Nov. 2, 2009
FACES OF THE BIG TEN: Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin
For two years, Scott Tolzien has worked with first and second graders at Willow Bend School with the "No Excuses" program. This program instills the belief in kids that they will be able to learn the skills needed to go to college and familiarizes them with college at an early age. Each grade adopts a university and the combined class of first and second graders chose Wisconsin. Tolzien is a Willow Bend School alum and corresponds with the kids via e-mail, explaining different college experiences like paying bills and cleaning his apartment, and sometimes sends a copy of class notes. Tolzien also visits the class when possible.
BIG TEN. BIG NEWS.
Seven Teams Still Fighting for Big Ten Crown: With three weekends of Big Ten play remaining, seven teams still have a chance to win at least a share of the 2009 conference crown. Iowa rallied from a 24-14 deficit to explode for 28 fourth-quarter points and defeat Indiana, 42-24, and remain undefeated in conference play and in first place at 5-0. The two teams that shared the championship last season remain one game back in second place, as Ohio State and Penn State are both 4-1 in conference action. Wisconsin moved up in the standings by blanking Purdue to improve to 3-2 in Big Ten play. Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern and Purdue all have three conference losses, which means they need to win out and have the Hawkeyes drop their final three games to have a chance to earn a share of the Big Ten crown.
Defending Big Ten Champs Meet Saturday: The only two teams to win Big Ten titles over the last four seasons will meet on Saturday when Penn State hosts Ohio State. The Buckeyes have earned at least a share of the conference championship in each of the last four seasons while the Nittany Lions tied for first place in 2005 and 2008. Last season, PSU earned a hard-fought 13-6 road triumph against OSU to hand the Buckeyes their only conference loss of the season and win the tiebreaker and a berth into the 2009 Rose Bowl. The two teams have split their last four meetings, including Penn State wins in 2005 and 2008 that marked Ohio State's only conference losses in those seasons.
A Three-Week Sprint: Among the four teams with two or fewer conference losses with three weeks to go, Ohio State may face the toughest remaining schedule with two of three games on the road against schools with a combined Big Ten record of 10-5. The Buckeyes face a road test against second-place Penn State, then host first-place Iowa before wrapping up the regular season at Michigan. Wisconsin also ends the Big Ten campaign with two of three on the road, but the Badgers' combined opponents' record is 4-11, including matchups against three teams in seventh place or lower in the standings. Iowa and Penn State each wrap up the regular season with two of three at home.
The Lucky Seven: With its victory against Indiana, Iowa improved to 9-0 for the first time in school history. The Hawkeyes entered last weekend as one of seven Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) programs still undefeated and all seven teams remained perfect. Iowa is the only team to win its first nine contests, while six teams stand at 8-0 including Alabama, Boise State, Cincinnati, Florida, Texas and Texas Christian.
Streaking Hawkeyes: Iowa has now won 13 consecutive games overall, the second-longest active streak among all FBS schools behind only Florida's current 18-game winning streak. The last time Iowa was victorious in 13 or more consecutive games was when the program won 20 straight contests between 1920 and 1923. The last Big Ten team to record 13 or more consecutive wins was Ohio State, which won 19 straight during the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
A Familiar Start in Big Ten: With Iowa off to a 9-0 start this year, at least one Big Ten team has opened the season with nine or more straight triumphs for the fourth straight season and the fifth time in the last six years. Last season, Penn State sprinted to a 9-0 start before the Hawkeyes handed them their first defeat. In 2007, Ohio State started the year with 10 straight victories on its way to an 11-1 regular season and a return trip to the BCS National Championship Game. In 2006, both the Buckeyes and Michigan began the season with 11-0 marks before meeting in the regular season finale, with Ohio State improving to 12-0 and advancing to the title game. No Big Ten team started 9-0 in 2005, but Wisconsin jumped out to a 9-0 start in 2004.
Wisconsin Becomes Big Ten's Fourth Bowl-Eligible Team: After improving to 6-2 last weekend, Wisconsin joined Iowa (9-0), Penn State (8-1) and Ohio State (7-2) as the fourth Big Ten team to become eligible for bowl competition this season. Badgers' mentor Bret Bielema is looking for his fourth bowl trip in as many seasons at the helm and eighth consecutive postseason game for the program. 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 Little Caesars Pizza 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, 2010, in Pasadena, Calif.
Five Other Big Ten Squads Near Bowl Eligibility: Five other conference teams remain less than two wins away from bowl eligibility. Michigan (5-4), Minnesota (5-4) and Northwestern (5-4) have all produced five victories, just one win from becoming eligible for postseason play. After finishing with only three wins in the first season under head coach Rich Rodriguez, the Wolverines are looking for their 40th bowl bid. Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster is looking to guide the Gophers to a second straight postseason game, which would mark their seventh bowl appearance in the last eight seasons. The Wildcats are seeking back-to-back bowl berths for just the second time in school history after taking part in the 2008 Insight Bowl. Northwestern has played in seven postseason games, including following the 1995 and 1996 campaigns when head coach Pat Fitzgerald was playing linebacker for the Wildcats. With 4-5 marks, Indiana and Michigan State are just two triumphs away from becoming eligible for a spot in a bowl game.
Special Players Climbing Career Charts: Two Big Ten special teams standouts cracked the top 10 in various career statistical categories last weekend. Michigan State kicker Brett Swenson tallied 10 points against Minnesota, including a pair of field goals, to break into the top 10 in career points scored among all players. Swenson now has 345 career points to pass Ohio State kicker Dan Stultz (342 points from 1997-2000) for 10th place on the all-time list. Swenson also passed Stultz to move up to seventh in career kicking points and boosted his career numbers to 66 field goals (sixth all-time) and 147 extra points (11th all-time). Minnesota's Troy Stoudermire recorded six kickoff returns for 192 yards against the Spartans to crack the top 10 with 1,932 career kickoff return yards, passing MSU's Herb Haygood (1,770 yards from 1998-2001) and Wisconsin's Nick Davis (1,778 from 1998-2001). Stoudermire now has 76 kickoff returns in less than two seasons, just two shy of breaking into the career top 10.
Another Four Million Fans: The Big Ten surpassed the four-million mark in all games attendance last weekend for the 17th straight season. Big Ten stadiums have welcomed 4,238,067 fans in 59 games for an average of 71,832 patrons per contest, which would mark the second-highest average in conference annals behind only the 72,566 average in 2005. Iowa, Minnesota and Ohio State all boasted packed houses last Saturday, giving the Big Ten 29 sellouts through nine weekends. With an average of more than three full houses per weekend and three Saturdays left in Big Ten play, the conference has the chance to produce 40 or more sellouts for the third straight year and just the third time in Big Ten history. The conference also surpassed the two-million mark for conference games only last weekend and boasts 2,012,394 fans for 29 contests.
Paterno Now Alone in Fifth Place in Century Club: Penn State's Joe Paterno picked up his 144th triumph since joining the conference to surpass Iowa's Hayden Fry for fifth place on the list of 12 mentors to collect 100 or more wins while at a Big Ten school. Paterno is now 144-61 in 16-plus seasons since 1993, while Fry posted a record of 143-89-6 in 20 years with the Hawkeyes from 1979-98. Paterno now needs 21 more triumphs to crack the top four of Michigan's Fielding Yost (165 wins) and Bo Schembechler (194), Chicago's Amos Alonzo Stagg (199) and Ohio State's Woody Hayes (205). Among other active Big Ten coaches, Ohio State's Jim Tressel boasts 90 wins in eight-plus years with the Buckeyes while Iowa's Kirk Ferentz has racked up 79 victories in 10-plus seasons in Iowa City.
Big Ten Schedule Announced for Nov. 14: The following schedule has been confirmed for games on Nov. 14.
Michigan at Wisconsin, 11 a.m. CT, Big Ten Network
Northwestern at Illinois, 11 a.m. CT, ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPN Classic
South Dakota State at Minnesota, 11 a.m. CT, Big Ten Network
Michigan State at Purdue, Noon ET, ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPN Classic
Indiana at Penn State, Noon ET, Big Ten Network
Iowa at Ohio State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC (regional - ESPN outer-market)
More Big Ten Notes: Additional notes were posted last week on the Big Ten football blog at www.bigten.org/blog/fb_blog.html, including Iowa's Ricky Stanzi and Penn State's Daryll Clark being named semifinalists for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, Minnesota's Eric Decker being tabbed a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, the Hawkeyes' Kirk Ferentz and the Nittany Lions' Joe Paterno being named to the watch list for the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award, and Illinois' Jon Asamoah and the Gophers' Decker being chosen for the 2009 National Scholar-Athlete Class and becoming finalists for the Campbell Trophy.
OTHER TOP PERFORMERS - OCT. 31
ILL RB Mikel Leshoure: Rushed for a career-high 150 yards on 21 carries (7.1 avg.) with one TD, a 70-yarder that marked his longest career run.
IND WR Damarlo Belcher: Posted a career-best six receptions for 89 yards (14.8 avg.) with one TD.
IOWA RB Brandon Wegher: In first career start, true freshman tallied a career-best three rushing TDs while running for 118 yards on 25 carries (4.7 avg.) against Indiana.
OSU WR DeVier Posey: Hauled in five passes for 79 yards (15.8 avg.) while also throwing a 39-yard TD pass against New Mexico State, his first career passing TD and the first by an OSU wideout since 2006.
PSU QB Daryll Clark: Completed 22-of-31 passes (71.0 pct.) for 274 yards and one TD and added a rushing TD at Northwestern.
WIS RB John Clay: Equaled career high with three rushing TDs while running for 123 yards on 24 attempts (5.1 avg.) versus Purdue.
ILL CB Terry Hawthorne: In first start, true freshman registered career-best six tackles (four solo) and a pass breakup, including a TD-saving stop on the one-yard line against Michigan.
IND S Collin Taylor: In just third start, former walk-on collected a career-best seven tackles (six solo) and his first two interceptions, while also forcing a fumble on a punt return at Iowa.
IOWA S Tyler Sash: Recorded seven tackles (three solo), 0.5 TFLs (-1 yard) and also registered his team-leading sixth interception, returning it 86 yards for a TD to pull Iowa within 21-14.
OSU LB Ross Homan: Registered seven tackles (five solo) and an interception to help OSU record a third shutout in a season for the first time since 1996.
PSU DT Jared Odrick: Led a PSU defense that forced two turnovers and recorded a season-high six sacks by posting five tackles (all solo) and one sack (-10 yards) at Northwestern; Also blocked a field goal.
ILL K Derek Dimke: Averaged 66 yards per kickoff, including a career-best four touchbacks.
PSU K Collin Wagner: Connected on both of his field goal attempts (32, 23) and all four PATs.
WIS DL David Gilbert: True freshman blocked a punt late in the first half, leaping and flipping over blockers to bat down a punt which was recovered and returned nine yards for a TD and a 24-0 lead over Purdue.