Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Big Ten awards race tracker: Week 9
By Brian Bennett
The awards race tracker took last week off as we rolled out our midseason reports and named our half-year offensive and defensive MVPs. Since then, we've had another weekend of Big Ten games, so it's time to check back in on the individual races:
Graham–George Offensive Player of the Year
1. Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon: He's already at 1,012 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns through seven games. Extrapolate that over 13 games, and Gordon would approach 1,900 rushing yards. Montee Ball ran for 1,830 yards last year on his way to the Doak Walker Award.
Ohio State's Braxton Miller might have missed a few games, but it's impossible to overlook what he has done when he has played.
2. Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah: Abdullah is right behind Gordon in the race for Big Ten rushing champion, averaging just 8.6 yards per game fewer than his Wisconsin counterpart. Nebraska's status as Legends Division contender means Abdullah will get plenty of big games over the next six weeks to prove his worth.
3. Ohio State QB Braxton Miller: He might have missed nearly three full games earlier this season, but the defending offensive player of the year will be a factor down the stretch. Miller threw for 222 yards and rushed for another 102 in the win over Iowa last week.
4. Michigan WR Jeremy Gallon: The Wolverines wideout makes a big jump in the standings after his ridiculous, Big Ten-record 369 yards receiving last week. Not surprisingly, he now leads the league in receptions (45) and yards (831) with seven touchdowns. The one knock on Gallon is inconsistency, as he has a had a few games with unimpressive numbers.
5. Penn State WR Allen Robinson: The Nittany Lions were off last week, but Robinson gets a big showcase this Saturday at Ohio State. He needs three catches and 127 yards to surpass Gallon for the Big Ten lead in both categories.
Nagurski–Woodson Defensive Player of the Year
1. Wisconsin LB Chris Borland: He missed most of last Saturday's game at Illinois with an injured hamstring. Wisconsin will need him back for the Nov. 2 game at Iowa.
2. Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier: He had a team-best nine tackles against Iowa but wasn't at his disruptive best. We expect bigger things down the stretch from the Buckeyes' star.
3. Michigan State LB Max Bullough: The Big Ten's defensive player of the week, Bullough has 10 tackles and forced a fumble that teammate Denicos Allen returned for one of only two touchdowns in the game vs. Purdue. He is the captain and leader of the league's top defense.
4. Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard: Plenty of Spartans deserve recognition, and defensive end Shilique Calhoun is still in this mix as well. Dennard owns the title of best Big Ten cornerback so far this season.
5. Minnesota DT Ra'Shede Hageman: Big 'Shede has 6.5 tackles for loss and has broken up seven passes so far in a big senior season for the Gophers star.
Thompson–Randle El Freshman of the Year
1. Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg: We can just about call this one already. Hackenberg has been terrific for a true freshman quarterback, and he leads the league in passing yards per game (278.7), to go along with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. We'd like to see the completion percentage (58.4) go up a bit, but again, he's a true freshman. In his last two games, Hackenberg has had 99 pass attempts, and he led a clutch comeback in regulation against Michigan.
2. Wisconsin CB Sojourn Shelton: Everyone is playing for No. 2 in this race right now, but the Badgers true freshman corner is my choice (in a close call over Ohio State's Dontre Wilson) as runner-up to this point. He has solidified an inexperienced Wisconsin secondary, and while everyone remembers the dropped interception at Ohio State, Shelton has three picks and six passes defended this season.