Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Big Ten awards race tracker: Week 10
By Brian Bennett
November brings some heated races in the Legends and Leaders divisions and also in the quest for some individual hardware in the Big Ten. Here's how we see some of those key awards shaping up with a month to go in the regular season:
Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year
1. Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead: Our new clubhouse leader. Burkhead has become the most important offensive player on the league's top-ranked team. He is averaging 110 yards rushing per game and has run for 12 touchdowns. Maybe more importantly, he gives the Nebraska offense leadership and confidence, and his 35-carry performance against Michigan State defined what an MVP should look like.
2.Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson: Two straight losses diminish Wilson's terrific season, but he shouldn't be blamed for Wisconsin's breakdowns in pass coverage and special teams. He remains the best quarterback in the Big Ten.
3. Penn State running back Silas Redd: All Redd did was run for 703 yards in October, surpassing 125 yards in five straight games. He is the first Big Ten back to go over 1,000 yards this year and is making a strong push for MVP honors.
4. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson: After talking about it for a long time, the Wolverines coaches are finally taking the load off Robinson somewhat, with increased roles for Devin Gardner and Fitz Toussaint. That's good for Robinson's health and the team but maybe bad for his award candidacy. He still leads the Big Ten in total offense (281 yards per game).
5. Wisconsin running back Montee Ball: Ohio State did a great job shutting down the Badgers' running game on Saturday, but Ball still found the end zone. That's what he does. He has accounted for 22 total touchdowns this year (18 rushing, three receiving, one passing).
Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year
1. Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still: Simply put, Still is the most important defensive player on the league's best defensive team. He had 3.5 more tackles for loss and a sack in yet another dominating performance against Illinois last week.
2. Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus: The nation's sack leader added one more against Penn State, along with another forced fumble. It's a close call between him and Still, but Penn State is 5-0 in the conference. To the victors go the spoils.
3. Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David: A 13-tackle performance against Michigan State has David moving on up our list.
4. Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy: Nebraska was able to mostly contain Worthy (two tackles on Saturday), but he has had a terrific season as the point man on the Spartans' defense.
5. Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges: Winner of two straight Big Ten defensive player of the week awards, Hodges jumps into the top five following his 19-tackle showing against Illinois.
Just missed: Ohio State defensive tackle John Simon.
Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year
1. Marvin McNutt, Iowa: He leads the Big Ten in touchdown catches (9) and has already set the Iowa career touchdown receptions record. McNutt is averaging 107 receiving yards per game with an impressive 17.9 yards per catch average.
2. A.J. Jenkins, Illinois: Jenkins has already gone over 1,000 yards and leads the league in receptions and yards, with seven touchdowns. But he has cooled off a bit after an unbelievable start to October as defenses have focused on stopping him.
3. B.J. Cunningham, Michigan State: Cunningham is having a terrific season and looks like the Spartans' best offensive player, but he was held without a catch for the first time in more than three years last week at Nebraska.
4. Nick Toon, Wisconsin: A nice bounce-back year for the senior, Toon is averaging 18.1 yards per reception and has six touchdowns.
5. Jeremy Ebert, Northwestern: His numbers likely would be better had Dan Persa not missed so much time. Still, Ebert has 569 receiving yards and seven scores.