Some notes and nuggets to make you the smartest person at your tailgate this Saturday:
The Illinois defense has forced at least one turnover in 21 consecutive games, the longest current streak in the nation. The streak, which started on Nov. 14, 2009, nearly ended against Northwestern on Oct. 1, but Whitney Mercilus fell on the Wildcats’ last-ditch lateral attempt on the final play of the game to extend it. Speaking of streaking, receiver A.J. Jenkins has 18 catches for 450 yards and five touchdowns in the last two games, which is the most receiving yards in a two-game span in Big Ten history.
Ohio State has lost back-to-back games, marking the first time in a span of 88 games dating back to 2004 that has happened for the Buckeyes. They had the nation’s longest streak without consecutive losses until Nebraska's big comeback on Saturday.
Michigan has committed only 24 penalties for 218 yards in six games. The Wolverines rank first in the Big Ten and are tied for eight in the nation in fewest penalties per game.
The last six games between Michigan and Michigan State played in East Lansing have been decided by a total of 25 points. Each side has a 3-3 record in those games, with all being decided by a touchdown or less and two going to overtime. Mark Dantonio is 3-1 against Michigan and is looking to join Charlie Bachman (1933-37) as the only other Michigan State coach to beat Michigan in four of their first five tries.
Don't expect many turnovers in the Iowa-Northwestern game. The Wildcats have turned the ball over just four times, tying for fifth in the nation in fewest giveaways. Iowa has committed just seven turnovers on the season. But three of Iowa's turnovers came in the second half of last week's loss to Penn State, while half of Northwestern's season total came in last week's loss to Michigan. In their five victories over Iowa since 2005, the Wildcats are a combined plus-6 in turnover margin, getting five from the Hawkeyes in 2008 and four in 2009.
Wisconsin has won each of its last nine regular-season games by at least 20 points, with an average margin of victory of 38 points. The Badgers have scored at least 30 points in each of their last nine home games and are averaging 54.2 points over that span. Wisconsin has outscored its opponents by a combined 191 points and has yet to win by fewer than 30 points this season. The plus-191 point differential is better than that of any of the past five BCS national champions through their first five games.
One thing Indiana has been good at is scooping up dropped balls. The Hoosiers recovered two fumbles for the third straight game and the fourth time this season last week against Illinois. Indiana ranks second in the Big Ten and is tied for fifth nationally with nine fumble recoveries in 2011.
Penn State has held five of its first six opponents to 10 points or fewer, the first Nittany Lions team to do so since the 1978 squad that played Alabama for the national title in the Sugar Bowl. The defense has allowed just 63 points in its first six games, its second-lowest total since starting Big Ten play in 1993 (the 2009 team allowed 61 through its first six contests). Penn State has permitted only two touchdowns in the last four games and only six touchdowns for the season, tied for second fewest in the nation.
Purdue sophomore Cody Webster continues to lead the nation in punting average at 48.1 yards per attempt. Webster has booted nine of his 18 punts over 50 yards, including a season-long 66-yarder against Minnesota last weekend. The Harrisburg, Pa., native will be kicking in his home state this weekend at Penn State.