- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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Some nuggets of knowledge as you head into the first weekend of college football (and who are we kidding, you probably watched every minute of college football last night, too).
Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase begins this season with 36 career starts, the 14th most of any active FBS player. And when it comes to quarterbacks, he has the third most -- behind just Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray (41) and Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez (39). His start against Southern Illinois will be his fourth consecutive season-opening start.
Speaking of Martinez, if he starts for the Huskers (as expected) on Saturday, he will become the first quarterback at Nebraska to start four consecutive season openers. In those three previous season-opening starts Martinez has been excellent, completing nearly 65 percent of his passes while throwing for 606 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also accounted for six rushing touchdowns and 272 rushing yards in those previous three season openers.
Last season Indiana led the Big Ten in passing offense with 311.2 yards per game, good enough for 17th in the nation. The Hoosiers set schools records in total offense (5,304 yards) and passing yardage (3,734 yards). It was then-junior Cameron Coffman who, after becoming the starter in Week 3, led the Hoosiers with 2,734 yards and 15 touchdowns. Coffman completed 30 passes of more than 20 yards, 13 passes for more than 30 yards and three passes for over 75 yards.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has good memories of playing Northern Illinois. His first win as Iowa’s head coach came against the Huskies in 1999. Iowa beat Northern Illinois, 24-0, however, it would end up being the Hawkeyes’ only win of the season. Since that win, these two teams have met three times and the Hawkeyes have gone 3-0.
Last night the Golden Gophers opened their season at home for the first time since 2008. Minnesota -- then coached by Tim Brewster -- played Northern Illinois, a team then coached by current Minnesota coach Jerry Kill. Kill, then a first-year coach with the Huskies, came into Minneapolis with a solid game plan and pushed the Gophers until the end. Minnesota converted on a one-yard run with 22 seconds remaining in the game to pull ahead for the final margin, 31-27.
Michigan wide receiver Jeremy Gallon has recorded at least one reception in the past 26 games. If Michigan plays in at least 13 games this season and Gallon posts receptions in each game, he’ll become the school’s leader for consecutive games with at least one reception. Currently, Braylon Edwards hold the record (38) and Gallon is tied for fifth with Amani Toomer and Adrian Arrington.
In the past two seasons, the Spartans have led the Big Ten in total defense and rushing defense. Nationally, MSU is one of five NCAA FBS programs to rank in the top 10 for total defense (Alabama, Florida, Florida State and LSU). They also are one of just three teams, joining Alabama and Florida State, to rank in the top 10 nationally over the past two seasons for rushing defense.
Ohio State’s offensive line combines for 80 career starts. The only rookie among the bunch is sophomore right tackle Taylor Decker, who will make his first career start on Saturday against Buffalo. The four other offensive linemen are returning starters and helped OSU finish 10th nationally last season in rushing yards (242.2 yards per game). They hope to do the same this season as quarterback Braxton Miller is just 95 yards short of becoming Ohio State’s all-time leading rusher among QBs.
Last season, the Penn State tight ends accounted for 82 catches, which was the second most in the nation (Stanford was first with 90). Within the conference, the Nittany Lions led for tight end receptions and the closest team was Michigan State with just 37. Ten of the Nittany Lions’ 24 touchdown catches were made by tight ends and 32 percent of the total receptions were made by the tight end corps.
The Boilermakers are very, very young this season. Redshirt freshmen and true freshmen make up 46.4 percent (52 of 112) of the Boilermakers’ roster. In comparison, there are just 17 sophomores, 21 juniors and 22 seniors on the team. However, in Purdue’s two deep there are just 10 redshirt or true freshmen listed.
In coach Pat Fitzgerald’s seven season openers at Northwestern, he’s undefeated, including three victories over BCS teams. Those three wins over BCS opponents came in the previous three seasons as Northwestern, so the Wildcats’ match up with Cal will mark the fourth season opener featuring a BCS opponent. However, in their previous three season openers, none of their victories have come by more than four points. In 2012, the Wildcats beat Syracuse (42-41), in 2011 they took down Boston College (21-17) and in 2010 they knocked off Vanderbilt (23-21).
All-Big Ten linebacker Chris Borland has forced 13 fumbles during his career with Wisconsin. The senior is just one forced fumble short of the FBS all-time record of 14. That record is currently shared by Terrell Suggs (Arizona State, 2000-02), Antwan Peek (Cincinnati, 2000-02), Kenechi Udeze (Southern California, 2001-02), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue, 2007-10) and Cordarro Law (Southern Miss, 2008-11).