On Monday, the Big Ten unveiled its all-conference teams and some individual award winners. The four big prizes were announced Tuesday evening. Here they are:
Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year: Braxton Miller, Ohio State
Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year: Chris Borland, Wisconsin
Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year: Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year (coaches vote): Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Dave McClain Coach of the Year (media vote): Dantonio
If you see smoke rising over the state of Ohio, that's because it's coming out of the ears of Ohio State fans. After another 12-0 season, the Buckeyes figured to clean up in the awards, but they won only one of the four major honors here with two notable snubs.
Miller wins the offensive player of the year trophy for the second straight season. He's a very worthy honoree, despite missing three games with injury in September. Teammate Carlos Hyde had a very strong case, and so did Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah. But I doubt you're going to hear too many people complaining about this trophy joining the 2012 version on Miller's mantel, given that he remains the most dynamic offensive player in the Big Ten.
Hackenberg was an obvious a call as there was for any award in the Big Ten this year. It would be difficult to justify voting for anyone else as the league's top freshman given his performance all year as the Nittany Lions' starting quarterback. A Penn State player has won this award two years in a row, as Deion Barnes took home the prize a year ago.
Now let's get to the two most controversial choices.
Nobody loves Borland more than the Big Ten blog. He's a tremendous player and a great leader who has had an amazing career. He was the unquestioned leader of the league's second-best defense. He should have been a Butkus finalist and is a worthy All-American.
But Ohio State's Ryan Shazier had the better year. Numbers aren't everything, but Shazier led the league with 122 tackles and tackles for loss, the latter by a wide margin. He had more sacks and forced fumbles than Borland. It's not a strict one-to-one comparison, because Borland is an inside linebacker and Shazier plays on the outside. But Borland missed two Big Ten games, which has to count for something. Shazier was arguably the most valuable player on Ohio State because of the uncertainty on defense around him. He had a strong case to win this award last season but was edged out by teammate John Simon. He lost out again this season, and it's a shame.
The most egregious blunder in the awards voting, however, occurred in the coach of the year race. I wrote earlier today that if Urban Meyer didn't win this honor, they should just rename it "Coach of the Year, Non-Ohio State Division" or "Coach Who Most Exceeded Expectations." It is utterly ridiculous that Meyer is 24-0 but 0-for-2 in Big Ten coach of the year balloting. It is nearly criminal that no Ohio State coach has won this award since 1979.
That's not to belittle Dantonio, who has had an outstanding season and showed courage in sticking by some struggling players on offense earlier in the year. But Michigan State won 11 games in 2010 and 2011 before slipping to 7-6 last year with a slew of close defeats. Now that the Spartans are an 11-win team again, are we to assume Dantonio did a magical job of getting back to that level? Or is he just a good coach who had a rough year last season because of offensive inexperience and some bad breaks? If you wanted to argue that Jerry Kill and his staff overcame more than anybody and should win this award, fine. But I don't really see how both the media and coaches both voted for Dantonio over Meyer.
It's no secret that Meyer rubs people the wrong way, and you hope that didn't influence the voting process. Ohio State fans have to be wondering why their undefeated, potential national championship team didn't reap more of the spoils of victory.