A representative from all 14 SB Nation Big Ten blogs took a crack at predicting how the season was going to play out. I’ll just get this out of the way first because it sucks: Ohio State was a unanimous selection to win the Big Ten East and the Big Ten Championship. Ugh, puke. I guess when you’ve won twice as many conference titles (four) as conference games you’ve lost (two) in the past four seasons you’ve earned the benefit of the doubt.
In the Good News Department, 11 of the 14 respondents think the mighty Wisconsin Badgers will win the West. Iowa, Minnesota (?) and ::stifles laughter:: Nebraska (?????) each received one vote to win the division as well.
Eight different coaches received a vote for Big Ten Coach of the Year. Ohio State’s Ryan Day led the way with three votes and Paul Chryst was one of four coaches to receive two votes. If I can be fully transparent with you, I voted for Penn State’s James Franklin. I think the Nittany Lions have a bounce back season and finish second in the East, sue me!
This year should be pretty fun for fans because there were seven players who received a vote for Offensive Player of the Year and nine (!) who received one for Defensive Player of the Year. Ohio State’s freshman QB C.J. Stroud got four votes and Indiana’s QB Michael Penix, who I voted for, got three. Ohio State WR Chris Olave and Minnesota RB Mohamed Ibrahim each had two votes.
On the defensive side of the ball, Purdue’s DE George Karlaftis received four votes, Indiana’s MLB Micah McFadden and Northwestern S Brandon Joseph each had two. Jack Sanborn, who I voted for, received, uh, my one vote and five other players also had one tally.
Then we were able to vote for the best player at each position. Instead of doing paragraphs of boring explanatory stuff, here are the top two vote getters for each position!
Top QB: C.J. Stroud - 6; Michael Penix - 5
Top RB: Mohamed Ibrahim - 9; Kenneth Walker III - 2
Top WR: Chris Olave - 8; David Bell - 5
Top TE: Jake Ferguson - 10; Sam LaPorta - 2
Top IOL: Tyler Linderbaum - 9; four tied with - 1
Top OT: Thayer Munford - 7; Peter Skoronski - 2
Top Interior DL: Haskell Garrett - 13
Top DE/Edge: George Karlaftis - 7; three tied at - 2
Top LB: Micah McFadden - 3; Jojo Domann - 3; Jack Sanborn - 3
Top DB: Tiawan Mullen - 6; Brandon Joseph - 4
Top Kicker: Charles Campbell - 4; Connor Culp - 4
Top Punter: Tory Taylor - 12; Adam Korsak - 1
Top Returner: Aron Cruickshank - 9; Jahan Dotson - 2
QB Graham Mertz and IOL Logan Bruss each received one vote (neither from me) at their respective position, while TE Jake Ferguson ran away with Best Tight End and Sanborn was tied for Best Linebacker.
A few things that stood out to me:
- A lot of the positions had a pretty clear cut “best player” with everyone even having pretty strong opinions on who the best punter and returner are.
- Quarterback is the most interesting spot to me. All of the preview magazines that came out earlier in the summer have Penix as the top QB but we have Stroud. Why is that? Well, it’s because Ohio State didn’t name a starter until recently! Is Stroud really the best quarterback in the conference or are a lot of people just assuming that whoever is under center for the Buckeyes is going to be great? Excited to find out!
- I expect the Badgers offensive line to be very good this year but I agree with everyone’s assessment here that there isn’t a standout performer who will be winning any individual awards.
- Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker receiving the second most votes for Best RB was a bit of a surprise to me. Walker is a transfer from Wake Forest (he didn’t play in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl) and I think the Spartans have a couple of other guys who will split carries with him. Elijah Collins and Connor Heyward are proven commodities back there and, tbqh, MSU will probably be trailing in a bunch of games and forced to throw the ball a ton.
- There are a boatload of good linebackers in the Big Ten.
- I wish Aron Cruickshank was still on the Badgers. Kick returns are very exciting with him.