Big Ten Weekly Football Release - Nov. 22
Nov. 22, 2010
And Then There Were Three: With just one weekend of Big Ten play remaining, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin remain alive in the chase to win the 2010 Big Ten Championship. All three teams improved to 6-1 in conference action last weekend to set up a three-team race for the title. The Spartans rallied from a 28-13 fourth-quarter deficit against Purdue by scoring three touchdowns in the final stanza, the last of which was set up by a blocked punt leading to a short touchdown run with less than five minutes remaining for a 35-31 win. The Buckeyes trailed 17-10 to start the fourth quarter at nationally ranked Iowa but tallied a field goal and then drove 76 yards in 12 plays, capped by a short scoring run with 1:47 left for the 20-17 victory. The Badgers jumped out to a 24-0 lead at Michigan before trading scores in the second half en route to a 48-28 triumph.
One Last Title Push: The 2010 Big Ten title race will conclude on Saturday, beginning at Noon ET when Ohio State hosts Michigan and Michigan State plays at Penn State. Wisconsin will take the field at 2:30 p.m. CT against Northwestern. The Buckeyes have won at least a share of the last five Big Ten Championships and are looking to match the conference record with a sixth straight crown, equaling the feat first accomplished by OSU from 1972-77. The Spartans are aiming for their first Big Ten title since 1990, while the Badgers are seeking their first conference championship since 1999.
A History of Sharing: If multiple Big Ten teams end the year atop the conference standings, each of those teams will earn a share of the Big Ten Championship. The Big Ten has featured multiple champions in five of the last 10 seasons, including Ohio State and Penn State sharing first place in 2008 and 2005 with identical 7-1 marks. Iowa and Michigan split the title in 2004 with 7-1 records, while the Hawkeyes and Buckeyes shared the championship in 2002 after producing unblemished 8-0 conference slates. The last three-way tie for the Big Ten Championship occurred in 2000, when Michigan, Northwestern and Purdue each finished 6-2 atop the standings.
Breaking Down the Top Three: Among the three teams currently tied for first in the Big Ten standings, Wisconsin leads the conference with 40.9 points per contest (seventh in nation), while also topping the group and ranking second in the conference with 239.9 rushing yards per outing (12th in nation). All three programs appear among the conference's top four in total offense, with Ohio State ranking second with 446.2 yards per game (18th in nation). On defense, the Buckeyes lead the Big Ten in all four major categories, allowing only 13.9 points (fifth in nation), 241.5 yards of total offense (third in nation), 86.4 rushing yards (third in nation) and 155.1 passing yards (fifth in nation) per contest. The Spartans and Badgers both join OSU among the top four in the conference in scoring, total and rushing defense.
Big Ten Championship Coaches: While Michigan State's Mark Dantonio and Wisconsin's Bret Bielema are targeting their first Big Ten Championships as a coach, Ohio State's Jim Tressel is looking to claim the seventh title in his first 10 seasons on the sideline. Only two other head coaches have earned seven or more titles in their first decade with a Big Ten institution. Michigan's Bo Schembechler holds the Big Ten record by finishing first in eight of his first 10 campaigns from 1969-78, while Minnesota's Bernie Bierman won seven titles from 1932-41. Tressel could also become just the second coach to win at least a share of six straight Big Ten Championships, as the Buckeyes' Woody Hayes earned six straight crowns from 1972-77. Only seven Big Ten coaches have claimed seven or more conference titles, a group that includes Schembechler (13 titles), Hayes (13), Michigan's Fielding Yost (10), Minnesota's Henry Williams (8) and Bierman (7), Chicago's Amos Alonzo Stagg (7) and Illinois' Bob Zuppke (7).
Big Ten's BCS Automatic Qualifier: If a first-place tie occurs, the conference's automatic representative to the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) will be determined by the conference tiebreaker, which appears on page nine of this release. Below is a breakdown of the potential tiebreakers:
Spartans, Buckeyes and Badgers Hit 10-Win Plateau: Last weekend, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin earned their 10th victories of the season to give the conference at least three teams with double-digit wins for the second straight year and the eighth time in the last 13 campaigns. The Buckeyes became the first team in Big Ten history to record six straight years of 10 or more triumphs, breaking a record that had stood for more than a century after Michigan posted five consecutive seasons with 10-plus wins from 1901-05. The Spartans hit the 10-win mark for the first time since going 10-2 in 1999 and just the third time in program history, including a 10-1 record in 1965. The Badgers reached the 10-win plateau for the second straight year after going 10-3 last season, marking the program's first back-to-back campaigns with double-digit wins since 2005 and 2006.
Aiming for 11: After becoming the first conference among the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC to produce three teams with 11 or more wins in 2006, the Big Ten duplicated that accomplishment in 2009 and is looking to achieve the feat again this season. Iowa, Ohio State and Penn State all ended last season with identical 11-2 records and in 2006, OSU and Wisconsin ended the year at 12-1 while Michigan posted an 11-2 mark. The Big Ten has produced two teams with 11 or more wins on four other occasions, including 2002, 1998, 1996 and 1903. The only other conference to boast three schools with 11 or more wins in a single season is the Big 12, which accomplished the feat in 2007 and 2008.
Eight Big Ten Teams Earn Bowl Eligibility: With a victory over Northwestern at Wrigley Field last weekend, Illinois earned its sixth win to become the Big Ten's eighth bowl-eligible team this season. The Illini are now 6-5 on the year and wrap up the regular season by playing at Fresno State on Dec. 3. The Big Ten's bowl-eligible group includes Michigan State (10-1), Ohio State (10-1), Wisconsin (10-1), Iowa (7-4), Michigan (7-4), Northwestern (7-4), Penn State (7-4) and Illinois (6-5). The Big Ten has eight bowl tie-ins for the first time in conference history - the Rose Bowl Game/Bowl Championship Series (BCS) game, Capital One, Outback, Gator, Insight, Texas, TicketCity and Little Caesars Pizza Bowls. If the Big Ten champion (or co-champion) is ranked No. 1 or 2 in the final BCS rankings, that team will play in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 10, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz.
Five-Million Fan March: With sellouts in three of five games last weekend, the Big Ten surpassed the five-million mark in overall attendance for the sixth straight season and just the eighth time in conference history. With five home contests still remaining, a total of 5,090,931 fans have attended 71 contests this year for an average of 71,703 patrons per outing. The Big Ten's attendance in all games already ranks as the seventh-highest total in conference history, while the average per game rates third all-time behind only the 2005 (72,566) and 2009 (71,769) seasons. Last weekend featured packed houses for Iowa and Michigan, along with a sellout at Wrigley Field for the Illinois-Northwestern game.
Big Ten Record Breakers: Big Ten players continued their attack on the records book last weekend, as Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson shattered the NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback and Wisconsin signal caller Scott Tolzien moved ahead of Northwestern's Dan Persa for the Big Ten single-season mark for completion percentage. Robinson ran for 121 yards against the Badgers to boost his season total to 1,538 rushing yards, breaking the previous NCAA record of 1,494 rushing yards set by Air Force's Beau Morgan in 1996. Robinson set the Big Ten record for rushing yards by a quarterback earlier this season, surpassing the previous conference mark of 1,270 rushing yards by Indiana's Antwaan Randle El in 2000. Robinson is just 255 yards away from cracking the Big Ten's top 10 for single-season rushing yards for all players. Wisconsin's Tolzien completed 14 of 15 passes against the Wolverines to boost his completion percentage to 73.9 percent on the year, which would mark a new Big Ten record. Northwestern's Persa suffered a season-ending injury at the end of the Iowa game on Nov. 13 to end his junior campaign with a completion percentage of 73.4 percent. The previous Big Ten single-season record for completion percentage was 67.8 percent set by Wisconsin's Darrell Bevell in 1993.
Trophy Games Abound in Final Weekend: Three of the Big Ten's 15 traditional trophies will be on the line in the final weekend of regular-season play. Below is a breakdown of this week's trophy games:
OTHER TOP PERFORMERS - NOV. 20