Big Ten Weekly Football Release - Oct. 29

Venric Mark is Northwestern's first 1,000-yard rusher since Tyrell Sutton in 2006.

Venric Mark is Northwestern's first 1,000-yard rusher since Tyrell Sutton in 2006.

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Oct. 29, 2012

Looking For a Share of the Crown:  Ohio State can become the first Big Ten team in 2012 to earn a share of a division championship this weekend. A Buckeye victory against Illinois on Saturday, coupled with a Purdue victory against Penn State, would give Ohio State at least a share of the Leaders Division crown. The Buckeyes maintained their unblemished record last weekend after defeating the Nittany Lions, and hold a 1.5 game lead over second-place Penn State. Wisconsin is third in the Leaders Division, two games behind Ohio State, and has a bye this weekend.

Crowded at the Top:  Just one game separates first from fourth place in the Legends Division standings as each team has played at least half of its conference games this season. Last Saturday's matchups saw the division's top four teams going head-to-head with Michigan facing Nebraska and Iowa taking on Northwestern. A Cornhusker victory brought Nebraska into a first-place tie with the Wolverines, while the Wildcats moved into third place in the division standings after defeating Iowa on Saturday. Nebraska and Michigan each are on the road in divisional contests, Iowa heads to Indiana and Northwestern enjoys its bye week this Saturday.

More Division Matchups:   Four intra-division contests highlight this week's slate of conference matchups, with two in each division. In the Legends Division, Michigan travels to face Minnesota in the annual battle for the Little Brown Jug, with the winner earning bowl eligibility, while Nebraska heads to Michigan State.  In the Leaders Division, Illinois heads to Ohio State in the annual matchup for the Illibuck, while Penn State heads to Purdue. 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 11 of this release for the full tiebreaker.

Bowled Over:  With its victory over nationally ranked Michigan on Saturday, Nebraska notched its sixth victory of the season to become bowl eligible. Nebraska has advanced to 48 bowl contests in program history, including each of the last five seasons. The Cornhuskers are one of three Big Ten programs to boast 20 or more bowl victories, joining Michigan and Penn State. Nebraska is the third conference program to earn bowl eligibility this season, along with Northwestern and Wisconsin. In addition, Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota need just one more victory to become bowl eligible.

Rushers Pass the Century Mark:  Last Saturday's efforts saw four conference rushers surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the season, including one quarterback. The quartet is among a group of just 10 rushers nationally to have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this year. Ohio State's Braxton Miller recorded the fourth 1,000-yard rushing mark by a Big Ten quarterback in conference history, now with 1,093 yards to lead all conference rushers. Northwestern's Venric Mark is the conference's second-leading rusher with 1,077 yards, becoming the first Wildcat running back to reach the 1,000-yard plateau since Tyrell Sutton in 2006. Last Saturday's Michigan State-Wisconsin contest saw each team's starting running back surpass the 1,000-yard mark as the Spartans' Le'Veon Bell now has 1,061 yards, while the Badgers' Montee Ball boasts 1,028 yards this season.

Going For 10:  With a road victory against conference-unbeaten Penn State last Saturday, Ohio State kept its unblemished record intact by improving to 9-0. The Buckeyes are the only team in the country boasting nine victories this season, and one of six teams in the country with an undefeated record this year. Head coach Urban Meyer became the third coach in program history to win nine straight contests to begin his tenure. It marks just the fifth time since 1905 a Big Ten coach has won nine more games to begin their coaching tenures. Ohio State's Carol Widdoes won 12 straight from 1944-45, and Buckeye mentor Earle Bruce opened with an 11-0 mark in 1979, equaling the start of Michigan's Bennie Oosterbaan from 1948-49. Former Wisconsin coach William Juneau began his career with nine victories from 1912-13.

More Than a Win at Stake:  Among this week's slate of matchups is a pair of trophy games between annual rivals.  It will be the 99th meeting in the series featuring division foes Michigan and Minnesota, as well as Illinois and Ohio State. Since 1909, the Michigan-Minnesota winner has claimed the Little Brown Jug, with the Wolverines holding a 67-22-3 advantage with the trophy at stake. Also on Saturday, Illinois and Ohio State will battle for the Illibuck, a trophy series that began in 1925, with the Buckeyes holding the series advantage.

Another Four-Million Season:  Last weekend, the Big Ten surpassed the four-million mark in total attendance for the 20th straight season and 23rd season overall. With more than 407,000 patrons attending last weekend's games, the conference has welcomed more than 4.3 million fans to Big Ten stadiums through nine weeks of the season, with 28 sellouts. During the 2012 season, the conference boasts an average of 70,501 fans per game, which would rank among the top 10 in conference history in average fans per game among all contests.

The Epitome of Student-Athlete:  The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame named Nebraska's Rex Burkhead and Northwestern's Patrick Ward two of 15 recipients of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards. Burkhead and Ward were selected from a nationwide pool of 147 semifinalists from among all NCAA divisions and the NAIA. The two Big Ten student-athletes are now finalists for the 2012 William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation. The NFF's National Scholar-Athlete program, launched in 1959, is the first initiative in history to award scholar-athletes postgraduate scholarships for their combined athletic, academic and leadership abilities. Michigan State's Kirk Cousins and Purdue's Joe Holland earned NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards last season. Two Big Ten standouts have won the Campbell Trophy - Ohio State's Bobby Hoying in 1995 and Craig Krenzel in 2003.