Oct. 24, 2005
Paterno and Carr Post Record Wins: A pair of Big Ten coaches recorded landmark victories last weekend when Penn State's Joe Paterno collected the 350th win of his career while Michigan's Lloyd Carr became just the 12th coach in conference annals to win 100 games at a single school. In his 40th season with the Nittany Lions, Paterno earned a road triumph at Illinois on Saturday to boost his career mark to 350-117-3, which currently ranks second all-time for career victories behind Florida State's Bobby Bowden (357). Carr picked up an overtime victory at Iowa to improve to 100-32 in his 11th year in Ann Arbor to become the 12th coach in league history, and the third active mentor with Paterno and Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez, to rack up 100 wins at a single school. Carr becomes the third Wolverine in the century club along with Bo Schembechler and Fielding Yost. He also joins Schembechler as the only conference coach to reach 100 wins in 11 seasons, although Schembechler needed only 119 games to reach that mark compared to Carr's total of 132 contests.
Big Ten Title Chase Continues: With the conference season now more than half complete, Penn State and Wisconsin stand in first place with 4-1 Big Ten marks but five other team remain no more than one game back in the loss column. Northwestern and Ohio State boast 3-1 league records to fall a half game behind the Nittany Lions and Badgers while Iowa (3-2), Michigan (3-2) and Minnesota (2-2) have suffered only one more loss than the teams at the top of the standings. The race for the Big Ten title continues on Saturday when four of the top seven teams will square off with the Golden Gophers hosting the Buckeyes in Minneapolis and the Wolverines travelling to face the Wildcats in Evanston. The league's top two teams will look to remain in first place on Saturday, as Penn State and Wisconsin face games against Purdue and Illinois, respectively. Iowa has a bye this weekend before returning to action at Northwestern on Nov. 5.
Badgers Nab Bowl Berth: With a victory over Purdue on Saturday, Wisconsin joined Penn State as the second Big Ten team to secure a bowl berth. The Badgers, who play 12 games this season and needed seven triumphs to finish above .500, improved to 7-1 on the season to guarantee a postseason bowl trip for outgoing head coach Barry Alvarez. The Badgers mentor will take his team to a bowl for the fourth straight season and 11th time in his 16th and final year in Madison. Alvarez has produced an impressive 7-3 record in bowl games, including three Rose Bowl triumphs. The Big Ten has seven bowl tie-ins this season -- the Rose Bowl/Bowl Championship Series (BCS) game, Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Sun, Music City 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 designated national championship game, the Rose Bowl.
Two Bowl Bids On the Line Saturday: Five other league teams have already collected five wins and are now just one victory from clinching a bowl berth of their own in Minnesota (5-2), Northwestern (5-2), Ohio State (5-2), Iowa (5-3) and Michigan (5-3). The Hawkeyes have a bye next week, but two of the other five-win programs will punch their ticket to a postseason bowl next weekend when the Gophers host the Buckeyes and the Wolverines battle the Wildcats. Minnesota is aiming for the program's fourth straight bowl trip for the first time in school history. Head coach Glen Mason has led the Gophers to five bowls in the past six seasons after the program earned only five bids prior to his arrival on campus. Northwestern is targeting its first bowl trip since the 2003 Motor City Bowl and third bowl under head coach Randy Walker, which would match the program's total postseason bids prior to his arrival in 1999. Michigan and Ohio State are currently tied for the Big Ten lead with 36 bowl trips a piece. The Wolverines current streak of 30 consecutive bowls is the longest active streak in the nation, including 10 postseason bids for head coach Lloyd Carr. The Buckeyes are aiming for their sixth straight bowl excursion and fifth consecutive bowl under head coach Jim Tressel. Iowa is looking for its fifth straight bowl trip under head coach Kirk Ferentz, which would mark the Hawkeyes' first streak of five straight postseason bids since reaching eight straight bowls from 1981-88.
No Place Like The Road: Four of the five road teams were victorious in Big Ten play last weekend, including victories by Ohio State at Indiana, Michigan at Iowa, Northwestern at Michigan State and Penn State at Illinois. Conference teams have now produced an impressive 11-13 record on the road in league games this season, as only three schools currently boast perfect records at home -- Wisconsin (3-0), Ohio State (2-0) and Penn State (2-0). In all games, the Badgers (5-0) and Nittany Lions (5-0) are the only league outfits without a home loss this season, as the Buckeyes (4-1) were edged by Texas on Sept. 10 at Ohio Stadium. The Wolverines' 23-20 overtime victory in Iowa City on Saturday snapped the Hawkeyes school-record 22-game home winning streak, which was the third-longest active streak nationally entering the weekend behind Boise State (28 games) and USC (23). Iowa's last loss in Kinnick Stadium had occurred on Sept. 14, 2002, against Iowa State.
Polling Place: The Big Ten is currently one of only two conferences with six nationally-ranked programs after Northwestern broke into the top 25 to join five other teams rated in either the Associated Press or USA Today coaches' polls. The Wildcats, who have won three straight games including two against nationally-ranked conference foes, are ranked 21st in the AP poll and 23rd in the USA Today poll to crack the top 25 for the first time since Oct. 14, 2001. Northwestern is joined by Penn State (No. 11/12), Ohio State (No. 12/13) and Wisconsin (No. 15/15) in both polls while Minnesota appears at No. 22 in the coaches poll and Michigan is ranked No. 25 in the media poll. The SEC is the only other league to boast six Top 25 teams while the ACC and Pac-10 both have four nationally-ranked squads.
A New Golden Age of Coaching?: With Alvarez, Paterno and Carr in the century club, the Big Ten features three active coaches with 100 or more wins at their respective institutions for the first time in more than 85 years. The last time that three league coaches all ended a season with 100 or more wins at their schools was in 1921 when Chicago's Amos Alonzo Stagg (158 wins at the time), Michigan's Fielding Yost (137) and Minnesota's Henry Williams (136) accomplished the feat. The conference coaching roster for 1921 also featured Illinois' Robert Zuppke, who had only 70 wins at the end of that season but would go on to rack up 131 triumphs in his career.
Record-Breaking Attendance: With three sellouts in five contests last weekend, the Big Ten continues to be on pace to shatter the single-season marks for average attendance in both all games and conference games only while nearing the two million mark in total attendance for league games. Through 49 contests, the Big Ten is averaging 73,197 patrons per outing (3,586,675 total) which would shatter the previous league best of 70,505 fans per game set in 2002. In addition, league schools boast an average attendance of 73,126 in Big Ten games only (1,755,035 total) which would surpass the conference record of 71,326 fans through the turnstile for 44 matchups in 2001. Last weekend, Iowa and Wisconsin continued their streaks of selling out every home game this season while Indiana welcomed 52,866 fans to Memorial Stadium to produce its biggest crowd since 1979. The Big Ten sold out all five games the weekend of Oct. 15, which marked the first time the league featured packed stadiums for every game in a single week since the 1998 season and perhaps longer, as week-by-week information is unavailable prior to that time. In addition, the conference set a single-day attendance record during the opening week of non-conference play with an average of 76,475 fans for eight home games, besting the previous record average of 70,270 patrons for eight games on Sept. 14, 1985.
Big Ten Players Near National Awards: Seven Big Ten student-athletes were named finalists or semifinalists for national awards last week. Two conference standouts were chosen as semifinalists for a pair of national honors when Ohio State's A.J. Hawk and Penn State's Paul Posluszny were tabbed as semifinalists for both the Rotary Lombardi and Butkus Awards. The Big Ten led the way with four of the 12 semifinalists for the Lombardi Award, as Hawk and Posluszny were joined by Minnesota center Greg Eslinger and Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas. The Lombardi Award recognizes the nation's outstanding lineman and has been claimed six times by Big Ten student-athletes, most recently when OSU's Orlando Pace earned the laurel in 1995 and 1996. The Big Ten also topped the nation with four of the 10 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, with Iowa's Chad Greenway and Northwestern's Tim McGarigle joining Hawk and Posluszny on the list of honorees. The Butkus Award, which is named after former Illinois All-American Dick Butkus, honors the top linebacker in the country and has been earned six times by league players, most recently when PSU's LaVar Arrington picked up the hardware in 1999. The Wildcats also had a second player earn national recognition last week when Brett Basanez was named one of seven finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top senior quarterback.
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 every category in the league records book and shatter at least one single-season mark. Northwestern quarterback Brett Basanez is currently averaging 391.8 yards of total offense per game in league outings only, which would break the previous conference-best of 362.9 yards per contest established by Purdue's Drew Brees in 2000. Basanez is aiming to top the Big Ten in total offense for the second time in his career after leading the way in his freshman campaign in 2002 with 250.3 stripes per contest. Northwestern student-athletes are also leading the way in two more individual categories with freshman running back Tyrell Sutton ranking first with 13.5 points per game and wide receiver Shaun Herbert topping the league with 8.25 receptions per outing. Sutton is aiming to become first freshman to lead the Big Ten in points per game since Michigan State's Sedrick Irvin in 1996 (11.3 ppg) and the third Wildcat rusher to accomplish the feat in the last six years with Jason Wright (9.0 ppg in 2003) and Damien Anderson (12.8 in 2000). Herbert is looking to become the first Wildcat to top the league in receptions per game since D'Wayne Bates averaged 6.9 catches per outing 1998. Minnesota's Laurence Maroney ranks first with 163.0 rushing yards per game and would be the first Gopher to lead the Big Ten in that category Darrell Thompson in 1986 (111.0 ypg). Ohio State's Troy Smith boasts the league's top pass efficiency rating at 162.7 and is aiming to become the first Buckeye to lead the league in the category since Joe Germaine in 1998. On special teams, Wisconsin's Ken DeBauche leads the conference with 45.0 yards per boot as he seeks to end the two-year reign atop the punting charts of Michigan State's Brandon Fields, who currently ranks fifth (41.9 yards per punt) after leading the league as a freshman and sophomore. DeBauche would be the first Badger to lead the Big Ten in punting since Kevin Stemke in 2000 (45.1 yards per punt).
Big Ten Schedule Set for Nov. 5: The following schedule has been confirmed for games on Saturday, Nov. 5.
Michigan State at Purdue, ESPN Plus and ESPNU, Noon EST
Iowa at Northwestern, ESPN, 11 a.m. CST
Minnesota at Indiana, ESPN2, Noon EST
Wisconsin at Penn State, ABC Sports, 3:30 p.m. EST
Illinois at Ohio State, ESPN, 3:30 p.m. EST
Basanez Nears Exclusive Company: Northwestern quarterback Brett Basanez continued his attack on the Big Ten records book last weekend as he looks to become just the third player to appear among the top five in career passes, completions, passing yards, total offensive plays and total offensive yards. The Wildcats signal caller set a school record by completing 80 percent of his passes at Michigan State, connecting on 24 of 30 attempts for 331 yards and two touchdowns while adding 17 yards and two more scores on five rushes. He rose to fifth place on the Big Ten career list with 778 completions to pass Michigan's John Navarre (765) and Purdue's Mark Herrmann (772). Basanez can move past three more players into second place with 20 more connections -- Iowa's Chuck Long (782), Purdue's Kyle Orton (786) and Illinois' Jack Trudeau (797) -- while the Boilermakers' Drew Brees tops the Big Ten career charts with 1,026 completions. Basanez also ranks among the top five in Big Ten history in career passing attempts (3rd with 1,352), total offensive plays (3rd with 1,700) and total offensive yards (4th with 9,980) while falling just outside the top five in passing yardage (6th with 9,139). The senior quarterback is only 115 yards behind Navarre, who is currently fifth with 9,254 career passing stripes. Basanez would join a pair of Purdue signal callers, Brees and Orton, as the only players to appear among the top five in all five career listings. A complete list of current Big Ten players among the career leaders appears on page 12.
Trophy Games Return: After a one-week absence, another trophy will be on the line next weekend when Indiana and Michigan State battle for the Old Brass Spittoon. The two programs have competed for this trophy since 1950, with the Spartans holding a 37-11-1 advantage, including a current three-game winning streak. The Big Ten boasts 15 traditional trophy games between schools.
Back in the Rotation: With the Big Ten starting a new two-year rotation on the conference schedule, many league squads will be squaring off for the first time in years. The lone reunion this weekend occurs when Minnesota hosts Ohio State. The Gophers and Buckeyes last met on Nov. 2, 2002, with OSU earning a 34-3 victory.
Big Ten on TV: The sixth week of conference action will be well-covered with all five contests scheduled to be televised. The 2005 campaign will feature the most televised contests in conference history for an 11-game season, with 68 of 70 home football games appearing on television. That total includes all 44 intraconference and 24 interconference games televised by either ABC Sports, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Plus, ESPNU, ESPN Classic or ESPN360. Six interconference road games will also be televised bringing to 74 the number of Big Ten football games that will appear on television. The league website (www.bigten.org) features up-to-date television information, including clearances for ABC Sports and ESPN Plus regional and local games.
OTHER TOP PERFORMERS LAST WEEKEND
IOWA RB Albert Young: 30 carries for 157 yards (5.2 avg.) against Michigan.
MICH WR Jason Avant: Seven receptions for 105 yards (15.0 avg.) and a TD at Iowa.
NU QB Brett Basanez: 24 of 30 (80.0 percent) for 331 yards and two TDs and five carries for 17 yards (3.4 avg.) and two TDs in victory at MSU; Set school record by completing 80 percent of his passes (minimum of 30 attempts).
OSU QB Troy Smith: 14 of 23 (60.9 percent) for 226 yards and one TD and 12 carries for 55 yards (4.6 avg.) and two TDs in win at Indiana.
WIS RB Brian Calhoun: 20 carries for 62 yards (3.1 avg.) and a team-best five receptions for 78 yards (15.6 avg.), including two TD catches, in win over Purdue.
IOWA LB Abdul Hodge: Game-high 20 tackles (14 solo), a TFL (-4 yards) and a forced fumble in overtime loss to Michigan; Fifth double-digit tackle effort this year.
MICH CB Grant Mason: Team-best 12 tackles (nine solo) in win at Iowa.
OSU S Brandon Mitchell: Returned an interception 57 yards for a TD at Indiana.
PSU LB Dan Connor: Team-high nine tackles (three solo), a PBU and a fumble recovery returned 18 yards for a TD in one half of action at Illinois.
PUR DE Rob Ninkovich: Five tackles (three solo), two TFLs (-9 yards), including a four-yard sack, and an eight-yard interception return at Wisconsin.
WIS S Roderick Rogers: Four tackles (one solo), three PBUs and an 84-yard interception return for a TD to give UW a 17-10 lead over Purdue in the second half.
ILL P Steve Weatherford: Nine punts for 452 yards (50.2 avg.) against Penn State, the sixth-best single-game average in school history, including a long of 61 yards.
MICH P Ross Ryan: Six punts for 208 yards (34.7 avg.), including three inside the 20.
PSU PR Calvin Lowry: Returned seven punts for a career-high 127 yards (18.1 avg.). PUR K Ben Jones: Two-of-two (24, 50) on field goals, including a career-long 50-yarder at Wisconsin.
WIS KR/PR Brandon Williams: Returned three kickoffs for 56 yards (18.7 avg.) and two punts for 23 yards (11.5 avg.) in victory over Purdue.