By now, you've had time to check out the Big Ten candidates on the watch list for the Maxwell Award. Now it's time for an award that could be more applicable to the Big Ten this fall: the Bednarik Award.
Given to the nation's top defensive player, the Bednarik Award has gone to a Big Ten player seven times during its 17-year existence (not counting Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh in 2009). The Big Ten is in a bit of a drought when it comes to the Bednarik, as the last winner was Penn State linebacker Dan Connor in 2007.
The Bednarik preseason watch list includes 14 candidates from the Big Ten.
Illinois LB Jonathan Brown
Illinois DE Michael Buchanan
Iowa CB Micah Hyde
Iowa LB James Morris
Michigan State CB Johnny Adams
Michigan State LB Denicos Allen
Michigan State LB Max Bullough
Michigan State DE William Gholston
Ohio State DT Johnathan Hankins
Ohio State DE John Simon
Penn State LB Gerald Hodges
Purdue CB Ricardo Allen
Purdue DT Kawann Short
Wisconsin LB Chris Borland
Michigan State's star power on defense certainly stands out on the list. Only Alabama and LSU have as many defenders on the Bednarik list as the Spartans, who ranked sixth nationally in total defense last fall.
Unlike the Maxwell list, the Bednarik rundown has more Big Ten snubs. The biggest snubs are Penn State defensive tackle Jordan Hill and Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor. Hill could have a very big season at a position where Penn State has had a lot of recent success (Devon Still, Jared Odrick). Taylor, meanwhile, earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2011 from the media and led the league with 150 tackles. It's also odd not to see a Michigan defender on the list. Safety Jordan Kovacs would be my pick, and cornerbacks J.T. Floyd and Blake Countess also could gain consideration by the end of the season.
Who from the Big Ten has the best chance to win the Bednarik? I'd put Gholston, Simon and Hodges at the top of my list, although I wouldn't count out players like Short, Brown, Adams and Borland.
The semifinalists for the Bednarik Award will be announced Oct. 29, and the three finalists will be revealed Nov. 19. The winner will be announced Dec. 6 as part of the Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Show.