Big Ten Weekly Football Release - Nov. 24

Penn State defensive tackle Chima Okoli carries the Big Ten conference championship trophy off of the field.

Penn State defensive tackle Chima Okoli carries the Big Ten conference championship trophy off of the field.

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Nov. 24, 2008

BIG TEN. BIG NEWS.

Ohio State and Penn State Share 2008 Big Ten Championship: For the second time in four seasons, Ohio State and Penn State ended the year tied atop the conference standings at 7-1 to share the 2008 Big Ten Championship. The Buckeyes were the first to clinch a share of the crown, defeating Michigan on Saturday to secure a fourth straight Big Ten title. Later in the day, the Nittany Lions knocked off Michigan State to secure a piece of the title. OSU and PSU produced identical 7-1 marks in 2005, before moving on to win the Fiesta and Orange Bowls, respectively.

OSU Claims Fourth Straight Title: Ohio State earned a share of its fourth straight Big Ten Championship, becoming the first team to finish first in four straight seasons since Michigan won at least a share of five consecutive championships from 1988-92. The last time the Buckeyes won at least part of four straight titles was when the program set a conference-record with six straight crowns from 1972-77. Ohio State has now won 33 Big Ten titles, which ranks second only to the Wolverines' sum of 42.

PSU Wins Second Championship in Four Years: Penn State finished first in the conference standings for the second time in the last four seasons and the third time overall. The Nittany Lions were a perfect 8-0 in conference play in 1994, their second season of Big Ten competition, on the way to a Rose Bowl triumph and an unblemished 12-0 campaign. In 2005, PSU earned a share of its second crown with a 7-1 record to end the regular season tied with Ohio State atop the standings. Penn State is the sixth program since 1990 to win at least two Big Ten titles over a four-year span. Michigan and Ohio State have accomplished that feat on multiple occasions in the last 19 seasons, along with two championships in four seasons by Iowa (2002-2004), Wisconsin (1998-1999) and Northwestern (1995-96).

Five Titles in 10 Years: Ohio State tops all Big Ten schools with five titles over the last decade, including first-place finishes in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Michigan ranks second with three championships over that time span (2000, 2003, 2004), followed by a pair of first-place finishes for Iowa (2002, 2004) and Penn State (2005, 2008) and one title for Illinois (2001), Northwestern (2000), Purdue (2000) and Wisconsin (1999). Overall, eight schools have won at least one title in the last decade.

Nittany Lions Earn BCS Bid: Penn State collected the Big Ten's automatic Bowl Championship Series (BCS) berth for the second time in the last four seasons based on the Nittany Lion's 13-6 victory at Ohio State on Oct. 25. PSU also earned the BCS automatic bid in 2005, ending the regular season tied atop the standings with OSU but winning the tie-breaker based on a victory over the Buckeyes. Penn State is one of six Big Ten schools in the 11 years of the BCS to gain automatic qualification joining Ohio State (2002, 2006, 2007), Illinois (2001), Michigan (2003, 2004), Purdue (2000), and Wisconsin (1998, 1999). Overall, the Big Ten entered the 2008 campaign with a conference-best 17 BCS berths in its first decade of existence, sending a second team to the BCS in 1998 (Ohio State), 1999 (Michigan), 2002 (Iowa), 2003 (Ohio State), 2005 (Ohio State), 2006 (Michigan) and 2007 (Illinois).

Tiller Ends Career With Win: In his final game as a head coach, Purdue's Joe Tiller ended his career in style with a 62-10 victory over Indiana. The Boilermakers' mentor improved to 87-62 in his 12 years in West Lafayette, making him the winningest coach in school history. He also built a 10-2 record against the Hoosiers and reclaimed the Old Oaken Bucket in his final game. Tiller took Purdue to 10 bowl games in his 12 seasons, after the program made only five bowl trips in its first 100-plus years of football.

Tressel Joins Prestigious Company with Fifth Title: Ohio State's Jim Tressel joined elite company, becoming just the fourth coach in 113 years of Big Ten football to collect five or more titles in his first eight years with a conference institution. Tressel earned his first Big Ten title in his second year in Columbus, guiding the Buckeyes to a perfect season and a national championship in 2002. After a two-year layoff, he has claimed at least a share of the last four conference crowns to boost his total to five Big Ten Championships. Michigan's Bo Schembechler holds the Big Ten record by finishing first in six of his first eight campaigns from 1969-76. Fellow-Wolverine Fielding Yost collected five championships from 1901-08, while Minnesota's Bernie Bierman won five titles from 1932-39.

More on the Four: Tressel also became just the fifth coach in Big Ten history to win four straight titles and the first since fellow-Buckeye Woody Hayes claimed a school-record six straight crowns from 1972-77. The other mentors to finish first in four straight seasons are the Michigan trio of Schembechler (1971-74), Harry Kipke (1930-33) and Yost (1901-04).

Paterno Nabs Third Big Ten Crown: Penn State's Joe Paterno earned his third Big Ten crown and second in the last four seasons. Paterno picked up his first conference title in just his second season in the Big Ten, leading the Nittany Lions to a perfect 12-0 overall record in 1994. He earned his second championship after finishing the 2005 season tied at 7-1 atop the standings with Ohio State, a feat he repeated this season for a third title. Paterno is the 20th head coach to collect three or more Big Ten Championships.

Penn State Joins Michigan and Ohio State in 800-Win Club: Penn State earned the 800th victory in program history on Saturday with a win over Michigan State. The Nittany Lions are the sixth school to boast 800 or more victories, including two other Big Ten programs. Michigan holds the national record with 872 triumphs all-time and is joined by Notre Dame (830 wins), Texas (830), Nebraska (815) and Ohio State (808), which joined 800-plus victory club earlier this season.

OSU Joins PSU With 10 or More Wins: Ohio State became the second Big Ten team to collect 10 or more wins this season, improving to 10-2 with a triumph over Michigan. The Buckeyes have posted at least 10 wins for the fourth straight year, the longest streak of double-digit victories  for the school since racking up 10 or more triumphs during the 1995-98 seasons. Penn State hit the 10-win plateau on Nov. 15 and added an 11th triumph on Saturday against Michigan State. The Nittany Lions are now 11-1 to crack double-digits in victories for the second time in four seasons and the sixth time since joining the conference in 1993. PSU ended the 2005 campaign with a record of 11-1 and also tallied 10 or more wins during the 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1999 seasons.

Spartans and Wildcats Target Double-Digit Wins: Michigan State and Northwestern ended the regular-season with 9-3 marks and will aim for 10th victories in their respective bowl games. The last time the Spartans won 10 or more games was when the program went 10-2 in 1999, capped by a triumph over Florida in the Citrus Bowl. Second-year head coach Mark Dantonio was the defensive secondary coach at Michigan State that season. The Wildcats' last 10-win season occurred in 1995, when NU claimed the Big Ten title with a perfect 8-0 mark and ended the year at 10-2 after a loss to USC in the Rose Bowl. The 1995 Northwestern team returned to bowl play for the first time since 1948 and were led by Nagurksi Award-winning linebacker Pat Fitzgerald, who is now the Wildcats third-year head coach.

Seven Big Ten Schools Set To Go Bowling: For the fourth straight season, at least seven Big Ten teams will play in bowl games, the longest streak of seven or more bowl berths in conference history. Penn State (11-1) secured the conference's automatic berth into the BCS and will be joined by Ohio State (10-2), Michigan State (9-3), Northwestern (9-3), Iowa (8-4), Minnesota (7-5) and Wisconsin (7-5) in postseason action. 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. 8, 2009 in Miami, Fla.

Paterno Still the One: Penn State's Joe Paterno picked up his 383rd victory on Saturday and currently holds the all-time victory record among Football Bowl Subdivision coaches. Paterno stands at 383-126-3 in his 43rd season leading the Nittany Lions while Florida State's Bobby Bowden earned his 381st win at Maryland. Paterno has now been on the sidelines for 512 career games, one of only three mentors in NCAA history to crack that barrier along with former Big Ten coach Amos Alonzo Stagg (548 games from 1890-1946 with Springfield, Chicago and Pacific) and Bowden (506 games).

Paterno Climbs to Sixth Place in Century Club: Penn State's Joe Paterno picked up his 136th triumph since joining the conference to move into a tie for sixth place on the list of 12 mentors to collect 100 or more wins while at a Big Ten school. Paterno stands at 136-59 in 15-plus seasons since 1993 to equal Minnesota's Henry Williams, who produced a record of 136-33-11 from 1900-21. The only Big Ten coaches with more victories at a conference institution are Ohio State's Woody Hayes (205-61-10), Chicago's Amos Alonzo Stagg (199-94-22), the Michigan duo of Bo Schembechler (194-48-5) and Fielding Yost (165-29-10) and Iowa's Hayden Fry (143-89-6).

Five-Million Fan March: For the fourth straight season and just the sixth time in Big Ten history, the conference surpassed the five-million mark in overall attendance with a total of 5,399,659 fans attending 77 contests this year. The Big Ten's attendance in all games ranks as the third-highest total in conference annals behind only the 2002 (5,499,439) and 2007 (5,408,019) campaigns. Conference schools averaged 70,125 fans per home contest this season, cracking the 70,000-barrier for the sixth time in the last eight seasons. The Big Ten also broke the three-million barrier in conference games only over the weekend with 3,172,365 fans attending 44 contests on the year, an average of 72,099 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).

Big Ten Equals Sellout Record: Big Ten schools produced four full houses in the final weekend of regular-season action, boosting the season total to 42 sellouts to equal the conference record set last season. Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin filled their stadiums on Saturday while Minnesota set a season-high with 64,071 patrons in its final game at the Metrodome, just 101 fans shy of a sellout. The Boilermakers packed Ross-Ade Stadium in the final game for head coach Joe Tiller, their first sellout this season. Nine Big Ten schools posted at least one full house this season, as the Buckeyes and Badgers sold out every home game.

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. Iowa's Shonn Greene topped the Big Ten in two categories with 152.9 rushing yards and 9.8 points per contest. The junior running back gave the Hawkeyes the Big Ten rushing leader for the second time in four years, after Albert Young rated first in 2005. Greene's 13 touchdowns make him the first Iowa standout to top the conference in scoring since Wilburn Hollis tied for the Big Ten lead with eight touchdowns in 1960. Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor led the Big Ten with a pass efficiency rating of 151.3, becoming the first freshman since at least 1980 to top the conference in that category. The only other freshman to lead the Big Ten in passing since 1939 was Purdue's Mark Herrmann, who ranked first in 1977 based on comparative grading. The Illinois tandem of quarterback Juice Williams and wide receiver Arrelious Benn ended the regular season atop two different categories. Williams ranked first with 319.4 yards of total offense per game while Benn led the Big Ten with 99.2 receiving yards per game. The last Illini standout to lead the conference in total offense was Kurt Kittner in 2001 while Benn becomes the first Illinois wideout to lead in receiving yardage since at least 1985. Minnesota's Eric Decker topped the Big Ten with 6.29 receptions per outing to become the first Gopher to top the conference in catches per game since Omar Douglas in 1993. On special teams, Michigan State's Aaron Bates averaged 43.0 yards per punt to lead all Big Ten players, marking the third time in the last six years a Spartans' punter rated first in the conference following Brandon Fields in 2003 and 2004.

. . . and Team Leaders: In the team statistics, Big Ten Co-Champions Ohio State and Penn State were joined by Illinois on top of two major statistical categories each. The Buckeyes led the Big Ten in scoring defense for the fourth straight season by allowing only 12.2 points per game while also topping the conference in rushing offense for the second time in three years with 205.6 yards per outing. OSU is just the second school since 1936 to rank first in points allowed per contest in four straight campaigns, a feat first accomplished by Michigan from 1969-72. The Nittany Lions limited opponents to 284.8 yards per game to lead the Big Ten in total defense for the first time since joining the conference in 1993, snapping Ohio State's three-year dominance of that category. PSU also rated first in scoring offense for the second time in four seasons with 33.9 points per outing. The Fighting Illini topped the Big Ten in the remaining offensive categories with 427.1 yards of total offense and 271.5 yards of passing offense per contest. The last time Illinois ranked first in total offense was in 1981, while the last time the program led the way in passing offense was in 2002. Among the remaining major statistical categories, Iowa topped the Big Ten in rushing defense by allowing only 97.9 yards per game while Purdue rated first in passing defense by limiting opponents to only 152.5 yards per outing. The Hawkeyes ranked first in stopping the rush for the third time in the last seven years, including 2002 and 2004. The Boilermakers led the conference in passing defense for the first time since 1961.

OTHER TOP PERFORMERS

OFFENSE:
IOWA RB Shonn Greene:
Registered 144 yards on 22 attempts (6.5 avg.) and two TDs at Minnesota to boost his season total to a school-record 1,729 yards.
NU QB C.J. Bachér: Totaled 264 yards of offense, completing 22-of-33 passes (66.7 pct.) for 230 yards and two TDs and adding 34 rushing yards.
WIS RB John Clay: Average 9.7 yards per carry for 107 yards on 11 carries with two TDs, including the game-winner in OT against Cal Poly.

DEFENSE:
IND LB Tyler Replogle:
Racked up a career-high 19 tackles (nine solo), including a three-yard sack.
IOWA CB Amare Spievey: Returned an interception 57 yards for a TD and added four tackles (all solo) to help Iowa shutout Minnesota.
OSU LB James Laurinaitis: Collected 12 tackles (four solo) and a four-yard sack against Michigan.
PSU LB Tyrell Sales: Registered six tackles (three solo) and 1.5 TFLs (-4 yards) to help hold Michigan State to only 35 rushing yards.
PUR S Torri Williams: Recorded seven tackles (all solo) with an interception and forced fumble.
WIS S Aubrey Pleasant: Posted a career-high 12 tackles (eight solo) against Cal Poly.

SPECIAL TEAMS:
NU PR Brendan Smith:
Returned two punts for 58 yards (29.0 avg.), including a 51-yard sprint in the fourth quarter to set up a TD and a 24-10 lead.
PSU P Jeremy Boone: Recorded three punts for 140 yards (46.7 avg.), with a long of 50 yards and two placed inside the 20-yard line against MSU.
WIS K Philip Welch: Connected on all four extra points, including the game-winner in OT vs. Cal Poly.