Big Ten Weekly Football Release - Nov. 9

Northwestern backup quarterback Dan Persa helped the Wildcats win at Iowa to become bowl-eligible.

Northwestern backup quarterback Dan Persa helped the Wildcats win at Iowa to become bowl-eligible.

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Nov. 9, 2009

FACES OF THE BIG TEN: Josh Hull, Penn State

Josh Hull is a former walk-on who became a two-year starter at middle linebacker. He brought a 3.56 grade point average into the fall semester in environmental systems engineering and was a 2008 first-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American. Hull was the recipient of the university's prestigious Eric A. Walker Award, the football team's Frank Patrick Total Commitment Award and has been awarded five different academic scholarships. Hull is one of the squad's most active members in community service, including Pennsylvania Special Olympics State Summer Games, M.S. Walk, THON Make-A-Wish and school speaking engagements.

BIG TEN. BIG NEWS.

Four-Team Race for Big Ten Crown: With two weekends of Big Ten play left, four teams still have a chance to win at least a share of the 2009 conference crown. Iowa and Ohio State are tied for first place with identical 5-1 marks, while Penn State and Wisconsin are one game back at 4-2. The Hawkeyes suffered their first loss last weekend against Northwestern, while the Buckeyes defeated the Nittany Lions to set up the first-place tie. The Badgers won at Indiana to pull into a tie for second place. All four teams still competing for the title end conference play with one home and one away game.

Big Ten Title and BCS Berth on the Line in Columbus: Iowa and Ohio State meet Saturday with at least a share of the 2009 Big Ten Championship and the conference's automatic berth into the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) going to the victor. Since both Penn State and Wisconsin already have two losses, the Iowa-Ohio State winner is guaranteed to finish with no more than two Big Ten defeats which secures at least a share of the crown. In addition, since both the Hawkeyes and Buckeyes have already defeated the Nittany Lions and Badgers, the Iowa-Ohio State victor will own wins over each of the other three teams that could finish in a tie for first place. Therefore, the winner of the Iowa-OSU matchup would win all of the conference's tiebreakers in the event of a two-, three- or four-team tie at the end of conference play and be guaranteed a spot in the BCS.

Familiar Faces on Top: The four teams atop the Big Ten standings have combined for 12 conference titles over the past 11 years, with each team winning at least two championships in that span. Ohio State has finished first on six occasions since 1998 and is looking to become the first team to win at least a share of five straight titles since Michigan accomplished the feat from 1988-92. The Buckeyes hold the conference-record with six straight championships from 1972-77 and are aiming for their 34th title, which would rank second all-time behind the Wolverines' 42 crowns. Iowa, Penn State and Wisconsin have each claimed at least a share of two titles since 1998. The Hawkeyes shared the top spot in 2002 and 2004 and are looking for their 12th championship. The Badgers are also targeting a 12th conference title, most recently finishing first in 1998 and 1999. The Nittany Lions have collected three titles since joining the conference in 1993, including sharing the championship with Ohio State in 2005 and 2008.

Big Ten Championship Mentors: While Wisconsin's Bret Bielema is looking to earn his first Big Ten title as a head coach, the remaining three teams still in the running all feature mentors with multiple conference crowns. Ohio State's Jim Tressel is aiming to become just the eighth conference head coach to win six Big Ten titles. Penn State's Joe Paterno could be just the 12th mentor to win four Big Ten crowns, while Iowa's Kirk Ferentz is targeting his third title.

Tressel Targeting Rare Coaching Fraternities: Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel is aiming to join an elite group of coaches to claim five straight Big Ten titles and six championships in his first nine campaigns. In the previous 113 years of Big Ten football, only one coach has finished atop the conference standings in five or more consecutive years, as the Buckeyes' Woody Hayes earned six straight crowns from 1972-77. In addition, only two coaches have earned six or more titles in their first nine years with a Big Ten institution. Michigan's Bo Schembechler holds the Big Ten record by finishing first in seven of his first nine campaigns from 1969-77 while Minnesota's Bernie Bierman won six titles from 1932-40.

Northwestern Joins Big Ten Bowl Pool: After improving to 6-4 last weekend, Northwestern joined Iowa (9-1), Ohio State (8-2), Penn State (8-2) and Wisconsin (7-2) as the fifth Big Ten team to become eligible for bowl competition this season. The Wildcats are seeking back-to-back bowl berths for just the second time in school history after taking part in the 2008 Valero Alamo Bowl. 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.

It's Anybody's Bowl Game: With just two weekends of Big Ten play remaining, every conference team still has a chance to take part in a bowl game. While five schools have already secured bowl-eligibility, the remaining six teams all have a chance to reach the six-win mark. Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota all stand at 5-5 and need to win at least one of their final two games to become eligible for postseason action. Indiana and Purdue are both 4-6, but since they meet in their season finale on Nov. 21, only one can become bowl-eligible. Illinois won its second straight contest over the weekend to improve to 3-6 and needs to win its remaining games to have a shot at a bowl game.

A Deep Conference: The Big Ten joins the Big 12 and Big East as the only three conferences in which every team still has hopes of playing in a bowl contest. The Big Ten is also one of only four conferences with five or more bowl-eligible teams, along with the Pac-10 (6 bowl-eligible teams), ACC (5) and SEC (5).

A Road Sweep: Last weekend, all five Big Ten games were won by the visiting team for the first time since the 2006 campaign. Nine conference teams have recorded at least one road win this season, including 3-0 records for Iowa and Penn State and 2-1 road marks for Northwestern, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Overall, Big Ten teams are 16-18 on the road in conference action after visiting teams produced a 20-24 mark in Big Ten road games last season. The last time five Big Ten teams all won in enemy territory on the same day was on Nov. 11, 2006, including triumphs by No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan to setup the first meeting between two 11-0 teams in conference history.

Big Ten Standouts on National Awards Scene: Over the last few weeks, 13 Big Ten student-athletes have been tabbed as quarterfinalists, semifinalists or finalists for national awards. Penn State's Daryll Clark remains eligible for two national accolades after being named a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, honoring the nation's top senior quarterback, and a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien Award, given to the country's top overall signal caller. Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi joined Clark among the semifinalists for the O'Brien Award, while Minnesota wideout Eric Decker was tabbed as a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's top wide receiver. On the defensive side of the ball, Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones has been selected as a semifinalist or quarterfinalist for three different national laurels, including the Bednarik Award as the nation's top defensive player, the Butkus Award as the country's top linebacker and the Lott Trophy as the nation's defensive player of the year. Jones was joined by Iowa linebacker Pat Angerer, Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman and Wisconsin defensive end O'Brien Schofield as semifinalists for the Bednarik Award. Michigan's Obi Ezeh and PSU's Sean Lee were also named semifinalists for the Butkus Award while Angerer and Ohio State safety Kurt Coleman joined Jones as quarterfinalists for the Lott Trophy. In addition, Hawkeyes' safety Tyler Sash was chosen as a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the country's outstanding defensive back. On special teams, Michigan State's Brett Swenson and Northwestern's Stefan Demos were named semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award, awarded to the nation's top kicker.

Playing Smart Football: Big Ten student-athletes continue to excel both on the field and in the classroom, as 26 conference standouts were named to the Academic All-District teams presented by ESPN The Magazine, including 18 first-team selections. The conference's list of first-team honorees included Illinois' Jon Asamoah, Indiana's Brandon Bugg, Trea Burgess and Ben Chappell, Michigan's Zoltan Mesko, Michigan State's Blair White, Minnesota's Eric Decker and Jeff Tow-Arnett, Northwestern's Doug Bartels, Stefan Demos and Zeke Markshausen, Penn State's Jeremy Boone, Josh Hull, Andrew Pitz and Stefen Wisniewski, Purdue's Joe Holland and Ryan Kerrigan and Wisconsin's Brad Nortman. The Nittany Lions led all Big Ten schools with four first-team Academic All-District honorees, making them one of only six schools nationwide with four or more first-team selections. Second-team picks included the Hawkeyes' Julian Vandervelde, the Wolverines' Jon Conover, the Spartans' Adam Decker and Andrew Hawken and the Buckeyes' Bryant Browning, Todd Denlinger, Andrew Moses and Marcus Williams. To be eligible for the award, a player must be in at least his second year of athletic eligibility, be a first-team or key performer and carry a cumulative 3.30 grade point average. First-team selections will be added to the national ballot and are eligible for Academic All-America honors to be announced on November 24. Last season, the Big Ten led all conferences for the second straight year with eight student-athletes named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America football teams. The Big Ten also led the way with seven first-team selections last season, matching the second-highest total in conference history. Penn State's Hull and Pitz are looking to earn Academic All-America accolades for the second straight year.

Old Trophy With New Name On the Line: After two weeks with no trophies on the line, one of the Big Ten's oldest trophies with a brand new name will be up for grabs when Illinois hosts Northwestern. In a conference that features 15 traditional trophy games, the Illini and Wildcats will battle for the Land of Lincoln Trophy for the first time. Previously known as the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk, the two programs have played for a trophy in every matchup since 1945, with Illinois holding a 33-29-2 advantage. However, Northwestern has won five of the last six matchups, including winning the final Sweet Sioux Tomahawk game last season.

Big Ten Schedule Announced for Nov. 21: The following schedule has been confirmed for games on Nov. 21.
Minnesota at Iowa, 11 a.m. CT, ESPN or ESPN2
Ohio State at Michigan, Noon ET, ABC
Wisconsin at Northwestern, 2:30 p.m. CT, Big Ten Network
Purdue at Indiana, 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Penn State at Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC (regional - ESPN outer-market)

OTHER TOP PERFORMERS - NOV. 7

OFFENSE:
IND QB Ben Chappell:
Completed 25-of-35 passes (71.4 pct.) for 323 yards and three TDs against Wisconsin, his third career 300-yard game.
MSU QB Kirk Cousins: Completed 88 percent of his passes (22-of-25) for a career-high 353 yards and two TDs against Western Michigan.
NU QB Dan Persa: Backup signal caller compiled 104 yards of total offense, including 17 carries for a team-high 67 yards (3.9 avg.) while completing five-of-nine passes (55.6 pct.) for 37 yards, highlighted by a four-yard TD strike late in the first half for what became the eventual game-winning score.
WIS RB Montee Ball: Stepping in for injured starter John Clay, true freshman set career highs with 27 carries, 115 yards and two TDs at Indiana.

DEFENSE:
ILL LB Clay Nurse:
Recorded career highs with seven tackles (five solo) and four sacks (-28 yards), the second-best sack performance in school history, in a victory at Minnesota.
IND LB Will Patterson: Playing with a broken hand, finished with a game-high 10 tackles (eight solo) and one TFL (-2 yards) against the Badgers.
IOWA LB Pat Angerer: Racked up a career-high 17 tackles (four solo) with 0.5 TFLs and a PBU.
MSU LB Greg Jones: Led team with eight tackles (two solo) while adding 1.5 sacks (-13 yards) and a forced fumble against Western Michigan.
NU DE Corey Wootton: Collected three tackles (two solo), including a six-yard sack and a forced fumble in the end zone that was recovered for a TD, sparking his team's rally from a 10-0 deficit.
PSU LB Sean Lee: Notched 14 tackles (six solo), his highest single-game total since 2007 Alamo Bowl, and added 1.5 TFLs (-4 yards) against Ohio State.
PUR DE Ryan Kerrigan: Recorded five tackles (four solo) and two TFLs (-15 yards), including his Big Ten leading 10th and 11th sacks of the season, while also forcing a fumble and registering a non-recorded sack on Michigan's potential game-tying two-point conversion with 2:10 left in the game.
WIS LB Chris Borland: Posted nine tackles (seven solo), one TFL (-3 yards) and first career interception at Indiana.

SPECIAL TEAMS:
IOWA P Ryan Donahue:
Recorded five punts for 235 yards (47.0 avg.) with three inside the 20-yard line and a long of 73 yards against Northwestern.
PSU P Jeremy Boone: Registered 10 punts for 458 yards (45.8 avg.) with one inside the 20-yard line and a long of 56 yards against Buckeyes.
PUR K Carson Wiggs: Connected on lone field goal attempt from 41 yards and all four extra points, while also converting an onside kick at Michigan.