Oct. 22, 2007
The Chase for the Big Ten Title: With the conference season now more than half complete, Michigan and Ohio State remain unbeaten atop the standings at 4-0 while every other Big Ten team already has two conference losses. Illinois and Penn State both stand in third place at 3-2 while three teams are tied for fifth place at 2-2 -- Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions will have a chance to make up ground in the Big Ten title chase with a home matchup against the undefeated Buckeyes, while the Wolverines look to remain unbeaten in conference action at home versus Minnesota. Among the .500 teams, the Wildcats and Boilermakers will square off in West Lafayette while the Badgers will host Indiana. The Fighting Ilini wrap up non-conference play against Ball State.
And Then There Were Five: With a victory over Michigan State, Ohio State remained one of five undefeated teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision and the only one with a perfect 8-0 mark. Four schools stand at 7-0 overall including Arizona State, Boston College, Hawaii and Kansas. The Buckeyes are off to an 8-0 start for the second straight season and the third time under head coach Jim Tressel. The last two times the Buckeyes opened at 8-0 the team went on to produce perfect regular season marks, including a 12-0 record last season before falling in the national championship game and a 13-0 record in 2002 before capping a perfect 14-0 season with a Fiesta Bowl victory for a national title.
OSU Sets BCS Record For Consecutive Weeks at No. 1: Ohio State remained first overall in the second Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings released on Sunday, marking the 10th straight time the Buckeyes have been ranked first by the BCS. OSU held the top spot in all eight BCS polls during the 2006 campaign before appearing in the No. 1 position in each of the first two 2007 rankings. Ohio State's 10-week stint atop the ratings breaks the previous record held by Southern California, which was ranked first for nine straight weeks. In addition, the Buckeyes have now been ranked No. 1 in 11 BCS polls, a total that rates third only to Oklahoma (17) and USC (15).
Michigan, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin Secure Bowl Eligibility: With Ohio State already bowl-bound, four more Big Ten teams picked up their sixth victory to earn postseason eligibility as Michigan, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin all improved to 6-2 on the year. Michigan's current streak of 32 consecutive bowls is the longest active streak in the nation, including postseason bids in each of Lloyd Carr's first 12 seasons in Ann Arbor. Penn State is eligible for a third straight bowl bid and 34th postseason appearance under head coach Joe Paterno, who is the NCAA's all-time leader in bowl victories (22) and bids (33). The Boilermakers are qualified for their second straight bowl trip and 10th postseason appearance in Joe Tiller's 11th year as the head coach. The Badgers are eligible for their sixth straight bowl trip and the second in two years under head coach Bret Bielema. 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. 7, 2008 in New Orleans, La.
Four More Big Ten Teams Near Bowl Qualification: In addition to the Big Ten's five bowl-eligible programs, Northwestern collected its fifth triumph on the year to join Illinois, Indiana and Michigan State at 5-3, just one win shy of bowl qualification. The Fighting Illini are aiming for their first bowl trip under head coach Ron Zook and the first for the program since advancing to the Sugar Bowl after winning the 2001 Big Ten Championship. Under first-year head coach Bill Lynch, the Hoosiers are looking to end the Big Ten's longest active bowl drought and return to postseason play for the first time since the 1993 campaign. In his first year in East Lansing, Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio is aiming to take MSU back to a bowl game for the first time since the 2003 campaign. Second-year Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald is targeting his first bowl outing and the second postseason appearance in three years for NU after playing in the 2005 Sun Bowl.
Big Ten Half-Season Leaders: With the Big Ten season more than half complete, the conference is on pace to crown new statistical leaders in all of the categories appearing in the Big Ten records book. A pair of Michigan State running backs stand atop two key statistical categories, with Javon Ringer averaging 145.5 rushing yards per outing and Jehuu Caulcrick scoring 10.5 points per contest in conference games only. Ringer is aiming to become the first Spartan to lead the Big Ten in rushing since 1990, when Tico Duckett topped the charts with 126.0 stripes per game. Caulcrick would be the second MSU standout in four years to lead the way in scoring after kicker Dave Rayner averaged 10.4 points per contest in 2004. The last Spartans rusher to rank first in scoring was Sedrick Irvin, with 11.3 points per outing in 1996. In-state rival Michigan is on pace to top three stat categories with quarterback Chad Henne leading the way with a pass efficiency rating of 164.7 and wide receiver Mario Manningham rating first with 8.25 receptions and 110.0 yards per game. Henne is looking to become the first Wolverines signal caller to stand atop the pass efficiency ratings since Drew Henson in 2000 (152.7). Manningham could become the first wideout to lead the Big Ten in both receptions and receiving yards since Purdue's Chris Daniels topped both categories with 9.9 catches and 99.5 stripes per outing in 1999. The last UM wideouts to lead the conference in those areas were Braylon Edwards, with 108.9 yards per game in 2004, and Marquise Walker, with 7.5 receptions per contest in 2001. Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bachér is on target to become the second NU player to lead the conference in total offense in the past three years, joining 2005 leader Brett Basanez (339.4 ypg). Bachér's 349.8 yards per contest this season would make him the second Big Ten quarterback to average more than 349 yards per outing along with Purdue's Drew Brees, who accomplished the feat in 2000 (362.9 ypg) and 1998 (356.8 ypg). On special teams, Minnesota punter Justin Kucek leads the way with 46.6 yards per boot as he aims to become the first Gopher to top the Big Ten in punting since Adam Kelly ranked first with 47.3 yards per punt in 1984.
Buckeyes Streaking Toward Big Ten Records: With a victory over Michigan State last Saturday, Ohio State built upon a pair of prodigious winning streaks which are nearing the longest strings of success in Big Ten annals. The Buckeyes have won 26 straight regular-season contests and 18 consecutive Big Ten matchups, streaks that both rank second in conference history. Ohio State's 26-game regular-season victory streak is tied for the second-longest regular-season winning streak in conference history and the longest by a Big Ten school since 1905. OSU has not lost a regular-season game since dropping a 17-10 decision at Penn State on Oct. 8, 2005. The 26-game winning streak shatters the previous school mark of 21 straight triumphs set from 1967-69. The last time a conference team won 26 or more straight regular season contests was when Michigan produced 26 consecutive victories from 1903-05, including undefeated national championship seasons in 1903 and 1904. The Wolverines actually boast the two longest regular-season victory streaks in conference annals with 28 straight triumphs from 1901-03. Those two streaks are separated only by a 6-6 tie at Minnesota on Oct. 31, 1903, and do not include Michigan's victory over Stanford in the 1902 Rose Bowl. Ohio State has also won 18 consecutive Big Ten games to break the program record of 17 straight conference triumphs from 1974-76, a string of success also accomplished from 1967-69 and 1954-56. Michigan is the only team to win more consecutive conference games, setting the all-time record with 19 straight victories from 1990-92.
Big Ten Nears Non-Conference Record: With four non-conference games remaining, the Big Ten has a chance to shatter the conference's modern era record for non-conference wins prior to bowl play. Northwestern and Wisconsin produced two more out-of-conference triumphs last Saturday to improve the Big Ten's non-conference record to 32-8 (.800) overall. The conference is on pace to win at least 80 percent of its regular-season out-of-conference games for the second time in three seasons (28-6, .824, in 2005) and just the fourth time since 1960 (23-4, .852, in 1997; 26-1-2, .963, in 1960). In addition, the Big Ten's 32 non-conference victories so far this year rank second to the conference's 33 wins set prior to bowl action last season (33-12), a mark first set in 2002 (33-13). The 2006 and 2002 campaigns are two of only three other 12-game seasons in conference annals (30-14 in 2003). The Big Ten's all-time record for non-conference triumphs occurred when the conference built a 57-3-1 out-of-conference mark in 1905, the sixth straight year with 40 or more non-conference triumphs. The 2007 non-conference slate continues on Saturday when Illinois hosts Ball State.
Carr and Tiller Hit Coaching Landmarks: Michigan's Lloyd Carr and Purdue's Joe Tiller both hit coaching landmarks last weekend. Carr took part in his 100th game as a Big Ten head coach, improving to 79-21 overall with a victory at Illinois, to join the legendary Bo Schembechler as just the second Wolverine mentor to take part in 100 or more conference outings. Schembechler produced a Big Ten record of 143-24-3 from 1969-89. Tiller picked up a win over Iowa to improve to 50-34 in his 11th season in West Lafayette, becoming just the second Boilermakers coach to win 50 Big Ten games. Former Purdue mentor Jack Mollenkopf produced a 57-32-5 record from 1956-69.
Carr Claims Sole Possession of Ninth in Big Ten Century Club: With a victory at Illinois on Saturday, Michigan's Lloyd Carr earned his 119th triumph with the Wolverines to pass current Wisconsin Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez for ninth place in the Big Ten century club. In his 13th season leading the Wolverines, Carr has built a record of 119-38 while Alvarez wrapped up his 16-year coaching tenure in Madison following the 2005 campaign with a record of 118-73-4. Penn State's Joe Paterno also continued to build on his victory total with a win at Indiana, improving to 122-56 since the Nittany Lions joined the conference in 1993. The PSU mentor ranks eighth among the group of coaches with 100 or more wins at a Big Ten school.
Big Ten Standouts Named Semifinalists for Butkus and Lombardi Awards: The Big Ten dominated the lists of semifinalists for the Butkus and Rotary Lombardi Awards announced last week, with four conference standouts appearing on each 10-player list, more than any other conference. Three Big Ten linebackers appeared on both lists in Illinois' J Leman, Ohio State's James Laurinaitis and Penn State's Dan Connor. Those three standouts were joined by Michigan's Shawn Crable among the semifinalists for the Butkus Award, which honors the nation's best collegiate linebacker. The Big Ten's four honorees were twice as many as any other conference, with the SEC producing two semifinalists and a single honoree each from the ACC, Big 12, Big East and Pac-10. The Butkus Award is named after Illinois All-American Dick Butkus and has been earned by a conference player on seven different occasions, most recently when the Nittany Lions' Paul Posluszny was honored in 2005. Michigan offensive lineman Jake Long joined Leman, Laurinaitis and Connor as semifinalists for the Lombardi Award, which is presented to the nation's top lineman or linebacker. The ACC ranked second to the Big Ten with three semifinalists, followed by two Pac-10 honorees and one SEC candidate. The Big Ten has claimed eight Lombardi Awards, including each of the last two winners in the Wolverines' LaMarr Woodley (2006) and the Buckeyes' A.J. Hawk (2005). The winners of both the Butkus and Lombardi Awards will be named in December.
Big Ten Defensive Ends Also Honored: Six Big Ten student-athletes were named to the mid-season watch list for the Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award. The list of conference honorees includes Indiana's Greg Middleton, Michigan's Brandon Graham, Michigan State's Jonal Saint-Dic, Ohio State's Vernon Gholston, Penn State's Maurice Evans and Wisconsin's Matt Shaughnessy. Last season, the Wolverines' LaMarr Woodley became the first Big Ten standout to claim the Hendricks Award in its first five years of existence. The 2007 Hendricks Award winner will be announced in December.
MSU's Saint-Dic Sets Big Ten Fumble Record: Michigan State's Jonal Saint-Dic established a Big Ten record last Saturday with his eighth forced fumble on the year. Against Ohio State, the senior defensive end registered a seven-yard sack and forced a fumble which was returned 25 yards for a touchdown. Saint-Dic breaks the single-season record previously held by Penn State's Michael Haynes, who had seven forced fumbles in 2003. The eight forced fumbles are also tied for the third-most in a season in Football Bowl Subdivision history -- Louisville's Elvis Dumervil established the NCAA record with 10 forced fumbles in 2005.
Trophy Games Return: After a one-week absence, the conference's oldest trophy will be on the line this weekend when Michigan and Minnesota battle for the Little Brown Jug. Wolverines' coaching legend Fielding Yost left the jug in Minneapolis after a tie in 1903 and the Gophers refused to return it until Michigan earned it with a win. UM reclaimed the jug in their next matchup in 1909 and the two teams have played for the trophy ever since, with the Wolverines holding a 64-22-3 advantage. The Wolverines reclaimed the jug last season after the Gophers ended a 16-game losing streak in 2005 to win the trophy for the first time since 1986. The Big Ten boasts 15 traditional trophy games between schools.
Big Ten Schedule Announced for Nov. 3: The following schedule has been confirmed for games on Saturday, Nov. 3. ESPN/ABC will use one of its allowable six-day picks to choose between Michigan-Michigan State, Wisconsin-Ohio State and Purdue-Penn State. One of those games will appear at 3:30 p.m. EDT on ABC and the other two contests will appear at Noon EDT on ESPN, ESPN2 or the Big Ten Network. Selection of these games will be made no later than Monday, Oct. 29.
Ball State at Indiana, Noon EDT, Big Ten Network
Iowa at Northwestern, Noon EDT, ESPN, ESPN2 or Big Ten Network
Michigan at Michigan State, Noon or 3:30 p.m. EDT, TBD
Wisconsin at Ohio State, Noon or 3:30 p.m. EDT, TBD
Purdue at Penn State, Noon or 3:30 p.m. EDT, TBD
Illinois at Minnesota, 7 p.m. CDT, Big Ten Network
OTHER TOP PERFORMERS LAST WEEK
IND WR James Hardy: Set a career-high with 14 receptions, totalling 142 yards (10.1 avg.) and two TDs vs. PSU; Set a school record with 31 career TD catches, breaking a mark set in 1969.
MICH QB Chad Henne: Completed 18-of-26 passes (69.2 pct.) for 201 yards and two TDs.
NU QB C.J. Bachér: Completed 25-of-42 passes (59.5 pct.) for 361 yards with a passing and rushing TD in win over Eastern Michigan.
PSU QB Anthony Morelli: Completed 22-of-32 passes (68.8 pct.) for 195 yards and two TDs.
WIS RB P.J. Hill: Set a season-high with 184 rushing yards on 21 carries (8.8 avg.) and added two TDs, including a career-long 72-yarder.
MICH S Brandent Englemon: Season-high 11 tackles (five solo) in win at Illinois.
MSU LB Greg Jones: Season-high 14 tackles (seven solo) and 1.5 TFLs (-7 yards), including a six-yard sack, against Ohio State.
NU LB Adam Kadela: Game-high 12 tackles (eight solo), one sack (-3 yards), an interception and a pass deflection that led to another pick.
OSU LB James Laurinaitis: 12 tackles (two solo) and a sack (-2 yards) against Spartans.
PUR CB Terrell Vinson: Two tackles (one solo), one sack (-2 yards) and an interception vs. Iowa.
WIS S Shane Carter: Two tackles (both solo) and a career-high two interceptions vs. NIU.
MSU P Aaron Bates: Eight punts for 328 yards (41.0 avg.), including two inside the 20 vs. OSU.
NU K Amado Villarreal: Two-of-two on field goals (25, 28) and two PATs vs. EMU.
PSU K Kevin Kelly: Three-of-three on field goals (22, 21, 20) in win over Indiana to set school record with 52 career field goals.
PUR K Chris Summers: Converted only field goal attempt from 30 yards and added four PATs.
WIS K Taylor Mehlhaff: Three-of-three on field goals (32, 21, 34) and five PATs against NIU.