Big Ten Weekly Football Release - Oct. 31
Oct. 31, 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 East Lansing for the Michigan State vs. Minnesota game. Visit www.bigten.org/blog/mobile-tour and follow along on Twitter @B1GMobileTour for more information.
At the Halfway Point: With each team having played at least half its games in conference action, the races for the division championship and a berth in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game are beginning to take shape. Eight conference teams are at or above .500 in conference play, four in each division. Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska each boast 3-1 records in the Big Ten and are tied atop the Legends Division with Iowa one game back at 2-2. The Spartans are 1-1 against the other 3-1 teams in the division, having beaten Michigan and fallen to Nebraska, and the Huskers and Wolverines will face off in Ann Arbor on Nov. 19. In the Leaders Division, Penn State has opened the conference season with five straight wins to open a two-and-a-half game lead atop the division standings. Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin are tied for second, with each holding a 2-2 record in Big Ten play.
Penn State the Final Big Ten Unbeaten: Penn State kept its unblemished conference record intact following a 10-7 victory over Illinois on Saturday, becoming the final undefeated Big Ten team. On Saturday, Michigan State dropped its first conference contest of the season, falling on the road to Nebraska. The Nittany Lions improved to 5-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 2008 and have won their first three divisional contests of the season, knocking off Indiana, Purdue and Illinois. The frontrunner in the Leaders Division, Penn State will enjoy its bye week before getting back to the gridiron on Nov. 12 for its final home game of the season against Nebraska.
A Full Slate of Divisional Matchups: This week, all five conference matchups will be divisional contests with three Legends Division games and a pair of Leaders Division showdowns. In the Legends Division, Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska each look to remain atop of the divisional standings. The Wolverines will face Iowa, which is looking to become bowl eligible, while Nebraska hosts Northwestern in each team's third divisional matchup of the season. Michigan State, which fell from the ranks of the conference unbeatens last week, hosts Minnesota, which won in its rivalry game against Iowa last Saturday. In the Leaders Division, Wisconsin and Purdue, with matching 2-2 records in conference play, square off in each team's third divisional game, and Ohio State eyes its sixth win of the season when the Buckeyes welcome Indiana. With the beginning of divisional play, the Big Ten has instituted a new tiebreaker to determine the Big Ten Football Championship Game participants, if necessary.
Big Ten One of Only Two Conferences With Five or More Among BCS Top 25: In the latest Bowl Championship Series (BCS) standings, the Big Ten is one of two conferences with five or more teams among the top 25. The Big Ten ranks second among all conferences behind the SEC (six teams), followed by the Big 12 (four), ACC (three) and Pac-12 (three). Nebraska is the Big Ten's highest ranked team at No. 10 overall, moving up four spots from last week's poll. The Cornhuskers are making their first appearance among the top 10 since being rated eighth on Nov. 14, 2010. Four more conference teams appear among the top 20. Michigan and Penn State both climbed three spots, with the Wolverines ranked No. 15 and the Nittany Lions rated No. 16. Michigan State and Wisconsin round out the Big Ten contingent at Nos. 17 and 20, respectively.
Paterno Becomes All-Time Division-I Wins Leader: Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, the longest serving head coach in major college football history with 46 years at the helm of the Nittany Lions, became the NCAA Division-I all-time leader in career wins with his 409th career triumph against Illinois on Saturday. He surpassed former Grambling head coach Eddie Robinson, who spent 55 years as the school's coach, for the all-time mark.
Big Ten Statistical Leaders: With half of the Big Ten season in the books, the conference's statistical leaders look to continue their production heading into the final four weeks of the year. Iowa's Marcus Coker leads the Big Ten with 147.2 rushing yards per game. He would become the third Hawkeye in the last seven years (Albert Young in 2005 and Shonn Greene in 2008) to lead the conference in rushing. With 268 yards of total offense per game, Michigan's Denard Robinson looks to become the first player to lead the conference in consecutive years in total offense since Purdue's Drew Brees led the Big Ten from 1998-2000. At 17.0 points per game, Wisconsin's Montee Ball would average the most points per game since at least 1970 and become the first player since Indiana's Anthony Thompson in 1988-89 to lead the conference in points per game two years in a row. Illinois' A.J. Jenkins, with 133.0 receiving yards per game, would average the most receiving yards per game since at least 1985 and become the second Illini in four years (Arrelious Benn in 2008) to lead the conference in the category.
Big Ten Standouts Climbing Single-Season Records Book: Big Ten standouts continue to climb the statistical charts of the conference's single-season all games records. Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson and his 196.9 passing efficiency would mark a new single-season best in conference history, while Northwestern's Dan Persa's 75.5 completion percentage would break his record from a season ago. Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah currently ranks fourth on the single-season kick return average list (31.7), while Penn State's Chaz Powell is tied for sixth (31.3). Defensively, Illinois' Whitney Mercilus is fifth on the single-season list with six forced fumbles.=
Big Ten With Six Bowl-Eligible Squads; Two Away From Six-Win Benchmark: The Big Ten is tied with the SEC for the lead among all conferences with six bowl-eligible squads. Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin each have earned six or more wins this season, securing their bowl eligibility. Two other conference teams, Iowa and Ohio State are one win from reaching the six-win benchmark, while Purdue is two wins away from bowl eligibility at 4-4 overall.
National Award Semifinalists: After having more than 70 student-athletes appear on preseason award watch lists, many of those have been recognized as finalists, semifinalists or quarterfinalists for those honors. Michigan State's Kirk Cousins and Northwestern's Dan Persa are among the 10 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, honoring the student-athlete who best excels on and off the field. Five national semifinalist lists have been announced with 16 conference standouts being honored as semifinalists. In addition, six conference standouts have been selected as Lott Trophy quarterfinalists, which will honor the Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year. A complete list of the Big Ten's finalists, semifinalists and quarterfinalists, as well as other watch list members, can be found on Page 7 of this release.
Smart Players: The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame named Michigan State's Kirk Cousins and Purdue's Joe Holland two of 16 recipients of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards. Cousins and Holland were selected from a nationwide pool of 127 semifinalists from among all NCAA divisions and the NAIA. The two Big Ten student-athletes are now finalists for the 2011 William V. Campbell Trophy, endowed by HealthSouth, 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. Each finalist will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship at the 54th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on December 6 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, and one of the 16 will be announced as the 22nd recipient of the William V. Campbell Trophy
Many More Than Four Million: Last weekend, the Big Ten surpassed the four-million mark in total attendance for the 19th straight season and 22nd season overall. With more than 486,000 patrons attending last weekend's games, the conference has welcomed more than 4.4 million fans to Big Ten stadiums through nine weeks of the season, with 29 sellouts. During the 2011 season, the conference boasts an average attendance of 72,724 fans per game, which is on pace to set a new average attendance mark in conference history. In 2005, an average of 72,566 fans attended each Big Ten game.
Game Tracker: Times and television designations for conference games on Nov. 12 will be determined following this weekend's games. Two conference games will be televised by ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU at Noon ET, one will air on ABC at 3:30 p.m. ET, and two will be televised by BTN at Noon and 3:30 p.m. ET.