First off, apologies for the absence of the Numbers last week. The demands brought on by our Penn State coverage proved to be a bit too overwhelming.
Though it might be overstating it to say the Numbers are back better than ever this week, I think it’s fair to assert that they’re no worse than ever – and that’s certainly worth something.
So, here we go.
The Spartans come into their game with Indiana at 8-2 on the heels of their 11-2 finish last year. It’s been a while since MSU has had this kind of success.
1989-’90: The Spartans have now recorded consecutive seasons of eight or more wins for the first time since 1989-’90.
It’s been even longer since the Spartans have been on this kind of roll at home. They were 7-0 at Spartan Stadium last year, and are a perfect 6-0 this season.
1955-’56: A win over the Hoosiers would give MSU back-to-back perfect home seasons for the first time since 1955-’56.
As for this week’s opponent – it’s been a rough season.
1: Indiana’s only win came against South Carolina State, meaning they are the 1 and only program from an automatic BCS qualifying conference without a victory over an FBS (Division I-A) team this year.
That’s not to say there haven’t been some positives signs for what is an incredibly young IU team – including this one.
6: The Hoosiers recorded 6 sacks in their loss to Ohio State. That was IU’s most sacks in a Big Ten game since they had nine against Iowa in 2007.
The other front-runner, Wisconsin, continues to show impressive balance.
1: The Badgers are the 1 and only team nationally that is in the top 5 in Scoring Offense and Scoring Defense. The last team to finish off a season that way – the 2008 Florida Gators, who won the National Championship.
The outstanding Badger offense and defense have worked hand-in-hand.
11, 11: Wisconsin has forced 11 turnovers in Big Ten play. The Badgers have scored 11 touchdowns off of those turnovers.
That doesn’t bode well for Wisconsin’s opponent this week, as turnovers have become a major issue for Illinois.
22: The Illini’s 22 turnovers are the most of any team in the Big Ten. Only 12 teams nationally have more.
That could go a long way towards explaining this:
4: Illinois has gone 4 straight games without scoring in the 1st half. That is the longest such streak in the Big Ten since 1998, when, you guessed it, Illinois endured a similar four-game stretch. It’s the longest streak for any FBS team since Buffalo was blanked in the first 30 minutes of five consecutive games between the end of the 2004 season and the beginning of the 2005 campaign.
Penn State’s offense has had its share of problems as well, but, up until last week, the Nittany Lions had generally figured out ways to survive despite limited production.
4: Penn State has won 4 games when scoring fewer than 17 points. That’s the most such wins in major college football since UAB accomplished the same feat in 2000.
They’ll face another team this week that hasn’t exactly been known for its offensive production.
12: Ohio State is led in receptions by Jake Stoneburner, who has 12 catches on the season. That is tied with Navy’s Matt Aiken for the second fewest grabs in the nation by a team leader. Only Army has a leading receiver with fewer catches. Perhaps DeVier Posey’s return this week will give the Buckeyes a much-needed boost in the passing game.
On the flipside, Iowa has put up some impressive numbers moving the ball through the air.
9: The Hawkeyes have had 9 individual 100-yard receiving games this season, the most of the Kirk Ferentz era. Seven of those nine are courtesy of Marvin McNutt.
The Hawks take on Purdue on Saturday – a Boilers team fresh off an impressive win over Ohio State. That, as it turns out, is encouraging news for Iowa.
(0-4): Purdue is 0-4 in games immediately following a win this season.
The Boilermakers followed their last victory with a clunker of a performance against Michigan, as the Wolverines held them to just 89 rushing yards. Impressive – but nothing compared to what Greg Mattison’s crew accomplished last week.
37: The Wolverines limited Illinois to 37 yards on the ground in their 31-14 victory over the Illini on Saturday. It was the fewest yards the Illini have gained rushing in seven seasons under Ron Zook.
They’ll be challenged this week by a Nebraska team that gains yardage in large chunks on the ground.
7: Nebraska has 7 rushes of 40 yards or longer this season, tied for the most in the Big Ten. However, the Huskers have not posted a single run (or, for that matter, pass) of that length in either of the last two weeks.
Among the teams that slowed them down – Northwestern. The ‘Cats have won three straight heading into their game with Minnesota. It’s a series NU has had the better of lately, but just barely.
9: Northwestern has won three of its last four games against the Gophers. Those victories have come by a total of 9 points.
They’ll take on a Gophers team that has lacked explosiveness.
39: Minnesota has gone 39 straight games without a single run of 40 yards or longer. That is the longest such streak in the nation. That is a span of 1,427 carries.
That game, one of three we have for you at noon ET on Saturday – immediately following the Auto Owners Insurance Pre-Game Show. The Emmy Award winning Auto Owners Insurance Pre-Game Show, I might add. We’ll also have Indiana against Michigan State and Iowa vs. Purdue. Be sure to check out GameFinder on BTN.com for your channel listings. We’ll see you Saturday morning.