Nov. 14, 2011
Michigan State, Penn State Hope to Clinch Share of Division Championships: With identical 5-1 conference marks, Michigan State and Penn State could each clinch at least a share of their respective division championship and berths in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday. With a victory against Indiana this weekend, the Spartans will clinch at least a share of the Legends Division championship. A Spartan win, coupled with a Nebraska loss this weekend would give Michigan State a berth in the championship game. With a win against Ohio State, Penn State will earn a share of the Leaders Division championship and can also earn a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game with their win combined with a Wisconsin loss this weekend.
Legends Division Breakdown: With two weeks to play, four conference teams remain eligible in the race for the Legends Division title. Tied for second place in the division at 4-2 in conference play, Michigan and Nebraska each trail Michigan State by one game in the standings, while Iowa remains alive in the race to share the division crown. Much will be at stake in Ann Arbor Saturday when Michigan and Nebraska meet. A win by either team would still keep them in the running for a share of the division title. However, a Michigan win, coupled with a Michigan State win, would make the Spartans the Legends Division representative in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game, as Michigan State owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Wolverines.
Leaders Division Breakdown: Four teams remain in the running for a piece of the Leaders Division championship with Penn State atop the standings at 5-1. Following the Nittany Lions first loss of the conference season, Wisconsin gained a game in the standings and sits in second overall at 4-2. Ohio State and Purdue are tied for third in the standings at 3-3, and maintain hopes of sharing the division crown. Penn State closes the season with road contests at Ohio State and Wisconsin, giving the Buckeyes and Badgers a chance to move up in the standings and earn an edge in the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Big Ten One of Three Conferences With Five or More BCS Top 25 Teams: Five Big Ten teams were ranked among the top 25 in the latest Bowl Championship Series (BCS) standings. The Big Ten is one of only three conferences with five or more teams rated among the top 25 in the latest BCS poll. Michigan State is the Big Ten's highest-rated school at No. 15 in the latest rankings, followed by No. 16 Nebraska, No. 17 Wisconsin, No. 18 Michigan and No. 21 Penn State.
Record Breaking Ball Game: Wisconsin running back Montee Ball scored three touchdowns on Saturday in Wisconsin's trophy game win over Minnesota, giving him the Big Ten single-season record for total touchdowns in a season with 27. Entering the game with 24 touchdowns and tied for sixth on the single-season list, Ball ran for two scores and caught another to surpass the old mark of 26, set by Ohio State's Pete Johnson (1975), Indiana's Anthony Johnson (1988) and Penn State's Ki-Jana Carter (1994). Averaging 16.4 points per game, Ball leads the country in scoring and ranks among the top 25 in rushing yards per game and all-purpose yards per game.
Divisional Matchups: Four key divisional matchups highlight the conference schedule this week, two Legends Division and two Leaders Division contests, that will help shape each division race. In the Legends Division, Michigan hosts Nebraska in a battle of second-place teams. With both squads holding 4-2 conference marks and one game behind Michigan State, the winner would still have an opportunity to share the division crown. Also, Northwestern seeks bowl-eligibility when it hosts Minnesota. Penn State stands atop the Leaders Division at 5-1, but travels to Ohio State this week as the Nittany Lions eye at least a share of the division title. Wisconsin, which stands second in the standings at 4-2, heads to Illinois as it looks to keep pace with Penn State. Wins by both Penn State and Wisconsin would set up a winner take all scenario in the final week of the regular season when the Badgers host the Nittany Lions on Nov. 26. 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. 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.
Just a Win Away: Eight Big Ten squads have secured their bowl eligibility already this season, the most of any conference in the nation, but two more teams are within one game of reaching the mark. With 5-5 marks, Northwestern and Purdue need one win in their final two games to secure bowl eligibility. Northwestern hosts Minnesota and Michigan State to end the season, while Purdue welcomes Iowa before concluding the regular season at Indiana. The two teams look to join Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin to tie the conference record of 10 bowl-eligible squads set in 2007.
More Than a Win at Stake: In a conference with 16 traditional rivalry trophies, another traveling keepsake will be up for grabs this week when Michigan State hosts Indiana. It will be the 54th time the teams will battle for the Old Brass Spittoon, which was first awarded in 1950. The Spartans hold the overall edge in the series, 40-15-2, and with the Old Brass Spittoon at stake, 40-12-1.
Making the Cut...: Numerous Big Ten standouts remain in the running for some of the top individual honors in college football, as semifinalists and finalists for national honors have been announced over the last few weeks. Defensively, seven conference standouts have been selected as semifinalists or finalists for multiple awards. Nebraska's Lavonte David has been named a semifinalist for three awards (Bednarik, Butkus and Lott Trophy) and is joined on the Bednarik Award list by Illinois' Whitney Mercilus, Michigan State's Jerel Worthy and Penn State's Devon Still. Iowa's Tyler Nielsen and Wisconsin's Mike Taylor have been named Butkus Award semifinalists, while John Simon was named a semifinalist for the Lott Trophy. Offensively, Wisconsin's Russell Wilson was named a semifinalist for the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien Awards, and is joined on the Davey O'Brien list by Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase, Michigan's Denard Robinson and Michigan State's Kirk Cousins. Nebraska's Rex Burkhead and Wisconsin's Montee Ball are semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award, while Iowa's Mike Meyer, Nebraska's Brett Maher and Penn State's Anthony Fera are semifinalists for the Groza Award.
...And Making the Grade: Big Ten student-athletes continue to excel both on the field and in the classroom, as 22 conference standouts were named to the 2011 Capital One Academic All-District first teams. The conference's honorees are Indiana's Greg Heban and Adam Replogle, Iowa's Steve Bigach, Tyler Nielsen and James Vandenberg, Michigan's Will Heininger, Michigan State's Max Bullough, Kirk Cousins, Joel Foreman and Mike Sadler, Nebraska's Rex Burkhead, Austin Cassidy, Ben Cotton, Sean Fisher and Spencer Long, Northwestern's Doug Bartels, Jacob Schmidt, Patrick Ward and Kevin Watt, Penn State's John Urschel and Purdue's Joe Holland and Crosby Wright. 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 December 8.
The Nation's Best Fans: For the seventh straight season and the ninth time overall, the Big Ten crossed the five-million mark in total attendance after welcoming more 358,000 fans to conference stadiums last week. Overall this season, conference stadiums have welcomed more than 5.2 million fans, and over 2.6 million in seven weeks of Big Ten play. The conference is still on pace to establish the average attendance record for conference games only (72,460), ahead of last year's all-time best average of 72,193 patrons per game. In overall games, the conference's average of 72,339 is just off the pace of the 2005 record average of 72,566. This week, the conference will surpass the single-season record for total attendance, which was set in 2009 when more than 5.5 million fans flocked to Big Ten stadiums.
Game Tracker: Times and television designations have been set for Nov. 25 and 26.
Iowa at Nebraska, Noon ET, ABC
Michigan State at Northwestern, Noon ET, BTN
Ohio State at Michigan, Noon ET, ESPN or ABC
Penn State at Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN or ABC
Illinois at Minnesota, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
Purdue at Indiana, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN