Big Ten Weekly Football Release - Oct. 3
Oct. 3, 2011
Big Ten Mobile Tour: The Big Ten's Honoring Legends. Building Leaders. Mobile Tour will make a stop at each campus this football season. This weekend, it will be in Lincoln for the Nebraska vs. Ohio State game. Visit www.bigten.org/blog/mobile-tour and follow along on Twitter
Five Big Ten Teams Appear in Top 25: The Big Ten is one of just three conferences with five or more top-25 teams in the latest AP or USA Today coaches poll, which was released Sunday. In all, eight conference teams are receiving votes, led by Wisconsin, which moved into the top five in both polls following last week's win over Nebraska. The Badgers are fourth in the AP poll and fifth in the coaches poll, where they received one first-place vote. Fellow unbeaten Michigan appears at No. 11 in the coaches poll and No. 12 in the AP rankings, while Nebraska checks in at No. 14 in the AP and No. 15 in the coaches polls. Illinois, the conference's third unbeaten squad, is 16th in the USA Today ranks and 19th in the AP poll. Michigan State appears at No. 20 in the coaches poll to round out the ranked conference squads. Iowa, Ohio State and Penn State are also receiving at least one vote in one or both polls this week.
Division Matchups Continue This Week: Last weekend saw the opening divisional games of the 2011 season, and two more will be contested this week. Michigan will play its second Legends Division matchup of the conference season when it travels to Northwestern in the Wildcats' division opener. Indiana has its second Leaders Division game in as many weeks and will host Illinois for the Illini's inaugural division game. With the beginning of divisional play, the Big Ten has instituted a new 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.
More Unbeatens: Three conference teams have gone through the first five weeks of the season unscathed after winning their conference openers last week. Illinois moved to 5-0 with its win over Northwestern in the annual trophy game against the Wildcats, Michigan improved to 5-0 after holding Minnesota scoreless in the battle for the Little Brown Jug, and Wisconsin saw its record jump to 5-0 after earning a win over Nebraska. It marks the second straight season the conference has had three or more unbeaten teams after five weeks of play.
Remaining Unbeatens: The list of remaining unbeatens continues to dwindle around the nation. The conference's three undefeated teams are among the 15 nationally that have gone the first five weeks of the season without a loss. The three undefeated Big Ten teams makes the conference one of only two in the nation with three or more teams with unblemished records. The Big 12 joins the Big Ten as the only conferences in the nation boasting three or more teams without a loss this season.
The History of the Unbeatens: The Big Ten's remaining unbeatens have each reached the 5-0 mark previously in their history. Illinois improved to 5-0 for the first time since 1951, when the Illini opened the year with seven straight victories. Michigan reached the 5-0 mark for the second time in as many seasons and looks to move to 6-0 for the first time since 2006 when the Wolverines opened the year 11-0. Wisconsin is 5-0 for the sixth time in the last 10 years, and for the first time since 2009, and eyes its first 6-0 start since 2004 when the Badgers won their first nine games of the season.
A Day for the Record Books: Illini receiver A.J. Jenkins had a career day in Illinois' win against Northwestern in the annual battle for the Land of Lincoln trophy. The senior finished with 12 receptions for 268 yards and three touchdowns in Illinois' 38-35 victory. His 268 receiving yards ranks as the fourth-most in a game in conference history and third-most in a Big Ten game. It is the most yards receiving in a game by a Big Ten player since 2003, when Wisconsin's Lee Evans finished with 258 yards on 10 catches. Only Purdue's Chris Daniels (301 yards), Indiana's Thomas Lewis (285) and Michigan State's Charles Rogers (270) have recorded more receiving yards among all games in Big Ten history.
A True Triple Threat: Michigan's Vincent Smith did a little bit of everything for Michigan in the Wolverines win over Minnesota on Saturday. The junior running back became the first Wolverine in the modern era to record a passing, rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game. He is the sixth Big Ten player to accomplish the feat since 1996, joining Illinois' Kurt Kittner, Indiana's Antwaan Randle El, Northwestern's Mike Kafka, Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor, and Penn State's Zack Mills. Smith is the first bowl subdivision running back to throw, rush and catch a touchdown pass in the same game since 2009.
Offensive Firepower: Big Ten standouts and teams rank among the nation's best, according to the latest national statistics. A pair of Wisconsin standouts help pace the third-most prolific offense in the nation. Running back Montee Ball is the national leader in scoring at 16.80 points per game on the strength of a national-best 14 touchdowns, with all but one coming on the ground. Badger quarterback Russell Wilson ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency (216.89), one of only two quarterbacks in the country with a 200 or better efficiency rating. The only quarterback rated among the nation's top 23 rushers, Michigan's Denard Robinson ranks fourth with an average of 139.25 yards per game. Robinson has helped Michigan rank seventh in the country in rushing offense (293.25), one of six Big Ten teams appearing in the top 25 nationally in rushing offense, the most of any conference in the nation. Following his 268-yard performance on Saturday, Illinois' A.J. Jenkins moved into sixth in the country in receiving yards per game at 126.60.
Defense, Special Teams Getting it Done: Big Ten defensive units and specialists also rank highly in the latest national statistics. A pair of Illinois linemen rank in the nation's top 10 in sacks per game, making the Illini the only team in the nation with two players in the top 10. Whitney Mercilus has recorded 5.5 sacks this year for an average of 1.10 per game, while teammate Michael Buchanan is tied for 10th with 4.5 sacks - an average of 0.90 per game. Purdue's Cody Webster tops the nation in yards per punt (48.67), Iowa's Michael Meyer is fifth in the country in field goals per game (2.0), while Nebraska kick returner Ameer Abdullah leads the country with a 35.13 kickoff return average. Michigan State leads the country in total defense, surrendering just 173.40 yards a contest and is one of three teams allowing less than 200 yards of offense per game. Penn State rounds out the top five of total defense at 250.4 yards per game. The Big Ten leads all conferences with six teams ranked in the top 25 in scoring defense, including three in the top five and five in the top 11. Wisconsin and Michigan State are tied for second at 10.2 points per game, while Michigan is fourth at 10.25. Penn State ranks seventh at 12.0 and Ohio State is 11th at 14.6 points per game.
Leaders in the Classroom: The Big Ten tied for the lead among all conferences with seven semifinalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation. The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame announced the Campbell Trophy semifinalists last week, which also comprise the candidates for the 2011 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards. Big Ten semifinalists are Indiana's Leon Beckum, Iowa's Tyler Nielsen, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, Nebraska's Austin Cassidy, Northwestern's Dan Persa, Purdue's Joe Holland and Wisconsin's Bradie Ewing. 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).
Game Tracker: Times and television designations have been set for games on October 15.