Big Ten: B1G endorsements 13

The All-Big Ten teams and individual awards are out, and the league hands out its four major awards — Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Freshman of the Year — later Tuesday. As always, we’re handing out our endorsements for each award in advance of the announcement. We'll agree on some and differ on others.

Let's wrap up the endorsements with the league's top freshman.

[+] EnlargePenn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarPenn State freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg lived up to expectations.
Adam Rittenberg endorses Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg

This was the easiest decision of the four major awards, as Hackenberg is the only acceptable choice here. The true freshman started all 12 games for Penn State, finishing third in the Big Ten in passing yards (2,955) and tied for second in touchdown passes (20). He had some freshman moments but also showed tremendous poise in rallying Penn State to wins against Michigan and Illinois. Hackenberg ended his season with a signature performance against Wisconsin (339 pass yards, four touchdowns) as Penn State recorded the most surprising and impressive win of the Bill O'Brien era. Hackenberg won five Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards, including each of the last two weeks. The league had other good freshmen, such as Ohio State defensive lineman Joey Bosa, Wisconsin running back Corey Clement and Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., but Hackenberg wins this award going away.

Brian Bennett endorses Hackenberg

Slam dunk. I think Hackenberg could win a lot of major awards before his career is done. I'd add Wisconsin's Sojourn Shelton and Ohio State's Dontre Wilson as other standout freshmen. But this one's a rout.

More endorsements:
The All-Big Ten teams and individual awards are out, and the league hands out its four major awards -- Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Freshman of the Year -- later Tuesday. As always, we’re handing out our endorsements for each award in advance of the announcement. We'll agree on some and differ on others.

Let's turn our attention now to the league's top coach:

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Icon SMIOther Big Ten coaches have exceeded expectations, but Urban Meyer should be rewarded for meeting sky-high ones.
Brian Bennett endorses Ohio State's Urban Meyer

If Meyer doesn't win the award this year, then we need to change the name of the honor to "Coach Who Most Exceeded Expectations." Or "Coach of the Year, Non-Ohio State Division." It's ridiculous that voters for these awards often overlook sustained excellence only to pick someone whose team did better than some worthless preseason predictions. All Meyer has done is go 12-0 for the second straight season. The Buckeyes also withstood some adversity, including the suspension of Carlos Hyde, Braxton Miller's knee injury and safety Christian Bryant's season-ending knee injury. Plus, Ohio State had an enormous target on its back all season long. Mark Dantonio did excellent work at Michigan State, especially in staying patient with the offense under withering early criticism. But the 2012 season now looks like the aberration for a Spartans program that has 11 wins in three of the past four years. The Minnesota story is also tremendous, and if this were a vote for coaching staffs, I might give it to the Gophers. But Meyer shouldn't be punished for having sky-high expectations. He should be rewarded for meeting them.

Adam Rittenberg endorses Meyer

Brian pretty much writes it all here as to why Meyer should be the choice. I've had a problem with this award for some time and the fact an Ohio State coach hasn't won it since Earle Bruce in 1979. If Meyer doesn't win after guiding Ohio State to a second consecutive undefeated regular season and a team-record 24 straight wins, just get rid of the thing entirely. Dantonio, Kill and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz all did excellent jobs improving their teams in 2013, but Meyer maintained a standard of excellence in a sport where even the most talented and experienced teams usually stumble at least once in a season. The offense has become even better in Year 2, and the defense held up for the most part despite returning just one starter in the front seven. Enough with the sympathy coach votes. Give it to the guy who has come into the league and dominated right away. Otherwise, the award lacks any credibility.

More endorsements:
The All-Big Ten teams and individual awards are out, and the league hands out its four major awards — Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Freshman of the Year — later today. As always, we’re handing out our endorsements for each award in advance of the announcement. We'll agree on some and differ on others.

Let's turn our attention to the defensive side of the ball.

[+] EnlargeRyan Shazier
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesOhio State linebacker Ryan Shazier led the Big Ten in tackles and tackles for loss.
Adam Rittenberg endorses Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier

If I had to build a defense around one Big Ten player, I would pick Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland. If I were an NFL general manager drafting one Big Ten defender, I'd go with Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard. But for the 2013 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, I'm endorsing Ohio State's Shazier. Borland and Dennard would be good choices, too, but Shazier's overall profile gives him the edge. He leads the Big Ten in both tackles (122) and tackles for loss (21), leads Big Ten linebackers in sacks (6) and is tied for the league lead in forced fumbles (4). He needs just five more tackles for loss to tie Mike Vrabel's team record. Ohio State really leaned on Shazier, the only returning starter in the Buckeyes' defensive front seven, and he came through every single week. Like Carlos Hyde, my pick for Offensive Player of the Year, Shazier is finishing the season extremely well, recording 50 tackles in his last three games.

Brian Bennett endorses Shazier

In another year, Borland and Dennard might just win this award. But it's really hard to ignore what Shazier has done, especially in the closing stretch of the season. Where would Ohio State's defense be without him? That's something I'm sure Urban Meyer and Luke Fickell would rather not contemplate. Three times this season, Shazier was named Big Ten defensive player of the week, and the Butkus Award finalist could have been honored in many other weeks. Borland was also outstanding, but missing two Big Ten games hurt his case. There's no better cornerback in America than Dennard, but I think a linebacker has a bigger impact on a defense. And no one player made a bigger impact on the league defensively than Shazier.

More endorsements:
The All-Big Ten teams and individual awards are out, and the league hands out its four major awards -- Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Freshman of the Year -- later Tuesday. As always, we're handing out our endorsements for each award in advance of the announcement. We'll agree on some and differ on others.

First up, Offensive Player of the Year.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Hyde
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesCarlos Hyde and Braxton Miller are the top two candidates for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
Adam Rittenberg endorses Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde

Our recent debate on this topic showed how close the race is between Hyde, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah. I leaned toward Abdullah before Week 13 but wanted to see how each candidate finished the season. You can't go wrong with any of the three, but Hyde gets my vote. Note the "Big Ten" reference in the award. Hyde has been simply dominant in league play, rushing for 1,249 yards and 14 touchdowns in eight Big Ten contests and averaging a ridiculous 7.8 yards per carry. Abdullah is great, too, but his Big Ten numbers aren't nearly as impressive. Hyde runs behind the Big Ten's best offensive line and shares a backfield with arguably the nation's best dual-threat quarterback, but he does a lot of the work himself with pure power. Hyde is Urban Meyer's first 1,000-yard back. He's the biggest reason Ohio State survived an Oct. 5 trip to Northwestern. And he's playing his best football right now, racking up 589 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in his last three games. Hyde hasn't had a bad Big Ten game this year and has shined in league play the past two seasons.

Brian Bennett endorses Ohio State QB Braxton Miller

Hyde and Abdullah would be fine choices for this award. But I'm going with last year's honoree as a repeat winner. Always a threat to run, Miller became a precision passer this season. During Big Ten play, he led the league in pass efficiency, completing 65.1 percent of his throws with a league-best 19 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. And he was just as dangerous with his legs, rushing for 809 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 7.1 yards per carry during conference play. Had Miller not missed three nonconference games with a knee injury, he would be a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy, if not the top candidate right now. But he showed his value immediately upon returning from that injury, throwing four touchdown passes in a 31-24 win over Wisconsin on Sept. 28 that all but locked up the division title for the Buckeyes. He also had five total touchdowns in last Saturday's win over Michigan. Hyde has been in beast mode as well, but I think one of the reasons for his success is that teams are constantly afraid of Miller taking off with the ball. Miller is ultimately what makes the league's best offense go, so he's my pick as offensive player of the year. Again.

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