I wouldn’t necessarily have thought this going into the season, but the game that excites me the most on the Big Ten slate this weekend is Illinois’ game with Arizona State. Obviously, Ohio State–Miami and Michigan State–Notre Dame are generating more national buzz. But Gerry, Howard and I thought the Illini were a legitimate contender in the Leaders Division when we watched them in the pre-season and this is our first opportunity to see if we’re right.
The thing that has me most excited about the Illini is their offensive balance. They are very difficult to defend since they can beat teams in so many different ways, and the numbers bear that out.
7: The Illini have now rushed for at least 200 yards in 7 straight games dating back to last season. That is the second longest streak nationally behind only Georgia Tech, which has hit that mark in 15 consecutive games.
On top of that, Illinois has become incredibly efficient in the passing game – and they’ll face an opponent on Saturday that has had similar success.
15:1/10:1: Since Oct. 23 of last year, Illinois’ Nate Scheelhaase has a 15:1 TD-to-Interception Ratio. That is the best in the nation in that span among QBs with at least 150 pass attempts. Interestingly, Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler is second at 10:1.
Scheelhasse can also do a lot of damage with his feet, and he’s not alone in a conference that features a number of impressive dual threat quarterbacks.
110/1999: Minnesota’s Marquies Gray rushed for 110 yards last week in the Gophers’ loss to New Mexico State. It was the most yards a Gopher QB has gained on the ground since Billy Cockerham went for 122 against Iowa in 1999.
When it comes to mobile quarterbacks, though, there are few nationally that can hurt teams the Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez and Michigan’s Denard Robinson hurt teams.
7/10: Martinez rushed for 166 yards in the Huskers’ win over Fresno State. He now has 7 career games with 100 or more rushing yards, that is second in the nation among quarterbacks behind only Robinson’s 10.
The flip side, of course, is that, after an entire off-season spent figuring out how to get someone other than Denard involved in the run game, Wolverines’ running backs totaled 10 yards on the ground against Notre Dame.
Michigan is 2-0, though, for the third straight year – the first time they’ve had such a streak since 1995-97. That’s a while, but it’s nothing compared to the drought Northwestern has broken.
1896-1905: The Wildcats have won their first two games for the fifth straight season. That’s the longest such streak since they began 2-0 for 10 years in a row between 1896 and 1905.
One explanation for the ‘Cats’ early success is their avoidance of giveaways.
1 in 2, 11 in 3: NU has turned the ball over just 1 time in its first 2 games. It’s a dramatic improvement from the 11 turnovers they had in their 3 games without Dan Persa at the end of last year. In that span Northwestern went 0-3.
While that’s impressive, it’s nothing compared to the run Wisconsin is on.
4.5: The Badgers have gone a remarkable 4.5 straight games without a turnover. That is the longest active streak in the nation.
Speaking of impressive runs, here’s a good number from Ohio State as the Bucks head into their game with Miami.
90: OSU has gone 90 straight pass attempts without allowing a sack. Only UAB and Oklahoma have longer such streaks nationally.
Indiana also has some numbers to boast about in the passing game:
3,889: The Hoosiers have thrown for 3,889 yards since the beginning of last season. That’s the most in the Big Ten in that span.
On Saturday, they’ll face an FCS team that’s had a lot of success stopping the pass – South Carolina State.
20: The Bulldogs have gone 20 straight games without allowing an opposing QB to throw for 250 yards. By means of comparison, Indiana has had 12 250- yard passing days in its last 20 games.
Truth be told, IU should have its way with South Carolina State. And the winless Hoosiers aren’t the only team that’s relieved to see a lower-division foe on its schedule this week. Purdue faces an FCS opponent as well in Southeast Missouri State, and the Boilers hope they can cure what has ailed them against the Redhawks – namely offense.
Purdue still hasn’t scored more than 31 points in a game after failing to reach that mark even once last year. This after they surpassed that total at least four times in each of the prior six seasons. There is hope this week, though.
47.2: Since 2002, the Boilers are averaging 47.2 points per game against FCS foes. That’s the second most in the Big Ten in that span behind only Penn State, which has put up 48 per game.
That Nittany Lions team has also struggled to put the ball in the end zone.
5 in 15, 5 in 43: The Nittany Lions’ 11 point output against Alabama made it 5 times in their last 15 games that they had failed to reach 15 points. Prior to that, they had failed to reach 15 just 5 times in their prior 43 outings.
The problem for Iowa last week wasn’t scoring points, it was keeping Iowa State from scoring.
41: Yes, triple overtime was obviously a huge part of this – but the 41 points the Hawks scored were their most ever in a loss.
The narrow three-point defeat, an all too familiar result for Kirk Ferentz’s team.
12, 43: Iowa’s last 12 losses have come by a grand total of 43 points. That is fewer than four points per loss.
While Iowa’s defense has struggled, Michigan State’s has flourished. The Spartans have allowed just six points in their first two games combined, fewest to start a season since they gave up a total of three in wins over UCLA and Penn State to kick off 1965.
But the stinginess on the scoreboard is nothing compared to the stinginess on the stat sheet.
1/1944: Florida Atlantic managed just 1 first down against the Spartans last week. That was the fewest for any FBS team in a game since at least 1996, which is as far as the searchable databases go back. Oklahoma did hold FCS Chattanooga to one in 2008. It was the fewest first downs the Spartans had given up since allowing just one in an 8-0 win over Maryland in 1944.
Speaking of the Spartans, former MSU QB Tony Banks joins Howard and me in studio on Saturday. DiNardo decided he’d rather go call a game. We’re a bit hurt, but we’ll carry on without him. See you at 10:30 AM ET.
Follow Revsine on Twitter @BTNDaveRevsine.