Big Ten: Fielding Yost

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer turns 50 today, and, according to Twitter, he'll be celebrating in Florida before preparing for preseason camp, which kicks off next month. Few college coaches have accomplished more by age 50 than Meyer, who owns two national titles, two undefeated seasons, four conference championships, five division championships, four perfect seasons in regular-season league play, seven bowl wins, no losing seasons and a .837 career winning percentage.

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Chris Trotman/Getty ImagesAt age 50, Urban Meyer has a sparkling 128-25 record as a head coach.
He has a 128-25 career record in 12 seasons at four schools -- Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State -- and has lost more than three games in a season just once (2010, when Florida went 8-5). Meyer is still relatively new to the Big Ten and remains without a Big Ten championship on his résumé, but he's already among the league's most decorated coaches.

Let's look at how Meyer stacks up with the Big Ten's winningest coaches at age 50:

Woody Hayes
50th birthday: Feb. 14, 1963
Record: 111-37-6 at Denison, Miami (Ohio) and Ohio State (72-26-6 at Ohio State)
National titles: 3 (1954, 1957, 1961)
League titles: 6 (four Big Ten)
Undefeated seasons: 4
Bowl record: 3-0
10-win seasons: 1
Losing seasons: 2

Amos Alonzo Stagg
50th birthday:
Aug. 16, 1912
Record: 161-57-21 at Springfield and Chicago (161-46-20 at Chicago)
National titles: 1 (1905)
League titles: 4
Undefeated seasons: 3
10-win seasons: 5
Losing seasons: 3

Bo Schembechler
50th birthday:
April 1, 1979
Record: 136-32-8 at Miami (Ohio) and Michigan (96-15-3 at Michigan)
National titles: 0
League titles: 10 (8 in Big Ten)
Undefeated seasons: 1
Bowl record: 0-6
Losing seasons: 0

Fielding Yost
50th birthday:
April 30, 1921
Record: 165-32-10 at Ohio Wesleyan, Nebraska, Stanford, State Normal and Michigan (132-26-8 at Michigan)
National titles: 5 (1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1918)
League titles: 6
Undefeated seasons: 7 (not counting 1-0 at State Normal in 1900)
Bowl record: 1-0
Losing seasons: 1

Joe Paterno
50th birthday:
Dec. 21, 1976
Record: 101-22-1 at Penn State
National titles: 0
Undefeated seasons: 3
10-win seasons: 6
Bowl record: 5-2-1
Losing seasons: 0

Hayden Fry
50th birthday: Feb. 28, 1979
Record: 99-89-4 at SMU and North Texas (1979 was first season at Iowa)
National titles: 0
League titles: 2
Undefeated seasons: 0
10-win seasons: 1
Bowl record: 1-2
Losing seasons: 9

Henry Williams
50th birthday: July 26, 1919
Record: 128-22-11 at Army and Minnesota (123-21-10 at Minnesota
National titles: 1 (1904)
League titles: 8
Undefeated seasons: 5
10-win seasons: 3
Losing seasons: 0

Robert Zuppke
50th birthday: July 2, 1929
Record: 84-28-7
National titles: 4 (1914, 1919, 1923, 1927)
League titles: 7
Undefeated seasons: 4
Losing seasons: 2

Barry Alvarez
50th birthday: Dec. 30, 1996
League titles: 1
Undefeated seasons: 0
Bowl record: 3-0
10-win seasons: 1
Losing seasons: 4

It's interesting to see what coaches of different eras had accomplished by age 50. Also be sure and check out how Meyer stacks up with notable non-Big Ten coaches and other Ohio State coaches by age 50.
The Final Four field was determined this past weekend. Not just in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, but in our own version of March Madness: the all-time Big Ten coaches tournament.

Our top four overall seeds were in action after receiving first-round byes. Our second-round opener saw No. 4 seed Joe Paterno face No. 5 seed Fielding Yost.

The Penn State legend bested the Michigan legend, as JoePa won 62 percent of the vote to Yost's 38 percent. Paterno advances to face the winner of Game 6, which we'll discuss later on Monday.

And now, some of your thoughts on this matchup:
Sandra C. from Lititz, Pa.: WE had the BEST!!! Joseph Vincent Paterno!!!WE ARE PENN STATE! JoePa IS Penn State!!

Ry P. from Greensburg, Pa.: Joe Paterno is the greatest College Football Coach ever. The NCAA, B1G, and PSU [Board of Trustees] used his legacy as a scapegoat to their negligence. It is sad that a debate like this must occur. He won more games than anyone else but more importantly he graduated an unprecedent percentage of his players. Plus, how many football coaches are as well versed in literature as Joe Pa?

Joseph G. from Israel: I would say what puts Joe just a little better is his "grand experiment." It also influenced other schools to do the same.

David from St. Clair Shores, Mich.: No question Yost. He is the only coach to go undefeated in every game in a season and win the National Championship. He got a rough matchup to have to go against JoePa, who is loved and recent though.

Alex from Bloomington, Ill.: As a biased observer (a Michigan fan), my vote went to Yost. Much of the maize and blue history is owed in part to this man. Six national titles and he won eight of every nine games he coached in the B1G. That's consistently brilliant.

Just An Illini Guy from Illini Country: Although I'm sure Paterno will win, I voted for Yost. Paterno's involvement in the Sandusky scandal will forever tarnish his legacy and should eliminate him from these types of discussions.
The Elite Eight will be set in the NCAA tournament this weekend. We're already down to the elite eight in our Big Ten coaches tournament.

We started out with a 12-team field that has been narrowed to eight of the best coaches ever to carry a clipboard in the Big Ten (or for a current Big Ten school). Our top four seeds received byes but now have to square off against the first-round winners.

The second round opens with our No. 4 overall seed in action ...

No. 4 Penn State's Joe Paterno vs. No. 5 Michigan's Fielding Yost

Tournament résumés:
    SportsNation

    Which coach wins this second-round matchup?

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      62%
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      38%

    Discuss (Total votes: 9,631)

  • Paterno: For nearly half a century, JoePa was Penn State football. He won a record 409 games, plus two national championships (1982, 1986), and had four other undefeated seasons. He won all four major bowl games -- the Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar -- and was the AFCA national coach of the year five times. Yes, his career ended in scandal and a huge chunk of his wins were vacated by the NCAA. You have to decide for yourself how much that affects his legacy.
  • Yost: Michigan might not be Michigan without Yost. He led the Wolverines to six national titles (1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1918 and 1923) while winning 10 Big Ten championships. His career winning percentage of .888 while a Big Ten head coach is the best among those who spent at least a decade in the league.

Which coach advances? Voting is open through the weekend, and drop us a note as to why you voted the way you did. The best responses will run in our results posts.
Our own March Madness started on Thursday with our Big Ten all-time coaches' tournament. The first game featured a rivalry and one of those No. 5 vs. No. 12 seed games that cause so much drama in the other big dance.

In the end, the favorite won as Michigan's Fielding Yost advanced past Michigan State's Duffy Daugherty. Yost captured 63 percent of your vote, compared to 37 percent for Daugherty.

Yost will go on to face No. 4 seed Joe Paterno in our second round, beginning later this week. Meanwhile, here were some of your responses on this matchup:
Mitch from Massachusetts: "Michigan might not be Michigan without Yost" is an understatement. College football wouldn't be what it is today without Yost. He made the game a thinking man's game and his coaching tree is as impressive as anyone. Never mind his "point a minute" teams. The man is a legend.

Will L. from Warren, Mich.: How is Fielding Yost not the #1 seed? Yost is by far one of the best college football coaches.

Thom W. from Royal Oak, Mich.: To say Michigan wouldn't be Michigan without Yost is correct. Truth is being Michigan means being the best when NOBODY else played. 1901-1923 football was more like a club sport. Compared to back to back national titles in the mid 60's … this might as well have been like winning rugby titles in today's NCAA.

Stephen from East Lansing, Mich: Duffy Daugherty is the better coach than Yost for one reason. The first is his involvement in the civil rights movement and making MSU a place where African-Americans could play ball and have access to higher education. Plus he coached in the Game of the Century in '66.

Neil J. from Big Springs, Neb.: The Fielding Yost/Duffy Daugherty matchup is challenging for we Cornhusker fans. Fielding Yost coached at Nebraska and went 8-3 in 1898. Duffy Daugherty gave us Bob Devaney. Gotta go with the Duff and the historical domino effect for Nebraska. In history, just look at his impressive resume, especially at Michigan, and it's hard to argue that he should lose this "tournament."

B1G coaches' tournament: Game 1

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On Wednesday, we introduced our own version of March Madness: the all-time Big Ten coaches tournament.

Well, it's time to kick things off. Remember, this is a 12-team tournament in which the top four seeds all received byes. Those top four seeds are:

1. Woody Hayes, Ohio State
2. Bo Schembechler, Michigan
3. Tom Osborne, Nebraska
4. Joe Paterno, Penn State

(Got a problem with our seeding? No surprise there. There are always gripes about the seeds in the men's basketball tourney.)

SportsNation

Which coach wins this first round matchup?

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    63%
  •  
    37%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,234)

So today's first game pits the No. 5 seed vs. the No. 12 seed, with the winner advancing to face Paterno in the next round. Your votes will determine the winner, and you have until early Monday morning to weigh in.

No. 12 seeds often beat the No. 5 in the basketball brackets. Will we have another upset in this matchup, which features an old rivalry?

No. 12 Michigan State's Duffy Daugherty vs. No. 5 Michigan's Fielding Yost

Tournament résumés:
  • Daugherty: He coached the Spartans from 1954 to 1972 and led them to back-to-back national titles in 1965 and 1966. However, he had only one more winning season after those two seasons and finished with an overall record of 109-69-5. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1984.
  • Yost: Michigan might not be Michigan without Yost. He led the Wolverines to six national titles (1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1918 and 1923) while winning 10 Big Ten championships. His career winning percentage of .888 while a Big Ten head coach is the best all-time among those who spent at least a decade in the league.

Which coach advances? Vote now, and drop us a note as to why you voted the way you did. The best responses will run in our results posts
We're a 24/7/365 football blog around here, but it's impossible to not get caught up in the excitement of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

But while football will have its own, smaller version of March Madness with the College Football Playoff this season, we don't want to wait that long. Why let the basketball guys have all the fun when we can hold our own tournament?

In past years, we did this with the top players and championship teams of the past 15 years. This time around, we're going to pit the best coaches in Big Ten history against one another in a winner-take-all bracket.

The Big Ten has an incredible roster of accomplished coaches in its lore. (And, yes, we're including all current Big Ten member schools, regardless of how long they've been in the league. We're inclusive here. Deal with it.). Narrowing the field to our customary eight was difficult, if not downright unthinkable. So we've expanded the bracket to 12 this time, with the top four seeds getting byes and the others trying to play their way in. Be on standby, Dayton.

We're looking for coaches who have won Big Ten titles and national championships, those who stuck around long enough to pile up Hall of Fame résumés and build unmistakable legacies. No current coaches are involved, as we'll let them finish their careers before we start stacking them up against the all-timers.

The tournament will kick off Thursday with the first couple of matchups. But first, here is a look at the entire field, in alphabetical order:
  • Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin: Alvarez revived the Badgers program during his 16 years at the helm in Madison, compiling 118 wins. He also earned three Rose Bowl victories and is the only league coach to ever win back-to-back Rose Bowls. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
  • Bernie Bierman, Minnesota: The Gophers claimed five national titles under Bierman (1934, 1935, 1936, 1940 and 1941) and won seven Big Ten championships from 1932-41. He went 93-35-6 at Minnesota and also won a national title as a player with the Gophers.
  • Duffy Daugherty, Michigan State: Daugherty coached the Spartans from 1954 to 1972 and led them to back-to-back national titles in 1965 and 1966. The rest of his tenure didn't go as well, but Daugherty is tied for the sixth-most Big Ten wins ever.
  • Hayden Fry, Iowa: The Hawkeyes hadn't had a winning season in 17 years before Fry arrived before the 1979 season. He proceeded to go 143-89-6 in Iowa City, claiming three Big Ten titles. His 98 Big Ten wins are fourth-most ever.
  • Woody Hayes, Ohio State: Few coaches are as synonymous with a school as Hayes is with Ohio State. He won 205 games, the most of any coach while a member of the Big Ten, and a record 152 league games. Hayes also won 13 Big Ten championships, tying him for the most all time, and five national titles (1954, 1957, 1961, 1968 and 1970).
  • Tom Osborne, Nebraska: There aren't many coaches more beloved and universally respected than Osborne, who went 255-49-3 while leading the Huskers to three national titles in a four-year span (1994, 1995 and 1997). How about this: His teams never won fewer than nine games in a season, and this was before 12-, 13- and even 14-game seasons became the norm.
  • Joe Paterno, Penn State: JoePa won a record 409 games, plus two national championships (1982, 1986) and four other undefeated seasons. He won all four major bowl games -- the Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar -- and was the AFCA national coach of the year five times. His career ended in scandal and a huge chunk of his wins were vacated by the NCAA.
  • Bo Schembechler, Michigan: Bo and Woody. Woody and Bo. Two coaches really defined the Big Ten for decades, and Schembechler was one of them. He is tied with Hayes for the most Big Ten titles ever (13) and his 143 Big Ten victories are the second-most all time. Schembechler has the highest conference winning percentage (.850) of any coach who competed in the Big Ten for at least 10 years. But he never won a national title.
  • Amos Alonzo Stagg, Chicago: Listen up, youngsters. The University of Chicago was a charter member of the Big Ten, and Stagg was its sports titan. He won 199 games, including 116 Big Ten victories, as well as two national championships (1905, 1913). Stagg is credited with innovating many plays and formations used in modern football, and he was also named to the Basketball Hall of Fame for his contributions to that sport.
  • Jim Tressel, Ohio State: Tressel coached exactly 10 years in the Big Ten before he was forced to resign, but what a decade it was. He has the second-highest winning percentage both overall and in league play for coaches who spent at least 10 years inside the conference, and he won or shared seven league titles (though the 2010 co-championship was later vacated). Tressel is the last Big Ten coach to win a national title, in 2002.
  • Fielding Yost, Michigan: The Wolverines won six national titles under Yost (1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1918 and 1923) and his 10 Big Ten titles trails only Hayes and Schembechler. His career winning percentage of .888 while a Big Ten head coach is the best all time among those who coached at least a decade in the league.
  • Bob Zuppke, Illinois: He was the Illini head coach from 1913 to 1941 and won four national titles (1914, 1919, 1923, and 1927). Zuppke is credited for inventing the huddle, which is kind of a big deal, and he also coached the legendary Red Grange. He is tied with Daugherty for the sixth-most Big Ten wins of all time, and he captured seven Big Ten titles.

As you can see, this is an impressive field. We couldn't even include all the amazing coaches from history, including Michigan's Fritz Crisler, Nebraska's Bob Devaney or Minnesota's Henry Williams, to name just a few. (Sorry, Huskers fans, but while Osborne has a tenuous connection to the Big Ten as the athletic director who ushered the school into the league, Devaney's great career had no Big Ten ties. Don't worry. You can simply throw all your considerable voting power behind Osborne if you desire.)

Stay tuned for the opening matchups. "The ball is tipped ..."


Brady Hoke endears himself to Michigan fans by embracing all things maize and blue, but he outlines the standards for the Wolverines program in black and white.

Success: a Big Ten championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl.

Failure: anything else.

Ricky Bobby would be proud.

[+] EnlargeBrady Hoke
AP Photo/Tony DingMichigan coach Brady Hoke sees championships or failures. There is no in-between, which is why Saturday's game at Michigan State means so much for the Wolverines.
Hoke's clear approach is refreshing in an environment where many coaches avoid specifics on how to judge them -- mindful of whacked-out fan expectations, quick-trigger athletic directors and boosters, and a media environment where everything you say can and will be used against you. Perhaps Hoke feels secure enough in his situation to set such narrow parameters for success.

Or he simply thinks Michigan shouldn't settle for anything but championships. Again, refreshing.

It has been eight seasons since Michigan last won a Big Ten championship. That should never happen.

While Hoke undoubtedly has done some good things in his two-plus seasons as Michigan's coach, his tenure to date, by his own standards, has fallen short. Maybe that's too harsh an assessment, given the fragile program Hoke inherited from Rich Rodriguez. Then again, if Hoke judges himself that way, why shouldn't we?

He's in Year 3, enough time to have Michigan positioned for a championship push, regardless of the issues when he took over. As November dawns, Hoke and the Wolverines embark on a stretch that will determine exactly who they are -- champions or guys who talk about championships at a school that has won more than any in the Big Ten.

"The month of November is when you win championships," Hoke told ESPN.com. "A lot of that has always been because of the meat of your schedule, who you're playing. When you look at our schedule and the divisional games are all over that schedule, it's important."

It begins Saturday when No. 21 Michigan visits No. 22 Michigan State. The Spartans are the only Legends Division team without a Big Ten loss. Michigan's lone defeat came in a cross-division game at Penn State, and a loss to Michigan State would essentially put the Wolverines 2½ games behind the Spartans with four weeks to play.

"If we want to win a championship," Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan said, "we have to go through Michigan State."

Could Michigan still achieve its goal with a loss Saturday afternoon?

"You're counting on a lot of things to happen," Hoke said. "It gets out of your hands to a certain degree. Are we a good football team? Yeah. Are we perfect by any ways? No, and we haven't been. We've been inconsistent, but we have won six games and lost one in four overtimes where we had plenty of opportunities.

"We've grown, but obviously [if you lose] you put yourselves behind the eight ball."

Michigan has been an enigma this season, impressively beating Notre Dame in Week 2 but struggling against Football Bowl Subdivision bottom-feeders Akron and Connecticut and losing to an unremarkable Penn State squad. The Wolverines are one of the Big Ten's most talented teams, bolstered by the recruiting success Hoke and his staff have engineered, and they're certainly capable of blossoming into a division champion in the next five weeks. They also could crumble as the competition gets tougher.

The next five weeks not only will provide answers about Team 134 but also about Hoke and his ability to meet his own standards.

Several of Hoke's achievements at Michigan can't be touched. He has ended long losing streaks against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State. He boasts a 19-0 mark at Michigan Stadium and became the first Michigan coach to go undefeated at home in his first two seasons since Fielding Yost (1901-02). He has made significant upgrades in recruiting, as Michigan signed top-10 classes in 2012 and 2013 and likely will do so again in February.

He also blends seamlessly with the Michigan family, unlike his predecessor, and oversees a program that lacks the drama that seemed to surface throughout Rodriguez's tenure.

Hoke has achieved many of the things Rodriguez could not, but that's not enough at this type of program. He has yet to make the Big Ten championship game, even with Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State in the other division. Michigan had fortune on its side in Hoke's first season, as it beat the worst Ohio State team in a generation, received a BCS at-large berth ahead of a Michigan State team it lost to and beat a Virginia Tech team in the Sugar Bowl that many believed had no business being in New Orleans. Last year, Michigan lost to all the elite teams it faced and finished a disappointing 8-5.

Hoke's teams are just 6-8 away from Michigan Stadium, including a 28-14 setback two years ago at Michigan State, an emotion-charged contest that featured six personal foul penalties on the Spartans.

"Two years ago up there, we, as a team, flinched too many times," Hoke said. "That bothers you, so I wasn't expecting that from the Michigan teams that I've been around before."

Hoke hopes to see more poise Saturday from his team, including young players like starting guards Kyle Bosch and Erik Magnuson, a true freshman and a redshirt freshman, respectively. He needs to see better tackling technique from a Wolverines defense that surrendered 47 points and 572 yards in its last game against Indiana.

He needs to see great leadership from players like Lewan, who embraces Hoke's championship-or-bust mentality and passed up millions in the NFL for one more title shot at Michigan.

Lewan recognizes what's on the line for Michigan and ensures anyone who doesn't will by week's end.

"Just staying in their ear, over and over again, letting them know what this game is about," Lewan said.

How close is Michigan to being a championship team?

"Golly," Hoke said, "the best way I would say it is we need some more seasoning, some more experiences."

There's no better experience than the one Michigan will have Saturday at Spartan Stadium. A win gives Michigan control of the division. A loss likely extends Michigan's title drought for another year.

The stakes are spelled out for the Maize and Blue in black and white. Hoke would have it no other way.

Perfection within reach for Ohio State

November, 14, 2012
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At Ohio State, historic seasons are recorded in three ways.

1. Big Ten championships: the Buckeyes have won or shared 34

2. Rose Bowl championships: the Buckeyes have 7

3. National championships: the Buckeyes have 13 (including all selections), most recently the BCS national title in 2002

At a traditional power like Ohio State, if no championship is won, the season is pretty much forgotten.

Ohio State's seniors entered their final season with the sobering knowledge that they couldn't achieve any of these goals. A postseason ban for NCAA violations deprived them of competing in the Big Ten title game or any bowl game. The only championship they could win was the Leaders Division.

Their only chance to truly make history was to do something that often has proven harder than winning the Big Ten, the Rose Bowl or even the national title. They had to be perfect. Only 10 previous Ohio State teams have recorded undefeated, untied regular seasons. Only five previous Ohio State teams -- 1916, 1944, 1954, 1968 and 2002 -- finished the postseason without a loss or a tie. Only two previous Buckeye squads, the 2002 and 2006 versions, started a season 12-0.

Add in the fact Ohio State had a new coach (Urban Meyer), a partially new staff and a mostly young team coming off of the program's first 7-loss season since 1897, and the idea of perfection seemed more fantasy than reality.

It's real now.

Urban Meyer
Pat Lovell/US PresswireUrban Meyer and the Buckeyes could accomplish a rare 12-0 season at Ohio State, despite being on probation.
"It's right in front of us," Buckeyes senior tight end Jake Stoneburner told ESPN.com. "Not that we didn't have anything to play for, but the two things we had to play for were win every game and beat Michigan. So both goals are hopefully going to be able to happen at the same time. We can win our side of the conference, but there's no Big Ten championship or anything like that, so all you can play for is win every game and go undefeated.

"So far, we've done a pretty good job of that."

Ohio State sits at 10-0 for the first time since 2007. The Buckeyes are one of just four undefeated teams in the FBS (No. 1 Kansas State, No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Notre Dame are the others). They have quite possibly their two toughest games left, a trip Saturday to Wisconsin followed by The Game against archrival Michigan on Nov. 24 at Ohio Stadium.

The focus inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center this week is Wisconsin, just like it had been Illinois, Penn State and Purdue in previous weeks. But Ohio State's quest for perfection is in the home stretch.

"It'll be one of those things where, after the Michigan game, if we are 12-0, we'll look back and be like, 'Wow, we really did it. We really went 12-0,'" Buckeyes linebacker (formerly fullback) Zach Boren told ESPN.com. "But we still have two huge weeks ahead of us."

Let's attempt to put into context what a 12-0 season would mean for Ohio State and Meyer, with help from the fine crew at ESPN Stats & Info:

  • Ohio State would be the fourth team on postseason probation to record an undefeated season. Auburn was most recent to do it in 1993 (11-0). Oklahoma also recorded back-to-back undefeated seasons in 1973 (10-0-1) and 1974 (11-0), winning the AP national title in 1974.
  • Few undefeated teams from major conferences suffered as many losses the previous season as Ohio State's seven in 2011. You have to go back quite a few years for some of the better comparisons. Purdue went from 1-8 in 1942 to 9-0 in 1943. Stanford went from 1-7-1 in 1939 to 10-0 in 1940. Ohio State went from 3-5 in 1943 to 9-0 the following year.
  • Meyer would tie Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema for the most wins in his first season in the Big Ten. He's already the third Ohio State coach to start his career at 10-0 -- Earle Bruce (1979) and Carroll Widdoes (1944) are the others.
  • Widdoes (12-0) and former Michigan coach Fielding Yost (29-0) are the only Big Ten coaches to start their careers with 12 or more wins.
  • Meyer would become just the second coach to go 12-0 or better in his first season at a school. Larry Coker went 12-0 at Miami in 2001, winning a national title, and Chris Petersen went 13-0 at Boise State in 2006. Terry Bowden might be the best comparison to Meyer, as he went 11-0 with probation-laden Auburn in 1993.

The potential historical significance isn't lost on the Buckeyes, especially the seniors.

"That's how I want to go out," Stoneburner said. "It'd be nice to go 12-0 and get an opportunity to play for a national championship or play for a Rose Bowl, but we were able to play for a Rose Bowl [three seasons ago], we were able to play for a Sugar Bowl [two seasons ago, later vacated] and a Fiesta Bowl [four seasons ago]. The one thing we can't say is that we went undefeated throughout a season.

"For this class and what we've gone through, for us to be able to go 12-0, that'd be probably my biggest accomplishment since I've been in school. We're going to make sure we do everything to make that happen."

Boren credits Meyer and the staff for keeping the focus on the immediate. The team doesn't shout "12-0!" at the end of practice or have any signs about going undefeated. Instead, the signs around the complex point to the next win total. There were a lot of 10s displayed before the last game against Illinois, and there are a lot of 11s displayed this week.

Meyer said Tuesday he considered selling the Wisconsin game as Ohio State's Big Ten championship and the Michigan game as the Buckeyes' bowl. But the team doesn't need that.

"I don't think we’re going to have to make any special T-shirts or talk about bowl games or championships," he said. "... There's no issue with us getting ready for this game."

The Buckeye seniors also understand that this season is a starting point.

"We wanted to make sure we had a good first year under Coach Meyer and a good last year for us," Boren said. "This program's just going to take off, and we wanted to help any way possible. We knew if we could set the tone this year and have a good season, even when nothing really counted, that the younger guys will learn how to win."

The three championships will be back on the table in 2013. Ohio State likely will be favored to win the Big Ten and possibly the Rose Bowl, and the Buckeyes will be mentioned as a potential national title contender. They'll attempt to record a season to remember.

Just like they're doing now.

"Any time you can go undefeated and finish strong, especially with this senior class, you'll definitely leave a legacy," Boren said. "Even in a season where we can't go to the Big Ten championship game or a bowl game, you can still have a season that you will always remember."
The Michigan-Notre Dame series, which resumes Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium, is a fun and meaningful one, but it probably doesn't make the first page of college football's most heated rivalries. Has anyone poisoned a tree in Ann Arbor or South Bend? Don't think so.

While each program saves most of its venom for other schools -- Ohio State and USC, respectively -- the series was sparked by plenty of tension, even hatred, between iconic coaches Fielding Yost of Michigan and Knute Rockne of Notre Dame. You might have heard of them.

As colleague Ivan Maisel wrote this spring:
Yost believed Rockne cut corners in recruiting, promising employment and scholarship aid that the rules did not allow and looking the other way when Irish players participated in pro football games on the side. Rockne believed Yost to be a hypocrite and grew to despise him. As a reform movement swept the Big Ten in the 1920s, Yost not only led the opposition to Notre Dame's membership, he pressured Minnesota to end a series of games with the Catholic institution.

When Yost attempted to institute some reforms through the American Football Coaches Association at its 1927-28 convention, Sperber wrote, Rockne led the opposition that overwhelmed him.

Rockne attributed some of Yost's feeling against Notre Dame to the native West Virginian's religious discrimination. After the 1929 season, when Yost quashed yet another attempt to arrange a game between the schools, Rockne responded to a fan's letter by calling Yost "the Senator [Tom] Heflin of Middlewestern athletics." Heflin, from Alabama, was so anti-Catholic that it cost him his Senate seat in a 1930 election.
Read Maisel's full story here.

Did you know? Big Ten in Week 3

September, 14, 2012
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Some notes and nuggets to hopefully make you smarter as you check out Big Ten action in Week 3. Thanks to the ESPN Stats & Info crew, as well as sports information staffs around the league for these.
  • Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell has gained 39.6 percent (111 of 280) of his yards after contact this season. Bell gained 84 or his 210 yards (40 percent) against Boise State and 27 of his 70 yards (39.6 percent) against Central Michigan after contact. Bell is averaging 5.6 yards per rush when there are six or fewer defenders in the box. That number drops by 2.1 yards when there are seven or more defenders in the box.
  • Wisconsin's 10-7 loss to Oregon State was the first regular-season non-conference loss for head coach Bret Bielema. His 25 straight regular-season nonconference wins marked the second best start to a career by a Big Ten head coach. Bielema trails only Michigan's Fielding Yost, who started 41-0 in nonconference games from 1901-06.
  • Through two games, Nebraska has posted an average gain of 7.8 yards on first down. The Huskers have had 71 first-down plays this season and totaled 553 yards, producing 52 percent of their total yards on first down. Nebraska racked up 359 yards on 38 first-down snaps in the season opener against Southern Miss, averaging 9.4 yards on first down. Against UCLA last Saturday, the Huskers gained 194 yards on 33 first-down snaps, an average of 5.9 yards per play.
  • Iowa's defense has allowed only 19 points on seven red-zone trips by opposing offenses through the first two games. The Hawkeyes recorded three red-zone takeaways against Iowa State last week (2 fumbles, 1 interception). On the flip side, Iowa's offense has yet to score a touchdown in six red-zone possessions this season.
  • Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson completes 66.2 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and one interception when taking the snap under center. He completes 56.4 percent of his passes with 31 touchdowns and 32 interceptions when not under center. Robinson had 10 rushes against Air Force last Saturday during which he did not get touched until at-least five yards past the line of scrimmage, the second most in his career. He had 11 in Week 3 last season against Eastern Michigan.
  • Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller averages eight yards per rush on scrambles during his career with 17 of his 51 runs gaining 10 yards or more. Miller most frequently takes off on third down with 21.9 percent of his third down drop-backs ending in scrambles. Those third-down scrambles have led to 11 first downs for the Buckeyes.
  • Penn State is facing a program record 10 teams that played in bowl games last season, with five games at home. Navy, which visits Beaver Stadium on Saturday, was 5-7 last season and had played in eight consecutive bowl games before missing by one win in 2011. Penn State is 18-17-2 all-time against Navy and 41-37-5 all-time against the four FBS independents (Navy, Notre Dame, Army and BYU).
  • Minnesota has four interceptions this season, already equaling its total from last season. Derrick Wells picked off two passes and Brock Vereen had one interception at UNLV. Martez Shabazz notched his first career interception against New Hampshire. The Gophers are tied for eighth nationally in interceptions. However, they have only one return yard, which is the fewest of the 13 teams who have four or more interceptions this season.
  • Michigan State has won four straight night games in Spartan Stadium, including two on the last play of the game. Against Notre Dame in 2010, Aaron Bates' 29-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Gantt off a fake field goal gave MSU a 34-31 overtime victory. Against Wisconsin in 2010, Kirk Cousins completed a 44-yard Hail Mary pass to Keith Nichol on the final play of regulation. Spartans coach Mark Dantonio is 5-1 in night games played in Spartan Stadium.
  • With a come-from-behind 23-13 victory against Vanderbilt in Week 2, Northwestern's streak of consecutive home victories against nonconference foes reached 11 games, the 15th-longest active streak among FBS programs. The Wildcats have not lost to a team from outside the Big Ten at Ryan Field since falling to Duke on Sept. 15, 2007.
  • Illinois has controlled time of possession in both of its games this season, owning a margin of more than 11 minutes against both Western Michigan (35:02-24:58) and Arizona State (35:15-24:44). The Illini rank sixth nationally and second in the Big Ten (after Michigan State) in time of possession (35:09).
  • Indiana held one opponent under 20 points last season. In its first two wins in 2012, IU has surrendered 17 points to Indiana State and six points to Massachusetts. Indiana last held an opponent in single digits back in 2008, a 45-3 victory over Murray State. The Hoosiers also held the Minutemen to 78 yards on the ground, the first time they held an opponent under the century mark since Nov. 27, 2010 (at Purdue, 58).
  • A season removed from needing seven games to amass at least seven sacks, Purdue has reached that total in merely two games after recording five against Notre Dame last weekend. Purdue enters the Eastern Michigan game tied for 13th nationally and tied for first in the Big Ten in sacks per game (3.5). Purdue's five sacks against Notre Dame equaled the season highs for each of the past four years.
Joe Paterno has become a polarizing figure in recent months, but all parties would agree that he defines Penn State football.

Paterno was affiliated with the Nittany Lions program for 62 years of its 125-year existence. He served as Nittany Lions coach for nearly 46 seasons before being fired in November. And his impact is particularly significant in the program's victories total.

[+] EnlargeJoe Paterno
Michael Hickey/US PresswireAccounting for nearly 50 percent of the program's wins, Joe Paterno was the face of Penn State.
Of Penn State's 827 all-time victories in football, Paterno coached the team for 409, the most of any coach in Division I history. Other than former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who accounts for an astounding 64 percent of the Seminoles' all-time wins (304 of 475), Paterno's percentage of Penn State's wins (49.4) places him in select company. Only Air Force's Fisher DeBerry (49.1 percent) and BYU's LaVell Edwards (49.2 percent) have accounted for a similar chunk of program wins -- among FBS programs that have been around for more than 30 years -- as Paterno has at Penn State.

ESPN.com is taking a closer look at coaches this week, and today's topic examines which programs are defined by one coach. Penn State fits the description because of Paterno's long and successful career. Penn State also is unique because its program has been around so long, and while there was success before JoePa -- eight undefeated seasons between 1894-1947, a Rose Bowl appearance in 1923 -- almost all of the program's significant achievements (two national titles, 24 bowl wins) occurred on Paterno's watch.

What about the other Big Ten teams?

In terms of winningest coaches, here's how they look:

Illinois: Robert Zuppke, 131 of program's 580 wins (22.6 percent)
Indiana: Bill Mallory, 69 of 449 (15.3 percent)
Iowa: Hayden Fry, 143 of 593 (24.1 percent)
Michigan: Bo Schembechler, 194 of 895 (21.7 percent)
Michigan State: Duffy Daugherty, 109 of 638 (17.1 percent)
Minnesota: Henry Williams, 136 of 646 (21.1 percent)
Nebraska: Tom Osborne, 255 of 846 (30.1 percent)
Northwestern: Lynn Waldorf, 49 of 488 (10.04 percent)
Ohio State: Woody Hayes, 205 of 837 (24.5 percent)
Purdue: Joe Tiller, 87 of 586 (14.8 percent)
Wisconsin: Barry Alvarez, 118 of 635 (18.6 percent)

As you can see, no coach comes close to Paterno in terms of percentage of his program's wins. But this ratio is just one gauge of a program-defining coach.

Another important factor is a team's history both before and after a coach took the job. Look at Wisconsin before Alvarez arrived in 1990. The program had endured five consecutive losing seasons and had just six winning seasons since 1963. Wisconsin's previous two coaches, Don Morton and Jim Hilles, had gone a combined 9-36 at the helm.

Alvarez transformed Wisconsin into an upper-tier Big Ten program, leading the Badgers to three Big Ten titles and three Rose Bowl championships. His hand-picked successor, Bret Bielema, has carried on Wisconsin's momentum, but Alvarez fostered the change. He is Wisconsin football, period.

Two iconic coaches regarded by many the faces of their respective programs are Ohio State's Hayes and Michigan's Schembechler. They tied for the most Big Ten championships with 13. Hayes won the most Big Ten games (152 to Schembechler's 143), while Schembechler owns the record for best winning percentage in conference games (.850).

But both men led programs that had success under other coaches. Michigan was a national superpower under the likes of Fielding Yost (.888 career win percentage), Harry Kipke, Fritz Crisler and Bennie Oosterbaan, while Schembechler never won a consensus national title. The Wolverines boast six coaches who have served 10 or more years, most recently Lloyd Carr (1995-2007).

Ohio State carved a place among the nation's elite under shorter-tenured coaches like Francis Schmidt and Paul Brown, while Jim Tressel won a national title and more than 81 percent of his games during his 10 years in Columbus.

Are Michigan and Ohio State defined by Schembechler and Hayes, respectively? Depends on your perspective. My take: both are iconic, but Hayes is more defining.

Iowa's Fry fills a similar role to Alvarez. He took over a program on the downturn for several decades and put it in the Big Ten's top half. Fry is the coach people think of when Iowa comes to mind, although his successor, Kirk Ferentz, has put his own stamp with a solid run since 1999.

Other Big Ten programs seem to fit into different categories.

Programs with two great coaches:

  • Nebraska -- Osborne (255-49-3) and Bob Devaney (101-20-2)
  • Purdue -- Tiller (87-62) and Jack Mollenkopf (84-39-9)
Programs that had its most successful coaches many years ago

  • Illinois -- Zuppke (131-81-13 from 1913-41); Arthur Hall (27-10-3 from 1907-12)
  • Minnesota -- Williams (136-33-11 from 1900-21; Bernie Bierman (93-35-6 from 1932-41 and 1945-50)
  • Michigan State -- Daugherty (109-69-5 from 1954-72); Biggie Munn (54-9-2 from 1947-53); Charles Bachman (70-34-10 from 1933-46); Chester Brewer (58-23-7 from 1903-10, 1917, 1919)
Historically weak programs with a lot of coaching turnover

  • Indiana -- No coach with career winning record since Bo McMillin (1934-47), no coach with 70 or more wins at school
  • Northwestern -- No coach with 50 or more wins at school, only one coach with tenure longer than 10 years

You could argue Zuppke remains Illinois' defining coach, even though he hasn't coached in more than 70 years. Osborne is undoubtedly the face of Nebraska's program, but is he the Huskers' defining coach? Tough to say that after looking at what Devaney did (two national titles, eight Big Eight titles).

Could any current Big Ten coach end up being a program-defining figure? None will occupy his job as long as Paterno did at Penn State. Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald is just nine wins shy of Waldorf's victories mark, and he turned 37 in December. Fitzgerald's strong ties to the program, plus Northwestern's poor history and absence of coaching greats, create an opportunity should Fitzgerald have success for a long period.

What are your thoughts? Which Big Ten programs are defined by a coach, and which are not? Share them here.
NEW ORLEANS -- A paddleboat ride, curfew and for Michigan's players and its head coach, Brady Hoke, a night so close to New Orleans' party center on New Year's Eve, Bourbon Street, was something none could see.

"They always have curfew," Hoke said. "(I) didn't go out on Bourbon Street. They went out on a paddleboat ride, did that."

Senior tight end Kevin Koger said the team had a 9:30 p.m. curfew on New Year's Eve, and keeping his team out of trouble was just one of the many things Hoke hit on during his first news conference of 2012.

(Read full post)

A few more notes on Big Ten games

September, 23, 2011
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Thanks to the fine folks at ESPN Stats & Information for these helpful nuggets on Week 4 games featuring Big Ten teams ranked in the AP Top 25.
  • Bret Bielema took over as Wisconsin's head coach in 2006 and is 23-0 in regular-season nonconference games with the Badgers. That is tied with Joe Paterno for the second-best start by a Big Ten coach (Paterno’s nonconference streak started when Penn State began Big Ten play in 1993). Michigan's Fielding Yost has the record with 41 straight.
  • Nebraska has won 16 straight games against current Mountain West Conference teams and is 20-2 all-time. The last time the Huskers lost to a current MWC team was 1963 against Air Force. Wyoming is 1-14 all-time against current Big Ten teams, its only win coming against Wisconsin in 1986.
  • If Michigan wins this week, Brady Hoke would be the third coach in Michigan history to defeat a team that he coached the previous season. In 1901, Yost came to Ann Arbor from Stanford and promptly thumped his old team 49-0 in the first ever Rose Bowl. In 1929, Harry Kipke came to Michigan after one season as head coach at Michigan State. Michigan beat its intrastate rival 17-0 that season.
  • Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in scoring offense and defense, ranking in the Top 15 nationally in both categories (T-11th in offense, T-4th in defense). It joins Stanford and Texas Tech as the only other teams to rank in the top 15 in both categories.
  • Illinois is 3-0 for the first time since 2001. That year, the Illini went 10-2 and played in the Sugar Bowl. The previous five times the Illini started 3-0, they lost their next game. Illinois hasn't started a season 4-0 since 1951.
The latest installment of Yards to Glory is up, as we look at college football's most memorable touchdowns scored between the 60-yard line and 41-yard line.

Three items with Big Ten connections made the rundown, including one play I remember well -- and Iowa fans will never forget -- from the 2005 Capital One Bowl.

56. Fantastic Finish

Iowa beats LSU in bowl game's final play
Jan. 1, 2005: Known by Iowa fans simply as "The Catch," Drew Tate and Warren Holloway produced one of the most exciting finishes in bowl history. Iowa had squandered a 24-12 fourth-quarter lead and trailed LSU 25-24 with 46 seconds left in the 2005 Capital One Bowl. A penalty pushed back Iowa to its own 44-yard line, and no timeout was called as the clock ticked. Needing a miracle, Tate launched the ball to Holloway, who slipped into the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown as time expired.
-- Adam Rittenberg
44. Red Baron

Red Grange runs all over unbeaten Michigan
Oct. 18, 1924: Michigan visited Illinois riding a 20-game unbeaten streak, and athletic director Fielding Yost had confidence his team could handle Illini star Harold "Red" Grange. Yost was wrong. Grange entered college football lore that day, scoring four touchdowns in the first 12 minutes. He capped the scintillating stretch with a 44-yard scoring run. After a rest, Grange returned to record his fifth touchdown and threw for a sixth as Illinois thumped Michigan 39-14. Grange compiled 402 yards in the win.
-- Adam Rittenberg
42. Leonard Part II

Leonard Conley runs Miami past Nebraska in Orange Bowl
Jan. 2, 1989: Miami's diminutive Leonard Conley stood tall in the Orange Bowl against Nebraska, scoring both of the Hurricanes' touchdowns in a 23-3 win. The second score stood out, as he caught a Steve Walsh pass in the flat, juked Nebraska's Lorenzo Hicks and scooted down the sideline for a 42-yard touchdown. Miami receiver Dale Dawkins spurred Conley with a crushing downfield block. The catch marked Conley's longest in college as Miami handed Nebraska its first loss of the season.
-- Adam Rittenberg

Watching video from the 2005 Capital One Bowl, I forgot how desperate things had gotten for Iowa before the Tate pass to Holloway. Coach Kirk Ferentz would have taken heat for clock management -- much like he did after last year's loss to Wisconsin -- had things worked out differently. But that's the thing about these plays -- they make everything else irrelevant.

Jim Tressel by the numbers

May, 30, 2011
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Jim Tressel's resignation from Ohio State on Monday ends one of the most successful runs in Big Ten coaching history.

Tressel spent 10 seasons in Columbus, compiling a 106-22 record (66-14 Big Ten).

Many thanks to ESPN's Stats & Information crew for the following nuggets on Tressel's time at Ohio State (note: there's a possibility these numbers could change depending on NCAA penalties against Tressel/Ohio State):
  • Tressel is tied with Oklahoma's Bob Stoops for the most appearances by a coach in BCS bowls (8). He boasts a 5-3 record that includes a 1-2 mark in games that decided the national championship.
  • Tressel has guided Ohio State to 10 or more wins in six consecutive seasons, the fifth-longest such streak in FBS history and the longest in Big Ten history.
  • Tressel is the only coach in NCAA history to win more than 100 games at two separate schools (Youngstown State and Ohio State).
  • Tressel's 106 wins are the third most by an Ohio State coach, behind Woody Hayes (205) and John Cooper (111). His winning percentage of .827, meanwhile, is significantly higher than both Hayes (.761) and Cooper (.715).
  • Tressel last year became the third-fastest coach in Big Ten history to reach 100 victories, doing so in his 121st game. Michigan's Bo Schembechler and Fielding Yost both reached the 100-win mark in 119 games.
  • Under Tressel, the Buckeyes spent 14 weeks as the No. 1-ranked team.

Several more nuggets from yours truly ...
  • Tressel's Big Ten winning percentage ranks second in league history behind only Schembechler (.850).
  • He coached 21 first-team All-Americans at Ohio State and 47 first-team All-Big Ten selections.
  • Tressel boasts a 9-1 record against archrival Michigan and is the only Ohio State coach to defeat the Wolverines in seven consecutive games.

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