Oct. 2, 2006
And Then There Were Two: The Big Ten's contingent of undefeated teams was cut in half last week with Michigan and Ohio State both improving to 5-0. The Wolverines earned a road triumph at Minnesota, the Buckeyes handed Iowa its first loss of the season while Purdue was knocked off in a non-conference tilt against Notre Dame. Overall, only 13 Division I-A programs have not suffered a loss so far this season and Michigan and Ohio State are two of nine schools to jump out to a 5-0 start. The Big Ten is now one of only four conferences with multiple unbeatens along with the Big East (Louisville, Rutgers, West Virginia), SEC (Auburn, Florida, Georgia) and Pac-10 (Oregon, USC). The remaining perfect teams are Boise State (WAC), Missouri (Big 12) and Wake Forest (ACC).
The Big Ten Unbeatens: Michigan has jumped out to a 5-0 start for the fourth season under Lloyd Carr and the first time since starting the 1999 campaign with five triumphs on the way to a 10-win season and an Orange Bowl win. The last time the Wolverines opened a season with six straight victories was when the school produced a perfect 12-0 mark and a national title in 1997. Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel is off to a 5-0 start for the third time in six seasons at the helm and the first time since opening with a 5-0 mark in 2003, a season that concluded with 11 victories and a Fiesta Bowl triumph. The last time the Buckeyes started out with six wins was in 2002, when the program went on to a perfect 14-0 season and the national championship.
Michigan and Ohio State One Win From Bowl Berth: After improving to 5-0 last weekend, Michigan and Ohio State are just one victory from securing a bowl berth. The Wolverines current streak of 31 consecutive bowls is the longest active streak in the nation, including 11 postseason bids for head coach Lloyd Carr. The Buckeyes are aiming for their seventh straight bowl excursion and sixth consecutive bowl under head coach Jim Tressel. With 4-1 marks, Iowa, Purdue and Wisconsin are also just two triumphs away from becoming eligible for a spot in a bowl game. The Big Ten has seven bowl tie-ins this season - the Rose Bowl/Bowl Championship Series (BCS) game, Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Champs Sports, Insight and Motor City Bowls. If the Big Ten champion (or co-champion) is ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the final BCS rankings, then that team will participate in the BCS National Championship Game, to be played on Jan. 8, 2007 in Glendale, Ariz.
Streaking Buckeyes: With a victory at Iowa on Saturday, Ohio State has now won 12 straight games, which is the longest active winning streak in the country. OSU's last defeat occurred on Oct. 8 of last season against the Nittany Lions before the Buckeyes wrapped up the 2005 campaign with seven straight triumphs, including a victory in the Fiesta Bowl. This 12-game string of success marks the longest winning streak for Ohio State since the program claimed 19 straight victories during the 2002 and 2003 seasons, including a perfect 14-0 mark and a national championship in 2002. Michigan holds the Big Ten record with a 29-game winning streak from 1901-03.
Playing the Best: The Big Ten ranks second among all conferences with 14 out-of-league games so far this season against Notre Dame and teams from the conferences with automatic Bowl Championship Series qualification -- the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10 and SEC. The only conference to play more games against that group is the Big East, which has produced a 9-7 record in 16 matchups, including a mark of 3-3 versus Big Ten opponents. Big Ten teams boast a 7-7 record in those games, the second-most wins behind the Big East. In number of wins, the Pac-10 ranks third with a 6-4 mark, followed by the ACC (4-5), SEC (4-5) and Big 12 (3-8).
Tough Schedules: Three Big Ten teams have already faced two or more nationally-ranked opponents in the first five weeks of the season. Ohio State is off to a 5-0 start despite facing three teams ranked in the top 25 at the time of the game. The Buckeyes have won two road games against nationally-ranked foes, knocking off No. 2/2 Texas and No. 13/13 Iowa, while defeating No. 24/- Penn State at home. The Nittany Lions may have played one of the toughest schedules in the country, as PSU is one of only two teams in the country to have taken on two top-five teams, falling to No. 4/5 Notre Dame and top-ranked Ohio State in the first month of the season. The only other program to challenge two top-five schools is Washington State (Auburn, USC). Minnesota is the third conference team to play multiple top 25 teams, dropping contests at No. 22/23 California and last week at home against No. 6/6 Michigan.
Road Warriors: Four of the five Big Ten games last weekend featured victories by the road team, including triumphs by Illinois (at Michigan State), Michigan (at Minnesota), Ohio State (at Iowa) and Wisconsin (at Indiana). Overall, conference programs have produced a mark of 12-9 (.571) in road matchups so far this season with nine of the 11 schools boasting at least one win away from home. Five Big Ten teams are undefeated on the road so far this year, as the Hawkeyes, Wolverines and Buckeyes have produced 2-0 marks away from home while the Hoosiers and Spartans are 1-0 in away contests.
Mr. Efficiency: Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith entered the 2006 campaign with a career passing efficiency rating of 153.0, which would have made him the Big Ten career leader if he had reached the minimum of 300 completions. Now five games into the season, the senior signal caller completed his 300th pass on Saturday against Iowa and has boosted his career passing efficiency number to 155.8, which ranks first on the conference career charts above fellow Buckeye Joe Germaine (151.0 rating from 1996-98). Smith has now completed 301 of 478 passes (61.8 percent) for 4,248 yards and 36 touchdowns against only nine interceptions in his time in Columbus. Last season, he led the conference with a passing efficiency rating of 162.7, which ranks sixth on the Big Ten single-season charts. So far in his senior campaign, the preseason Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year boasts a conference-best rating of 163.7, which ranks 11th in the country and would tie for the fourth-best efficiency rating in Big Ten annals. Smith has completed 84 of 128 throws for 1,070 yards, 12 touchdowns and only two picks to lead the top-ranked Buckeyes to a 5-0 start.
Michigan's Henne Cracks Big Ten Career Top 10: Michigan quarterback Chad Henne became the third active Wolverine to break into the top 10 of the Big Ten career rankings last week. With three scoring strikes at Minnesota, Henne boosted his career total to 58 touchdown passes in just his third season in Ann Arbor to pass Ohio State's Bobby Hoying (57 from 1992-95) for 10th place. The junior quarterback is now just one touchdown pass behind Wisconsin's Darrell Bevell (9th with 59 from 1992-95) and three behind Michigan State's Jeff Smoker (8th with 61 from 2000-03). Wolverines' kicker Garrett Rivas also moved up the Big Ten charts after scoring four points against the Gophers to climb to eighth on the career kicking points list with 304 points. He passed Michigan's Mike Gillette (301 points from 1985-88) for the Wolverines school record and Penn State's Brett Conway (302 points from 1993-96). Rivas needs four points to tie Michigan State's John Langeloh (308 points from 1987-90) for seventh place. The senior kicker is also just outside the top 10 with 55 career field goals, as three players are tied for tenth on the conference career charts with 57 field goals. Michigan wideout Steve Breaston recorded two punt returns for five yards and a 16-yard kickoff return on Saturday to continue to move up the career rankings in those categories. He now has a Big Ten record 1,473 punt return yards and ranks second with 117 punt returns behind Iowa's Peter Marciano (124 from 1986-89). Breaston also stands just outside the top 10 with 64 kickoff returns and 1,602 kickoff return yards, only four yards behind fellow-Wolverine Anthony Carter who set a school record with 1,606 yards on kickoff returns from 1979-82, the 10th best total in conference history.
Two More Trophies Up For Grabs: In a conference with 15 traditional trophy games, hardware will be on the line in a pair of matchups this weekend. In-state rivals Michigan and Michigan State will square off Saturday with the Paul Bunyan Trophy up for grabs. Since 1953, the winner of this game has accepted the four-foot wooden statue with the Wolverines holding a 32-19-2 advantage, including four straight wins. Minnesota and Penn State will battle over one of the newest trophies, the Governor's Victory Bell, which was first established in 1993. The Nittany Lions hold a narrow 5-4 advantage since the trophy's induction and reclaimed the Governor's Victory Bell last season to snap a four-game winning streak for the Gophers.
Paterno and Carr Continue to Climb Century Club List: Penn State's Joe Paterno and Michigan's Lloyd Carr continued to move up the list of coaches with 100 or more wins at a Big Ten school with victories on Saturday. Following a win over Northwestern, Paterno now has 110 triumphs since the Nittany Lions joined the conference in 1993. He currently ranks 10th among all coaches, just one win behind Ohio State's John Cooper who stands ninth with 111 victories from 1988-2000. Carr picked up his 107th triumph with a road win at Minnesota and stands 12th overall, just two victories away from Michigan State's Duffy Daugherty (11th with 109 wins from 1954-72).
The Nation's Best Fans: Three of the nation's top four teams in average attendance are from the Big Ten, as Michigan leads the country with an average of 109,813 fans per contest. Penn State ranks second with 106,765 fans per outing while Ohio State rates fourth with 104,733 per game. In all, six Big Ten programs rank among the top 25 in national attendance including No. 14 Wisconsin (80,968), No. 20 Michigan State (73,007) and No. 22 Iowa (70,585).
Big Ten Schedule Set for Oct. 14: The following schedule has been confirmed for games on Saturday, Oct. 14.
Minnesota at Wisconsin, 11 a.m. CDT, ESPN
Iowa at Indiana, Noon EDT, ESPN2
Purdue at Northwestern, 11 a.m. CDT, ESPN Plus Regional
Ohio State at Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. EDT, ABC
Ohio at Illinois - 6 p.m. CDT, ESPN360
Michigan at Penn State, 8 p.m. EDT, ABC
OTHER TOP PERFORMERS LAST WEEK
ILL RB Pierre Thomas: 18 carries for 110 yards (6.1 avg.) in victory at Michigan State.
MICH QB Chad Henne: 17 of 24 (70.8 pct.) for 284 yards and three TDs in triumph at Minnesota.
OSU QB Troy Smith: 16 of 25 (64.0 pct.) for 186 yards and a career-high four TDs in win at Iowa.
PSU WR Deon Butler: Career-high 11 catches for a school-record 216 yards (19.6 avg.) in win over Northwestern; Broke previous program-best of 212 yards by O.J. McDuffie in 1992.
PUR WR Selwyn Lymon: Eight catches for a career-high 238 yards (29.8 avg.) and two TDs at Notre Dame, including a career-best 88-yard scoring reception; The 238-yard effort ranks second in school history.
ILL LB J Leman: Team-high 11 tackles (four solo) and 1.5 TFLs (-4 yards) as Illinois held Michigan State to 82 rushing yards, 170 below its season average.
IOWA LB Mike Klinkenborg: Game-high 13 tackles (two solo) against top-ranked Ohio State.
MICH LB David Harris: Nine tackles (six solo) and a TFL (-1 yard) in win at Minnesota.
NU S Brendan Smith: Career-high 12 tackles (six solo), two PBUs and a fumble recovery at Penn State.
OSU S Brandon Mitchell: Five tackles (three solo), an interception and a fumble recovery in victory at Iowa.
PSU LB Paul Posluszny: Ten tackles (seven solo) and a TFL (-5 yards) in triumph over Northwestern.
WIS LB DeAndre Levy: Four tackles (all solo), a sack (-8 yards) and a forced fumble in win at Indiana.
IOWA P Andy Fenstermaker: Five punts for 167 yards (33.4 avg.), including three inside the 20, vs. OSU.
OSU P A.J. Trapasso: Five punts for 198 yards (39.6 avg.), including two inside the 20-yard line, at Iowa.
PSU K Kevin Kelly: Career-high four-of-four (34, 22, 33, 36) on field goals in win over Wildcats.
PUR P Jared Armstrong: Two punts for 104 yards (52.0 avg.), including a career-best 69-yarder, at Notre Dame.
WIS P Ken DeBauche: Two punts for 96 yards (48.0 avg.), placing both inside the 20-yard line at Indiana.