Dave Revsine, November 3, 2011
November is here, and the Big Ten races are officially the most convoluted mess I?ve ever seen. Actually, I?m not sure there are official stats for that kind of thing - but, suffice to say, I didn?t see this coming. No fewer than eight teams head into the final month of the regular season with a shot at playing in Indy on Dec. 3. Crazy.
Based on his experiences in the SEC, Gerry DiNardo said at the beginning of the year that the split into divisions would completely change the dynamic of the conference. But, he says a lot of stuff I don?t pay attention to (most of it revolving around that championship belt he?s so obsessed with), so, admittedly, I kind of blew him off. I should have listened.
Though they are not playing this week, I?ll start the Numbers with the lone team that has gone unscathed in conference play to this point in the season - Penn State. This one is just too good to hold for a week.
0-0: The Nittany Lions went into the half of their game with Illinois tied at 0-0. It was the first time in Joe Paterno?s 285 home games as Penn State?s coach that neither team scored a point in the first half of a game. Given the length of Joe?s tenure, you had to figure he had seen everything. Apparently not.
While we?re on the topic of coaches, Pat Fitzgerald made some history this week.
37th: Northwestern?s win over Indiana was the 37th of Fitz?s career at Northwestern, moving him past Ara Parseghian and into a second place tie with his mentor, Randy Walker, on NU?s all-time wins list. Fitzgerald trails only Lynn ?Pappy? Waldorf, who won 49 games as the ?Cats coach between 1935 and 1946. As an aside, the dramatic decline in guys with nicknames like ?Pappy? is a real shame.
The 21 point margin of victory for Fitzgerald?s ?Cats over Indiana was a bit unusual.
5-22, 14-4: The win was just Northwestern?s 5th Big Ten victory in games decided by more than seven points during his tenure. NU is 5-22 in such games. They are 14-4 in Big Ten contests decided by 7 points or less.
Northwestern?s win came courtesy of a 59-point offensive explosion, fueled in large part by TE Drake Dunsmore?s school-record four TD catches.
127: Dunsmore now has 127 career grabs. That?s tied with Missouri?s Michael Egnew for the most in the nation among active tight ends.
Given their defensive struggles, the ?Cats will need a huge game from Dunsmore and the rest of the offense to have any shot this week in Lincoln against Nebraska. They?re facing a Huskers team that?s been tough to slow down.
190, 88.7: Nebraska rushed for 190 yards last week in its win over Michigan State. The Spartans entered the game allowing 88.7 rushing ypg.
20, 13: The Huskers have totaled 20 plays of 30+ yards this season and 13 of 40+ yards. Both totals are in the top 3 in the Big Ten. Northwestern, on the other hand, has allowed the most 30+ yard plays in the conference and the second-most 40+ yard plays.
The ?Cats win on Saturday came against an Indiana defense that proved to be even more porous than their own. The Hoosiers? struggles are attributable, at least in part, to their massive inexperience.
7: Indiana started 7 freshmen on defense against the Wildcats (4 true freshmen and 3 redshirt freshmen). That is the most first-year players that any FBS team has started on ?D? all season.
Of course, playing freshmen isn?t always a negative. Consider, for instance, the spark that true freshman QB Tre Roberson has given IU?s offense since he was inserted as the starting QB two weeks ago.
15 of 29, 12 of 52: Over the last two games, the Hoosiers have converted 15 of their 29 third-down conversion attempts (51.7%). They were just 12 of 52 on third-down in their first three conference games this season (23.1%).
It?ll be a battle of freshman QB?s when Roberson and the Hoosiers battle Ohio State on Saturday. The Bucks are right back in the Leaders Division race after Braxton Miller?s dramatic game-winning TD toss to Devin Smith against Wisconsin (watch and rate the play!), and this is the time of year when OSU usually shines.
17-1: Ohio State has gone 17-1 in November since 2005 (including games that were subsequently vacated). That is the best November mark in the nation in that span.
As for the Buckeyes? victim last week, Wisconsin had troubles on both sides of the ball in that loss to OSU.
342, 89, 29: Offensively, the Badgers? 342 total yards, 89 rushing yards and 29 points were all season lows. It marked the first time Wisconsin has been held under 100 yards rushing since 2009, when Northwestern kept them to just 99.
70, 58: The Badgers allowed 33 points in their loss to OSU, meaning they?ve now given up 70 points in the last two weeks. Their opponents totaled just 58 points over the first six weeks of the season combined.
Not only are the Badgers giving up points, but they?re giving them up at most inopportune times - namely in the last 20 seconds of the game. Back-to-back defeats of that nature put the Badgers in an exclusive group they?d rather not be a part of.
4th, 1st: Wisconsin became just the 4thteam nationally since 1996 to lose consecutive games on opponent scores in the final 20 seconds of regulation. The other three teams on the list are USC in 2010, Illinois in 2006 and North Carolina in 1998. The difference is that all three of those teams lost both of their games when their opponents kicked game-winning field goals. Wisconsin is the 1st team to lose consecutive games in the final 20 seconds on opponents? TD?s since at least that ?96 season.
The encouraging news from the Badgers? point of view is that they are back home this week. Camp Randall has proven to be a difficult place for Big Ten opponents in recent years - particularly ones who are out of the national polls, as Purdue is.
17: Wisconsin has won 17 straight home games against unranked conference opponents. The last such team to beat them there was Iowa in 2005.
Purdue?s recent history isn?t all that encouraging on this front.
2003: The Boilers last beat an AP ranked team on the road in 2003 when, coincidentally but not ironically, they topped the Badgers 26-23. Purdue did beat Northwestern in Evanston last year when the ?Cats were ranked 25th in the Coaches? Poll, but unranked by the AP.
Purdue fell short in its efforts to end that streak last week at Michigan, allowing the Wolverines to finish October on a positive note - a significant departure from the last few years.
3,2: Michigan won 3 games in October this year. They won 2 October games in the past three seasons combined.
The Purdue win came thanks in large part to the efforts of Fitzgerald Touissant, who burned them for 170 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
2006: Touissant?s rushing total was the highest for a Michigan running back since Mike Hart ran for 195 against Minnesota in 2006.
The newly-discovered tailback run game is a great development for the Wolverines, as is their constantly-improving defense.
1st: Michigan?s opponents have scored on just 15 of their 25 Red Zone trips this season. That 60 percent rate is good enough to rank the Wolverines 1st nationally in Red Zone Defense.
This week, they?ll face an Iowa team that struggled from in close-in its surprising loss to Minnesota.
3 of 6: Iowa was just 3 of 6 in the Red Zone against the Gophers. Coming into the game, the Hawkeyes had scored in each of their previous 22 trips inside their opponents? 20-yard line. That was the longest such streak in the Big Ten.
The Hawks lost despite a fantastic effort from running back Marcus Coker.
252, 258: Coker rushed for 252 yards in the game – the most rushing yards in a loss in a Big Ten game since Minnesota?s Laurence Maroney went for 258 against Wisconsin in 2005.
The Gophers got their running game going a bit in that win over the Hawks.
119, 398: Minnesota totaled 119 rushing yards from the running back position against Iowa. It may not seem like much, but, keep in mind, Minnesota had accumulated just 398 combined yards on the ground from that position in its six previous games against FBS opponents.
That being said, the Gophers? longest rush in the game was an 18-yard scamper by MarQuies Gray, meaning this streak remains intact.
1,355: Minnesota has gone 1,355 rushing attempts without breaking one for more than 40 yards - with their most recent run of that distance having come on a 46-yard DeLeon Eskridge TD burst in 2008 against Illinois. That is the longest such drought in the nation. For a little perspective, consider that Michigan State has gone the next longest among Big Ten teams without having a runner go for more than 40 yards. Their streak is at 530 carries and counting.
MSU will be happy to be home this week, as the Spartans? offensive production has been dramatically better in East Lansing than on the road.
36.4, 8.7: MSU is averaging 36.4 points per game at Spartan Stadium this season. They?re averaging 8.7 ppg in their three away contests.
Despite the loss at Nebraska, though, MSU remains very much in the Legends Division race, and these numbers have to encourage Spartans? fans.
(9-3), (5-19): MSU is (9-3) in November under Mark Dantonio. It was (5-19) in the seven seasons before he arrived.
The Spartans? battle with the Gophers is one of three games we?ll have for you this week on BTN. You can catch that game at noon ET, along with Indiana and Ohio State. Be sure to check out GameFinder for channel information in your area - don?t get caught off-guard on game day. Make sure you know where to find your game. Everyone will see the Northwestern-Nebraska game at 3:30 ET.
We?ll see you for the Auto Owners Insurance Pre-Game at 10:30a.m. ET.