Big Ten: Brian Orakpo

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
 Colt McCoy threw for 414 yards and the winning touchdown with 16 seconds to play Monday night against Ohio State.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Roy Miller sounded like an Ohio State infomercial.

Minutes after No. 3 Texas posted a dramatic Fiesta Bowl win, Miller began talking up the team his Longhorns had just beaten.

"Great team, great players, Terrelle Pryor, [Chris "Beanie" Wells] is healthy," said Miller, the Longhorns senior nose tackle who was named Defensive Player of the Game. "You've got award winners on that side. You've got future Heisman candidates, you've got a running back that'll probably be the top pick in the draft, an offensive line as big as any, a defense that's played as well as any defense.

"When you look at those things and you look that this team had an opportunity to scout us for a month and a half, I really feel like we deserve that top spot."

It will be a tough sell, but the Longhorns began campaigning for the No. 1 ranking immediately after their 24-21 win. Head coach Mack Brown on the victory podium said he planned to vote Texas at No. 1 regardless of what happens in the BCS title game Thursday night.

But there's a force working against Texas, the same force that worked in favor of Oklahoma and Florida.

The Longhorns won by only three points Monday. They showed tremendous fortitude, made key plays and rallied past an Ohio State team that finally began to play to its potential. Yet a 3-point win against the runner-up from the beleaguered Big Ten Conference won't convince many that Texas should be at the top. Neither will an offense that produced well below its season averages.

"Style points, I don't care about scoring 80 points and them scoring seven," Longhorns defensive end Brian Orakpo said. "If it's a battle between two great teams, it makes football even more fun to play. It's very unfortunate because nowadays it's all style points and who can keep their starters in the longest and keep running up the score.

"Style points shouldn't matter."

Orakpo makes an excellent point, but one that likely will fall on deaf ears when the final polls come out. Texas entered the game as a 9-point favorite, and after impressive BCS wins by both USC and Utah, the Longhorns likely needed to trounce Ohio State to open the door for a split national title.

Though Texas certainly has the best case of any team not spending the week in Miami, the Longhorns were seconds away from a loss. USC thumped a Penn State team that beat Ohio State on Oct. 25, and Utah also posted a two-touchdown victory.

"Things weren't easy tonight," Brown said.

"You can throw [margin of victory] out the window," Orakpo said.

Unfortunately for Orakpo, the voters don't.

Texas' best argument for the No. 1 spot in the polls had nothing to do with what happened at University of Phoenix Stadium.

"It's called the Red River Shootout, and 45-35 was that final score," Miller said, referring to Texas' win against Oklahoma on Oct. 11. "We have an opportunity to win the votes over, hopefully, and possibly get a national championship with the votes."

Miller spoke last week about losing confidence in the voters toward the end of the regular season, as Oklahoma moved past Texas, thanks in large part to style points. History is not on the Longhorns' side.

But after Monday's win, Miller is beginning to feel more hopeful.

"I'm optimistic," he said. "I'm hoping that since our team played so strong and showed so much heart, I'm hoping those things can come through transparent, everybody can see 'em. Especially if Oklahoma wins [Thursday night]. We beat Oklahoma. We felt like we should have been in Florida. We felt like we should have had that opportunity.

"If they beat Florida, we feel we should be No. 1."

Miller doesn't plan to sit around and fret over the final polls. But he hopes the voters will do the right thing.

"Anything can happen," he said. "We know it, and we just hope we can win a couple votes. I'm proud of my team. Being a part of this team and knowing the things that we've been through, the teams that we've beat and the situations we've been in, I personally feel this team can play with anybody in the country."

1Q update: Ohio State 3, Texas 0

January, 5, 2009
1/05/09
9:02
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Once again, Ohio State has an early lead in a big game.

Can the Buckeyes hold it?

The second quarter has doomed Ohio State in recent showcase games and will be crucial against Texas, which is showing some life on offense. Colt McCoy and the Longhorns have accelerated their pace on offense and marched inside Buckeyes' territory after two punts.

Ohio State has controlled the tempo so far, though the Buckeyes don't have much to show for it.

They didn't waste any time unveiling their much-discussed two quarterback plan.

Senior Todd Boeckman took the game's first snap with Terrelle Pryor lined up wide and found Brian Robiskie for a 17-yard gain. Boeckman left the field but re-entered three plays later and threw a beautiful deep fade that Robiskie dropped. The veteran seems on his game and could be a weapon later in the game.

Ohio State has moved the ball decently, but pass-protection problems are already surfacing. Texas All-American rush end Brian Orakpo is schooling Buckeyes left tackle Alex Boone, and Pryor took a sack that nearly took the team out field-goal range.

Pryor looks decent so far, though twice he has curiously run out of bounds when he easily could have gained more yards.

Ohio State was outscored 55-7 in the second quarter in its two national championship game losses and a Sept. 13 setback at USC.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- University of Phoenix Stadium is just as cavernous as it looks on TV, and it will serve as an appropriate setting as two college football giants clash tonight in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (FOX, 8 p.m.).

Media members received a police escort from our resort to the stadium, which was pretty cool until we hit traffic in downtown Phoenix and the cops didn't help much. It was pretty funny to see the reactions from fans, who thought the buses carried Ohio State and Texas players rather than out-of-shape reporters. Sorry to disappoint.

I didn't get much of a chance to walk around, but the parking lots around the stadium are already buzzing with fans of both teams. The highlight was seeing a massive one-piece Jim Cordle jersey worn by four young women, presumably Cordle's friends or family members. If Cordle and his fellow linemen look that big on the field tonight, Texas could be in trouble.

No. 3 Texas enters its second Fiesta Bowl at 11-1, looking to restate its case as a national title contender after getting snubbed from the championship game last month. The Longhorns were a play away from reaching Miami and should be keyed up for this one. No. 10 Ohio State also has plenty to prove after flopping in the last two BCS title games. The Buckeyes are no strangers to Arizona, having won the Fiesta Bowl in 2003, 2004 and 2006. Their last trip inside this stadium ended in defeat, however, as they fell to Florida in the 2007 championship game.

On the health front, Texas has no reported injuries. Ohio State likely will be without third-string running back Brandon Saine, and reserve offensive tackle J.B. Shugarts won't play much if at all. Buckeyes starting wide receiver Brian Hartline might miss a series or two after reportedly committing a team rules violation last week.

Tonight's officiating crew is from the Big East Conference.

Here are three keys for each team heading into tonight's matchup.

TEXAS

  • Get Colt McCoy on the move to establish an early offensive rhythm. Ohio State's defensive line has improved in the second half of the season, but the Buckeyes haven't seen a quarterback as dangerous as McCoy. If he performs anything like he did during the regular season, Texas shouldn't have trouble putting up points.
  • Clog the middle and force Terrelle Pryor to win the game. The pre-game talk has centered on Longhorns All-American defensive end Brian Orakpo, but defensive tackle Roy Miller could be a more important player tonight. Ohio State wants to establish the power run game with Chris "Beanie" Wells. It's up to Miller and his linemates to slow him down.
  • Guard against the big play. Ohio State has been too reliant on big plays this season, but Pryor and his receivers are capable of stretching the field at any time. Texas' secondary is vulnerable, but if the Longhorns keep the wide receivers in front of them, they should be OK.

OHIO STATE

  • Establish Wells and the run game right away. Wells needs to have a huge night for Ohio State to keep pace with Texas. Though the junior thrives in big games, Texas defends the run well and Ohio State's offensive line has underperformed for most of the season. If Wells can wear down the Texas defensive front, Pryor will have opportunities to get creative.
  • Don't be afraid to test the Texas secondary. If there's a weakness for the Longhorns, it's the back four, and while the Buckeyes want to run the ball, they can't shy away from passing on first down. There's been some buzz about using Pryor and fellow quarterback Todd Boeckman on the field together. Sounds like a good idea for an offense that gets stale at times.
  • Defensive stars have to make plays. Linebacker James Laurinaitis and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins will graduate as two of the most decorated Ohio State defenders in team history. As they take the field for their final collegiate game, both men must be major factors in trying to disrupt McCoy and the Longhorns offense.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Here's your final in-season edition of links. Enjoy. 

"You look at it and ask: Did the players play hard, and were they prepared?" Delany asked. "Yes and yes. You know what? SC's a better football team. In all of the [bowl] games I've watched, I'm seeing us get beat by better teams. Then you say: Why is that? I don't have a great answer other than to say that these things tend to be cyclical."
  • After an up-and-down season, Ohio State left tackle Alex Boone enters the spotlight one last time tonight as he tries to keep All-American Brian Orakpo from digesting Terrelle Pryor, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.  
  • Both Ohio State and Texas have something to prove tonight, Ken Gordon writes in The Columbus Dispatch. 
  • His argument seems a bit extreme, but the Detroit Free Press' Drew Sharp recaps the Big Ten's bowl struggles and squashes the lame excuse about the location of postseason games.
"Everybody's grown tired of the standard Big Ten lament that its 24-37 bowl record this decade is reflective of an unfair travel disadvantage."
I know I have.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl preview

January, 5, 2009
1/05/09
10:16
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Here's a quick look at tonight's Tostitos Fiesta Bowl matchup between No. 3 Texas (11-1) and No. 10 Ohio State (10-2).

WHO TO WATCH: Ohio State's 28 seniors finish a truly unique career tonight, but the spotlight will be on junior running back Chris "Beanie" Wells, who likely plays his final collegiate game. If Wells finds running room against Texas, Ohio State will control the clock and keep the high-powered Longhorns offense off the field. These are the types of games that bring out the best in Wells, but he'll need his offensive line to play its top game of the season. If tonight's contest looks anything like Ohio State's Oct. 25 loss to Penn State, in which Wells rushed for only 55 yards, the Buckeyes will get blown out.

WHAT TO WATCH: The game will be won at the line of scrimmage, particularly when Ohio State's offense and Texas' defense are on the field. Longhorns All-American defensive end Brian Orakpo goes up against Ohio State standout left tackle Alex Boone in one of the game's key matchups. Sacks have been a problem at times for Ohio State this season, and Texas leads the country in that category (3.67 per game). On the other side, Ohio State's improved defensive line must put pressure on Texas star quarterback Colt McCoy, who completes 77.6 percent of his passes.

WHY TO WATCH: Both teams have something to prove, and that's rare in bowl games. Texas is fueled by getting snubbed from the BCS title game and could help its cause for a split national championship with a convincing win against Ohio State. Should the Longhorns roll and Oklahoma scrapes past Florida, there might be a split. Ohio State tries to restore its damaged national reputation after back-to-back blowout losses in the championship game. The Buckeyes unfairly take most of the blame for the Big Ten's downfall -- Michigan has a lot to do with it, too -- but they can help themselves and the league with an upset victory.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Mack Brown still gets nervous, even if he doesn't show it. 

When Brown met the media this morning, the Texas head coach recalled a conversation he had with coaching legend Darrell K. Royal about managing anxiety before games. 

 
 Joe Robbins/Getty Images
 Mack Brown doesn't see a playoff system coming to college football anytime soon.

"I asked coach Royal once, 'Did you have trouble sleeping the night before a big game?'" Brown said. "And at Texas they are all big. If you lose one, it gets real big. He said that unless you gag before you brush your teeth on Saturday morning, you are not ready to play.

"I gagged this morning. So I think I'm fine."

Brown will coach in a BCS bowl for the first time since guiding Texas to the national championship when his team takes the field Monday against No. 10 Ohio State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Fox, 8 p.m. ET). Despite his nerves in front of the bathroom sink, Brown showed none in front of reporters as he discussed Texas' final preparations for the game. 

Here are some highlights:

  • Brown doesn't see a playoff system coming to college football, but he acknowledged that the impressive wins by USC and Utah strengthen the argument for one. A Texas blowout of Ohio State certainly would add to the playoff push, which Brown certainly advocates. With many coaches supporting a playoff, Brown encouraged media members to continue the fight. And while he covets a playoff, Brown doesn't want the bowl system to suffer.
"I played at Vanderbilt for two years, and when I saw Vanderbilt kick a last-second field goal to win their first Bowl game since 1955, there will be no team or coaching staff any happier than that Vanderbilt staff was," Brown said. "We do not need to take that away from college football. It is an exciting time. I see 7-5 teams throwing Gatorade on their coach. At Texas, if we were 7-5, they'd be throwing something on me but it wouldn't be Gatorade."
  • The Big 12 has been average at best during the bowl season, with Texas Tech and Oklahoma State losing, and a heavily favored Missouri team struggling mightily against Northwestern. But Brown thinks a conference and its teams shouldn't be evaluated solely on one game, especially a game that might bring lukewarm enthusiasm. 
"We've had some teams that weren't as excited about their game because they didn't get the draw they wanted and they got disappointed at the end of the year," Brown said. "That's the biggest thing in the bowl games: Who has the edge? Who is motivated? Who wants to be there? ... If you look at the games and see who wants to be there and who is motivated because none of us have played for a month, I think that usually tells you the story more than anything else."
  • Brown recounted the process of telling his players that they didn't reach the Big 12 championship game and likely wouldn't be heading to the national championship in Miami. His first directive was to refrain from commenting publicly about the snub and instead let him do the talking. Rather than allowing the players to learn their fate on TV, Brown and his staff sent text messages minutes before the announcement and then scheduled a team meeting several hours later. In the meeting, Brown explained why Texas was left out (the computer rankings weigh road wins more than neutral-site ones), reiterated that the system is flawed and told players not to start throwing a pity party.
"Some people like it," Brown said. "It is better than what we had 10 years ago. But in this case, it didn't work out for you. But one year it didn't work out for [USC]. One year it didn't work out for Auburn. In 2004 it worked out for you when you went to the Rose Bowl to play Michigan. Don't say 'Oh, poor me' and don't say the system was poor to you just this time. It has been poor to a lot of people. This year it was good to Oklahoma instead of us."
  • Texas has tried to strike a balance between fun and serious preparation this week in Arizona. Players were given an 11 p.m. curfew most nights, and Texas hasn't had any disciplinary infractions. Director of player development Ken Rucker gave the players an added incentive not to mess up.
"[Rucker] said if he smelled any alcohol on them, he would kiss them," Brown said. "That took care of that. As far as I know, nobody has been kissed by coach Rucker before they went to bed. If you see coach Rucker, only [his wife] Nancy wants to kiss coach Rucker. It is not a group of guys."
  • Like Ohio State's 28 seniors, Texas' seniors have made a unique impact on the program and the coaches. Longhorns All-American defensive end Brian Orakpo said Thursday that the team might be closer than the 2005 squad that won a national title. They built that foundation as juniors before the 2007 Holiday Bowl, when they spoke up about helping the coaches maintain the right focus.
"A lot of people say this team will be great next year, and that's not necessarily true because when you lose some ingredients, like Orakpo and his leadership and what he has meant to this program or Roy Miller," Brown said. "My experience has been you don't wave the wand and say we have a lot of good players coming back so it works again. For whatever reason it didn't work as well for 2006 and [2007], and it's has worked this year."
  • Brown, on the prospect of Ohio State using quarterbacks Terrelle Pryor and Todd Boeckman on the field together: "We hope it works as well as ours. I think ours had five plays for minus-12 yards."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Roy Miller tried to take a glass-half-full approach with the polls this season. 

It lasted about two weeks. 

"The voters ain't been too good to us," the Texas senior defensive tackle said. "I don't know what to think."

After being snubbed from the BCS national title game despite beating one of the participants (Oklahoma), the third-ranked Longhorns understandably aren't too fond of the pollsters.

The possibility of a split national championship is being floated this week in the desert, as Texas prepares to face No. 10 Ohio State on Monday night in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (FOX, 8 p.m. ET). Should Texas crush Ohio State and Oklahoma sneak by Florida, the AP voters could always put Texas -- or even USC -- at No. 1 in their final poll. 

"I'm not going to get wrapped up in that," Miller said. "I just want to have a good game. That's all we can do, control what we can, play to a national championship standard. I don't want to get wrapped up in, 'Maybe we may get this many votes.'

"As history has shown, we've been very disappointed after the voters' decisions." 

Texas All-American defensive end Brian Orakpo acknowledged the national title game snub serves as fuel heading into Monday's matchup. But anything beyond that, including a split title, doesn't concern the Longhorns. 

"Obviously before we were very disappointed, not getting in there and dwelling and being sad and all that stuff," Orakpo said. "But we put that aside a long time ago in Austin. We're very well focused. We're happy to be here at the Fiesta Bowl. 

"We'll see come January 6th and the next day. If it goes our way, then hey, we've got an argument. But we've got to take care of business."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- At 6-foot-7 and 335 pounds, Steve Rehring is a big boy.

The Ohio State right guard can handle a little criticism.

 
 Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
 Alex Boone and the Ohio State offensive line will need their A-game against the Longhorns' defensive front.

"We take the blame," Rehring said of himself and his linemates. "If people want to blame us, that's fine. Whatever. We do some dirty things sometimes. People don't understand what we do down there."

Ohio State's front five has borne the brunt for the unit's struggles for most of the season. Despite returning four starting linemen, the Buckeyes finished 78th nationally in total offense (339.7 yards per game) and didn't truly find an identity until the closing stretch of the season.

The topsy-turvy season brought criticism from both outside and inside the locker room. Left tackle Alex Boone gave the line an 'F' for its performance in nonconference play. Rehring was a little more forgiving with his regular-season grade, giving the line a 'B' or 'B-minus.'

The group needs an A-plus performance Monday night against No. 3 Texas in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Fox, 8 p.m. ET). Led by All-American Brian Orakpo, Texas leads the nation in sacks (3.7 sacks per game), while Ohio State is tied for 78th in sacks allowed (2.17 per game).

"We have a lot to prove," Boone said. "We've been up and down all year. We've been talking about that and how we need to get better."

Pass protection has been the biggest knock against the Buckeyes, who ranked no worse than 29th nationally in sacks allowed during the last three seasons.

"I don't think pass blocking all goes on the offensive line," Rehring said. "We take the blame for it, always. If you get beat, you get beat. That's on the offensive line. But sometimes, protection-wise, we're supposed to do this or that.

"As a collective group, we need to protect the quarterback."

Starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor is prone to holding the ball too long at times, and he'll need to have a quicker release against Texas, which boasts seven defenders with multiple sacks, led by Orakpo (10.5) and linebacker Sergio Kindle (9). Both Rehring and Ohio State tight end Rory Nicol likened Orakpo to former Buckeyes star Vernon Gholston, the hulking end who had 14 sacks last season.

"We need to do a good job schematically of trying to keep Texas true and contained to their schemes and not letting them just tee off, off the edges," Nicol said. "Staying out of third-and-long situations where they get in that 30 front, they put Orakpo and the other kid on the edge and they're coming. They're coming to get the quarterback."

Speed has become a sore subject for Big Ten teams in recent seasons, and the new spin on the debate is that the major differential can be found on the line of scrimmage, not with the skill players.

Rehring doesn't buy it.

"We've got great defensive lines in the Big Ten," Rehring said. "I would put our defensive line against anybody and run 40s, across the board. On the offensive line, it doesn't matter. As long as you have good technique and do what you do, you have quick feet, it doesn't matter how fast they are.

"As an offensive line, we're pretty quick guys, play with good technique and we go against a great defensive line every day in practice. So we'll see how it works out."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- More than once after a game this season, Terrelle Pryor noted how college football isn't all that different from the Pennsylvania high school scene he dominated as the nation's No. 1 recruit.

 
 AP Photo/Seth Perlman
 Terrelle Pryor has successfully made the transition from high school to the college game.

After helping Ohio State stomp Michigan State, 45-7, on Oct. 18, Pryor told reporters, "It's just like high school." The line became Pryor's trademark this fall as he won Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors and led Ohio State to another BCS bowl appearance as the starting quarterback.

"Liar," Buckeyes senior tight end Rory Nicol said. "But Terrelle's from PA [Pennsylvania], I'm from PA, too, so I'm allowed to say that. He's a good athlete, man."

Such a good athlete that Pryor's transition from high school to college has been smoother than many had expected, even for a freshman who came to Ohio State with unparalleled hype. Pryor has had his growing pains, but he led the Big Ten in pass efficiency (152.1) and posted an 8-1 mark as the starter.

With small-forward size and a smooth, seemingly effortless running style, Pryor at times looked like the best player on the field, just like he was at Jeannette Senior High School.

Could it really be that easy?

"You can't really argue with him," senior cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said. "He was just in high school last year, so he comes in, he's doing amazing things as a freshman. It kind of is just like high school."

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

So far, I'm 1-1 in bowl picks, though I should have had more faith in Northwestern and a lot less in Wisconsin. Despite an 0-2 start to the bowl season, the Big Ten can redeem itself in January. A BCS bowl win or two would go a long way toward repairing the league's national image, though it won't be easy at all.

Here's how I see the last four bowls shaping up.

OUTBACK BOWL -- Iowa 24, South Carolina 14

The Hawkeyes are the better team and ended the season strong, while South Carolina stumbled down the stretch. Both teams are solid on defense, ranking 12th (South Carolina) and 13th (Iowa) nationally. The difference is Iowa found an offensive identity toward the second half of the season, while South Carolina's search continues. Hawkeyes running back Shonn Greene has another big game on a national stage, and he'll get plenty of chances because South Carolina is so strong against the pass. Iowa defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul will stuff the run in their final collegiate game, forcing South Carolina to throw against a defense that generates a ton of turnovers. Unless quarterback Ricky Stanzi regresses, Iowa will get the Big Ten a bowl win.

CAPITAL ONE -- Georgia 37, Michigan State 21

Mark Dantonio and his staff did an amazing job to get everything they could out of their players this season. But looking at how Michigan State struggled against elite offensive teams, there's little to suggest the Spartans can slow down a Georgia offense stocked with future NFL players. If Spartans star running back Javon Ringer controls the clock and Michigan State's defensive line puts pressure on Matthew Stafford, an upset isn't out of the question. Georgia hasn't defended the run well at times this season, and the Bulldogs will get a heavy dose of Ringer. But the Bulldogs have too many weapons, and they'll pull away down the stretch to snap the Big Ten's Capital One Bowl win streak.

ROSE PRESENTED BY CITI -- Penn State 17, USC 14

There's really no reason to pick against USC in a big game, especially one in Pasadena. But there's something special about this Penn State team: the way they overcame offseason turmoil, the way they blitzed through most of the season and the way they made improvement in every facet of the game. So after a lot of thought, I decided not to play it safe in the Rose Bowl Game. USC has to lose one of these games, and Penn State has what it takes to beat the Trojans, especially on defense. There won't be a lot of points, but special teams proves to be the difference for Penn State. Derrick Williams breaks off a big return and specialists Kevin Kelly and Jeremy Boone both step up as the Lions prevail in a defensive struggle.

TOSTITOS FIESTA -- Texas 30, Ohio State 21

Texas was supposed to be a year away, while Ohio State entered the season stocked with seniors and major contributors. But the Longhorns have evolved into the more complete team. Ohio State's identity, particularly on offense, took a long time to develop. The Buckeyes are definitely playing their best football, particularly along the defensive line, and freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor won't flinch in the national spotlight. If Ohio State's defensive front puts pressure on Colt McCoy and heralded linebacker James Laurinaitis makes a huge play, the Buckeyes could pull off the upset. But Ohio State's offense is too reliant on the big play, and an offensive line that struggled for most of the season won't hold down Brian Orakpo and a Texas defense that leads the nation in sacks.

Postseason record: 1-1 (50 percent)

Regular-season record: 71-17 (80.7 percent)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

In this blogger's humble opinion, defensive end was the Big Ten's strongest position this season. The people who run the Ted Hendricks Award seem to agree.

Penn State's Aaron Maybin and Indiana's Jammie Kirlew are among the six finalists for the Hendricks Award, which will be presented to the nation's top defensive end on Dec. 10. 

Maybin led the Big Ten and tied for fourth nationally in sacks (12). The dynamic sophomore who didn't even begin the season as a starter ranks seventh nationally in tackles for loss (19). 

Kirlew, a junior, led the Big Ten and ties for fifth nationally in tackles for loss (19.5). He ranks second in the league behind Maybin in sacks (10.5), recording a sack in six of his final eight games. 

Both Maybin and Kirlew earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the media. 

The Big Ten was the only conference with multiple players on the list of the Hendricks Award finalists, which also includes Florida State's Everette Brown, TCU's Jerry Hughes, Texas' Brian Orakpo and Oregon's Nick Reed. 

For a league that takes a ton of criticism nationally, the Big Ten continues to represent well for the national awards. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Ohio State senior linebacker James Laurinaitis, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, has been named one of four finalists for the Lott Trophy. Laurinaitis joins Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo, Florida State safety Myron Rolle and Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry on the list of finalists. 

The Lott Trophy honors the defensive impact player of the year and recognizes a player's character attributes in addition to his athletic achievements.

"He's a talented yet humble young man who brings enormous credit to the game of college football," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said of Laurinaitis. "He represents Ohio State with poise and class."

Laurinaitis led Ohio State and ranked second in the Big Ten with 121 tackles this season. 

The Lott Trophy winner will be announced Dec. 14 in Newport Beach, Calif. 

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