NCF Nation: Mike Nugent
Here's our Big Ten All-BCS team.
Coach: Jim Tressel, Ohio State -- Tressel led Ohio State to the 2002 national title, the Big Ten's only championship in the BCS era, as well as seven Big Ten titles (one vacated).
QB: Drew Brees, Purdue (1997-2000) -- He led Purdue to the 2000 Big Ten championship and finished his career with league records for passing yards (11,792), touchdown passes (90), total offensive yards (12,693), completions (1,026), and attempts (1,678). Brees won the Maxwell Award in 2000.
RB: Ron Dayne, Wisconsin (1996-99) -- The 1999 Heisman Trophy winner set the NCAA's career rushing record with 6,397 yards (not including bowl games). He won all the major national individual awards in 1999 and became the first player to repeat as Rose Bowl MVP.
WR: Braylon Edwards, Michigan (2001-04) -- The Big Ten's most recent Biletnikoff Award winner holds the league record for career touchdown receptions (39) and ranks fourth in career receiving yards (3,541). He's the only Big Ten receiver to record 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.
WR: Lee Evans, Wisconsin (2000-03) -- Evans twice led the Big Ten in receiving yards, eclipsing 1,500 yards in 2001 before rebounding from an ACL tear to record 1,213 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2003.
TE: Dallas Clark, Iowa (1999-2002) -- Clark earned the John Mackey Award in 2002 after recording 43 receptions for 742 yards as Iowa went undefeated in the Big Ten.
OL: Greg Eslinger, Minnesota (2002-05) -- One of the more decorated Big Ten linemen in the BCS era, Eslinger won the Outland Trophy in 2005. He was a two-time first-team All-America selection and a three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection for one of the nation's top rushing offenses.
OL: Joe Thomas, Wisconsin (2003-06) -- Another Outland Trophy winner (2006), Thomas earned unanimous consensus All-America honors that year. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in each of his final two seasons and was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft.
OL: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-2000) -- In 1998, Raiola became the first Nebraska freshman offensive lineman to start a game in seven years. He went on to earn the Rimington Trophy as the nation's top center, first-team All-Big 12 honors in his final two seasons and consensus first-team All-America honors in 2000.
OL: Robert Gallery, Iowa (1999-2003) -- Gallery claimed the Outland Trophy in 2003 as well as first-team All-America honors. He twice earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as the anchor of a nationally elite offensive line.
OL: Jake Long, Michigan (2003-07) -- Although Long didn't win the Outland, he twice earned consensus first-team All-America honors (unanimous selection in 2007) and twice earned Big Ten offensive lineman of the year honors (beating out Thomas in 2006). Long was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft.
DE: LaMarr Woodley, Michigan (2003-06) -- Woodley claimed the Rotary Lombardi Award in 2006 as the nation's top lineman. A first-team All-American that season, he finished his career with 10 forced fumbles, tied for seventh on the Big Ten's career list.
DE: Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue (2007-10) -- Unlike most of the men on this list, Kerrigan never played for any BCS bowl teams at Purdue but still had a remarkable career that ended with unanimous consensus first-team All-America honors in 2010. The Big Ten defensive player of the year tied the NCAA record for forced fumbles (14) and recorded 33.5 sacks and 57 tackles for loss.
DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- The most dominant defender in recent years finished fourth in Heisman voting in 2009 (should have been higher) and earned several awards, including the Bednarik, Nagurski and Outland. Suh finished his career with 24 sacks, 57 tackles for loss, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and 41 quarterback hurries.
DT: Devon Still, Penn State (2008-11) -- Penn State produced a string of outstanding defensive tackles including Still, the Big Ten's defensive player of the year in 2011. Still earned consensus first-team All-America honors after recording 17 tackles for loss.
LB: James Laurinaitis, Ohio State (2005-08) -- Laurinaitis won major national awards in each of his final three seasons, including the Nagurski Trophy in 2006. The two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year became just the third Ohio State player to earn consensus All-America honors in three seasons.
LB: Paul Posluszny, Penn State (2003-06) -- Posluszny is one of only two players (Pat Fitzgerald) to twice win the Bednarik Award as the nation's top defender. He became the first Penn State linebacker to twice earn AP All-America honors.
LB: LaVar Arrington, Penn State (1997-99) -- A freakishly athletic linebacker at Linebacker U., Arrington twice earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and won the Bednarik and Butkus Awards as a junior in 1999. He was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft.
CB: Jamar Fletcher, Wisconsin (1998-2000) -- Fletcher claimed the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back in 2000, won Big Ten defensive player of the year honors that year and was a three-time first-team all-conference selection. He's tied for fourth in league history with 21 career interceptions and holds the league record for interception return yards (459).
CB: Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State (2010-13) -- Dennard also claimed the Thorpe Award as he helped Michigan State to its first outright Big Ten title in 26 years and a Rose Bowl victory against Stanford. The two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection recorded 10 career interceptions and led the "No Fly Zone" Spartans secondary.
S: Tyrone Carter, Minnesota (1996-99) -- The only Big Ten safety to win the Thorpe Award, Carter also twice earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and earned unanimous All-America honors in 1999. He set the FBS record for career tackles by a defensive back with 528.
S: Mike Doss, Ohio State (1999-2002) -- A three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, Doss earned unanimous consensus All-America honors in 2002 as Ohio State won the national title.
K: Mike Nugent, Ohio State (2001-04) -- Nugent won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker in 2004 and claimed consensus All-America honors in both 2002 and 2004. He holds the Big Ten record for consecutive made field goals with 24.
P: Brandon Fields, Michigan State (2003-06) -- His name is on the Big Ten's punter of the year award for a reason. Fields earned consensus All-America honors in 2004, earned first-team All-Big Ten honors three times and twice led the league in punting, tying for third in career average (45 ypp).
Returns: Ted Ginn, Ohio State (2004-06) and Steve Breaston, Michigan (2003-06) -- Ginn holds the Big Ten single-season records for kick return average (25.6 ypr) and career punt return touchdowns (6), while Breaston claims the league mark for career punt return yards (1,599) and is tied for third in punt return touchdowns (4).
It's tough enough putting together these teams for one season, much less 16 seasons. You can't please everyone, and many exceptional players didn't make the cut.
We decided to go with five offensive linemen rather than a center, two guards and two tackles, in order to recognize the best overall players in the trenches.
There was some debate for a second receiver alongside Michigan's Edwards, as the Big Ten hasn't exactly mass-produced superstars at the position. Several players had great seasons like Michigan State's Charles Rogers in 2002, but we put more stock into overall career output and went with Wisconsin's Evans, who led the league in receiving in 2001 and 2003.
Cornerback created some debate among Fletcher, Dennard and Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins, also a Jim Thorpe Award winner. We faced another tough decision at safety between Ohio State's Doss and Iowa's Bob Sanders.
Surprisingly, the defensive tackle spot produced few bona-fide superstars. Nebraska's Suh, who played his entire career in the Big 12, was an obvious choice but a second choice proved to be tough.
Arguably the toughest choice came at kicker between Nugent and Iowa's Nate Kaeding. Both won Lou Groza Awards and set numerous records. We gave the nod to Nugent, but not by much.
"It provides an advantage knowing that you’ve handled different situations before, the cold weather, the wind," Swenson said. "I don’t think it can do anything but help you, really. If you can do it in the cold weather, it'll be a little easier to do in the warmer weather."
Swenson tested his theory last week when he and his Michigan State teammates visited Purdue. The date read Nov. 14, but the weather felt more like Sept. 14, as the temperature showed 61 degrees at kickoff.
The unseasonably warm conditions suited Swenson, who had his best game as a Spartan. He tied his career high with four field goals, including the game-winner with 1:51 left. And he not only kicked a 52-yard field goal, which marked a career high. He did it twice, perfectly judging the wind that carried the ball from right to left.
Swenson's clutch kicks lifted Michigan State to a 40-37 win, making the Spartans bowl eligible. The senior was the obvious choice for Big Ten Player of the Week.
"We got lucky in November to have weather like that," Swenson said. "The kicks went through and it was a good day."
Swenson has had quite a few good days at Michigan State. He's the team's all-time leader in scoring (368 points), field goals (70) and extra points (158) and ranks second in field-goal percentage (.787). He ranks among the Big Ten's top five kickers in career kick scoring (second), field goals (fourth) and total scoring (fifth).
He leads all active FBS players in career points. And he's done it all in the upper Midwest.
Not bad for a Florida native. Swenson hails from Pompano Beach, which is 1,165 miles from East Lansing and seems even farther away.
Last year, Swenson was snubbed from being a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's top kicker. The selection committee cited a poor performance against Michigan as a reason for Swenson's omission.
How did Swenson respond to being left off the list? By going 4-for-4 on field goal attempts the following game against Wisconsin, including the game-winning 44-yarder.
There's no such snub this year, as Swenson finds himself among the 20 Groza Award semifinalists.
"It's about every kicker’s dream or goal to get invited to something like that," said Swenson, who is 18-for-20 on field goal attempts this fall. "Hopefully, I have a chance to be a finalist. That would be a big step."
The Big Ten hasn't had a Groza Award winner since 2004, when Ohio State's Mike Nugent took home the honor. Nugent's clutch kicks are legendary, and Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, who coached at Ohio State during Nugent's time there, sees similarities with Swenson.
Former Michigan State star Paul Edinger also reminds Dantonio of Swenson.
"Nothing intimidated [Edinger], he was a gamer," said Dantonio, an assistant at Michigan State during Edinger's career. "He was going to step out there and kick the football, regardless of the situation, and do very well. ... [Swenson] also reminds me of Mike Nugent at Ohio State. Very competitive, always looked at the game very technique-oriented, very astute at how he went about his business."
Swenson could be a major factor as Michigan State wraps up the regular season Saturday against No. 14 Penn State. With the Spartans likely headed somewhere warm for a bowl, Saturday could mark Swenson's final chance to kick in cold weather.
Then again, he could get drafted by the Bills in April.
"I like the warm weather, to be honest," Swenson said, "but I'll take what I can get."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Here's a look at 10 players who earned the title of "Captain Clutch" during their Big Ten careers:
Anthony Carter, WR, Michigan [1979-82] -- Carter was only a freshman when he played a part in one of the greatest plays in Michigan history, hauling in a 45-yard touchdown pass as time expired to beat Indiana in 1979. The wideout/return man had 37 touchdown receptions in three seasons.
Kerry Collins, QB, Penn State [1991-94] -- Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993, and Collins made his mark the next year. He led the Nittany Lions to a 12-0 record, which included three road victories (Michigan, Indiana, Illinois) by seven points or fewer.
Ron Dayne, RB, Wisconsin [1996-99] -- The NCAA's all-time rushing leader made his mark in big games, winning back-to-back Rose Bowl MVP awards after rushing for 246 yards and 200 yards in Badger victories. Dayne also had a 246-yard effort in his first bowl appearance, a Cotton Bowl win against Utah.
Bob Griese, QB, Purdue [1964-66] -- Griese's near-flawless performance in Purdue's upset of No. 1 Notre Dame in 1965 stands as one of the greatest in team history. The next year he led the Boilermakers to their first Rose Bowl appearance and a 14-13 win against USC.
Brian Griese, QB, Michigan [1994-97] -- After coming off the bench to rally the Wolverines past Ohio State in 1996, Griese cemented himself as a clutch quarterback the next season. He led Michigan to a 12-0 record and a national championship, winning five games by 10 points or fewer, including a 21-16 triumph over Washington State in the Rose Bowl.
Jim Harbaugh, QB, Michigan [1983-86] -- Considered by many to be the best quarterback in school history, Harbaugh led Michigan to a 27-23 win against Nebraska in the 1986 Fiesta Bowl. He won four games by three points or fewer as a senior.
Nile Kinnick, RB, Iowa [1937-39] -- The stadium is named after him for a reason. Kinnick did it all for Iowa, including a 63-yard punt that pinned No. 1 Notre Dame at the 6-yard line in a 7-6 Hawkeyes win in 1939.
Craig Krenzel, QB, Ohio State [2000-03] -- He took heat for his arm strength, but no one could question his late-game toughness. The two-time Fiesta Bowl MVP led Ohio State to a national title in 2002 with his arm and his legs.
Chuck Long, QB, Iowa [1981-85] -- A dramatic fourth-down touchdown run against Michigan State kicked off a memorable 1985 season for the Hawkeyes and Long, who many believe should have won the Heisman Trophy. Two weeks later, Long rallied Iowa past Michigan.
Mike Nugent, PK, Ohio State [2001-04] -- Record-setting kicker was nearly unshakable under pressure. He kicked game-tying and game-winning field goals to beat Purdue in overtime in 2003, and his game-winning 55-yard kick against Marshall stands out in an otherwise forgettable 2004 season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Some of you probably saw the headline and spilled coffee all over your pants. He must have amnesia, you're thinking. Didn't he watch the last two national title games?
True, Ohio State was anything but clutch in back-to-back center-stage flops, especially after entering the 2006 championship as a heavy favorite. But I like to look at the larger picture, and in the last few seasons, no Big Ten team has consistently been better under pressure than Ohio State.
Since 2002, the Buckeyes are 25-7 in games decided by 11 points or fewer. The team's 2002 national championship run was defined by close victories, as quarterback Craig Krenzel & Co. claimed eight games by 11 points or fewer -- the final four contests by a touchdown or less. From Will Allen picking off Michigan's John Navarre near the goal line to seal a win in 2002, to Mike Nugent repeatedly connecting on pressure-packed kicks, to Krenzel's Fiesta Bowl heroics against both Miami and Kansas State, the Buckeyes have come up big over and over. Oh, and they've beaten Michigan four consecutive times and six times in the last seven years. Performances like those in what is always the biggest game on the schedule qualifies as clutch.
Ohio State's crunch-time poise has dipped a bit since 2003, and last season's home loss to Illinois raised some red flags. But Heisman Trophy contender Beanie Wells consistently makes big plays in big games. If quarterback Todd Boeckman solidifies his clutchness (is that a verb?) during a tough road schedule this fall, Ohio State will be back in the national title mix.