Nov. 5, 2012
Winning Without Playing: Even with a bye this weekend, Ohio State, which boasts a perfect 6-0 mark in Big Ten play, could clinch at least a share of the Leaders Division title on Saturday. Holding a 1.5 game lead over Penn State, Ohio State can earn at least a share of the division title if Nebraska defeats the Nittany Lions on Saturday. With Ohio State setting the pace at the top of the standings, Penn State and Wisconsin remain in the race for the division championship. The 4-1 Nittany Lions travel to Nebraska, while the 3-2 Badgers visit Indiana on Saturday.
Looking to Punch Its Ticket: While also remaining in the hunt for the division crown, Wisconsin can claim its place in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Football Championship Game as the Leaders Division representative this weekend. The Badgers, who won last season's inaugural championship game, travel to Indiana on Saturday, where a victory would cement Wisconsin's spot in the title game. An Indiana win would bring the Hoosiers into a tie in the standings with the Badgers, giving them the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Anybody's Race: Every Legends Division squad remains in the hunt to earn a share of the division crown with just three weeks remaining in the conference season. Michigan and Nebraska are tied atop the standings at 4-1, with the Huskers owning the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Wolverines. Northwestern is one game back at 3-2 and travels to Michigan on Saturday. Iowa is fourth in the standings at 2-3, and Michigan State or Minnesota can still finish 4-4 in Big Ten play. Michigan hosts Northwestern in a matchup of two of the top three teams in the division standings. The Wolverines are tied for first in the division and hold a one-game lead over the Wildcats in what will be the fourth intra-division game for each team. 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.
No Problems on the Road: Big Ten teams have proven to be just as successful on the road this season, owning a 16-15 record away from home in conference play. Last weekend, three Big Ten teams earned road triumphs, including Michigan over Minnesota, Nebraska at Michigan State and Penn State versus Purdue. Eight conference squads own a .500 or better record in road games this season with Ohio State and Penn State boasting 3-0 marks away from home. Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska are 2-1, while Indiana, Northwestern and Wisconsin each are 1-1 in road conference contests.
Up to Double-Digits: After defeating Illinois last Saturday, Ohio State kept its unblemished record intact by improving to 10-0, the fourth time in the last 11 years the school has reeled off 10 wins to start the season. The Buckeyes are the only team in the country boasting double-digit victories this season, and one of six teams in the country with an undefeated record. Head coach Urban Meyer became the third coach in program history to win 10 straight contests to begin his tenure. It marks just the fourth time since 1905 a Big Ten coach has won 10 or 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. Opening with six straight wins in conference play, Meyer matched the fourth-best start by a Big Ten coach in conference games only. Bruce won his first 15 games, Michigan's Fielding Yost won 10 consecutive Big Ten games, Widdoes reeled off eight straight wins, and Meyer matched the six straight conference victories by Oosterbaan.
Michigan Gains Bowl Eligibility: Michigan's road victory on Saturday against Minnesota not only gave the Wolverines a victory in the annual series for the Little Brown Jug, but also their sixth win of the season to earn bowl eligibility. The Wolverines eye their 42nd bowl berth in school history, coming on the heels of last season's victory in the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech. Michigan is one of three Big Ten programs with 20 or more bowl victories, joining Nebraska and Penn State. Michigan is the fourth conference squad to become bowl eligible, joining Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin.
Michigan State, Minnesota Knocking on the Door: In addition to the Big Ten's four teams already earning bowl eligibility, two more conference squads are within one victory of their sixth of the season. With a 5-5 record, Michigan State has a bye this week before ending the season with divisional matchups against Northwestern on Nov. 17 and at Minnesota on Nov. 24. Minnesota is 5-4 and has three games remaining on its schedule, including road games the next two weekends at Illinois and at Nebraska, before concluding the year against Michigan State on Nov. 24.
Good Sports: Indiana's Adam Replogle and Nebraska's Rex Burkhead were named two of 10 finalists for the annual Awards and Recognition Association (ARA) Sportsmanship Award. Given annually to one outstanding NCAA Division I collegiate football player who best personifies the spirit of sportsmanship, the award is now in its eighth year. Northwestern's Eric Peterman won the ARA Sportsmanship Award in 2008. The 2012 ARA Sportsmanship Award recipient will be announced later this year.
Thanks to the Fans: Following this weekend's slate of games, the Big Ten surpassed the two-million mark for attendance during Big Ten games only. In six weeks of the conference season, the Big Ten boasts a total attendance of more than 2.1 million, averaging better than 69,000 fans per contests with 14 sellouts. The conference is on pace to pass the five-million mark in total attendance by season's end for the eighth straight year and 10th time overall. The Big Ten is averaging nearly 70,000 per game among all contests this season, a mark which would rank among the top 10 all-time.