staff, October 25, 2012

Last week generated some seriously thrilling endings in the Big Ten: Nebraska?s program record-tying fourth-quarter comeback against Northwestern; Michigan?s game-winning field goal in the waning seconds to end a four game skid against Michigan State; and Navy?s come-from-behind win over Indiana.

But, for pure theater, no game matched Ohio State?s win over Purdue, as the Buckeyes scored a TD and a two point conversion in the final three seconds before knocking off the Boilers in overtime. Even more impressive, they did it with their backup QB. Sounds like Ohio State will have Braxton Miller back for its big primetime showdown with Penn State Saturday night in Happy Valley, in a game where Miller will look to join an elite list.

3rd: Miller needs just 41 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the season. He?d be just the 3rd Big Ten QB ever to pull that off, joining Denard Robinson, who has done it twice, and Antwaan Randle-El.

Penn State also has a player on the verge of a milestone.

48: Allen Robinson has come out of nowhere to catch a Big Ten high 47 passes so far this season. The program record for a Nittany Lion sophomore is 48, held jointly by Bobby Engram and Deon Butler.

While Robinson makes waves for an incredibly surprising offense, the Penn State defense continues to shine as well, particularly early in games.

66-0: Penn State has still yet to allow a first quarter point this season, having outscored its opponents 66-0. They?re the only team in the nation that has yet to be scored upon in the first fifteen minutes of a game this season.

It?s not as if the Nittany Lions suddenly get porous in the 2nd quarter either. Penn State has allowed just 23 points in the first half this year (14 of them to Northwestern). Only Boise State has given up fewer before halftime.

Michigan, which heads to Nebraska in Saturday?s other marquee match-up, has put up its own impressive defensive number.

14: The Wolverines have allowed just 14 plays of twenty yards or longer this season. Not only is that the fewest in the Big Ten - it?s not even close. No other conference team has allowed fewer than 23 such plays. In fact, Michigan?s mark is tied with Texas Tech for the fewest such plays allowed nationally.

They?ll get a challenge on Saturday against a very explosive Nebraska offense.

49: The Huskers have 49 plays of 20 or more yards so far this season - the third-most nationally.

Twenty-two of those plays have come on the ground, where Nebraska continues to put up impressive numbers.

7th: The Huskers ran for 201 yards against Northwestern, marking the 7th time in as many games that Nebraska has gone over 200 on the ground. It?s the first time they?ve hit that mark in 7 straight match-ups to start a season since 2000.

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The Wolverines-Huskers game is, of course, sold out Saturday night in Lincoln, as every Nebraska home game has been for the last half-century.

323rd: Nebraska will mark the 50th anniversary of the home sellout streak on Saturday night - the Huskers 323rd in a row. It?s a streak that began on Nov. 3, 1962 against Missouri.

Nebraska will be on the road next week to battle Michigan State, and, barring a miraculous turnaround, they?ll encounter a team that is struggling offensively.

10: The Spartans have started games extremely slowly - having scored a grand total of 10 first-quarter points in their last six games.

Defense, of course, has been another story.

1st: The Spartans are 1st in the Big Ten in Rushing Defense, Total Defense and Scoring Defense.

That defensive supremacy will certainly be challenged against Wisconsin - a team that has really found its offensive rhythm after its well-documented early-season problems.

804/801: Wisconsin has rushed for a combined 804 yards in the last two weeks. That is the most in the nation in that span. The Badgers had just 801 yards on the ground in their first six games this season combined.

Montee Ball has, of course, been a huge part of that - gaining 413 yards on the ground to go with 5 TDs in the wins over Purdue and Minnesota. His two fourth-quarter TDs against the Gophers last week allowed him to keep this remarkable streak alive.

17: Ball has tallied at least two touchdowns in his last 17 games against conference opponents.

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Iowa heads to Northwestern this week, looking to get its ground game back on track - presumably largely-contingent on Mark Weisman?s healthy return. With Weisman hobbled and limited against Penn State, the Hawkeyes were almost completely stymied in the run game.

20: Iowa had just 20 rushing yards against the Nittany Lions - their fewest in a conference game since 2005. The 209 total yards were Iowa?s fewest against a Big Ten team since 2007.

While the run game had been good up until last week, the passing attack has been an ongoing problem for Iowa.

5.73: The Hawks are averaging just 5.73 yards per pass attempt. Only eight teams in the nation average less.

5.67: One of them happens to be Iowa?s opponent this week, Northwestern, which is tallying just 5.67 yards per passing attempt.

It?s a run-first attack when Kain Colter is under center (despite the fact he?s completed 70 percent of his passes, including a staggering 84.6 percent of his play action throws) and a pass-first attack when Trevor Siemian is quarterbacking (even though he?s connected on just 16 of his last 42 throws).

As a result of the predictability, the ?Cats attack has bogged down.

704, 274.3: After tallying a school record 704 yards of total offense against Indiana, NU has averaged just 274.3 in its last three outings - two of which were losses.

NU?s neighbors to the south would love to have the ?Cats? problems, though.

1.8: Illinois averaged a staggeringly-low 1.8 yards per pass attempt in their last game, a 45-0 shellacking at the hands of Michigan. The Illini threw the ball 16 times and tallied a meager 29 passing yards. That was the fewest yards per attempt for any Big Ten team in a conference game since 1999.

1st, 1st; 9th, 12th: Illinois? issues aren?t limited to the offensive side of the ball, though. The Illini were 1st in the Big Ten in sacks and 1st in the Big Ten in tackles for loss last season. With largely the same personnel back this year, they are 9th in sacks and 12th in tackles for loss.

They?ll face an Indiana team that?s coming off a tough 31-30 road loss to Navy. Uncharacteristically, the Hoosiers did themselves in.

2: IU had 2 turnovers against Navy, matching its total from the first six games of the season combined.

Minnesota had been thriving off turnovers as it entered Big Ten play, but that trend came to an abrupt stop.

10, 0: The Gophers had 10 takeaways in their first four games of the season - all wins. That was one more than they had all of last season combined. In their three conference games - all losses - the Gophers have forced 0 turnovers.

Minnesota faces Purdue Saturday one week after being limited to a season-low 245 yards of offense against Wisconsin.

The numbers would tell us this weekend should be kinder to that Gophers attack.

40: Minnesota?s opponent this week, Purdue, has given up 40 plays of 20 or more yards this season. That is the most in the Big Ten.

The Gophers and Boilers is game two of our BTN doubleheader on Saturday. We start things off with Indiana and Illinois at noon ET. As always, "The Big Ten Football Pregame Show" presented by Auto-Owners Insurance gets things going at 11 a.m. ET.

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.