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More notes on Week 8 Big Ten games

10/21/2011

Thanks to the fine folks at ESPN Stats & Info, here are some more nuggets on this week's Big Ten games featuring Top 25 teams:

  • Michigan State is holding its opponents to no gain or a loss on 45.6 percent of their plays this season, the second-highest percentage in FBS. The Spartans have held their opponents to no yards on at least 37 percent of their plays in every game this season. Alabama is the only other team to accomplish this feat. A whopping 47.8 percent of Michigan's plays last week went for a loss or no gain, a season worst for the Wolverines.

  • Even though the Wisconsin offense has been explosive in its last nine wins (starting with an 83-20 win over Indiana last season), the Badgers haven’t played a team with a tough defense in any of them. Nebraska is the only team that the Badgers have played during that stretch that was ranked in the Top 60 in total defense. The only game of their last 10 in which the Badgers played against a good defense was in the 2011 Rose Bowl against TCU, a 21-19 loss (TCU was second in nation in total defense). Wisconsin has played six teams ranked 89th or worse in total defense during that span.

  • Russell Wilson has completed at least 50 percent of his passes against five or more pass-rushers in all six games this season. That matches his total from last season, when Wilson had more games below 50 percent against the blitz then he did at or above. Overall, he's completing 62.5 percent of his passes against the blitz this year, compared to 46 percent last season at NC State.

  • Wisconsin converts 60.3 percent of its third-down attempts, best in the FBS. One reason for this success is Wilson, who is completing 80 percent of his passes on third down and scrambling for first downs when the play breaks down. Wilson ranks second among FBS quarterbacks in third-down passing completion percentage and pass efficiency.

  • The 200-yard mark has been the barometer for Nebraska this season. In all five of the Cornhuskers' wins, they have run for at least 200 yards. In their only loss, they were held to 159 yards against Wisconsin. Dating back to last season, the Cornhuskers have won their last 15 games when rushing for at least 200 yards.

  • Though Minnesota has a 14-game losing streak against Nebraska, the Golden Gophers still hold the all-time edge against the Huskers with a 29-20-2 record. Minnesota is one of only four teams to have a winning record against Nebraska with a minimum of 15 games played. The others: Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and, surprisingly, Indiana.

  • Penn State is averaging just 15.8 points per game against BCS AQ teams but is 3-1 in those games.

  • Joe Paterno can tie Eddie Robinson for the second-most wins all time among coaches if he wins Saturday. The coach on the other sideline can also reach a milestone. Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald's next win will be his 37th, and he'll pass Ara Parseghian and Dick Hanley to tie Randy Walker for second place on the school’s all-time wins list.

  • Illinois has been great at getting to the quarterback this season. The Fighting Illini are tied with Texas A&M for the most sacks nationally with 26. They are also second nationally with 58 tackles for loss. Whitney Mercilus leads the nation with 10 sacks and is also tied for the national lead in forced fumbles with five.