Big Ten Football Predictions for 2013 Individual Awards and All-Conference Team
Things move quickly in Big Ten country, and just 48 hours after the end of the regular season, the conference will hand out its awards and all-conference selections.
The selections will be announced on Monday night in a special to be aired on the Big Ten Network from 7-8 p.m. ET.
After a season that saw two teams go undefeated in conference play, could we see Ohio State and Michigan State dominate the awards season?
What about some great performances from individuals on teams that didn't exactly measure up?
After watching 14 weeks of Big Ten action, we here at the Big Ten blog reveal our picks for all of the individual awards and who should make an appearance on the all-conference squads.
Sit back, relax and enjoy a preview of what should come on Monday night on the Big Ten Network.
Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year
Mike Sadler, Michigan State
Season Stats: 65 punts, 42.4 average, 8 touchbacks, 0 blocked punts
Sadler is a huge weapon for the Spartans, often times flipping field position and allowing the nation's best defense to do its job very well.
If there is a better punter at sticking his kicks inside the 20-yard line in the country, it's an extremely close competition. Sadler put 29 of his 65 punts inside the 20-yard line on the season—that's 48.3 percent of his punts landing deep in opponent's territory.
Furthermore, Sadler landed 22 of those 29 punts inside the opponent's 10-yard line. That's 76 percent of his punts inside the 20 and 36.6 percent of all punts.
The only other choice for this award could be Purdue's Cody Webster. He did lead the Big Ten in net average at 43.5 yards a punt and had just one touchback to 24 punts downed inside the 20.
It's a close race, but Sadler's knack for getting the ball not just inside the 20, but inside the 10 is the tiebreaker in this one.
Bakken-Anderson Kicker of the Year
Winner: Jeff Budzien, Northwestern
Season Stats: 23-of-25 (92 percent), 35-of-35 PATs, long of 43 yards
Budzien became the all-time leading scorer in Northwestern history this season on the strength of his 104-point performance, which was nearly twice the amount of the next closest player—Treyvon Green, who had 54 points.
He was perfect on the season from 0-39 yards, and his only two misses came from 40-49 yards out.
Only two other kickers in the Big Ten, Michigan's Brandon Gibbons and Penn State's Sam Ficken, attempted 20-plus field goals on the season and their results weren't even close.
Gibbons finished the regular season at 75 percent and Ficken at 65.2 percent on the year.
Budzien was one of the lone bright spots and reliable players Northwestern had all season long.
Michigan State's Mike Geiger could be in line for this award as well, finishing atop the Big Ten in field-goal percentage (92.3), but he attempted just 13 field goals on the season.
Give this to the most reliable kicker this conference has seen in a long time—and that's Budzien.
Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year
Winner: Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Season Stats: 122 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 5 quarterback hurries, 2 pass breakups, 2 passes defensed
This award isn't easy to predict at all...OK, yes it is. Shazier had a season for the ages at linebacker for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
He led the conference in total tackles and tackles for loss. Shazier was also sixth in sacks and was the only player in the conference to average 10-plus tackles a game for the season.
Pretty hard to top those numbers as a linebacker, and it's why he was named a finalist for the Butkus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker.
If it's not Shazier winning this award, then look to Wisconsin senior Chris Borland, who had an insane season of his own—recording 102 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks in 11 games this season.
Shazier should be the pick, but we've seen crazy things happen when it comes to awards season.
Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year
Winner: Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Season Stats: 56 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 8 passes defensed, 5 quarterback hurries
Figuring out the best defensive back in the Big Ten in 2013 won't be easy for the rest of the voters and wasn't easy on this writer either.
There's the great big-play ability of Iowa's B.J. Lowery, an outstanding freshman performance from Wisconsin's Sojourn Shelton, two teammates who are virtually dead even at Michigan State and a future first-round NFL draft pick to chose from.
However, when all the dust settled, it became clear that the best overall player at defensive back was Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State.
He may not have had as many interceptions as the leader in the Big Ten or as many tackles or tackles for loss as other defensive backs either, but he was consistently ranked near the top in all of those categories.
All of that while facing offenses that also had to deal with teammate Kurtis Drummond as well.
What separated Dennard in my mind is his ability to play great defense in all facets of the game. He was a good pass-rusher off the edge, played well in space against the run and was a ball hawk on defense as well.
It all adds up to the best defensive back in the Big Ten for me, but don't be surprised if this goes any number of ways between Dennard, B.J. Lowery and Kurtis Drummond.
Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year
Winner: Randy Gregory, Nebraska
Season Stats: 61 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks
Gregory was one of the biggest JUCO names coming into the Big Ten this season and was expected to be a big player for the Huskers.
After 12 games, it's safe to say Gregory made his mark on opposing offenses and impressions in the minds of those of us who cover the conference for a living.
His 9.5 sacks led the conference and his 17 tackles for loss were second to linebacker Ryan Shazier of Ohio State.
All of that for a defensive end who was oftentimes double-teamed and facing multiple protection looks to stop him from disrupting opponents.
If Gregory isn't the pick for this award, the next-best option would be Noah Spence of Ohio State. He racked up 46 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks, but those numbers came on a defense with a lot more around him than Gregory had to work with.
Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year
Winner: Devin Funchess, Michigan
Season Stats: 47 receptions, 727 yards, 6 touchdowns
The Michigan offense struggled all year, but one of the biggest bright spots was the emergence of a huge pass-catching option in tight end Devin Funchess.
He is the only tight end in the league to rank inside the top 10 in receiving yards per game, averaging 60.6 yards a game—which puts him seventh among all pass-catchers in the Big Ten.
Tight end was a loaded position group for the Big Ten this year, with Jacob Pedersen at Wisconsin, Jeff Heuermann at Ohio State and many more coming into play at the position.
However, what stands out about Funchess is his ability to play as a slot wide receiver and a traditional tight end without any problems adjusting. By the end of the season, teams still hadn't figured out how to cover him and it showed in the finale against Ohio State.
In that game, Funchess recorded four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown, beating star cornerback Bradley Roby for a jump ball (pictured).
He's a game-changer at a position that is more about blocking in the Big Ten than anything else.
Richter-Howard Wide Receiver of the Year
Winner: Allen Robinson, Penn State
Season Stats: 97 receptions, 1,432 yards, 6 touchdowns
Could you make a case for Jared Abbrederis at Wisconsin? Yes, but the numbers are just so overwhelmingly in favor of Penn State's Allen Robinson that any other name being called on Monday night would be a major upset.
Robinson led the Big Ten in receptions, receiving yards and yards per game and ranked sixth in total yards from scrimmage, too.
Not only were those numbers impressive, but considering everyone knew he would be the main target in the pass game, it's even more impressive that he increased virtually every stat from a season ago.
He went from 77 receptions to 97 this year, had over 400 more yards receiving and upped his yards-per-catch average from 13.2 to 14.8 this season.
The only number that didn't go up was his touchdown total, which dipped from 11 to six this season.
If that's the fault you are finding in a player's performance, you're doing something right on the field.
Robinson should be the clear-cut winner of the Richter-Howard Wide Receiver of the Year Award come Monday night.
Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year
Winner: Jack Mewhort, Ohio State
Offensive linemen don't get many chances at individual statistics, but when you are the best player on an offensive line that's part of the best offense in the conference, you are doing something right.
Mewhort helped turned this group into a mean, nasty and productive unit after struggling at times in 2012. It resulted in this group giving up just 15 sacks after giving up 29 a season ago.
This group blocked for an offense that led the Big Ten in scoring average (48.2), total offense (530.5 yards a game), rushing average (321.2) and passer efficiency (164).
Some say when you aren't noticing an offensive lineman, he is doing something right, but it's hard not to notice Mewhort's performances because they are so solid from game to game.
He may get beaten out by Michigan's Taylor Lewan because of pure name recognition, but the award should go to the guy who was the leader of the best offensive line on the best offensive team in the conference.
It will be interesting to see whose name comes up on the screen Monday night.
Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year
Winner: Braxton Miller, Ohio State
Season Stats: 65.7% completion rate (138-of-210), 1,759 yards, 21 touchdowns, 5 interceptions
No doubt this was a down year for quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Michigan's Devin Gardner wasn't all he was cracked up to be outside of three games, and the other big name, Taylor Martinez, spent more time hurt and on the sidelines than in games.
However, two leaders did emerge in Ohio State's Braxton Miller and Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase.
Despite a big-time drop in the passing yards and a huge discrepancy in yards between Scheelhaase and Miller, the OSU signal-caller had the slightly more impressive season overall.
It should be closer than everyone thinks given the pure quarterback numbers, but Miller played on an undefeated team and his running numbers overwhelm what Scheelhaase did.
Scheelhaase ended the year topping the conference in passing yards (3,272) and completion percentage (66.7) and tied with Miller and two others for most touchdowns (21) passing.
Miller was the more efficient passer, though, with only five interceptions, compared to Scheelhaase's 13. He also had the advantage on the ground, running for 891 yards and eight touchdowns in the regular season.
What wins the award for Miller, more than anything else, was his transformation from an athlete playing quarterback to a quarterback who is an athlete.
Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year
Winner: Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
Season Stats: 1,290 yards, 14 touchdowns, 7.8 average
Every year, this award seems like it could go a number of ways because of the talent at the position, and 2013 was no different. Ameer Abdullah, James White and Melvin Gordon all deserve close consideration, but there should be no question as to who the best back was—Carlos Hyde.
Hyde did all of his damage in nine games, but he really did it all in eight games thanks to playing sparingly in his return to action after a three-game suspension to start the year.
When it was all said and done, Hyde led the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (143.3), and his 14 touchdowns were second to Jeremy Langford of Michigan State.
His average of 7.8 yards a carry was also second, topped only by Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon (8.1).
On the year, he had 100-plus yards in seven of the nine games he saw action in and was stopped from going over the century mark just once in Big Ten play.
Watching Hyde play this season was a pure joy, and outside of the numbers advantage, his importance to his team's success this season was dramatically different than last year.
Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year
Winner: Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Season Stats: 58.9% completion rate (231-of-392), 2,955 yards, 20 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
The choice for this award was obvious before the season ever started and Hackenberg delivered.
He had a breakout moment against Michigan in the four-overtime win and capped it off with a career-best moment against Wisconsin.
In the Michigan game, Hackenberg passed for 305 yards and three touchdowns, but he ended his freshman season with his most commanding performance of the season. Against Wisconsin, he completed 70 percent of his passes for 339 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.
Not a bad way to end your first year in the Big Ten.
On the year, Hackenberg had four games of 300-plus yards passing and was only held without a touchdown pass in one game.
It wasn't a banner year for the youngest guys in the Big Ten, but had Hackenberg faltered on Saturday against Wisconsin, it could've been the Badgers' Sojourn Shelton taking this award.
McClain-Schembechler Coach of the Year
Winner: Urban Meyer, Ohio State
This award is going to be really difficult to predict because it depends on the criteria each person uses in selecting the Coach of the Year.
Prime candidates include Kirk Ferentz of Iowa, Jerry Kill at Minnesota, Urban Meyer at Ohio State and Gary Andersen of Wisconsin.
A case can be made for each, but there wasn't a better coaching job all season than what Meyer put forth.
24-0 should say it all.
Going one season undefeated is tough enough; just ask any school over the last four years how hard it is to go undefeated. The last time a national champion was undefeated was the 2009 Alabama squad.
The offense Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman put out on the field was near-historic in the Big Ten and ridiculously efficient.
Ohio State's lowest point total of the year was 31 against Wisconsin, and it scored under 40 points just twice all season long.
Defensively, things weren't great, but the unit was good enough for the Buckeyes to win every single game they played.
As for the other candidates, well, each has holes in the resume that loom large.
Andersen lost his chance by being flat outcoached against Penn State, Ferentz lost all four games against ranked opponents and Jerry Kill was a quasi-coach down the stretch for the Gophers' revival.
Ferentz's and Kill's turnarounds this season were amazing and all, but Meyer's job of keeping his team focused week in and week out was sensational.
Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year
Winner: Ryan Shazier, Linebacker (Ohio State)
He's already our pick for the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year Award, but there simply was no defensive player on the field on a week-by-week basis that played to the level of Shazier.
Shazier was the only returning starter in the front seven for the Buckeyes this season, and he played like the leader he needed to be.
The Michigan game notwithstanding, Shazier and the front seven were both pleasant surprises in 2013.
His numbers (122 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 4 forced fumbles) alone are good enough, but his leadership took a huge step forward as well.
Shazier is just a junior and his decision to stay or go will be one of the more interesting ones of the offseason.
Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year
Winner: Carlos Hyde
Ohio State's offense wasn't much different on paper than the 2012 version, but it was much more explosive in 2013.
Carlos Hyde was a major reason for that and that's because he was much more explosive. He went from averaging 5.2 yards a carry to 7.8 yards a carry, and he had 1,290 yards compared to 970 yards a season ago.
All of that on 20 fewer carries in the regular season. His performances were outstanding once he got fully involved in the offense and gave Meyer and Co. another threat outside of Braxton Miller.
It will be a very interesting battle between Hyde and Miller for this award, but looking at it as a side-by-side comparison, Hyde wins out over Miller this season.
Silver Football Award
Winner: Carlos Hyde
Again, this will come down to Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde of Ohio State.
Both have amazing numbers and great performances throughout the year, but the thing that stands out the most is the fact that Hyde made this offense work in Big Ten play.
Without Hyde, one has to wonder if the Buckeyes would have beaten Wisconsin, Northwestern or Michigan this season. His performances in those three games involved what Miller was doing a season ago—willing his team to victory.
Last year, it was all about Braxton Miller and what he did, but this year, Ohio Sate's offense was two-dimensional and it all had to do with Hyde's growth and the offensive line's maturation.
Don't be surprised if Miller's name is called for this award, but it should go to Hyde.
First Team All-Big Ten
First Team Offense:
Quarterback: Braxton Miller, Ohio State
Running Back: Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
Running Back: James White, Wisconsin
Wide Receiver: Allen Robinson, Penn State
Wide Receiver: Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
Center: Corey Linsley, Ohio State
Guard: Ryan Groy, Wisconsin
Guard: Jon Urschel, Penn State
Tackle: Jack Mewhort, Ohio State
Tackle: Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Tight End: Devin Funchess, Michigan
Kicker: Jeff Budzien, Northwestern
First Team Defense:
Defensive Line: Noah Spence, Ohio State
Defensive Line: Randy Gregory, Nebraska
Defensive Line: Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Defensive Line: Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
Linebacker: Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Linebacker: Chris Borland, Wisconsin
Linebacker: Jonathan Brown, Illinois
Defensive Back: Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Defensive Back: B.J. Lowery, Iowa
Defensive Back: Bradley Roby, Ohio State
Defensive Back: Blake Countess, Michigan
Punter: Mike Sadler, Michigan State
Second Team All-Big Ten
Second Team Offense:
Quarterback: Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois
Running Back: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
Running Back: Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
Wide Receiver: Jeremy Gallon, Michigan
Wide Receiver: Cody Latimer, Indiana
Center: Collin Rahrig, Indiana
Guard: Spencer Long, Nebraska
Guard: Zac Epping, Minnesota
Tackle: Brandon Scherff, Iowa
Tackle: Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin
Tight End: C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa
Kicker: Mike Geiger, Michigan State
Second Team Defense:
Line: Beau Allen, Wisconsin
Line: Tyler Scott, Northwestern
Line: Daquan Jones, Penn State
Line: Michael Bennett, Ohio State
Linebacker: James Morris, Iowa
Linebacker: Max Bullough, Michigan State
Linebacker: Anthony Hitchens, Iowa
Defensive Back: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska
Defensive Back: Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State
Defensive Back: Greg Heban, Indiana
Defensive Back: Sojourn Shelton, Wisconsin
Punter: Cody Webster, Purdue
*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.
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