Brent Yarina, Senior Editor, September 24, 2012

In sports, we constantly hear the phrase, "What a difference a year makes." It's a cliche, no doubt about it. But, often times, it's so true. And that's the case when one compares the first four weeks of the 2012 Big Ten football season to the first quarter of the 2011 campaign.

Here's an example of the differences, team by team:

One year ago after four weeks: The Illini were 4-0 and had outscored its opponents, 129-52.
This year: Illinois is 2-2 and it matched last year's 52 points allowed in the Louisiana Tech game alone; its 104 points surrendered double last season's figure through the first four games.

One year ago after four weeks (three games due to bye): Hardly a terrible number, the Hoosiers had committed four turnovers.
This year after three games: Indiana has a Big Ten-best one turnover, despite playing a couple of first-year quarterbacks (Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfield) for nearly half of the season's action.

One year ago after four weeks: James Vandenberg, in his first season as the starter, had completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,095 yards and 10 touchdowns.
This year: Vandenberg has completed 59 percent of his passes for 808 yards and one touchdown.

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Michigan defense

One year ago after four weeks: An opportunistic defense had forced 13 turnovers, an average of 3.3 per game, in its first season under Greg Mattison.
This year: Mattison's crew has forced a total of four turnovers against Alabama, Air Force, Massachusetts and Notre Dame.

One year ago after four weeks: Splitting carries with Edwin Baker and Larry Caper, Le'Veon Bell had 38 totes for 213 yards.
This year: Bell has a ridiculous 117 carries, including games of 44 and 36, for a Big Ten-leading 610 yards.

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One year ago after four weeks: The Gophers were 1-3 and allowing 26.8 points per game, with just one sack and three interceptions.
This year: The 4-0 Gophers are surrendering 16.8 points per game, thanks in large part to a big-play defense that has amassed 11 sacks and seven interceptions.

One year ago after four weeks: Taylor Martinez had completed 43 passes, at a 51-percent clip, for 647 yards and four touchdowns.
This year: The vastly improved Martinez has completed 65 passes, at a 71-percent clip, for 878 yards and nine touchdowns.

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One year ago after four weeks: Northwestern had zero 100-yard rushing performances from a running back.
This year: Two Northwestern backs have eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark: Venric Mark twice (vs. Vandy and South Dakota) and Mike Trumpy once (Boston College).

One year ago after four weeks: The Buckeyes were averaging 28 points per game, including a pathetic six-point effort in a forgettable loss at Miami.
This year: Braxton Miller and company have scored more than 28 points in every game and are averaging 39.3 points.

One year ago after four weeks: Rotating under center with Rob Bolden, Matt McGloin had completed 34 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns.
This year: McGloin leads the Big Ten in passing yards (1,006) and touchdown passes (nine).

[RELATED:'s All-Big Ten non-con teams]

One year ago after four weeks (three games due to bye): An underwhelming Purdue defense had allowed an average of 321.6 yards in its first three games (Middle Tennessee, Rice and SEMO), including 460 to Middle Tennessee.
This year after three games: The Kawann Short-led unit is surrendering an average of 245 yards in its first three games (Eastern Kentucky, Notre Dame and Eastern Michigan).

One year ago after four weeks: Russell Wilson, Montee Ball and the rest of the offense were torching foes, to the tune of 48.5 points and 532.3 yards per game.
This year: The Wilson-less unit is struggling, to say the least, averaging 21.5 points and 312.8 yards per game. web editor Brent Yarina covers football and men's basketball for He writes the popular uniform feature "Clothes Call," which also focuses on the latest cosmetic changes across Big Ten arenas and stadiums. Read all of his latest work here. You can subscribe to Yarina's RSS feed and follow him on Twitter @BTNBrentYarina.