 starts in 2009, 2007 and 2005 and a 9-0 start in 2004. Indiana is off to a 3-0 start for the fourth time in the last six years, with 3-0 marks in 2009, 2007 and 2005. The last time the Hoosiers opened a season with four straight victories was in 1990.
Paterno Earns 150th Win Since Joining Big Ten: With his victory over Temple on Saturday, Penn State's Joe Paterno became just the fifth coach to reach 150 triumphs while coaching at a Big Ten school. Paterno is now 150-63 over the last 17-plus seasons since the Nittany Lions began conference play in 1993. He joins Ohio State's Woody Hayes (205 wins), Chicago's Amos Alonzo Stagg (199) and Michigan's Bo Schembechler (194) and Fielding Yost (165) in the 150-win club. Paterno is one of just 12 head coaches in conference history to collect 100 wins, and Ohio State's Jim Tressel could join that club this season. Tressel has produced a 98-21 mark with the Buckeyes in his nine-plus seasons on the sideline.
In Search of Six: Ohio State has won at least a share of the last five Big Ten Championships and is looking to match the conference record with a sixth straight crown, equaling the feat first accomplished by the Buckeyes from 1972-77. Ohio State is one of two schools in conference history to win five straight conference championships, splitting the crown with Penn State in 2005 and 2008 and ending the 2006, 2007 and 2009 seasons alone in first place. The Buckeyes compiled a Big Ten mark of 36-4 in that five-year span. Ohio State became the first conference team in over 15 years to finish in first place in five straight seasons since Michigan won at least a share of five consecutive championships from 1988-92.
Preseason Picks: Media members attending the Big Ten Football Media Days selected five-time defending conference champion Ohio State as the preseason favorite while Iowa was tabbed to finish second and Wisconsin was dubbed the third pick (the Big Ten only releases a top-three poll). For the second straight year, Buckeyes' quarterback Terrelle Pryor and Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones were chosen as the Preseason Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively.
Return of the Trophy Game: In a conference with 15 traditional trophy games, the first intraconference trophy will be on the line Saturday when Illinois and Ohio State battle for the Illibuck. The Illini and Buckeyes have met 83 times for the Illibuck since 1925, making it the second-oldest trophy game behind only the battle for the Little Brown Jug between Michigan and Minnesota, which started in 1909. OSU currently holds a 58-23-2 advantage in Illibuck games, including victories in each of the last two seasons.
OTHER TOP PERFORMERS - SEPT. 25
IND QB Ben Chappell: Tossed a career-high four TD passes against Akron, completing 23 of 33 passes (69.7 pct.) for 342 yards, setting a school record with his fifth 300-yard passing game.
IOWA RB Adam Robinson: Broke the 100-yard rushing mark for third time this season with 115 yards on 22 carries (5.2 avg.) with two TDs and added a career-high 75 yards on three receptions.
MICH Offense: Playing three different quarterbacks, amassed 721 yards of total offense in victory over Bowling Green, the fifth-best single-game total in conference history and second in school history behind only the 727 yards gained last season against Delaware State.
MSU QB Kirk Cousins: Completed 16 of 20 passes (80.0 pct.) for 290 yards and two TDs against Northern Colorado, his 10th career 200-yard game.
NU QB Dan Persa: Guided NU to second 4-0 start in last 48 years by completing 23 of 30 passes (76.7 pct.) for 280 yards and two TDs while adding 43 rushing yards against Central Michigan.
PSU RB Evan Royster: Broke loose for a career-high 187 yards on 26 carries (7.2 avg.) against Temple, the most rushing yards by a PSU RB since 2002.
IND LB Leon Beckum: Produced a team-high and career best nine tackles (five solo), including a six-yard sack, against Akron.
MICH LB Jonas Mouton: Collected seven tackles (four solo), one sack (-10 yards), one pass breakup and an interception versus Bowling Green.
PSU LB Nate Stupar: Recorded seven tackles (three solo), one sack (-1 yard) and returned an interception 31 yards to set up the go-ahead field goal in the third quarter against Temple.
PUR DE Ryan Kerrigan: Posted a team-best 10 tackles (six solo) with 3.5 TFLs (-17 yards), including 1.5 sacks (-12 yards), while forcing and recovering a fumble; his 12 career forced fumbles match the school record set by James Looney from 1977-80, just one shy of Big Ten record of 13 forced fumbles.
WIS LB Mike Taylor: Tallied seven tackles (three solo) and 1.5 TFLs (-3 yards) in just one half to help hold Austin Peay to 157 yards of total offense.
IOWA K Michael Meyer: Connected on a 25-yard field goal and all six extra points against Ball State.
MICH FB John McColgan: Collected three solo tackles on kickoff coverage and hauled in first career pass on offense, a two-yard TD pass.
WIS P Brad Nortman: Averaged 60.5 yards on two punts (121 yards), placing both inside the 20-yard line, including a career-long 76-yarder.