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Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Robinson, Michigan win big at BTN awards

By Adam Rittenberg

Michigan wasn't the Big Ten's best team in 2010 -- far from it, in fact -- but the Wolverines' season had no shortage of excitement. As a result, the Maize and Blue won big Monday night during the Big Ten Network's fourth annual awards show.

Of the three awards won by football players or teams, three went to Michigan.

Here's a recap:

Award: Breakout Performer of the Year
Winner: Michigan QB Denard Robinson
Verdict: Good call. While Ohio State basketball player Jared Sullinger had a huge season, he arrived with a ton of hype. Robinson, meanwhile, leapfrogged returning starter Tate Forcier on the depth chart and became The Story in college football last September. He shattered team records in each of the first two games and went on to win Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors.

Award: Most Dominating Performance
Winner: Denard Robinson against Notre Dame, Sept. 11
Verdict: While Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure deserved serious consideration for his record-setting performance at Wrigley Field, Robinson's selection isn't a big surprise. When you play for Michigan and you record 502 yards of offense against Notre Dame in South Bend, you're going to get recognition. Robinson set a Big Ten record for quarterback rushing with 258 yards and recorded the nation's top highlight in September, an 87-yard touchdown scamper that marked the longest rushing touchdown in Notre Dame Stadium history.

Award: Most Courageous Performance
Winner: Minnesota FB Jon Hoese
Verdict: An excellent decision. Although Mark Dantonio's return from a heart attack and Brock Mealer's amazing recovery to walk again at Michigan's opener also were excellent options, Hoese's story didn't get nearly as much attention, even in Big Ten circles. The Gophers' fullback nearly didn't travel to the season opener at Middle Tennessee after his father, Terry, suffered a stroke the week before. Hoese ended up playing, scored three touchdowns and recovered a fumble on a kickoff to secure Minnesota's victory. Sadly, Hoese's father passed away the following Monday.

Award: Best Finish
Winner: Notre Dame at Michigan State, Sept. 18
Verdict: A no-brainer. Dantonio made the call of the year in college football as Michigan State scored on a fake field goal attempt in overtime to beat rival Notre Dame at Spartan Stadium. The play, labeled "Little Giants," sparked Michigan State to a special season as the Spartans started 8-0, recorded a team-record 11 victories and won a share of their first league title in 20 years.

Award: Game of the Year
Winner: Illinois at Michigan, Nov. 6
Verdict: This might have been the best pick among the nominees, but I was surprised games like Notre Dame-Michigan, Ohio State-Iowa and Wisconsin-Iowa didn't make the list. The Illinois-Michigan game didn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, and it was hardly a traditional Big Ten game as neither team played any defense. Still, the game produced the highest combined scoring total (132) in Big Ten history and set several other marks. It certainly wasn't boring.

Wisconsin's football team came up short in the Best Men's Team award, which went to Penn State's wrestlers. I would like to have seen Dantonio or Wisconsin's Bret Bielema up for Men's Coach of the Year.

All in all, I have few issues with the award selections.

What about you?