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2011 Big Ten Football Season in Review

With the 2011-12 Big Ten football season now complete, the below season in review has been posted to the Big Ten website, with notes on the bowl games, postseason honors, the regular season and more. In addition, the final stats are attached as a PDF. We appreciate your coverage of Big Ten football, and look forward to working with you when the 2012 season rolls around in the fall.


·        Big Ten teams win four bowl games and 10 bowls over last three seasons

·        Big Ten leads all conferences with seven bowl wins over BCS top-16 teams the last three seasons

·        Nine different current Big Ten teams have won at least one bowl game in the last three seasons

·        Big Ten one of two conferences with three top-12 teams in final national polls

·        Big Ten produces 17 All-Americans, including five consensus selections

·        Big Ten leads all conferences with seven Academic All-Americans

·        Wisconsin earns second straight Big Ten Championship by winning inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game

·        Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin end season with 11 wins

·        Four Big Ten players set conference single-season records, including three NCAA records

·        Big Ten breaks six-million mark in attendance for first time




Big Ten Teams Win Four Bowl Games: For the second time in three seasons, the Big Ten recorded four bowl triumphs with victories by Purdue in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Michigan State in the Outback Bowl and Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. Big Ten schools have posted at least three bowl wins in seven of the last 10 seasons, including five wins in 2002, four victories in 2011 and 2009 and three triumphs in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007. The Big Ten ranked third among Bowl Championship Series (BCS) automatic-qualifying conferences in bowl victories this season, trailing only the Big 12 and SEC with six wins each.


Ten Bowl Wins in Three Seasons: The Big Ten has won 10 bowl games over the last three seasons. The last time the conference produced 10 or more postseason victories over a three-year span was when Big Ten squads claimed 11 bowl wins after the 2002, 2003 and 2004 seasons.


Another BCS Win: The Big Ten earned another BCS win this season with Michigan’s victory in the Sugar Bowl. The Big Ten is now 3-2 in BCS games over the last three seasons, the conference’s most BCS triumphs over a three-year span since going 3-2 in BCS contests after the 2003, 2004 and 2005 seasons. The Big Ten was 2-0 in BCS play after the 2009 campaign, including an Iowa triumph in the Orange Bowl and an Ohio State victory in the Rose Bowl Game. The conference’s two BCS losses have both come down to the wire, with Wisconsin having the ball with a chance to tie at the end of each of the last two Rose Bowl Games.

BCS Success: The Big Ten is one of only two conferences to win at least three BCS games the last three years, ranking second only to the SEC’s four BCS victories. The Big Ten and SEC are the only conferences with three different teams earning BCS triumphs the last three seasons. The Big 12 and Pac-12 have each won two BCS games by two different teams the last three years, while no other conference features more than one BCS victory. The Big Ten now has 11 BCS victories since the system’s inception in 1998, ranking second to the SEC (16) and ahead of the Pac-12 (10), Big 12 (9) and Big East (7).


Playing the Best: The Big Ten annually features one of the toughest bowl schedules and this season was no exception. The Big Ten was one of three conferences with eight or more bowls against BCS automatic-qualifying conferences, with three games against the SEC, two contests each against the Big 12 and Pac-12 and one game against the ACC. The Big Ten also led all conferences with five bowl games against teams ranked among the top-16 in the final BCS standings. The Pac-12 faced four BCS top-16 schools, followed by the SEC (three), Big 12 (two), ACC (one) and Big East (one). Over the last three seasons, the Big Ten leads all conferences with 12 bowl games against BCS top-16 teams, followed by the SEC (10), Pac-12 (9), ACC (5) and Big 12 (4).

Beating the Best: Despite the challenging bowl slate, the Big Ten boasts seven of the 20 postseason victories over BCS top-16 teams over the last three seasons, more than any other conference. The SEC ranks second to the Big Ten with six triumphs over BCS top-16 squads the last three years, while no other conference has produced more than two BCS top-16 victories during that span. Big Ten wins over BCS top-16 teams include four after the 2009 season (Iowa defeated No. 9 Georgia Tech, Ohio State defeated No. 7 Oregon, Penn State defeated No. 12 LSU, Wisconsin defeated No. 15 Miami-Fla.), one victory after the 2010 campaign (Iowa defeated No. 12 Missouri) and two this season (Michigan defeated No. 11 Virginia Tech, Michigan State defeated No. 16 Georgia).

Showing its Depth: The Big Ten is tied for the lead among all conferences with nine current member institutions boasting at least one bowl victory the last three seasons. Illinois (after 2010 and 2011 seasons) and Iowa (2009, 2010) have each won two bowls the last three years, while Michigan (2011), Michigan State (2011), Nebraska (2009), Ohio State (2009), Penn State (2009), Purdue (2011) and Wisconsin (2009) have one bowl triumph in that time span. The SEC also boasts nine current members with bowl wins the last three seasons.

Bowl Winning Streaks: With bowl triumphs this season, Illinois and Purdue have each been victorious in their last two postseason appearances. The Fighting Illini won the 2010 Texas Bowl and the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, claiming bowl wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. The last time Illinois was victorious in two straight bowls was after the 1994 and 1999 campaigns. Purdue has earned bowl wins in each of its last two trips, both in the city of Detroit – the 2007 Motor City Bowl and the 2011 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

Strength in Numbers: The Big Ten showed its depth this season by qualifying a record 10 teams for postseason bowl games, more than any other conference. The previous Big Ten record for bowl teams was eight in 2003 and 2007. The 2011-12 bowl season marked the seventh straight season that seven or more Big Ten programs earned postseason berths, continuing the longest streak in conference history. It marked the 20th time in history, and 13th year in a row, the Big Ten sent six or more teams to postseason competition, having sent at least six teams to postseason bowls each year since 1999. Big Ten programs have made 74 bowl appearances over a 10-year span (2002-11) and 266 appearances all-time.

BCS Duos:Â For the 10th time in the 14-year history of the BCS, and the eighth time in the last 10 seasons, two Big Ten teams played in BCS games this postseason. Wisconsin was edged by Pac-12 Champion Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game, while Michigan defeated Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. Since the inception of the BCS in 1998, the Big Ten has qualified 24 teams for BCS bowls, more than any other conference. The SEC ranks second with 23 BCS bids, followed by the Big 12 (19), Pac-12 (18), ACC (15) and Big East (14).

BCS Depth: Eight current Big Ten schools have qualified to play in a BCS game, including both Michigan and Wisconsin this season. Other current conference institutions to play in BCS games are Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue. The Big Ten’s total of eight BCS participants ranks second only to the Pac-12, which added Colorado and Utah this season and now has nine different schools with BCS appearances. The only other conferences with six or more current schools boasting at least one BCS berth are the ACC and SEC with seven teams each and the Big 12 and Big East with six participants each.

BCS Victors:Â Only 15 schools have produced multiple BCS wins, and the Big Ten boasts three of those programs in Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes have officially won five BCS games, including three wins in the Fiesta Bowl (2003, 2004, 2006), a victory in the Sugar Bowl (1999) and a triumph in the Rose Bowl Game (2010). The Wolverines were victorious in the 2000 Orange Bowl and 2012 Sugar Bowl while the Badgers two BCS wins came in the 1999 and 2000 editions of the Rose Bowl Game.

Bowl Regulars: The Big Ten boasts four of the nation’s 12 programs with 40 or more bowl appearances, tied with the SEC for the most of any conference. Making its 48th appearance in a bowl, Nebraska ranks fourth all-time, while Penn State is eighth all-time with 44 postseason berths. Ohio State is 10th overall with 42 official appearances, and Michigan’s 41 bowl berths ranks 11th in history.


Big Ten Polling Place: With bowl season now complete, the Big Ten and SEC were the only conferences to feature at least three top 12 teams in both the final Associated Press (AP) and USA Today coaches polls. The Big Ten was also one of only three conferences to produce at least four top 25 teams in both final polls along with the SEC (five teams) and Big 12 (four). Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin each appeared among the top 10 in one of the final national rankings. The Big Ten Champion Badgers were ranked No. 10 in the AP poll and No. 11 in the coaches vote. The Spartans, the Legends Division and Outback Bowl Champions, were rated No. 11 by the media and No. 10 by the coaches. The Wolverines, winners of the Sugar Bowl, were ranked No. 12 in the AP poll and No. 9 in the USA Today rankings. The Big Ten ended the season with three teams rated among the top 10 for the second time in three seasons and the fifth time in the last 10 years. Wisconsin ends the year among the top 10 for the second straight season after ranking No. 7/8 (AP/USA Today) in the final polls of the 2010 campaign. Michigan State concludes the year among the top 10 for the first time since ranking No. 7 in both final polls of the 1999 season. Michigan ends the year as a top-10 squad for the first time since rating No. 8/9 to conclude the 2006 campaign. Five Big Ten teams received votes in the final poll, with Nebraska wrapping up its first Big Ten season ranked No. 24 by both the media and coaches. Penn State received votes in both final polls.

Award-Winning Linemen: Two Big Ten linemen garnered national awards for their performances throughout the season. Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus won the Hendricks Award, honoring the nation’s top defensive end, while Michigan’s David Molk claimed the Rimington Trophy which is annually awarded to the nation’s best center. Mercilus is the second Big Ten standout to win the Hendricks Award since it was first awarded in 2002, joining 2006 honoree LaMarr Woodley of Michigan. Molk is the second Wolverine to earn the Rimington Trophy after David Baas was honored in 2004, and the sixth Big Ten standout to win the award.

Classy Player: Michigan State's Kirk Cousins was named the 2011 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award winner in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). Cousins is the second Big Ten standout to earn the honor after Ohio State's James Laurinaitis won the first Senior CLASS Award in 2008. Cousins was also named a Lowe's Senior CLASS Award First-Team All-American, while Northwestern's Dan Persa was tabbed as a Lowe's Senior CLASS Award Second-Team All-American. The Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, chosen by a nationwide vote of Division I FBS coaches, national football media and fans, is given annually to the most outstanding senior student-athlete in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.

Everybody’s All-American: At least 17 Big Ten standouts earned All-America honors from various publications following the conclusion of the 2011 regular season. Five players were named consensus All-Americans, including one unanimous selection, as compiled from All-America teams chosen by the American Football Coaches Association, Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America, The Sporting News and Walter Camp Foundation. The Big Ten was one of only three conferences with five or more consensus All-Americans. Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus was one of seven unanimous first-team All-Americans. He was joined by two more Big Ten consensus All-Americans on the defensive line in Michigan State's Jerel Worthy and Penn State's Devon Still. On offense, Michigan center David Molk and Wisconsin running back Montee Ball were both named consensus All-Americans. The complete list of Big Ten All-Americans can be found at the end of the season in review.

Students of the Game: The Big Ten led all conferences with seven student-athletes named to the Capital One Academic All-America first or second teams in football as announced by CoSIDA. The Big Ten has now led all Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences in Academic All-Americans for seven straight seasons, with 55 honorees over that time span. The Big Ten’s total of seven Academic All-Americans topped all conferences, as no other conference produced more than four honorees. The Big Ten also led all conferences with four first-team selections, followed by the Missouri Valley with three first-team honorees and the Big Sky, Mid-American and Southeastern conferences with two first-teamers each. Nebraska was one of only three schools with two first-team Academic All-Americans. The Academic All-America first-team honorees from the Big Ten are the Nebraska duo of Rex Burkhead and Austin Cassidy, Northwestern’s Patrick Ward and Purdue’s Joe Holland. Cassidy was one of four players to earn first-team accolades for the second straight year while Holland was a second-team Academic All-American last season. The Big Ten’s second-team All-Americans are Michigan State’s Mike Sadler, Nebraska’s Sean Fisher and Northwestern’s Jacob Schmidt. To be eligible for the award, a player must be in at least his second year of athletic eligibility, be a first-team or key performer and carry a cumulative 3.30 grade point average (GPA).

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The 11-Win Club: Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin each ended the season with 11 victories, the second time in three seasons the conference has boasted at least three teams with double-digit triumphs. The Wolverines reached the 10-wins mark for the first time since going 11-2 in 2006. The Spartans produced back-to-back seasons with 10 or more wins for the first time in program history and their 11 victories each of the last two campaigns are the most single-season wins in school history. The Badgers reached the 11-win plateau for the fourth time in school history, including 11 victories each of the last two seasons and 1998 and a program-record 12 wins in 2006.

The Rarity of 11-Win Trios: After becoming the first conference among the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC to produce three teams with 11 or more wins in 2006, the Big Ten duplicated that accomplishment in 2009 and 2011. Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin each produced 11 wins this season. Iowa, Ohio State and Penn State each posted identical 11-2 records in 2009. In 2006, the Buckeyes and Badgers ended the year at 12-1 while the Wolverines posted an 11-2 mark. The Big Ten has produced two teams with 11 or more wins on five other occasions – 2010, 2002, 1998, 1996 and 1903. The only other conferences to boast three or more schools with 11 or more wins in a single season are the Big 12 (2007 and 2008) and SEC (2011).

Wisconsin Earns Second Straight Big Ten Championship: In the conference’s first year of divisional play, Wisconsin edged Michigan State, 42-39, in the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis to claim the Big Ten Championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl Game. The Badgers ended the regular-season tied atop the Leaders Division standings with Penn State at 6-2, but Wisconsin earned the title game berth based on its victory over the Nittany Lions. The Spartans posted a 7-1 conference record to stand alone atop the Legends Division. The Badgers have now won 13 Big Ten Championships, which ranks fifth among all conference schools, and earned back-to-back titles for the first time since the 1998 and 1999 campaigns.

Big Ten Stat Champions: With the culmination of the conference season, the Big Ten crowned stat champions and new single-season record holders. With a completion percentage of 73.7, Northwestern’s Dan Persa recorded a new single-season conference best, breaking the mark set by Wisconsin’s Scott Tolzien a season ago. Current Badger quarterback Russell Wilson is the new single-season Big Ten leader in pass efficiency as his 179.2 rating ranks just above the mark of 178.5 set by former Michigan signal caller Jim Harbaugh in 1985. Wisconsin’s Montee Ball set new single-season standards for points scored (146) and total touchdowns (24) during the Big Ten season, bettering the marks set by Ohio State’s Keith Byars in the 1984 season (120 points and 20 touchdowns). Ball became the second Badger in three seasons to lead the conference in rushing at 157.8 yards per game, the highest average since Penn State’s Larry Johnson averaged 183.1 yards per game in 2002. For the second year in a row, Michigan’s Denard Robinson led the conference in total offense (255.4 yards per game), the first time a player has led the Big Ten in the category in back-to-back years since Purdue’s Drew Brees did so for three straight years in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Illinois’ A.J. Jenkins became the first Illini since Kameno Bell in 1991 to lead the Big Ten in receptions with 7.0 catches per game, while Iowa’s Marvin McNutt is the first Hawkeye since Devan Harberts in 1988 to lead the conference in receiving yards per game with an average of 107 yards per contest.

Single-Season Record Breakers: Four Big Ten student-athletes established single-season records this season, including three NCAA records. The Wisconsin duo of running back Montee Ball and quarterback Russell Wilson set four single-season Big Ten records and set or tied three NCAA records. Ball led the country and shattered the Big Ten single-season highs with 33 rushing touchdowns, 39 total touchdowns and 236 points. The previous Big Ten records in those categories were 26 rushing scores (Indiana’s Anthony Thompson in 1988 and Penn State’s Ki-Jana Carter in 1994), 26 total scores (Ohio State’s Pete Johnson in 1975, Thompson and Carter) and 156 total points (Johnson, Thompson and Carter). Ball’s 236 points broke the NCAA record set by Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders in 1988 (234 points) while his 39 touchdowns matched the NCAA record set by Sanders that same season. Wilson topped the nation with a pass efficiency rating of 191.8, breaking the NCAA record of 186.0 set by Hawaii’s Colt Brennan in 2006 and shattering the Big Ten best of 175.3 established by Michigan’s Bob Chappuis in 1947. Wilson also tossed 33 touchdown passes, the second-best single-season total in conference history behind only the 39 scoring tosses by Purdue’s Drew Brees in 1998. Northwestern’s Dan Persa completed 73.4 percent of his passes this season, falling just short of the single-season record he set in 2010 when he connected on 73.5 percent of his throws. Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus forced nine fumbles this season to surpass the previous Big Ten best of eight forced fumbles set by Michigan State’s Jonal Saint-Dic in 2007. Mercilus’ nine forced fumbles rank second in NCAA annals behind only the 10 forced fumbles recorded by Louisville’s Elvis Dumervil in 2005. On special teams, Indiana’s Shane Wynn set a Big Ten record with 48 kickoff returns, shattering the previous best of 43 returns set by Iowa’s Earl Douthitt in 1973 and matched by Minnesota’s Troy Stoudermire in 2009.

Big Ten Players Attack Career Records: Four Big Ten student-athletes ended the season ranked among the top two in Big Ten career records. Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa ended his career as the Big Ten record holder with a 72.4 completion percentage, shattering the previous conference record set by Wisconsin’s Scott Tolzien last season (68.1 percent). Michigan signal caller Denard Robinson ended his junior year with 3,059 career rushing yards, ranking second among all quarterbacks in conference annals behind only the 3,895 rushing yards produced by Indiana’s Antwaan Randle El from 1998-2001. On special teams, Wisconsin kicker Philip Welch ended his career among the top four in Big Ten history in total points, kicking points and extra points. Welch’s 207 extra points shattered the previous conference best of 183 extra points produced by Penn State’s Kevin Kelly from 2005-08, while his 384 points ranked second to Kelly among kickers and fourth among all players. Despite missing the final eight games of the season due to injury, Minnesota cornerback Troy Stoudermire ends his career with 3,102 kickoff return yards, surpassing the previous record of 3,025 yards set by Wisconsin’s David Gilreath last season. Stoudermire’s 122 kickoff returns ranks second only to Gilreath’s 135 returns.

Record-Setting Attendance: The Big Ten set new total attendance and conference games only records in 2011, crossing the six-million mark in total attendance for the first time in conference history, breaking the 2009 record of 5.5 million fans. Conference stadiums welcomed just over six million fans for an average of 71,534 fans per game with 39 sellouts, both of which rank fourth all-time in a single season. In conference games only, more than 3.4 million fans turned out during the nine-week conference slate, shattering the old mark of nearly 3.2 million fans per game set a season ago.

Nation’s Best Fans: Big Ten schools filled three of the top four spots in the NCAA rankings for average attendance while seven conference programs rated among the top 21 in the country overall, which is tied with the SEC for the most of any conference. Michigan led the country with an average of 112,179 fans per game, Ohio State ranked second with 105,231 patrons per contest while Penn State rated fourth with 101,427 fans per outing. Other Big Ten schools to appear among the top 21 in average attendance were Nebraska (12th at 85,267), Wisconsin (15th at 79,813), Michigan State (20th at 74,078) and Iowa (21st at 70,585). Only 21 schools broke the 70,000 barrier in average attendance this season.


*Whitney Mercilus, DL, ILL - AFCA, AP1, CBS1, ESPN, FWAA, SI1, SN, WC1, Y!1

Marcus Coker, RB, IOWA - Y!3

Riley Reiff, OT, IOWA - Y!3

David Molk, C, MICH - AP1, FWAA, SN, WC1, Y!3

Joel Foreman, OG, MSU - Y!2

Jerel Worthy, DL, MSU - AFCA, AP1, CBS1, SI2, SN, WC1, Y!1

Lavonte David, LB, NEB - AFCA, AP2, CBS1, ESPN, SI2, WC2, Y!1

Alfonzo Dennard, CB, NEB - Y!3

Brett Maher, K, NEB - Y!1

John Simon, DT, OSU - AP3, Y!3

Devon Still, DL, PSU - AP1, CBS1, ESPN, FWAA, SI1, SN, WC1, Y!1

Kawann Short, DT, PUR - Y!3

Montee Ball, RB, WIS - AFCA, AP1, CBS1, ESPN, FWAA, SI1, SN, WC2, Y!1

Chris Borland, LB, WIS - Y!3

Peter Konz, C, WIS - AFCA, AP2, CBS1, SI2, Y!2

Russell Wilson, QB, WIS - Y!3

Kevin Zeitler, OL, WIS - AFCA, AP1, CBS2, WC2, Y!2

Consensus All-Americans in bold

* Denotes unanimous All-Americans

AFCA - American Football Coaches Association

AP1/2/3 - Associated Press First, Second or Third Team

CBS1/2 - First or Second Team


FWAA - Football Writers Association of America

SI1/2 - Sports Illustrated First or Second Team

SN - Sporting News

WC1/2 - Walter Camp First or Second Team

Y!1/2/3 - Yahoo! Sports First, Second or Third Team