Big Ten: Northwestern

The latest version of the ESPN class rankings is out, and there are seven Big Ten teams within the top 40 classes.

With movement happening across the board, there are trends and stories developing, so Big Ten recruiting writers Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival give you a look at what to watch within the conference:

Trending up


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Northwestern has waited half a century to start a season with a 6-0 record.

The Nittany Lions made sure it will have to wait at least one more season.

Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin composed himself and led the Lions to a 39-28 victory after trailing by 11 points in the second half. McGloin dove in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Penn State's defense answered by forcing a Northwestern three-and-out, and Michael Zordich added another touchdown. Penn State improves to 4-2 with the win, and Northwestern falls to 5-1.

It was over when: Mike Hull deflected Northwestern's last chance at a comeback. On 4th-and-7 from the Wildcats' own 28, Trevor Siemian attempted a pass over the middle, but Hull got his hand on it right in front of the receiver. The sideline erupted after the stop.

Game ball goes to: McGloin. Trailing 28-17, McGloin put the team on his shoulders and didn't make a mistake. He led Penn State to two scoring drives and rumbled for a 5-yard TD run to put his team up 32-28. He finished 35-of-51 for 282 yards and two touchdown passes.

Stat of the game: 161. Rushing yards by Penn State. Northwestern came in with the nation's 13th-ranked run defense, and PSU entered with the No. 86 rushing offense. Still, somehow, PSU was able to have one of its best rushing games of the season.

Unsung hero: Zach Zwinak. Against a tough run defense, the Penn State fullback-turned-tailback finished with 121 yards on 28 carries. He entered this season as the team's last option at tailback, but he has shown in the past three games that he might just be the best running back on the team.

What it means: Penn State is a legitimate contender for the title in the Leaders Division. The Nittany Lions showed they can make a comeback, and it showed this offense is for real. For Northwestern, it showed it still has some defensive issues to fix -- but the offense is certainly dynamic.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Sweet Sioux Tomahawk is four months into retirement, and athletic department officials from Illinois and Northwestern are brainstorming ideas for a new rivalry trophy, awarded to the winner of their annual football game. 

Now they need your help. 

Both schools are holding polls on their official Web sites where fans can vote for four trophy ideas or propose one of their own. The Web polls will be open until April 15, and the schools expect to reveal the new trophy by April 25, the date of both teams' spring games. 

Here are the four choices you can vote on:

  • The Land of Lincoln Trophy -- A replica of Lincoln's stove pipe hat mounted on a piece of White Oak (Illinois' state tree).
  • President's Trophy -- Recognizing the four presidents associated with the state of Illinois: Lincoln, Grant, Reagan and Obama.
  • The Popcorn Bowl, named after the Illinois state snack.
  • Graham-Grange Fire Bell (original series trophy started in 1941 was a fire bell), named after two of the greatest players at each school Otto Graham of Northwestern and Red Grange of Illinois.

I don't think enough college football fans will make the connection between Illinois and presidents or popcorn. I'm thinking the Popcorn Bowl trophy will look too much like the one from the MTV Movie Awards

The Lincoln Trophy could look pretty cool, but my favorite is the Fire Bell, which honors the game's original tradition and the two greatest players from each team. The Northwestern blog Hailtopurple.com proposed it in November and has a great explanation of the history.

Then again, the best idea might come from one of you, so go vote here or here

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