Some notes and nuggets from around the Big Ten to make you smarter as you head out to the games this weekend.
If Michigan QB Denard Robinson earns Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors this fall, he would become just the second player to do so in back-to-back seasons, joining former Indiana tailback Anthony Thompson (1988-89). Including Thompson, just four players have successfully defended their Player of the Year awards. Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis (2007-2008), Northwestern linebacker Pat Fitzgerald (1996-1997 and Illinois linebacker Dana Howard (1993-1994).
Nebraska enters the season opener with victories in each of its past 25 season openers. The Huskers' streak leads the nation, bettering Florida's 21 straight wins. Nebraska's last loss in a season opener was a 17-13 setback against Florida State at Memorial Stadium in 1985.
With Caleb TerBush poised to be the starter against Middle Tennessee, the Boilermakers will have a different quarterback under center to begin a season in four consecutive years, and TerBush will be the fifth Boiler QB to garner a start in less than a calendar year (Robert Marve, Rob Henry, Sean Robinson, Justin Siller, TerBush).
Iowa's defense has ranked among the national leaders in forcing turnovers in recent seasons. Over the last three seasons Iowa has collected 63 interceptions, a total that ranks second in the nation over that span (Florida leads with 68). In addition, in each of the last four seasons, Iowa has had more interceptions than touchdown passes allowed.
Illinois opens the season at home for the first time since 2006 has have eight home games on the schedule in 2011 for the first time in the Memorial Stadium era and for the first time since 1903, when Illinois played nine home games.
Penn State has a 64-14 (.821) record in non-conference games overall since starting Big Ten play in 1993. The Nittany Lions have won 18 of their last 21 nonconference games, with the lone losses coming to USC in the 2009 Rose Bowl, at Alabama (2010) and to Florida in the 2011 Outback Bowl.
Michigan State fifth-year senior receiver B.J. Cunningham needs just 10 more catches to become the team's all-time leader in receptions (record: 148 by Matt Trannon, 2003-06). The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Cunningham already ranks among the school’s career leaders in catches (third at 139), touchdown receptions (tied for 10th with 13) and receiving yards (1,780).
Minnesota enters the season only carrying 41 upperclassmen on the roster.
Here's the full breakdown of each class for the Gophers: freshmen -- 53; sophomores -- 25; juniors -- 21; seniors -- 20.
The last 20 Ohio State coaches are 19-0-1 in their debuts. The last Ohio State coach to lose his debut was Jack Ryder, who suffered a 40-4 loss at Oberlin in 1892. No pressure, Luke Fickell.
Northwestern boasts 31 offensive and defensive players who have made a combined 378 career starts. That is a significant jump from last season, when 30 players with starting experience combined for 276 starts at the start of the season.
Indiana allowed just 12 sacks last season, the 11th fewest total in the nation. The offensive line surrendered one sack per 42.8 pass attempts, which led the Big Ten. All five of this season’s projected starters are in at least their fourth year with the program.