Big Ten midseason awards race checkup
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
You'll have to wait a little longer for our comprehensive midseason reviews, but Brett from Hoboken, N.J., had a good suggestion:
Hey Adam,You have some great weekly features on here to follow up that weeks games. There is one, however, that i've seen on other boards that i think you should start: The player of the year race updates. This, along with other award updates and current standings(in your opinion) would be a great read. Plus, i am selfish and want to see defensive player of the year and where coleman may stand!
Big Ten coaches and media members vote on the following awards: Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Lineman of the Year, Defensive Lineman of the Year, Freshman of the Year, Coach of the Year.
I left out offensive lineman and defensive lineman of the year for now, but I'll weigh in on those at a later date. Here are the top candidates for the other awards.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Minnesota WR Eric Decker -- Leads the Big Ten in both receptions (46) and receiving yards (689) and ranks third nationally in receiving yards and seventh in receptions average (7.7 receptions per game). Arguably the toughest receiver in America, Decker has carried the Gophers offense at times.
Wisconsin RB John Clay -- The lone Big Ten running back to average more than 100 rush yards a game, Clay ranks 17th nationally in rushing average (106.8 yards per game). He also leads the league with seven rushing touchdowns this year.
Penn State QB Daryll Clark -- Clark had a rough night against Iowa and will need to pick things up against better opponents down the stretch, but he certainly remains in contention here. The senior leads the league in pass efficiency (143 rating) and carried the offense before the line and the run game got going.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ohio State S Kurt Coleman -- He leads the league in forced fumbles per game (.6), ranks eighth in tackles (8.6 tackles per game) and fifth in interceptions per game (.4). Coleman had an electrifying 89-yard interception return for a touchdown last week, and he has set the tone for the Big Ten's best defense.
Wisconsin DE O'Brien Schofield -- Schofield has been the Big Ten's best defensive lineman and one of the best in the country. He leads the nation with 14.5 tackles for loss and leads the Big Ten with 6.5 sacks. Schofield also has forced two fumbles and has recorded 33 tackles.
Iowa S Tyler Sash -- The sophomore has proved that last year was no fluke, once again leading the Big Ten with five interceptions. Sash is showing he can do more than pick off passes, ranking 12th in the league in tackles (7.8 tpg). He also ranks second in total passes defended with nine.
Michigan State LB Greg Jones -- The preseason Defensive Player of the Year has lived up to his hype, leading the Big Ten and ranking third nationally in tackles (11.8 tpg). Jones also is tied for seventh in the Big Ten in sacks and has a fumble recovery.
Michigan CB Donovan Warren -- Warren has been the league's top corner and one of the best in the country. He leads the Big Ten in passes defended (10) and ties for second in interceptions (3), including a pick-six last week against Iowa. Though Michigan's defense has a ton of holes, Warren isn't one of them.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Michigan QB Tate Forcier -- Despite some recent struggles, Forcier has been brilliant for the Wolverines, particularly in the clutch. He led game-winning touchdown drives against both Notre Dame and Indiana and rallied Michigan from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit at Michigan State.
Iowa RB Adam Robinson -- Robinson has done a very solid job filling in for the injured Jewel Hampton as Iowa is certainly surviving without Shonn Greene. The redshirt freshman ranks fourth in the league in rushing average (71.5 ypg) and has scored four touchdowns.
Michigan State DT Jerel Worthy -- The redshirt freshman is tied for second in the league in sacks with 4.5, tops among defensive tackles. He has six tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries for the Spartans this year.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Iowa's Kirk Ferentz -- Ferentz has Iowa off to its best start (6-0) since 1985, when the team won the Big Ten title and advanced to the Rose Bowl. Despite losing their best offensive player (Greene) and their two best defenders (tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul), the Hawkeyes are making plays and gaining confidence, especially in close games.
Wisconsin's Bret Bielema -- Bielema made accountability a bigger theme throughout the program after an extremely disappointing 2008 season, and the results are showing. A team with questions at quarterback, wide receiver and every defensive position started 5-0 and outplayed Ohio State for part of last week's game. Wisconsin is still prone to too many mistakes, but Bielema has corrected the big-picture problems that plagued his team in 2008.