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Big Ten Review: Out with a Whimper

With the lone exception of Illinois playing Friday night against Fresno State, the regular season is over for the Big Eleven forever. While I'm often sentimental and nostalgic for the traditional aspects of the college football structure, like the bowl system, I'm officially excited that we never have to have a three-way tie again in the Big Ten. No more co-champions, no more letting BCS rankings determine who wins the conference, no more bogus claims of consecutive conference championships, no more possibilities of viable conference champions not playing each other.

Even though I doubted them pretty much all year, I think Wisconsin is the rightful team to represent the conference in the Rose Bowl. After the loss to Sparty, they steamrolled the rest of the conference, and did it old school, with a bunch of sh$t kickers on the o-line and an impressive mix of speed and power in the backfield. The only conference win that was ever in doubt was the one in Kinnick, well before the Hawkeyes self-destructed.

Speaking of the Hawkeyes, the out-Sparty'ed Sparty this year. Indeed, in my mind, there are two prospects for "storyline of the year" in the Big Ten. One is that the Michigan State never collapsed. The other is that Iowa did.  Sure, Michigan State nearly lost to Purdue at home on Senior Day, and Penn State had a legit shot to take them down this past week, but Dantonio, Kirk Cousins (aka McGloin Sr.) and company took care of business. Meanwhile, Iowa just collapsed down the stretch. After barely beating Indiana, they took a couple of tough losses against Northwestern and Ohio State, before the wheels came off and they lost to Minnesota to finish the season .500 in the Big Ten. The only thing worse than being bad is being good and underachieving.

Now onto a rant about the Big Ten 2010 Football Awards, which were announced yesterday.

Denard Robinson won the Offensive Player of the Year Award from both the coaches and the media, but the coaches did not vote him as either first or second string all-conference quarterback.  I get that Denard Robinson is a great talent who is in a system that allows him to unleash his full suite of abilities on defenses that are good, but that cannot effectively control him. However, he's got major problems with his game. Namely, he's turnover prone and not a particularly effective passer. Tate Forcier got a lot of snaps this year, and they were not all because Robinson was injured. He might have been hurt, but the Michigan coaching staff often made strategic decisions to change the tempo and feel of their offense by replacing Robinson with Forcier. If you're not even the best quarterback on your team in every situation, I don't think you're the best offensive player in the conference. Denard Robinson is a highlight machine and a better QB than anyone on Penn State's roster, but he's not a great football player. He doesn't have "it."  

At the end of the day, though, it's hard to argue too much with Robinson's winning of the award, simply because there's not a really good alternative. Personally, I'm a Dan Persa fan-who was voted first team all-conference QB by the coaches and second team by the media-but the fact that didn't play this last two games definitely hurts him. I would have given it to the Wisconsin offensive line, if that was possible.

On defense, Purdue Defensive End Ryan Kerrigan earned the Conference Player of the Year honors, and deservedly so. In what seems vaguely revolutionary given what happened with the offensive award, he was also voted first-team all-conference by both the coaches and media.

Conspicuous by their absence on the defensive all-conference first team are any Penn State players, though this was consistent by what we saw from Penn State's defense on the field. Ollie Ogbu earned second-team all-conference honors from the coaches, but was only an honorable mention by the media. On offense, Wiz got first-team all-conference honors from the coaches, and second-team from the media, and Royster earned second-team from the coaches, but that was it. Otherwise, Quinn Barham, Chris Colasanti, D'Anton Lynn, Derek Moye, Drew Astorino, Devon Still, and Collin Wagner earned honorable mentions from the coaches or the media or both.

From a broad perspective, the Big Ten mirrored college football at large this year: plenty of quality teams, but no clearly head-and-shoulders-above-the-rest squad. Only one team truly outperformed expectations: Michigan State. Others either met the general preseason consensus (Wisconsin, Penn State) or failed to do so (Ohio State, Iowa).