Big Ten awards tracker, Week 5: New leaders atop offense, defense

Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports

It’s amazing how much one week can change the awards tracker, isn’t it?

Only one player is at the same spot as last week. Everyone else moved up or moved down. And we also have two new leaders this time around.

This could all change again next week. But, after five weeks, this is how we’d vote if the season ended tomorrow:

Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year

1. Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott (6 first-place votes): Last week, it was also unanimous … except we all voted for the player who’s now No. 2. But after Elliott outrushed the Indiana back on Saturday, 274 yards to 34 yards, you can’t really blame us for a change of mind. Elliott is now fifth nationally in rushing (729 yards).

2. Indiana RB Jordan Howard: A first-half ankle injury prevented his return Saturday, but he didn’t exactly light it up against the Buckeyes’ defense before then, either. He finished with 14 carries for 34 yards. We still think Howard is oozing with talent and potential, but we no longer think he’s the favorite for this award.

3. Northwestern RB Justin Jackson: No player is likely more valuable to his team right now than Jackson. He leads the nation in carries with 138, and he runs for just 15 fewer yards a game (127.2) than the Wildcats pass for (142.2).

4. Michigan State QB Connor Cook: He’s not posting big numbers when it comes to passing yards – 195.4 a game – but he’s still the most efficient quarterback in the Big Ten. He’s thrown 10 touchdowns versus one interception, and his completion percentage is up slightly from last year.

5. Iowa QB C.J. Beathard: He didn’t have a great game against Wisconsin, with a 20.0 QBR and 9-of-21 passing. But he’s still sparked this offense and has done what he’s needed to in guiding the Hawkeyes to a perfect 5-0 record. He’s thrown seven TDs versus two picks.

Also receiving votes: Illinois WR Geronimo Allison, Iowa RB Jordan Canzeri.

Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year

1. Wisconsin LB Joe Schobert (5): Anyone who argues against this pick clearly just hasn’t seen the numbers. Forget the Big Ten, Schobert leads the nation in both sacks (9) and tackles for loss (13). He’s on a record pace.

2. Northwestern LB Anthony Walker (1): So far this season, he’s appeared to be everywhere at once. He’s the best player on Northwestern’s No. 5-ranked defense, and he’s still averaging 8.8 tackles and 1.7 tackles for loss per game.

3. Penn State DE Carl Nassib: Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop wasn’t kidding when he said, in April, that Nassib could come out of nowhere and have an all-conference type of year. He's currently second nationally in sacks, with eight.

4. Iowa DB Desmond King: Who leads the conference in interceptions and passes defended? This guy. King was the co-Big Ten defensive player of the week after hauling in two interceptions Saturday against Wisconsin.

T-5. Michigan State LB Riley Bullough: Fifty-one tackles? Three sacks? Two fumble recoveries? Yeah, it’s not really a surprise that Bullough still appears here. He was our No. 1 defensive player for a short period, and though he’s since taken a slide down, there’s still no denying he’s one of the Big Ten’s best.

T-5. Michigan DB Jourdan Lewis: Say hello to the newest member of this list. He didn’t receive a single vote a week ago, but he’s impressed enough this season to where he couldn’t be overlooked anymore. He’s currently fourth in the conference in passes defended (8).

Also receiving votes: Ohio State DB Vonn Bell.

Coach of the Year

1. Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald (5): After back-to-back losing seasons, the Wildcats are 5-0 and stand at No. 13 in the AP Top 25. Fitzgerald has found a way to win despite one of the nation’s worst passing attacks, thanks to a stout defense and a strong running game.

2. Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz (1): We’ve often joked how the Hawkeyes were the Mendoza Line of the Big Ten, but that’s not the case this year. The Hawkeyes are also undefeated at 5-0, and they should challenge for a spot in the conference title game.

3. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh: The Wolverines were a bad joke in 2014. Now, they’re ranked within the top 25. Harbaugh has transformed this defense into arguably the best in the nation, and his only loss has come against a strong Utah team.

Also receiving votes: Indiana’s Kevin Wilson.