Nov. 1, 2010
Big Ten Title Chase Heats Up: With just four weekends of Big Ten play remaining, four conference teams have only one loss in Big Ten play. Michigan State and Ohio State are tied atop the standings at 4-1 in conference play. The Spartans suffered their first loss of the season last weekend at Iowa, while the Buckeyes have bounced back from their only loss on the year with back-to-back triumphs. The Hawkeyes and Wisconsin, which had a bye last weekend, are tied for third place at 3-1 in conference play. OSU has won at least a share of the last five Big Ten Championships and is looking to match the conference record with a sixth straight crown, equaling the feat first accomplished by the Buckeyes from 1972-77. Michigan State is aiming for its first Big Ten title since 1990, Wisconsin is seeking its first conference championship since 1999 and Iowa is looking to finish in first place for the first time since 2004. Next weekend, the Buckeyes have a bye, the Spartans host Minnesota and the Hawkeyes and Badgers face road tests at Indiana and Purdue, respectively.
The Road Ahead: Among the top four teams in the standings, Michigan State and Ohio State not only stand in first place but also wrap up the season with two of their final three games at home. Wisconsin will split its final four games home and away, while Iowa plays three of its final four contests on the road. In regards to the remaining opponents' records, the Buckeyes face the most challenging slate as their final three opponents have a combined mark of 6-6 (.500) in Big Ten play, including a road matchup at Iowa. The Hawkeyes' final four opponents are a combined 6-12 (.333), the Badgers' last four games are against teams with a combined mark of 5-11 (.313) and the Spartans face three teams with a combined record of 4-9 (.308).
Big Ten Tiebreaker: While every Big Ten team that ends the year atop the conference standings will earn a share of the Big Ten Championship, the conference's automatic representative to the Bowl Championship series will be determined by the conference tiebreaker. See page nine of the PDF release for the full tiebreaker.
The Big 400: Last weekend against Michigan, Penn State's Joe Paterno picked up his 399th victory, the all-time record among Football Bowl Subdivision coaches. The Penn State mentor is in his 45th season as a head coach will aim for his 400th career triumph on Saturday against Northwestern. Paterno has served as head coach at PSU in 534 games, which ranks second in college football history behind only the 578 games for Chicago's Amos Alonzo Stagg. In comparison, the 10 other current Big Ten coaches have been on the sidelines for a combined 601 games at conference institutions with 363 triumphs. With one more victory, Paterno would join John Gagliardi (476-active) and Eddie Robinson (408) as the only coaches in NCAA history with 400 victories.
Big Ten Polling Place: The Big Ten leads all conferences with four of the top 16 teams in the latest Bowl Championship Series (BCS) poll. After a bye last weekend, Wisconsin moved up one spot to No. 9 in the latest BCS standings, the Badgers' highest ranking since rising to No. 7 in the final BCS poll of the 2006 season. Ohio State remained at No. 11 in the BCS standings, while Michigan State dropped nine slots to No. 14 after suffering its first loss of the year at Iowa. The Hawkeyes moved up two spots to No. 16.
Iowa and Northwestern Give Big Ten Five Bowl Eligible Teams: Iowa and Northwestern both picked up their sixth victories on Saturday to become eligible for bowl play. The Hawkeyes are now bowl-eligible for the 10th consecutive season under head coach Kirk Ferentz and have played in the postseason following each of the last two seasons. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald is aiming for a third straight postseason game for the Wildcats, which would mark a new program record and would be the ninth bowl game in school annals.
Three More Teams Near Bowl Eligibility: Illinois, Michigan and Penn State all stand at 5-3, just one win from bowl eligibility. With the Illini and Wolverines squaring off on Saturday, one of those two teams will become bowl eligible, while the Nittany Lions will look for their sixth win by hosting Northwestern. Illinois is aiming for its second postseason game under head coach Ron Zook and the first since the team played in the Rose Bowl Game following the 2007 campaign. Michigan ranks second in Big Ten history with 39 bowl appearances and is looking for its first bowl trip since winning the Capital One Bowl after the 2007 campaign. Penn State is targeting a sixth straight bowl trip and 37th postseason contest under head coach Joe Paterno, who is the NCAA's all-time leader in bowl victories (24) and bids (36). With 4-4 marks, Indiana and Purdue are just two triumphs away from becoming eligible for a bowl trip.
A New Bowl Lineup: The Big Ten has eight bowl tie-ins for the first time in conference history - the Rose Bowl Game/Bowl Championship Series (BCS) game, Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl, Gator Bowl, Insight Bowl, Texas Bowl, Dallas Football Classic and Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. If the Big Ten champion (or co-champion) is ranked No. 1 or 2 in the final BCS rankings, then that team will participate in the BCS National Championship Game to be played on Jan. 10, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz.
Robinson's Rushing Feat: With four regular-season games remaining, Michigan's Denard Robinson has already set a new Big Ten record for single-season rushing yards by a quarterback. The sophomore racked up 191 rushing yards at Penn State on Saturday to boost his season total to 1,287 yards, breaking the previous conference record of 1,270 rushing yards set by Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El in 2000. The Football Bowl Subdivision single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback is 1,494 yards set by Air Force's Beau Morgan in 1996. With an average of 160.9 rushing yards per contest, Robinson is on pace for roughly 1,930 yards on the ground by the end of the regular season, which would rank sixth in Big Ten history among all players.
Big Ten Half-Season Leaders: With the Big Ten season more than half complete, the conference is on pace to crown new statistical leaders from five different teams in the categories appearing in the Big Ten records book. Through four conference games, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson leads the Big Ten with 149.8 rushing yards and 344.2 yards of total offense per outing. Robinson would become the first player to lead the conference in those two categories since 1973, when Ohio State's Archie Griffin averaged 147.6 rushing yards and 147.6 yards of total offense. Griffin went on to win the Heisman Trophy after the 1974 and 1975 seasons. Robinson would become the first Michigan student-athlete to lead the conference in rushing since Mike Hart in 2004 and the first Wolverine to rank first in total offense since Jim Harbaugh in 1986. Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi leads the Big Ten with a pass efficiency rating of 181.2 in four conference games and would become the first Hawkeye to lead the Big Ten in that category since Drew Tate in 2004. Stanzi's 181.2 rating is also on pace to rank as the highest in the conference since at least 1980, breaking the previous high of 180.5 set by Michigan's Demetrius Brown in 1988. On the receiving end, Indiana's Damarlo Belcher is leading the Big Ten with 7.75 catches per game while Michigan State's Mark Dell is rated first in the conference with 89.2 receiving yards per outing. Belcher would be the first Hoosier to top the conference in receptions since Eddie Baety in 1994, while Dell would be the first Spartan to lead the way in receiving yards Charles Rogers in 2002. Wisconsin running back John Clay tops the Big Ten with 10.5 points per game after Badger kicker Philip Welch led in that category last season. On special teams, Michigan punter Will Hagerup is averaging a conference-best 47.8 yards per punt after Wolverine Zoltan Mesko topped the Big Ten in punting last season.
Battle for 100: Indiana's Bill Lynch and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz will meet on Saturday with both standing just one win away from the 100-victory mark for their careers. Lynch has compiled 99 triumphs over 17-plus seasons at Butler, Ball State, DePauw and Indiana. Ferentz is in his 15th season as a head coach after a previous stint at Maine and earned his 99th career win last weekend against MSU.
Four-Million Fan March: With 316,030 fans at five Big Ten stadiums last weekend, including two sellouts, the Big Ten surpassed the four-million mark in overall attendance for the 18th consecutive year and 21st season overall. Big Ten teams have welcomed 4,003,287 patrons for 56 games, including 26 full houses. The Big Ten's average attendance of 71,487 per contest would rank third in conference history behind only the 2005 (72,566) and 2009 (71,769) campaigns.
Trophy Bye Week: In a conference that features 15 traditional trophy games, no trophies will be on the line the next two Saturdays. Last weekend, Illinois snapped a five-game losing streak to Purdue to reclaim the Purdue Cannon for the first time since 2002. Trophy games return to the Big Ten schedule on Nov. 20 when the Illini battle Northwestern for the Land of Lincoln Trophy.
Big Ten Standouts Named National Award Semifinalists: The Big Ten led or tied for the lead among all conferences with 12 student-athletes named semifinalists for the Lombardi, Lou Groza and Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Awards. The Big Ten topped all conferences with four of the 12 semifinalists for the Lombardi Award, honoring the nation's outstanding lineman. Big Ten semifinalists for the Lombardi Award are Iowa's Adrian Clayborn, Michigan State's Greg Jones, Ohio State's Cameron Heyward and Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan. Big Ten players have won eight Lombardi Awards, most recently when Michigan's LaMarr Woodley was honored in 2006. The Big Ten tied for the lead among all conferences with four of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's top kicker. Big Ten semifinalists for the award are Illinois' Derek Dimke, Michigan State's Dan Conroy, Ohio State's Devin Barclay and Penn State's Collin Wagner. Two Big Ten kickers have claimed the Lou Groza Award - Iowa's Nate Kaeding in 2002 and Ohio State's Mike Nugent in 2004. The Big Ten also tied for the lead among all conferences with four semifinalists for the Davey O'Brien Award. The Big Ten's four O'Brien Award semifinalists are Iowa's Ricky Stanzi, Michigan's Denard Robinson, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins and Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor. Four Big Ten quarterbacks have won the O'Brien Award, most recently when Ohio State's Troy Smith was honored in 2006.
Smart Players: The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) announced the 2010 recipients of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards and the Big Ten led all conferences with three of the 16 honorees. The Big Ten recipients of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards are Indiana's Ben Chappell, Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski and Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien. The 16 award winners were selected from a nationwide pool of 121 semifinalists from among all NCAA divisions and the NAIA. The NFF's National Scholar-Athlete program was launched in 1959 and is the first initiative in the history to award scholar-athletes postgraduate scholarships for their combined athletic, academic and leadership abilities. Each finalist will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship, and one of the 16 will be announced as the recipient of the 21st William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation.
OTHER TOP PERFORMERS - OCT. 30
IND QB Ben Chappell: Connected on 30 of 54 passes (55.6 pct.) for 308 yards and one TD and added a rushing touchdown against NU.
IOWA QB Ricky Stanzi: Completed 11 of 15 passes (73.3 pct.) for 190 yards and three TDs vs. MSU.
MICH QB Denard Robinson: Compiled 381 yards of offense; recorded 27 carries for 191 yards (7.1 avg.) and three TDs on the ground and completed 11 of 23 passes (47.8 pct.) for 190 yards and another TD.
NU WR Jeremy Ebert: Posted five receptions for 98 yards (19.6 avg.) and two TDs at Indiana.
OSU RB Dan Herron: Produced first career 100-yard effort with a career-high 114 yards on 17 carries (6.7 avg.) with one TD at Minnesota.
PSU QB Matt McGloin: Became first former walk-on to start at QB for Joe Paterno and set career highs with 17 completions, 28 attempts and 250 yards while adding a passing and running TD.
ILL LB Jonathan Brown: Totaled eight tackles (five solo) and one TFL (-1 yard) against Purdue.
IND DE Darius Johnson: Collected a career-high 11 tackles (six solo) and added two TFLs (-4 yards), including a three-yard sack, against NU.
NU LB Bryce McNaul: Totaled a career-best 13 tackles (six solo) and added two TFLs (-3 yards).
OSU LB Brian Rolle: Collected six tackles (four solo), 2.5 TFLs (-11 yards), 1.5 sacks (-10 yards) and a forced and recovered a fumble at Minnesota.
PSU S Drew Astorino: Registered a career-high three pass breakups and added eight tackles (six solo).
PUR LB Dwayne Beckford: Posted 11 tackles (five solo) and 1.5 TFLs (-3 yards) against Illinois.
IOWA P Ryan Donahue: Registered five punts for 194 yards (38.8 avg.) with three inside the 20-yard line and a long of 45 yards against MSU.
MSU P Aaron Bates: Recorded six punts for 291 yards (48.5 avg.) with one inside the 20-yard line and a long of 58 yards at Iowa.
NU K Stefan Demos: Connected on both field goal attempts (23, 45), including a 45-yarder with 6:51 left in the game that proved to be the game-winner.
OSU KR/PR Jordan Hall: Totaled 104 yards in the return game, with a 34-yard kickoff return and two punt returns for 70 yards, including a career-long 70-yarder, at Minnesota.