Oct. 8, 2012
Starting the Conference Season Right: Through two weeks of Big Ten play, two teams each from the Legends and Leaders Divisions boast unblemished records. Iowa and Michigan hold 1-0 marks after the Hawkeyes knocked off Minnesota in their Big Ten opener on Sept. 29, while Michigan defeated Purdue last Saturday. Ohio State and Penn State have opened the conference season 2-0, with the Buckeyes having defeated Michigan State and Nebraska, while the Nittany Lions were victorious over Illinois and Northwestern. Iowa and Ohio State take their undefeated conference records on the road this week as the Hawkeyes travel to Michigan State and the Buckeyes head to Indiana, while Michigan hosts Illinois. Penn State has a bye this week.
A Full Slate of Divisional Matchups: Divisional contests will continue this week as four conference matchups will feature intra-division opponents, including two within each division. In the Legends Division, Michigan State plays its first divisional contest of the season when it hosts Iowa, while Northwestern opens divisional play when the Wildcats travel to Minnesota. In the Leaders Division, Purdue hosts Wisconsin in the divisional debut for the Boilermakers, while Indiana hosts Ohio State in the first game of divisional play for each team. 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.
Lighting Up the Scoreboards: Points were aplenty last weekend in Big Ten games as eight conference squads scored 27 or more points, while the average point total for the five winning squads was 41.6 points. Four contests resulted in 57 or more combined points from its participants, while the Nebraska and Ohio State offenses combined for 101 points, the first time two teams combined for more than 100 points since Wisconsin and Indiana totaled 103 points on Nov. 13, 2010. Ohio State scored 63 points on Saturday, tied for the second-most by a Big Ten team this season. Michigan finished with 44 points, while Penn State put up 39 points on Saturday. Nebraska scored 38 points against the Buckeyes, while Michigan State and Wisconsin each had 31 points in winning efforts.
Touchdowns Not Just for the Offense: Two defensive standouts and two special teams performers found the end zone on Saturday. Northwestern's Venric Mark returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown versus Penn State, his second punt return touchdown of the season. It is the first time a conference player has returned two punts for a touchdown in a season since Wisconsin's Brandon Williams accomplished the feat in 2005. A pair of Ohio State players scored touchdowns on returns against Nebraska on Saturday as Bradley Roby returned an interception 41 yards for a score, while teammate Corey Brown returned a punt 76 yards to the end zone. Michigan's Raymon Taylor returned a second-quarter interception 63 yards for a score against Purdue.
Scrambling to the Top: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson had a record-setting day against Purdue last Saturday as he became the all-time Big Ten leader in rushing yards by a quarterback. Racking up the second-most rushing yardage by a quarterback in a single Big Ten game, Robinson's 235 yards on the ground gave him a career total of 3,905 yards, eclipsing the previous mark of 3,895 set by former Indiana signal caller Antwaan Randle El from 1998-2001. Overall, there have been nine 200-yard rushing performances by Big Ten quarterbacks in conference history, five of which are held by Robinson - including two this season. Robinson holds the conference record with a 258-yard outing against Notre Dame in 2010. He ranks fourth in NCAA history in rushing yards by a quarterback, and needs 575 yards to match the record set by West Virginia's Pat White. Robinson's 340 total yards against Purdue also placed him into the top 10 in conference history in total offense, currently ranking ninth with 9,441 total yards.
Climbing the Charts: Wisconsin running back Montee Ball rushed for two touchdowns against Illinois Saturday, continuing his climb up the Big Ten and NCAA career record charts. Ball now has 69 total touchdowns in his career, which ranks second in Big Ten history, behind only former Badger Ron Dayne's 71 career scores, all of which came on the ground. Ball is tied for third in NCAA history in total scores, behind only Travis Prentice of Miami (Ohio) and Ricky Williams of Texas, who finished with 78 and 75 touchdowns, respectively. Ball ranks third all-time in Big Ten history in total points with 416 in his career, just 10 points shy of Dayne's career total of 426, and is seventh in NCAA history. Ball has 63 career rushing scores and needs eight more to match Dayne's all-time mark.
Instant Impact: When Ohio State knocked off Nebraska last Saturday, Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer notched his sixth straight victory to start his coaching career in Columbus. Since 1946, only four Big Ten head coaches have started their inaugural seasons with 6-0 records, and two are currently in the conference. Last season, Michigan's Brady Hoke led the Wolverines to six consecutive wins in his debut season in Ann Arbor. Former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce started his coaching career with 11 straight victories in 1979 and former Michigan coach Bennie Oosterbaan began his Wolverine coaching career with a perfect 9-0 season in 1948.
It's Not Over Until It's Over: Four Big Ten teams rallied from deficits to earn victories on Saturday, including two second-half comebacks. Michigan State entered the second half at Indiana trailing 27-14, but scored 17 unanswered points in the second half to earn a 31-27 victory in the annual battle for the Old Brass Spittoon. Against nationally ranked Northwestern, Penn State battled back from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit, scoring 22 points in the final stanza to defeat the previously unbeaten Wildcats, 39-28. In addition, Ohio State trailed Nebraska 17-7 before rallying for the victory, while Wisconsin fell behind early to Illinois, 7-0, before pulling ahead.
Thanks to the Fans: Last week's attendance figures allowed the conference to surpass the three-million mark in total attendance for the 48th straight season. Big Ten stadiums have welcomed 3,149,637 fans through the turnstiles in 45 games, an average of 69,992 patrons per contest, a mark which would rank among the top 10 in average attendance in conference history. On Saturday, Ohio Stadium set a single-game attendance record, welcoming 106,102 fans for the primetime contest featuring Ohio State and Nebraska, breaking the previous mark set in 2009 when the Buckeyes hosted USC.
An Award-Winning Event: The inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game was honored with a 2012 SportsTravel Award for "Best New Sports Event" at the SportsTravel Awards Luncheon, it was announced last week. The inaugural game was held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Dec. 3, 2011, with more than 64,000 fans in attendance. The weekend also included the Big Ten Fan Fest presented by Dr Pepper, the Georgia Street Tailgate Party and several youth initiatives. Indianapolis will continue to host the event through at least 2015. The SportsTravel Awards celebrate the best in sports-event management and production each year. For tickets and information on the 2012 Big Ten Football Championship Game, visit bigten.org.