The regular season is over and all that is left is a meeting of two of the most successful Big Ten programs over the last decade. With Ohio State and Wisconsin set to meet in Indianapolis for the B1G championship game, it can only mean one thing is left to do.
Yes, we’re talking about handing out awards and that’s what we are here to do.
So, let’s not waste your time and let’s start handing out hardware.
Coach of the Year:
One can make a strong argument for Jeff Brohm of Purdue here, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the official Big Ten awards go that way. However, Chryst won three-quarters of the votes in this category and its hard to argue with that. After all, Chryst led the Badgers to their first undefeated regular season since 1912 and was at the helm of the first team to ever go 9-0 in Big Ten play. This award tends to go to the team and coaches that exceeded expectations, but this has been a special season and a well-coached one in Madison.
Offensive Player of the Year:
No player was as dangerous with the ball in his hands in the conference as Barkley was all season long. He was simply the most versatile player out of the running back position we’ve seen in a long time. If he wasn’t killing you in the run game, chances are you were left in his dust in the pass catching game. That’s to say nothing of his abilities in the return game as well. Barkley finished this regular season No. 2 nationally in all-purpose yards, putting up a total of 2,154 yards. He’s one of only two players nationally to have that many all-purpose yards heading in to the postseason.
Freshman of the Year:
As if there was any doubt about this award? Taylor was on fire from the moment he got on the field for the Badgers. He’s racked up 1,806 yards rushing in 12 games and has a chance to set the national freshman rushing record with two more games and just over 300 yards needed. In addition to that, Taylor was named the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Week a record eight times and seven of the last seven weeks of the season. Few saw this type of season coming from Taylor given what was supposed to be in front of him,
Quarterback of the Year:
There may not have been a more hotly contested category amongst our staff, as both J.T. Barrett and Trace McSorely made big cases for this award this season. However, after two seasons regressing on the stat sheet, Barrett was much better of a passing quarterback than ever before. He finished the regular season leading the Big Ten in completion percentage (66.2), touchdowns (33) and had his second highest passing yards total in his career with 2,728. Just as Barrett burst on to the scene as a freshman, he went out on top of his game as a senior in terms of the stat sheet. There are still a few more accomplishments within reach though.
Running Back of the Year:
As much controversy as the quarterback position provided, our staff was really split with what to do at the running back position. Ultimately, it was hard to ignore that Taylor was the best pure running back in the Big Ten this season. His 1,806 yards were nearly 700 yards more than Saquon Barkley had on the ground and Taylor was the only running back in the conference to average over 100 yards per game on the ground. While Barkley won the Offensive Player of the Year award, that had more to do with his value as a total package. We went with the guy who took the ground game by storm instead.
Wide Receiver of the Year:
Nebraska’s 2017 season as a team was certainly one to forget. Finishing 4-8 and getting blown out by just about every quality opponent faced was no fun. But, on an individual level the passing game was nothing to sneeze at and it came at a perfect time for senior wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. He had 61 receptions for 986 yards and a Big Ten-best 10 receiving touchdowns in just 11 games played. His 89.6 yards per game were the best in the Big Ten as well. Just imagine the pub he would’ve gotten on a team competing at the top of the conference.
Tight End of the Year:
While earlier positions weren’t that easy to get our staff to agree on, Gesicki was a unanimous choice as our Tight End of the Year. Between multiple highlight reel catches on a weekly basis and becoming Trace McSorley’s favorite weapon, this was easy. Gesicki has 51 receptions (tied for 6th in the B1G) for 501 yards and nine touchdowns (2nd in the conference). His size, speed and coordination are something special to watch at the position.
Offensive Lineman of the Year:
When your running back is setting records and the offense is humming along like it hasn’t in years, chances are the offensive line is doing something right. Such is the case for the Badgers O-line, who finally got back to dominating football after a few down seasons. No player exemplifies the jump made better than junior right tackle David Edwards. He has been so good that many pro scouts believe he is the next Badgers great and could even leave after this season. His athleticism is rare at his size, but shouldn’t be surprising as he was a high school option quarterback and a wide receiver before growing way out of either position at Wisconsin.
Defensive Player of the Year and Linebacker of the Year:
Stop us if you’ve heard that the Iowa Hawkeyes have really good linebackers before. Well, we’re here to tell you that exact same thing again, as Josey Jewell had one heck of a season with a crowded field of really talented linebackers across the Big Ten. Jewell topped them all though, racking up a Big Ten-leading 125 tackles in just 11 games played this season. He added 13.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 11 pass break ups and 2 interceptions to the mix as well. Simply put, he was a do-everything linebacker and the classic idea of what a 4-3 middle linebacker should look like.
Defensive Lineman of the Year:
Defense has always reigned supreme in the Big Ten, and this year was no exception. It’s only fitting that one of the nation’s best defenses has one of our award winners as well. Mo Hurst was one of the biggest (no pun intended) pains in opposing offensive lines backsides this season. He had 5.0 sacks, 59 total tackles and 13.5 sacks, all while being the only returning starter on the Wolverines defense entering this year. A terror to all, Hurst gets this award easily for us.
Defensive Back of the Year:
Another unanimous selection by our staff, it is hard to ignore his impressive numbers on the field. Jackson finished the regular season with 7 interceptions and managed to house two of them for touchdowns. Teams eventually stopped trying to go at him, as he also amassed 18 pass break ups and had 33 tackles with 0.5 tackle for loss. His ability to time routes and lock in on quarterbacks was amazing all season. With many wondering what life without Desmond King would look like, he made plenty forget all about King.
Kicker of the Year:
Oakes didn’t just make 94.1 percent of his field goals this season, he did it with pure volume as well. The Indiana Hoosiers kicker took the third-most field goals, but led the conference with 16 makes in 17 opportunities this year. Most importantly, it was a massive improvement after a brutal junior season. Following a sophomore year in which he hit over 80 percent, Oakes hit just 61.5 percent of his field goals in 2016. He rebounded and was a huge help to the effort for the Hoosiers. This was no contest for us, as Oakes took all but one of the votes for Kicker of the Year.
Punter of the Year:
What makes Anderson so impressive? Well, when you are constantly under pressure and near the top of the punts per game charts in the Big Ten (6.6), you better be good. Luckily for Rutgers that was the case, as Anderson averaged a league-best 44.1 yards per punt. He also was big in the B1G, averaging just a shade over 45 yards per punt in conference games. Rutgers played hard and showed improvement all season, and Anderson was no