Sept. 28, 2009
FACES OF THE BIG TEN: Robert Maci, Purdue
Robert Maci, a Boilermakers' defensive end, helped saved a life on May 25, 2009. On that date, he spotted a car with a hose running from the exhaust pipe into the interior of the vehicle. Maci honked the horn of his car, and the individual, who also attempted to take an entire bottle of Tylenol PM, sat up in the driver's seat. Maci subsequently convinced the individual to go with him to the hospital, where the individual was helped. The redshirt freshman is majoring in engineering and both of his parents, along with an additional 12 family members, are Purdue alums.
BIG TEN. BIG NEWS.
And Then There Were Three: Through four weeks of play, the Big Ten is one of only three Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences to feature three or more 4-0 teams. Four of the Big Ten's five unbeatens squared off last Saturday, with Iowa and Michigan improving to 4-0 by handing the first losses to Penn State and Indiana, respectively. Meanwhile, Wisconsin also maintained perfection with a triumph over Michigan State to move to 4-0 on the year. Overall, 17 FBS programs are undefeated, including 13 schools at 4-0, as 11 unbeaten teams suffered their first defeats last week. The SEC tops all conferences with four teams standing at 4-0, while the Big 12 also features four unbeatens, including one team at 3-0. The Big East is the only other conference to boast multiple undefeated programs with two schools standing at 4-0.
Breaking Down the Unbeatens: The Hawkeyes are off to a 4-0 start for just the third time in head coach Kirk Ferentz' 11 years on campus, including opening with four triumphs in 2006 and 2003. Iowa's last 5-0 start occurred in 1995. The Wolverines have already surpassed their total of three victories in head coach Rich Rodriguez' debut last season. Michigan has won its first four games for the first time since sprinting to an 11-0 start in 2006 on the way to the Rose Bowl. The Badgers have started the season with four straight triumphs for the second time under head coach Bret Bielema and fifth time in the last eight years, including 5-0 starts in 2007, 2005 and 2002 and a 9-0 opening stretch in 2004. Iowa will look to remain undefeated on Saturday by wrapping up non-conference action at home against Arkansas State. Michigan and Wisconsin both hit the road with perfection on the line at Michigan State and Minnesota, respectively.
Four More Strong Starts: In addition to the Big Ten's undefeated trio, four conference programs have jumped out to 3-1 starts in Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State. The Hoosiers and Nittany Lions were handed their first defeats in conference openers last Saturday, while the Gophers and Buckeyes both suffered narrow losses to nationally ranked Pac-10 opponents earlier in September. Indiana has won three of its first four games for the third time in the last five seasons, including a 5-1 start in head coach Bill Lynch's first year at the helm in 2007. Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster has led the Gophers to a 3-1 start after his team sprinted to a 7-1 mark last season. Ohio State has won at least three of its first four games for the 19th consecutive season, including each of head coach Jim Tressel's first nine years in Columbus. OSU won seven of its first eight games last season. Penn State and head coach Joe Paterno have claimed at least three wins in their first four outings in four of the last five seasons, including opening last year with nine straight triumphs on the way to an 11-1 regular-season mark and a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Big Ten Among NCAA Leaders: In the latest edition of the NCAA rankings, several Big Ten players rank among the top 10 nationally. On defense, Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones is tied for second in the country with 13.0 tackles per game, Iowa safety Tyler Sash is tied for second with one interception per outing and Indiana defensive end Jammie Kirlew is tied for sixth nationally with 2.12 tackles for loss per contest. On offense, Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker is ranked sixth in the nation with 8.75 receptions and 124.8 receiving yards per contest. Purdue running back Ralph Bolden rates seventh nationally with 122.0 rushing yards per game.
Stingy on Defense: Through four games, the Big Ten features three of the nation's top 10 scoring defenses in Iowa, Ohio State and Penn State. The Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten and rank sixth nationally allowing only 10.24 points per game. The Buckeyes and Hawkeyes are close behind, rating seventh and eighth nationally after allowing only 11.24 and 11.50 points per outing, respectively. Those three schools also rank first, second and third in the conference in total and pass defense, with PSU leading the way followed by OSU and Iowa in both categories. The Nittany Lions also top the Big Ten in rushing defense, with the Buckeyes ranked third and the Hawkeyes rated seventh in that category. Last Saturday, Iowa limited Penn State to only 10 points while the Nittany Lions allowed only 13 offensive points in the 21-10 defeat. Meanwhile, Ohio State has posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1996 after blanking Illinois on Saturday.
Big Ten Record Chasers: With one-third of the regular season now complete, several Big Ten players are continuing to climb the career charts in various statistical categories. Minnesota wideout Eric Decker has hauled in a conference-best 35 receptions so far this season to rocket to sixth in Big Ten history with 212 catches. Decker has also boosted his career numbers to 2,860 receiving yards and 23 touchdown receptions, just outside the conference's all-time top 10 in both areas. Illinois' Juice Williams has moved up to fourth all-time among conference quarterbacks with 2,144 rushing yards, just 33 yards away from moving up to the second spot. With 8,806 yards of total offense in his career, Williams is also just 74 yards away from equaling the school record in that category, which would tie for tenth in conference annals. After only two seasons, Wisconsin's David Gilreath entered the season ranked sixth all-time in career kickoff returns in Big Ten history and has returned 10 more kicks to climb to fifth overall with 92 returns, just two away from moving into sole possession of third place. Gilreath has also cracked the top 10 and ranks seventh in conference annals with 1,995 kickoff return yards. Michigan State kicker Brett Swenson has moved into the top 10 with 308 career kicking points (tied for ninth) and is currently 11th all-time with 58 field goals, just one shy of reaching the top 10.
Two More Trophy Games: In a conference with 15 traditional trophy games, two will be on the line Saturday when Michigan and Michigan State battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy and Minnesota and Wisconsin square off for Paul Bunyan's Axe.
Paul Bunyan Trophy: Since 1953, the winner of the Michigan-Michigan State contest has accepted the four-foot wooden statue of Paul Bunyan. The Spartans snapped a six-game losing streak in the series last season to reclaim the trophy, but the Wolverines hold a 34-20-2 advantage all-time.
Paul Bunyan's Axe: The Gophers and Badgers resume the longest rivalry in Football Bowl Subdivision history when the two schools battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe. The two teams have played 118 games, beginning in 1890 and played every year consecutively since 1907. The 117-game rivalry between Missouri and Kansas ranked second nationally entering this season. Minnesota and Wisconsin originally played for the Slab of Bacon Trophy, which mysteriously disappeared in the 1940's and was replaced by the axe in 1948. UW holds a 35-23-3 all-time advantage in axe games, including a current five-game winning streak.
Big Ten Schedule Announced for Oct. 10: The following schedule has been confirmed for games on Oct. 10. Final determination of television for Purdue-Minnesota and Michigan-Iowa will be made following the contests on Oct. 3.
Michigan State at Illinois, 11 a.m. CT, Big Ten Network
Purdue at Minnesota, 11 a.m. CT, ESPN or ESPN2
Miami (Ohio) at Northwestern, 11 a.m. CT, Big Ten Network
Eastern Illinois at Penn State, Noon ET, ESPN Classic
Wisconsin at Ohio State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC (regional - ESPN outer-market)
Michigan at Iowa, 7 p.m. CT, ABC or ESPN
OTHER TOP PERFORMERS - SEPT. 26
IND RB Darius Willis: More than doubled his previous career high with 152 yards on 16 carries (9.5 avg.) with two TDs, including an 85-yard score which tied for the third longest in school history and the longest against Michigan since 1987.
IOWA RB Adam Robinson: Totaled 88 yards on 19 carries (4.6 avg.) with a crucial 13-yard TD run to put Iowa up 18-10 in the fourth quarter at PSU.
MICH QB Tate Forcier: Engineered second fourth-quarter game-winning drive in first four games, tossing 26-yard TD with 2:26 left for a 36-33 win over Indiana; completed 11-of-21 passes (52.4 pct.) for 184 yards with two TDs while adding a rushing TD.
MSU WR Keshawn Martin: Established career bests with four catches, 139 yards and two TDs at Wisconsin, including a 91-yard score which marked the second-longest pass play in MSU annals.
MINN RB Duane Bennett: Produced a career-high three rushing TDs while posting 89 yards on 21 carries (4.2 avg.) in win at Northwestern.
NU QB Mike Kafka: Surpassed 300 passing yards for second straight game with 309 yards on 32-of-47 passing (68.1 pct.) with two TDs vs. Minnesota.
OSU RB Dan Herron: Recorded at least one rushing TD in his eighth straight game, posting 75 yards on 14 carries (5.4 avg.) with two TDs against Illinois.
PUR QB Joey Elliott: Set career highs with 289 passing yards and three TDs, while completing 22-of-38 passes (57.9 pct.) against Notre Dame.
IND DE Greg Middleton: Registered six tackles (four solo) and a career-high 2.5 TFLs (-7 yards) at Michigan, including two sacks (-7 yards) for his seventh career multi-sack game.
MICH CB Donovan Warren: Secured victory with fourth-quarter interception while adding a pass breakup and two tackles (both assisted).
MINN LB Nate Triplett: Led Minnesota in tackles for third straight game with 11 stops (nine solo) while adding a TFL (-2 yards) and two pass breakups.
NU CB Sherrick McManis: Totaled nine tackles (two solo) with an interception and a pass breakup.
OSU LB Brian Rolle: Helped Buckeyes post back-to-back shutouts for first time since 1996 with eight tackles (two solo), a one-yard sack and an interception returned 39 yards to set up a field goal.
PSU LB Navorro Bowman: In first full game back from injury, recorded a career-best 13 tackles (five solo) with three TFLs (-7 yards) against Iowa.
PUR DE Ryan Kerrigan: Collected eight tackles (five solo) and two TFLs (-10 yards), including a seven-yard sack, against the Fighting Irish.
WIS S Chris Maragos: Picked off a pair of passes and registered five tackles (all solo) vs. MSU.
IND PK Nick Freeland: Became fourth Hoosier to tally four field goals in a game, connecting on four-of-five attempts from 24, 20, 30 and 32 yards.
MICH P Zoltan Mesko: Recorded seven punts for 337 yards (48.1 avg.) while placing two inside the 20-yard line against Indiana.
MINN KR Troy Stoudermire: Returned four kickoffs for 111 yards (27.8 avg.) at Northwestern.
NU PK/P Stefan Demos: Connected on only field goal attempt from 26 yards and all three extra points while recording four punts for 163 yards (40.8 avg.), including one inside the 20-yard line.
OSU PK Aaron Pettrey: Connected on all three field goal attempts from 50, 46 and 27 yards while adding three extra points against the Illini.