staff, October 18, 2012

Week 8 in the Big Ten is chock full of intriguing games. Michigan-Michigan State has arguably been the most talked-about rivalry in the conference over the last five years - from Mike Hart?s ?little brother? quip in 2007 all the way through the early-season derogatory comments about Denard Robinson on Twitter by some Michigan State players this season. I can?t wait to get it going Saturday at 3:30 ET on BTN/BTN2Go.

But that?s far from the only compelling game this weekend. Nebraska-Northwestern is a huge one in Evanston with both teams needing a win in their quests to get to Indy. And then there?s our primetime game on BTN as Iowa takes on Penn State. If you would have told me in Week 1 – as Iowa was scratching and clawing to beat Northern Illinois and Penn State was losing to Ohio U – that this game would be a battle of conference unbeatens, I would have told you you were nuts. And you may be nuts. I don?t know you. But it is a battle of unbeatens.

Among the many reasons for the Nittany Lions? success is their ability to take care of the football.

3,2: Penn State had 3 turnovers in its season-opening loss to Ohio University. Since then, the Nittany Lions have committed just 2 turnovers in five games.

They?ll face an Iowa team whose margin for error is also quite slim. The Hawkeyes managed only 257 total yards in their win over Michigan State, scoring just three points in the first three quarters combined before rallying for the 19-16 double overtime win.

9th: The victory was Iowa?s 9th in a game in which it had trailed in the fourth quarter since 2009. That is tied for the most in the nation in that span.

As for the Spartans, it was their second narrow loss in three conference games. They also fell to Ohio State by a point in their Big Ten opener. It?s unfamiliar territory for MSU.

9-1, 2-2: Coming into this season, MSU had gone 9-1 over the previous two years in games decided by ten or fewer points, with the only loss coming in the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin last year. This season, the Spartans are 2-2 in such games, with the losses to the Hawkeyes and Bucks and wins over Indiana and Boise State.

The defeat was even more of an anomaly on another front for MSU. They fell despite tallying 39 rushing attempts in the game. This ends a streak that has been a perennial "Numbers" column favorite as it?s was MSU?s first loss since 2008 in a game in which it recorded at least 35 carries. The Spartans had won 28 such games in a row.

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This week, they?ll try to run the ball at a Michigan team which has gotten better and better defensively this season.

5: Michigan has seen its opponents? game-to-game yardage total decrease in each of the last 5 weeks. Alabama got 431 total yards on them in the season opener. Since then, here are the tallies: Air Force (417), UMass (259), Notre Dame (239), Purdue (213), and Illinois (134).

While Minnesota isn?t putting up those kinds of numbers, the Gophers are still greatly improved defensively when compared to last season.

0,7: Minnesota has had 0 opponents gain 400 yards on them in a game this season joining Iowa and Michigan State as the three Big Ten teams that can make that claim. They allowed 7 teams to go over 400 in a game against them last season.

This week, they?ll face a Wisconsin team that has improved tremendously on offense after a very sluggish start.

26, 5: The Badgers have tallied 26 plays of 20 or more yards over the last four games. They had just 5 such plays over the first three games of the season.

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Those offensive numbers are impressive, but it?s nothing compared to what Ohio State has done over the last couple of weeks. The Buckeyes are putting up totals the likes of which haven?t been seen in Columbus in quite some time.

1975: Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde have both gone over 100 yards rushing in each of the last two weeks. It?s the first time the Bucks have had two players eclipse the century mark on the ground in consecutive games since Archie Griffin and Pete Johnson did so in 1975.

1950: The Buckeyes have scored 115 points over the last two games. That?s the most points OSU has tallied in consecutive conference games, since 1950, when Wes Fesler?s guys rolled up 131 in routs of Minnesota and Iowa. That was one year before Woody Hayes took over as OSU?s coach.

1st:  While Miller and Hyde were going over 100 yards rushing against Indiana, Devin Smith had 106 receiving yards.  It was the 1st time in school history that OSU has had two 100 yard rushers and a 100 yard receiver in the same game.

On Saturday, the Bucks get a Purdue team that seems to be headed in the opposite direction offensively after two incredibly disappointing performances against Michigan and Wisconsin. While the defense has understandably drawn much of the attention after giving up 771 rushing yards in the last two weeks, the offense hasn?t been so hot either, particularly on third down.

58.4 %, 14.8 %: Purdue converted 58.4 percent of its third-down opportunities in the first four games of the season by going 38 of 65. The Boilers have made good on just 14.8 percent in the last two weeks by going 4 of 27.

While the Boilers look baffled on offense, their in-state brethren are really starting to figure things out under Kevin Wilson.

49: Not only were the 49 points the Hoosiers scored against Ohio State the most Indiana ever tallied against the Bucks, they were also the most Indiana has ever put up against a top ten team.

It also marked the most points OSU has given up to any opponent since 1994 – when Penn State beat them 63-14 – and the most the Bucks have ever allowed in a win.

2nd: The Hoosiers have now scored 24 or more points in each of their first six games. It?s just the 2nd time Indiana has ever done that within a season and the first time since 1988.

Indiana is using what would have been its bye week in conference play to face Navy. They took their bye in the fourth week of the season before their conference opener against Northwestern.

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Nebraska comes off its bye this week to face the Wildcats as well to continue a season-long trend throughout the conference.

4, 3: Northwestern faces 4 conference foes this season who will have had a bye the week before. The other five teams in the Legends Division play a combined total of 3 conference games against teams coming off a bye week. No other team in the Big Ten has more than 2 such games this season.

For what it?s worth, the ?Cats are 2-0 so far against teams that didn?t play the week before having beaten the Hoosiers and Minnesota.

Among the challenges for the Wildcats this week will be slowing down two of the conference?s most dynamic weapons.

23.1: Nebraska?s Kenny Bell is averaging 23.1 yards per catch. That is the highest average nationally for any player with at least 20 catches.

His QB, Taylor Martinez, has also put up some impressive numbers, throwing for 12 touchdowns and rushing for 5. This is typically the point of the year, though, where Martinez?s running production grinds to a halt.

26: Martinez has tallied 26 rushing TDs in his career, all of which have come in the first six games of the season.  Saturday is game number 7 for Nebraska this season.

We?ll preview all the games Saturday on our "Big Ten Football Pregame" presented by Auto-Owners Insurance at our usual time 11 a.m. ET.  Here?s where it gets tricky: BTN doesn't have a noon ET game this week (full game schedule), so we?ll be back again at 3 p.m. ET as we get ready for the Wolverines and Spartans on BTN/BTN2Go.

See you then.

BTN's Dave Revsine hosts a number of TV shows, including our Big Ten Football Pregame show every Saturday at 11 a.m. ET. His popular Big Ten football stats column "Numbers" runs Thursdays during the football season. Find previous columns here, subscribe to his "Numbers" RSS feed, and follow him on Twitter @BTNDaveRevsine.