Nov. 19, 2007
Ohio State Claims Third Straight Big Ten Championship: Ohio State became the first conference team in more than a decade to claim three straight titles by picking up a road win over Michigan to earn the 2007 Big Ten Championship and the conference's automatic berth into the Bowl Championship Series. The Buckeyes clinched three consecutive crowns for the first time since posting six straight titles from 1972-77. OSU is also the first conference program to accomplish the feat since the Wolverines won at least a share of five consecutive championships from 1988-92. Ohio State claimed back-to-back outright titles for the first time since the 1954 and 1955 campaigns, the first conference school to win two straight outright crowns since Michigan in 1991 and 1992. OSU now has 32 Big Ten Championships, which ranks second only to the 42 titles earned by the Wolverines. The Buckeyes have won four conference titles in head coach Jim Tressel's seven years at the helm and five crowns in the last decade, splitting the title in 1998, 2002 and 2005. Michigan ranks second to Ohio State with four championships in the last 10 years (1998, 2000, 2003, 2004), followed by a pair of first-place finishes for Iowa (2002, 2004) and Wisconsin (1998, 1999) and one title for Northwestern (2000).
Buckeyes Earn BCS Bid: Ohio State collected the Big Ten's automatic Bowl Championship Series (BCS) berth for the second straight year and the third time since the system's inception in 1998. The Buckeyes also earned the automatic bid in 2002 and 2006 while posting perfect regular-season marks, winning the national championship with an undefeated record in 2002. OSU also nabbed an at-large spot in a BCS game in 1998, 2003 and 2005. OSU is one of six Big Ten schools in the 10 years of the BCS to gain automatic qualification joining Illinois (2001), Michigan (2003, 2004), Penn State (2005), Purdue (2000), and Wisconsin (1998, 1999). Overall, the Big Ten entered the 2007 campaign with a conference-best 15 BCS berths in its first nine years of existence, sending a second team to the BCS in 1998 (Ohio State), 1999 (Michigan), 2002 (Iowa), 2003 (Ohio State), 2005 (Ohio State) and 2006 (Michigan). The Big Ten ranks second among all conferences with eight BCS victories and the Buckeyes are 4-1 in BCS games, tied with Southern California for the most BCS wins of any team in the country.
Tressel Joins Rare Coaching Fraternity: After claiming the 2007 Big Ten Championship, Ohio State's Jim Tressel became the first Buckeyes mentor and just the seventh coach in conference annals to produce four titles in their first seven years on campus. The only other Big Ten head coaches to win at least four Big Ten titles in their first seven years include Illinois' Bob Zuppke (four from 1913-19), Michigan's Harry Kipke (four from 1929-35), Bo Schembechler (five from 1969-75) and Fielding Yost (five from 1901-07) and Minnesota's Bernie Bierman (five from 1932-38) and Henry Williams (four from 1900-06). Tressel is also the first coach to lead a team to three straight Big Ten titles since Michigan's Gary Moeller accomplished the feat in his first three seasons from 1990-92. He is only the second Buckeyes' mentor to accomplish the feat along with the legendary Woody Hayes, who produced three straight crowns from 1968-70 before winning at least a share of six straight titles from 1972-77. Tressel rates second among active conference coaches with four Big Ten Championships behind only Michigan's Lloyd Carr, who has claimed five titles in his 13 years in Ann Arbor.
Record-Setting 10 Teams Hoping for Bowl Berths: With the regular season now complete, an unprecedented 10 of the 11 conference programs currently stand at .500 or better and have already secured bowl-eligibility. The Big Ten's record number of bowl-eligible teams include Ohio State at 11-1, Illinois and Wisconsin at 9-3, Michigan and Penn State at 8-4, Indiana, Michigan State and Purdue at 7-5 and Iowa and Northwestern at 6-6. The Big Ten has never qualified 10 different teams for postseason action and has never produced 10 teams with records of .500 or better. The conference has sent seven teams to bowl games in each of the last two years and set a Big Ten record with eight bowl teams during the 2003 campaign. The conference has also ended a season with nine teams at or above .500 on four occasions -- 1904, 1903, 1901 and 1900. The last season that eight Big Ten teams finished at .500 or better was in 1999, the first time that feat had been accomplished since the 1960 campaign. 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 Motor City 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, 2008 in New Orleans, La.
Big Ten Sets Record with Eight Teams Boasting Seven or More Wins: For the first time in Big Ten history, eight different conference teams have produced seven or more victories. The conference has boasted seven schools with seven or more victories on multiple occasions, most recently in 2005 when seven teams reached that plateau after bowl competition. The Big Ten leads all conferences with eight programs at or above the seven-win mark this season, while the ACC and SEC rank second with seven teams with seven or more victories.
Michigan's Carr Announces Retirement: Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr announced his retirement from coaching after 28 seasons with the Wolverine program. Carr is second to only Bennie Oosterbaan (31 years; 20 years as an assistant and 11 years as head coach) in years of service in Ann Arbor. He will coach his 162nd and final game as head coach in the Wolverines' upcoming bowl game and will stay on with the Michigan athletic department as an associate athletics director. As head coach, Carr has compiled a 121-40 overall record and is currently sixth among all coaches in Big Ten history with a .752 winning percentage, trailing only Fielding Yost (.833) and Bo Schembechler (.796) of Michigan, Henry Williams (.786) of Minnesota, Fritz Crisler (.769) of both Minnesota and Michigan and Woody Hayes (.761) of Ohio State. Carr has led the Wolverines to six 10-win seasons and trails only Yost (165-29-10) and Schembechler (194-48-5) in career victories at Michigan. Carr is just the eighth coach in conference history to claim five or more championships. He has been a part of 13 Big Ten Championship teams during his tenure, eight as an assistant and five as head coach (1997, 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2004). Carr led the Wolverines to the 1997 national championship, the school's first title in 49 years, with a 21-16 victory over Washington State in the 1998 Rose Bowl.
Five Million Fan March: For the third straight season and just the fifth time in Big Ten history, the conference surpassed the five million mark in overall attendance with a total of 5,408,019 fans attending 76 contests this year. The Big Ten's attendance in all games ranks as the second-highest total in conference annals behind only the 2002 campaign, when 5,499,439 patrons passed through the turnstiles. Conference schools averaged 71,158 fans per home contest this season, the second-highest average trailing only the 2005 season (72,566 per game). The Big Ten also broke the three-million barrier in conference games only over the weekend with 3,143,908 fans attending 44 contests on the year, an average of 71,452 patrons per outing -- the second-highest total and average attendance numbers in Big Ten history behind only the 2005 numbers (3,175,427 total; 72,169 average). Michigan packed 111,941 fans into Michigan Stadium on Saturday, the second-best attendance in school history behind only the 112,118 patrons who attended the 2003 Ohio State matchup. The Wolverines also set an NCAA record for single-season attendance with 882,065 fans showing up for eight home outings this year.
Most Packed Houses Ever: After producing two more full houses in the final weekend of regular-season action, the Big Ten set a new conference record with 41 sellouts this season. Big Ten schools ended the year with 41 packed houses in 76 games, breaking the previous high of 39 sellouts established in 2004. Iowa and Michigan filled their stadiums on Saturday and sold out every home game during the 2007 campaign, a feat also accomplished by Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin. Overall, eight of the conference's 11 schools produced at least one sellout this season.
Special Seasons Across the Big Ten: In addition to Ohio State winning the Big Ten Championship and a record 10 conference teams becoming bowl-eligible, a number of Big Ten programs have produced impressive seasons. Below is a breakdown of accomplishments from the Big Ten's eight schools with seven or more triumphs during the 2007 campaign:
ILLINOIS: The Fighting Illini have produced nine victories in a season for just the second time in the last 18 years. Illinois' 9-3 record marks the most wins for Illinois since earning 10 triumphs on the way to the 2001 Big Ten title. The Illini won only eight total games in the previous four seasons combined.
INDIANA: The Hoosiers collected seven wins in a season for the first time since posting an 8-4 mark in 1993, which marks the last bowl trip for Indiana.
MICHIGAN: For the 22nd time in the last 23 seasons, the Wolverines reached the eight-win plateau and also produced at least six Big Ten triumphs for the 10th time in the last 11 years.
MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans cracked the seven-win barrier for the second time in the last eight seasons and are seeking their first bowl berth since racking up eight wins in 2003 on the way to the Alamo Bowl.
OHIO STATE: The Buckeyes compiled double-digit wins for the third straight season and the fifth time in the last six years. The last time OSU racked up three or more consecutive campaigns with 10 or more wins was a four-year stretch from 1995-98.
PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions hit the eight-victory mark for the third straight season, the longest streak of success since posting seven consecutive campaigns with eight or more triumphs from 1993-99.
PURDUE: The Boilermakers collected at least seven wins for the second straight year and the fifth time in the last six seasons.
WISCONSIN: The Badgers won at least nine games for the fourth year in a row, the longest streak in school history.
Record Non-Conference Success: With the regular season now complete, the Big Ten established a modern era record with 35 non-conference wins prior to bowl play. Big Ten programs produced a record of 35-9 in non-conference outings. The previous conference record for out-of-conference wins was 33 triumphs set prior to postseason play last season (33-12) and in 2002 (33-13). The 2006 and 2002 campaigns are two of only three other 12-game seasons in conference annals (30-14 in 2003). The Big Ten's all-time record for non-conference triumphs occurred when the conference built a 57-3-1 out-of-conference mark in 1905, the sixth straight year with 40 or more non-conference triumphs.
Big Ten Individual Leaders . . . : With the Big Ten season now complete, the conference crowned new statistical champions for conference games only in all categories appearing in the records book. Michigan State and Ohio State led the way with a pair of statistical champions. For the Spartans, wide receiver Devin Thomas topped the Big Ten with 7.38 receptions per game while running back Jehuu Caulcrick led the conference with 11.2 points per outing. Thomas hauled in 7.38 passes per game to become the first MSU wideout to rank first in catches per contests since 1978, when Kirk Gibson stood atop the charts with 3.8 receptions per game. Caulcrick tallied 15 touchdowns in eight conference games for an average of 11.2 points per contest. He is the first Spartan to lead the Big Ten in scoring since kicker Dave Rayner rated first with 10.4 points per outing in 2004 and the first non-kicker from MSU to lead the conference in points since running back Sedrick Irvin topped all players with 11.3 points per game in 1996. For the Buckeyes, running back Chris Wells produced a conference-best 140.2 rushing yards per outing while quarterback Todd Boeckman ranked first with a 143.0 pass efficiency rating in Big Ten games only. Wells is the first OSU standout to lead the conference in rushing since Keith Byars topped the charts in back-to-back seasons from 1983-84. Ohio State produced the Big Ten's most efficient passer for the third straight year after Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith stood atop the charts at the end of the 2005 and 2006 campaigns. Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bachér led the Big Ten with 302.2 yards of total offense per contest, the second Wildcat signal caller to rank first in the last three years along with Brett Basanez, who appeared first in 2005. Michigan wide receiver Mario Manningham topped the conference with 109.8 receiving yards per game, the first Wolverine to rate first in that category since Braylon Edwards in 2004. Minnesota punter Justin Kucek averaged a conference-high 43.6 yards per punt to become the first Gopher to lead the way in punting since Adam Kelly in 1984.
. . . and Team Leaders: In the team statistics, Big Ten Champion Ohio State dominated the defensive side of the ball by leading the conference in all four major statistical categories -- total, scoring, rushing and passing defense. The Buckeyes topped the Big Ten by allowing only 236.1 total yards, 12.9 points, 66.8 rushing yards and 169.4 passing yards per outing this season. OSU has now led the conference in all four major defensive categories twice in the last three years after accomplishing the feat in 2005. Prior to the last three seasons, the last Big Ten team to rank first in all four areas was Michigan in 2001. Ohio State has now led the Big Ten in scoring defense for three straight years and the sixth time in the last eight seasons. OSU also continued its dominance in the category of total defense, leading the way for a third straight season and a sixth time in the last eight campaigns. By only allowing 236.1 yards of total offense per game, the Buckeyes boasted the stingiest defense since the 1997 Michigan team limited offenses to 193.0 yards per contest on the way to an undefeated season and the national championship. OSU also ranked first in rushing and passing defense for the second time in the last three seasons. On the offensive side of the ball, Michigan State led the Big Ten with 34.8 points and 431.1 yards of total offense per game this season. The last time the Spartans topped the conference in both categories was following the 2004 campaign. On the ground, Illinois ranked first with 262.0 rushing yards per game to lead the Big Ten in that category for the first time since 1953. Through the air, Northwestern stood atop the Big Ten charts with 310.6 passing yards per contest to rank first for the second time in three seasons.
Reigning Nagurski Trophy Winner Laurinaitis Named Finalist for 2007 Honor: Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis was tabbed as one of five finalists for the 2007 Bronko Nagurski Trophy and will look to join current Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald as only the second player in history to claim back-to-back awards. The Nagurski Trophy honors the nation's outstanding defensive player and has been earned by a Big Ten standout on four occasions, including Fitzgerald in 1995 and 1996 and Michigan's Charles Woodson in 1997. Laurinaitis was also named a finalist for the Butkus Award, which is given to the country's top linebacker.
Big Ten Standouts Named Semifinalists for Walter Camp Player of the Year, Walker and Guy Awards: Five more Big Ten student-athletes were named semifinalists for national awards last week, including two honorees each for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and the Doak Walker Award and one selection for the Ray Guy Award. Linebackers James Laurinaitis of Ohio State and Dan Connor of Penn State were two of five defensive players among the 15 semifinalists for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award. The Big Ten has claimed 18 Walter Camp Player of the Year awards, including last year's winner -- the Buckeyes' Troy Smith. Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall and Michigan's Mike Hart were tabbed as semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award, which honors the nation's top running back. Four Big Ten rushers have earned the Walker Award, most recently when the Wolverines' Chris Perry was honored in 2003. OSU's A.J. Trapasso was named a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, which is given to the country's top punter. The Big Ten has collected three Guy Awards, most recently when the Buckeyes' B.J. Sander claimed the honor in 2003.
OTHER TOP PERFORMERS LAST WEEK
ILL QB Juice Williams: Posted a career-best 356 yards in total offense, completing 15-of-23 passes (65.2 pct.) for 220 yards and a TD and gaining 136 yards on 23 carries (5.9 avg.) with two TDs in victory over Northwestern.
IND QB Kellen Lewis: Completed 23-of-39 passes (59.0 pct.) for 216 yards and a TD and added two rushing TDs vs. Purdue; Set school single-season records for passing yards, completions, TDs and total offense to lead IU to seven wins.
MSU WR Devin Thomas: Seven receptions for 139 yards (19.9 avg.) and a career-best three TDs, equaling the school's single-game record, in win over Penn State; Set MSU single-season record with 75 receptions.
NU QB C.J. Bachér: Completed 29-of-49 passes (59.2 pct.) for 310 yards and two TDs at Illinois to set school's single-season record in passing yards and completions.
PSU RB Rodney Kinlaw: 125 yards on 28 carries (4.5 avg.) and two TDs against Michigan State.
IND DE Greg Middleton: Four tackles (two solo) and 2.5 sacks (-19 yards) against Purdue to set school single-season record with 16 sacks on the year.
MSU LB Kaleb Thornhill: Season-high nine tackles (four solo) and a TFL (-4 yards) in final game at Spartan Stadium.
NU LB Adam Kadela: Career-high 17 tackles (five solo) and a TFL (-2 yards) against the Illini.
PSU LB Sean Lee: 10 tackles (two solo), 1.5 TFLs (-3 yards) and an interception against the Spartans.
WIS DE Matt Shaughnessy: Career-high nine tackles (seven solo) and 2.5 TFLs (-6 yards) in victory at Minnesota.
ILL K Jason Reda: Two-of-two on field goals (27, 49) and five PATs vs. NU to equal school record for career points.
MSU P Aaron Bates: Five punts for 199 yards (39.8 avg.), including three inside the 20 versus Penn State.
NU P Stefan Demos: Five punts for 245 yards (49.0 avg.), with three inside the 20-yard line at Illinois.
PSU K Kevin Kelly: Connected on only field goal attempt (21) and scored first career TD on a five-yard run off a fake field goal at MSU, PSU's first TD on a fake field goal since 1995.
WIS KR/PR David Gilreath: True freshman totaled 226 total return yards in victory at Minnesota, including a career-high 107 yards on two punt returns (53.5 avg.) and 119 yards on six kickoffs (19.8 avg.).