The All-Big Ten teams and individual awards are out, and the league hands out its four major awards -- Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Freshman of the Year -- later Tuesday. As always, we're handing out our endorsements for each award in advance of the announcement. We'll agree on some and differ on others.
First up, Offensive Player of the Year.
Adam Rittenberg endorses Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde
Our recent debate on this topic showed how close the race is between Hyde, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah. I leaned toward Abdullah before Week 13 but wanted to see how each candidate finished the season. You can't go wrong with any of the three, but Hyde gets my vote. Note the "Big Ten" reference in the award. Hyde has been simply dominant in league play, rushing for 1,249 yards and 14 touchdowns in eight Big Ten contests and averaging a ridiculous 7.8 yards per carry. Abdullah is great, too, but his Big Ten numbers aren't nearly as impressive. Hyde runs behind the Big Ten's best offensive line and shares a backfield with arguably the nation's best dual-threat quarterback, but he does a lot of the work himself with pure power. Hyde is Urban Meyer's first 1,000-yard back. He's the biggest reason Ohio State survived an Oct. 5 trip to Northwestern. And he's playing his best football right now, racking up 589 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in his last three games. Hyde hasn't had a bad Big Ten game this year and has shined in league play the past two seasons.
Brian Bennett endorses Ohio State QB Braxton Miller
Hyde and Abdullah would be fine choices for this award. But I'm going with last year's honoree as a repeat winner. Always a threat to run, Miller became a precision passer this season. During Big Ten play, he led the league in pass efficiency, completing 65.1 percent of his throws with a league-best 19 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. And he was just as dangerous with his legs, rushing for 809 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 7.1 yards per carry during conference play. Had Miller not missed three nonconference games with a knee injury, he would be a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy, if not the top candidate right now. But he showed his value immediately upon returning from that injury, throwing four touchdown passes in a 31-24 win over Wisconsin on Sept. 28 that all but locked up the division title for the Buckeyes. He also had five total touchdowns in last Saturday's win over Michigan. Hyde has been in beast mode as well, but I think one of the reasons for his success is that teams are constantly afraid of Miller taking off with the ball. Miller is ultimately what makes the league's best offense go, so he's my pick as offensive player of the year. Again.