Oct. 10, 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 Iowa City for the Iowa vs. Northwestern game. Visit www.bigten.org/blog/mobile-tour and follow along on Twitter
Big Ten Places Six in Top 25: The Big Ten is tied for the national lead with six teams appearing in the top 25 of either the Associated Press (AP), USA Today coaches or Harris polls, and one of four conferences with two or more top-10 teams in at least one of the polls. The Big Ten last placed six teams in the nation's top 25 on Oct. 3, 2010. Wisconsin continued to lead the conference, ranking fourth in all three polls and receiving one first-place vote from the coaches and Harris voters. Michigan joined the Badgers among the top 10, ranking No. 10 in the coaches' and Harris voting and No. 11 in the media poll. Nebraska, Illinois and Michigan State also cracked the top 20. The Cornhuskers are rated No. 13 in the Harris poll and No. 14 by the AP and USA Today. The Illini climbed to No. 16 in the media poll, No. 15 in the coaches rankings and No. 14 in the Harris voting. Michigan State moved up to No. 19 in the USA Today poll and No. 23 in the AP rankings and appeared at No. 22 in the initial Harris poll. After appearing among the top 25 in each of the first two votes this season, Penn State returned to the rankings, slotted at No. 25 in the coaches poll and just outside the top 25 in the media and Harris vote.
A Full Slate of Divisional Showdowns: Divisional contests will continue this week as all five conference matchups will be division showdowns. In the Legends Division, in-state rivals Michigan and Michigan State will face off in a battle of ranked opponents in East Lansing, while Northwestern travels to face Iowa. In the Leaders Division, Wisconsin plays host to Indiana, Penn State welcomes Purdue, and Illinois takes on Ohio State in Champaign. With the beginning of divisional play, the Big Ten has instituted a new tiebreaker (see page 10) 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.
We Can Go Bowling: After recording their sixth victories of the season, Illinois and Michigan have become bowl eligible, joining five other programs around the country to reach the milestone. Illinois has been to 16 bowl games in its history, having won the Texas Bowl against Baylor last season. Michigan reached its 40th bowl game as a Big Ten member, second-most in conference history, with last season's appearance in the Gator Bowl.
Three Not That Far Behind: Boasting five wins apiece, three conference squads are within one victory of cementing their status as bowl eligible. With a bye last week, Wisconsin remains 5-0 this season and has appeared in 22 bowl games in program history, including last season's Rose Bowl Game. Nebraska, which boasts 47 bowl appearances in its history, and Penn State, which has gone bowling 43 times previously, are each one win away from securing their eligibility.
So Far So Good: The Big Ten is tied for the national lead with three conference teams boasting unblemished records through the first six weeks of the season. Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin have each maintained perfect marks thus far in 2011, with Illinois and Michigan claiming 6-0 records and Wisconsin boasting a 5-0 ledger. The Illini and Wolverines needed to come back from deficits on the road Saturday to keep their winning streaks intact as Illinois rallied to defeat Indiana, while Michigan battled back to knock off Northwestern. Wisconsin was off last week.
Rare Company: The conference's three remaining unbeatens are joined by an elite class of undefeated squads. In total, just 13 undefeated teams remain around the country, and the Big Ten is one of just two conferences boasting three unbeaten teams. Illinois and Michigan are in more exclusive company as the programs are two of only seven around the country with 6-0 marks in 2011.
Keeping Their Streaks Alive: The conference's unbeatens continue to challenge the record books with their perfect starts thus far in 2011. Illinois improved to 6-0, and can move to 7-0 with a win this week, for the first time since 1951, when the Illini opened the year with seven straight victories. Michigan climbed to 6-0 for the first time since 2006, when the Wolverines ran off 11 straight wins to open the season. 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.
More Than a Win at Stake: In a conference with 16 traditional trophy games, two more intraconference trophies will be contested Saturday when Michigan and Michigan State compete for the Paul Bunyan Trophy and Illinois and Ohio State battle for the Illibuck Trophy. The Illini and Buckeyes have played for the Illibuck Trophy since 1925, while the Wolverines and Spartans have competed for the Paul Bunyan Trophy since 1953.
In-State Showcase Between Ranked Foes: A pair of ranked Big Ten squads will face off this week as Michigan and Michigan State meet in the battle for the Paul Bunyan trophy. The #11/10/10 Wolverines face the #23/19/22 Spartans in East Lansing in a Legends Division battle. Michigan looks to move to 3-0 in conference and divisional play, while MSU will make its divisional debut. The matchup will feature two of the nation's top offensive and defensive units. Michigan ranks first or second in the Big Ten and among the top 20 nationally in scoring, total and rushing offense. Michigan State leads the country in total defense and rates among the top three in scoring, rushing and passing defense.
Total Team Defenses: A national-best six Big Ten teams rank in the top 20 in scoring defense, each allowing less than 18 points per game. Michigan State and Wisconsin are tied for third nationally, allowing just 10.2 points per game. Penn State joins the Spartans and Badgers in the top five at 10.5 points per contest. Michigan is the fourth conference team in the top 10, ranking ninth in the country at 13.0 points. In addition, at least four defensive units rank in the top 25 in total defense, pass defense and rush defense each. The Spartan defense is tops in the nation in total defense, allowing just 173.4 yards per game, is second in pass defense (109.4) and third in rush defense (64.0). Penn State ranks fourth in total defense (250.83) and fifth in pass defense (157.67).
Nation's Offensive Best: Big Ten standouts and teams rank among the nation's best, according to the latest national statistics. Russell Wilson is tops in the country in pass efficiency with a 216.89 rating in leading Wisconsin to a 5-0 start. He is also 15th in the country in total offense at more than 300 yards per game. Teammate Montee Ball is No. 1 in the country in scoring per game with 16.80 points per contest. Michigan's Denard Robinson is one of three Big Ten rushers in the top 25, ranking fourth in the country at 134.80 yards per game. Illinois' A.J. Jenkins, who recorded a school-record 268 yards in the Illini's Big Ten opener against Northwestern, followed with 182 receiving yards against Indiana Saturday and is now fifth in the country with 135.83 yards per game. Wilson and Ball have helped the Badgers to an average of 48.4 points per game, good for third in the country. Michigan leads five conference teams among the top 20 nationally in rushing offense, ranking seventh with an average of 270.4 yards on the ground per game.
Thanks to the Fans: Last week's attendance figures allowed the conference to surpass the three-million mark in total attendance for the 47th straight season. Big Ten stadiums have welcomed 3,282,123 fans through the turnstiles in 45 games in 2011, an average of 72,936 patrons per contest. The conference is on pace to break the single-season record for attendance set in 2009, when the conference welcomed 5,526,237 fans to Big Ten stadiums. With nearly 73,000 fans in attendance each game, the Big Ten is on pace to average more than 70,000 fans per game for the ninth time in conference history and the sixth time in the last seven years.
Game Tracker: Times and television designations have been set for games on Oct. 22.
Indiana at Iowa, Noon ET, BTN
Illinois at Purdue, Noon ET, ESPN or ESPN2
Nebraska at Minnesota, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC (regional), ESPN or ESPN2 (outer market)
Penn State at Northwestern, 7 p.m. ET, BTN
Wisconsin at Michigan State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC, ESPN or ESPN2