Friday, March 29, 2013
Big Ten players tournament championship
By Adam Rittenberg
And then there were two.
The Big Ten players tournament has reached its apex. It began with eight Big Ten standouts (Nebraska's representative starred in the Big 12) from the past 15 seasons. Each league team was limited to one entry, and candidates must either have won Big Ten MVP honors or a major national award.
The title game pits one of the best offensive players in college football history against one of the best defenders in recent memory. There aren't too many earthquakes in the Midwest, but that could change if Ron Dayne and Ndamukong Suh met at the line of scrimmage. Dayne, the Wisconsin running back and No. 1 seed in the tournament, takes on Suh, the Nebraska defensive tackle and No. 3 seed, in the final.
Voting for the matchup takes place until 9 a.m. ET Monday.
Neither player needs an introduction, but here goes ...
Dayne outlasted Purdue quarterback Drew Brees in a closely contested semifinal vote to advance to the championship. The Wisconsin star became one of the biggest stars in college football in the late 1990s as he bulldozed defenders in a league known for physical play. Dayne won the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Award, the Doak Walker Ward, Big Ten MVP honors and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors in 1999. He was a consensus All-American in 1999 and a first-team All-Big Ten in 1996, 1998 and 1999. A true power back with deceptive speed and quickness, Dayne set the NCAA career rushing record with 6,397 yards (not including bowl games) and ranks sixth in both career rushing touchdowns (63) and rushing yards per game (148.8). He became the first player to lead the Big Ten in rushing for three consecutive seasons, and shined on the biggest stages, including the Rose Bowl, where he earned back-to-back MVP awards (1999 and 2000).
Suh had a much easier time advancing to the final, as he easily defeated Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El in the semis. Although Suh doesn't own a Heisman Trophy like Dayne, many feel he should have earned one in 2009, when he put together one of the most dominant seasons for a defender in college football history. Suh led Nebraska with 85 tackles -- the most by a Huskers defensive lineman since 1974 -- and racked up 24 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 26 quarterback hurries and three blocked kicks. He won AP Player of the Year honors and also claimed the Bednarik Award, Rotary Lombardi Award, Nagurski Trophy and Outland Trophy. Suh finished fourth in the Heisman voting. He was a consensus first-team All-American in 2009 and a first-team All-Big 12 selection in each of his final two seasons in Lincoln.
Two great options, but only one can win the title. Be sure to vote in the poll and tell me why you voted the way you did. I'll share some of the best comments -- along with the winner -- on Monday.