This year went by fast and it’s already time to hand out awards before Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan State Spartans. We saw plenty of good coaching in the conference this year, because I think six coaches did a good enough job to earn consideration. The Big Ten also has a chance to end the SEC’s run of seven consecutive national championships if the Buckeyes can take care of the Spartans on Saturday.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Braxton Miller — Ohio State University
Nov 30, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller (5) runs the ball defended by Michigan Wolverines linebacker Desmond Morgan (48) in the fourth quarter at Ohio State won 42-41. Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Miller has been a special player since he arrived in Columbus and the fact that Urban Meyer has coached him the past two seasons has only improved his game. Miller has thrown for 1,759 yards and 21 touchdowns to only five interceptions this season. He’s also completed 65.7 percent of his passes, which is considerably better than the 58.3 percent he completed last season. In addition to passing the ball, the dual threat also rushed 132 times for 891 yards and eight touchdowns. His yards per rush? An absurd 6.8 yards per carry.
Runner Up: Carlos Hyde Ohio State
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Darqueze Dennard — Michigan State University
Nov 2, 2013; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans cornerback Darqueze Dennard (31) looks at Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Jehu Chesson (86) during the third quarter at Spartan Stadium. Spartans beat the Wolverines 29-6. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Dennard is the definition of a “shut down corner.” He has ball skills, elite speed, and a sniper mentality. He’s broken up eight passes, intercepted four along with registering 56 tackles. Here’s an underrated stat for Dennard: he has five quarterback hurries. Dennard is also a physical corner and likely a first day NFL draft choice. He was the key to the best defense in the conference.
Runner Up: Chris Borland Wisconsin
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Peter Mortell — University of Minnesota
Mortell was actually second in the conference in yards per punt to Purdue’s Cody Webster. Mortell averaged 42.9 per compared to Webster’s 43.5, but that’s not fair because Webster had more punts for Purdue. The bottom line is that almost all of Mortell’s punts were effective. He punted inside the opponent’s 20 yard line with regularity this year. Mortell’s punting was the most underrated aspect of the team.
Runner Up: Jeff Budzien Northwestern
COACH OF THE YEAR:
Kirk Ferentz — University of Iowa
Oct 26, 2013; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz watches his team warm up prior to game against the Nothwestern Wildcats at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports
I feel like I need to stand up for Captain Kirk after Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel named him one of college football’s five worst coaches back in July. Ferentz has done a remarkable job at Iowa and this year was no different. Most people left Iowa for dead after last year’s 4-8 disaster, but this year the Hawkeyes flipped it and went 8-4, including thrashings of rivals Minnesota and Nebraska on the road. Ferentz has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year three times. Has won two conference championships and finished in the top 10 four times. Not bad for one of the five worst coaches in the country.
Runners Up: Tracy Claeys and Jerry Kill Minnesota, Bill O’Brien Penn State, Gary Andersen Wisconsin, Mark Dantonio Michigan State, and Urban Meyer Ohio State