Oct. 1, 2012
Division Matchups Continue This Weekend: Last Saturday saw the beginning of divisional play in the Big Ten, with Penn State defeating Illinois and Iowa knocking off Minnesota. This Saturday, one divisional matchup is part of the Week 6 schedule. Illinois plays its second divisional contest in as many weeks when it travels to Wisconsin in a Leaders Division contest. It will be the opening game of division action for the Badgers, who held off the Illini a year ago in Champaign. As part of divisional play, the Big Ten has instituted a tiebreaker to determine the Big Ten Football Championship Game participants, if necessary. After head-to-head matchups, the next tiebreaker is records within the division, which makes winning divisional games an important part of the Big Ten title chase. See Page 10 of this release for the full tiebreaker.
Unbeaten and Going Strong: Following the first weekend of conference action, two Big Ten teams remain with unblemished records. Northwestern and Ohio State each saw their records improve to 5-0 this season, after the Wildcats defeated Indiana at home and the Buckeyes held off Michigan State in East Lansing. The Big Ten is one of only two conferences with two or more teams boasting 5-0 records through the first five weeks of the season. Overall, just 23 teams hold unblemished records this season.
History of the Unbeatens: The Big Ten's pair of 5-0 teams are among a group of just 11 squads in the country to start the 2012 season with five consecutive victories, and Northwestern and Ohio State look to make it 6-for-6 in the win column this weekend. Northwestern heads to Penn State on Saturday hoping to start the season 6-0 for the first time since 1962. Ohio State welcomes Nebraska on Saturday night with hopes of winning its sixth straight game to start the season for the first time since 2007, when the Buckeyes won their first 10 games of the year.
Where We Rank: Seven Big Ten teams are receiving votes in the latest Associated Press (AP) and USA Today Coaches polls, released on Sunday. Ohio State leads all conference teams, appearing at No. 12 in the AP rankings. Nebraska and Northwestern appear in the top 25 in both rankings, with the Huskers checking in at No. 20 in the coaches' poll and No. 21 in the writers' rankings. Northwestern, joining Ohio State as the two conference teams with 5-0 marks, was voted No. 22 by the coaches and No. 24 in the AP poll. Michigan State and Michigan are receiving votes in both rankings, while Purdue and Wisconsin are among others receiving votes in the coaches poll.
Saturday Standouts: Numerous Big Ten standouts enjoyed successful outings on Saturday, offensively and defensively. Six conference student-athletes rushed for more than 100 yards, led by Iowa's Mark Weisman, who rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota, while Northwestern's Kain Colter totaled 161 yards and four touchdowns against Indiana. Wildcat teammate Trevor Siemian led the Big Ten in passing with 308 yards, while Purdue's Caleb TerBush, Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase and Michigan State's Andrew Maxwell each passed for more than 250 yards on Saturday. Ohio State' Corey Brown caught a Big Ten season-high 12 passes versus Michigan State, while Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis had 142 yards receiving against Nebraska. Defensively, Wisconsin's Mike Taylor had 15 tackles, one of 11 conference performers with 10 or more tackles last Saturday. Meanwhile, Purdue's Kawann Short's three tackles for loss was tops in the conference last week as seven others also finished with two or more tackles for loss last weekend. A complete list of Week 4 stat leaders can be found on the Big Ten football blog at bigten.org.
Ranking Among the Nation's Best: Numerous Big Ten standouts rank among the top 10 nationally, according to the latest statistics released by the NCAA. Offensively, Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell ranks sixth in the country in rushing yards per game (131.0), while Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah and Northwestern's Venric Mark rank in the top 10 in all-purpose yardage. Abdullah is eighth nationally at 178.6 yards per game, while Mark is ninth at 176.8 yards per contest. Defensively, a pair of Big Ten linebackers rank in the top 10 in tackles per game, with Iowa's Anthony Hitchens ranking third at 12.6 tackles per game and Wisconsin's Mike Taylor seventh at 11 stops per game. Mark ranks second in the country in punt return average at 25.83 yards per return, while three conference place kickers are among the top five in field goals per game, including Northwestern's Jeff Budzien (third, 2.20), Iowa's Mike Meyer (fifth, 2.0) and Michigan State's Dan Conroy (fifth, 2.0).
Doing Their Part: In the six Big Ten games last Saturday, three contests featured touchdowns by the defenses and special teams. Three touchdowns came by way of interceptions, while the fourth came on a kickoff return. Indiana's Tevin Coleman found the end zone with a 96-yard kickoff return for the Hoosiers, the first kickoff return for a touchdown by a Big Ten player this season. Iowa's Christian Kirksey intercepted a Minnesota pass and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown, giving the Hawkeyes their final score of the day. A pair of Boilermakers returned interceptions for touchdowns against Marshall. For the fourth time in his career, Ricardo Allen returned an interception for a touchdown after returning his pick 39 yards for a score. On the ensuing Marshall possession, Josh Johnson intercepted a pass and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown.
More Than a Win at Stake: In a conference that features 16 traditional trophy games, one traveling keepsake will be up for grabs on Saturday. This weekend, Michigan State travels to Indiana for the 55th meeting with the Old Brass Spittoon on the line. The trophy game began in 1950, and the Spartans own a 41-12-1 advantage in the series. Michigan State has won three straight contests in the series, an holds a 41-15-1 overall advantage in the series. Last weekend, Iowa defeated Minnesota to reclaim the Floyd of Rosedale.
Leaders in the Classroom: Eight Big Ten student-athletes were among 50 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) players to be named semifinalists for the National Football Foundation's William V. Campbell Trophy, it was announced on Thursday. The Big Ten is one of only two FBS conferences with eight or more student-athletes named semifinalists for the award, with recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation. Big Ten semifinalists are Indiana's Adam Replogle, Iowa's James Vandenberg, Nebraska's Rex Burkhead, Northwestern's Patrick Ward, Ohio State's Ben Buchanan, Penn State's Pete Massaro, Purdue's Robert Maci and Wisconsin's Shelton Johnson. Four student-athletes from Big Ten schools have won the Campbell Trophy, a group that includes Nebraska's Rob Zatechka (1994) and Kyle Vanden Bosch (2000) and Ohio State's Bobby Hoying (1995) and Craig Krenzel (2003).