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Tuesday, November 27, 2012
B1G endorsements: Coach of the Year

By Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett

The Big Ten announced its 2012 all-conference teams and most individual awards Monday night, but four more awards have yet to be revealed. Before the winners are announced, we're putting in our endorsements for Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Freshman of the Year. We'll agree on some and differ on others.

Here are our endorsements for the league's top coach in 2012:

Adam Rittenberg endorses Ohio State's Urban Meyer

It's a two-man race for this award between Meyer and Penn State's Bill O'Brien, and you can't go wrong with either coach. Both stepped into tough situations -- O'Brien more so than Meyer -- and led teams saddled with NCAA sanctions to impressive seasons in the Leaders Division. No coach in recent memory has dealt with the type of challenges O'Brien faced when the NCAA sanctions came down in July and several key players transferred. His ability to keep the team together, especially after an 0-2 start, and to transform an outdated offense is terrific. Penn State definitely exceeded expectations under O'Brien. But I'm going with Meyer for this award, and not just because the Buckeyes won four more games than Penn State and beat the Lions in State College. Meyer didn't inherit a typical Ohio State team. The Buckeyes came off of their first seven-loss season since 1897. Their offense was brutal to watch. They had depth issues on defense. Sure, the Big Ten is down and Ohio State's nonconference schedule isn't impressive, but for Meyer to get this team to 12-0 is tremendous. If Meyer had inherited the 2006 Buckeyes or the 2009 Buckeyes, I'd go with O'Brien. But he took a team with a ton of question marks and led it to a perfect season.

Brian Bennett endorses Penn State's Bill O'Brien

Of the four major awards, this one was the toughest call for me. I'd be perfectly fine with either O'Brien or Meyer winning the award, and though I normally despise ties for these kinds of things, this is one case where I wouldn't object. (And we haven't even mentioned Nebraska's Bo Pelini or Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, who did excellent jobs in their own right this year). But if I have to choose one, I'll take O'Brien, who dealt with more challenges than most coaches could even imagine. He also took a passing game that was frightening to watch at times the past couple of years and turned Matt McGloin into a 3,000-yard passer and Allen Robinson into the top Big Ten receiver. Or just look how he handled kicker Sam Ficken, who went from Week 2 goat to Week 13 hero. Several pundits picked Penn State to have a disastrous season, but instead the Nittany Lions won eight of their final 10 games and finished as a Top 25-caliber team, in my view. Meyer deserves every accolade he receives as well, but especially as a first-year head coach, O'Brien did a remarkable job.