Twice a year, in the preseason and postseason, we release our list of the top 25 Big Ten players. It requires some agonizing choices.
Twenty-five might seem like a lot, but that's basically the same number as the all-conference first team, including specialists. And, of course, some positions are far deeper than others.
So every time we do this, we are forced to leave out some very worthy individuals. That was the case again this year. Here are the guys who were the toughest to leave off our 2015 postseason list:
The Ohio State linebacker trio: Darron Lee, Joshua Perry and Raekwon McMillan: All three of these linebackers are outstanding, though it was difficult to determine which was the best. Lee probably has the best pro potential, Perry might have had the best season and McMillan -- surprisingly -- was a Butkus Award finalist. Unfortunately, they all kind of canceled one another out in our voting. Which was a shame.
Pat Elflein, G, Ohio State: Elflein was another Buckeye who just barely missed. Interior offensive linemen have a difficult time cracking this list, and we went with another guard -- Indiana's Dan Feeney, an ESPN.com first-team All-American -- at the No. 25 position.
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State: Half of this list could have been Buckeyes (receiver Michael Thomas and defensive tackle Adolphus Washington were also tough omissions) because of how talented Ohio State was in 2015. As for Barrett, he certainly would have made the top 25 had he started all year. And maybe Ohio State would have been better off, too.
Alex Erickson, WR, Wisconsin, and Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State: A first-team All-Big Ten selection, Erickson finished second in the league with 77 catches and had 978 yards as the Badgers' top target. Godwin was second in the league in receiving yards, with 1,101. But we weren't blown away by the conference's receivers this year as a whole. Only one, in fact, made our list. Rutgers' Leonte Carroo might have been the most talented wideout in the league, but he couldn't stay on the field enough to crack the top 25, either.
Riley Bullough, LB, Michigan State: Bullough had an outstanding season, providing leadership and a team-best 106 tackles for the Big Ten champs. But as mentioned above, linebacker was a hard position to crack.
Michael Caputo, S, Wisconsin: A terrific leader for one of the best defenses in the country, Caputo has a strong argument for inclusion into the top 25. His numbers, however (65 tackles, two interceptions) weren't eye-popping.
Eric Murray, CB, Minnesota: A great player who should be a high-round draft choice, Murray nonetheless found himself ranked behind a couple of other cornerbacks who had stellar seasons, including the Thorpe Award winner.
Dean Lowry, DE, Northwestern: He was an underrated force for the Wildcats' stingy 'D' all season, racking up 13.5 tackles for loss. But his position was ridiculously stacked this year.
So there are 10 more guys who could have reasonably fit on the list, and we haven't yet mentioned Maryland's William Likely, Iowa's Austin Blythe, Michigan's Jehu Chesson, Rutgers' Steve Longa, Penn State's Anthony Zettel, Indiana's Jason Spriggs, etc. Narrowing this list to 25 is always excruciating, and that was especially true this time around.