However, after doing this a full year, I realize how hard it is to focus on each team equally and know about them and what their game plans are and personnel. In fact, I'm an IU student and I stopped caring about IU football a month ago. I never really could find much to write about Purdue or Minnesota because they simply weren't interesting.
Which brings me to the thank yous. First, a big thanks to Grue for letting me take over the blog. He did a fabulous job with it and I know I'm still not at his level, but I'm improving. I know so much more now than I did at the beginning of this.
For example, my first blog was 1004 words. It was filled with predictions based off things I read, not things I knew. I predicted Nebraska to go undefeated, Iowa to finish with 1 loss, MSU to finish 9-3, and Michigan at 7-5. Somehow, I had the other division down to nearly a T, only flipping OSU and PSU. Still, my players to watch featured an IU player who was kicked off the team, a MSU RB who wasn't even the best RB on the team, and no Montee Ball.
My last season wrap up was 1900 words, had a far more in-depth look, and it was something that even impressed myself. In fact, my B1G title game preview itself was nearly 1000 words. If you had asked me to do that at the beginning of the year, I'd had laughed.
I also want to thank everyone who read it. I realize it didn't have a big following, but it was a blast to write each week. It's the first season I've really "gotten into" college football and it was a great season. You guys reading it made it well worth the time spent writing it each week.
Now that the corny part is over, let's hand out some awards.
Most Valuable Player
To me, an MVP award should mean just as it says, no matter what the sport. It's the player who is most valuable to his team's success. He may not have put up the best stats, but without him, the team wouldn't have succeeded, or at least not succeeded as much. This year, there's no doubt in my mind that player is Russell Wilson
Coming into this year, not many expected big things of Wisconsin. We knew they had Montee Ball and James White, but they needed a dependable QB to make that jump. Little was written about Russell Wilson's arrival in Wisconsin. However, he made sure people knew about him right away when he torched UNLV for 255 pass yards and 2 touchdowns and 62 rush yards and a touchdown.
From that point forward, Wilson wasn't overlooked. Despite that, he started off incredibly hot, throwing for 347 and 345 yards in his third and fourth games with three touchdowns in each game. He cooled off, predictably, but still played a huge role for the Badgers. He provided them a pass threat to open up run lanes for Ball and White, which worked for everyone. He finished the year with 2879 yards, 31 touchdowns, and just 3 interceptions. Those three interceptions are the key, as he protected the ball and let Ball take over.
Honorable mentions (in order) - Denard Robinson, UM; Kirk Cousins, MSU; Marcus Coker, Iowa
Offensive Player of the Year
There's no guessing to go on here. Everyone knows who this player is. He finished with nearly 400 more yards than second place in rushing, had twice as many touchdowns, and did it on fewer carries. Montee Ball was a monster this year.
His final stat line of 275 carries, 1759 yards, 32 touchdowns, 6.4 ypc, as well as 20 catches for 255 yards and 6 more touchdowns is simply mind-boggling. That's a total of 2014 yards and 38 touchdowns. Yet this man is not only NOT the Heisman favorite, he's not even considered a front-runner. Someone explain that, please.
Getting back on topic, only four times this year did Ball not get 100 yards on the ground rushing, but always had at least 100 all-purpose yards each game. Another mind-boggling stat is that Ball had at least two touchdowns each game, had six games with four total touchdowns, and twice finished with four touchdowns rushing.
Take a moment and digest those stats. No one is mentioning his name in the Heisman race even though his team is BCS Bowl bound and he is one of the main reasons why. That might be the most mind-boggling part of it all.
Honorable mentions - Marcus Coker, Iowa; Kirk Cousins, MSU; Russell Wilson, UW; Marvin McNutt, Iowa
Defensive Player of the Year
For the first time in quite a while, the B1G did not have someone I'd consider a dominant defensive player. Maybe it's simply that they weren't as high-profiled, but the defense seemed to be lacking this year.
Still, after looking at the stats, one name is at the top of nearly every list. This man finished first in sacks, 4.5 more than second. He had twice as many forced fumbles as second place and had the most tackles for loss. He wouldn't be one you'd expect to make this list, but the defensive player of the year goes to Whitney Mercilus of Illinois.
Before you give me a big "what the ****," take a look at the stats. He finished with 14.5 sacks, 52 total tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, and 9 forced fumbles. He had at least one sack in all but two game and forced a fumble and had a sack in his final 4 games. While Illinois went into full collapse mode down the stretch, Mercilus was a bright spot for their defense. In the first 6 games, all wins, he had 24 tackles, 8.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. In the final 6 they lost, he had 28 tackles, 6 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles. Point being, you can't say Mercilus wasn't playing hard.
While there may be other that are more "pro-ready," Mercilus was the stud of the year defensively for the B1G.
Honorable mentions - Denicos Allen, MSU; Mike Taylor, UW; Jonathan Brown, Illinois
Game of the Year
It's fresh in everyone's mind and was the highlight of Championship Week in college football. Michigan State vs. Wisconsin in the B1G Title Game is the easy choice for the game of the year.
Anyone who watched this game was treated to a dandy. Wisconsin came out incredibly hot, going up 21-7 in the first behind 100 yards rushing from Montee Ball. It looked like what the Big Ten officials feared, a blowout game.
However, just like in their original meeting, just like in the original meeting, MSU battled back and four of the next five touchdowns, taking a 36-28 lead going into the fourth quarter.
That's when all the fun REALLY started.
First, Russell Wilson led the team downfield and scored on a shovel pass to Montee Ball, bringing the Badgers within two. However, the team was unsuccessful with their 2-point conversion try, leaving the score at 36-34.
Michigan State answered with a big field goal, forcing Wisconsin to score a touchdown to take a lead. Wilson accepted the challenge and drove right back down field, this time letting Montee Ball finish it off on the ground and also successfully getting the two points this time.
Following a punt by MSU, Wisconsin was forced into a 3-and-out, setting up a great ending. On the return, MSU's Keshawn Martin had a huge return down to the 5-yard line, setting up the Sparties beautifully. However, the goat of the week, and maybe the year, goes to Isiah Lewis, who ran into Wisconsin's punter and gave them a first down. Without any time-outs, Michigan State's fate was sealed and Wisconsin walked away victors of the first B1G title game.
Honorable Mentions - MSU vs. UW; OSU vs. UW; OSU vs. UM; NU vs. Illinois
Surprise Team of the Year
If we had given this award at mid-season, Illinois would have been a run away winner. At the half-way point, they sat at 6-0 and ranked 16th. Even though they played one road game in that time, it was still an impressive start. But they soon imploded and took their name out of the mix.
Instead, and to not cop out and take Wisconsin or MSU, the surprise team of the year is the Michigan Wolverines.
We knew that the team had Denard Robinson, but last year with Robinson, they went 7-6, 3-5 in the Big Ten.
However, the addition of Brady Hoke clearly changed this program around. Hoke came in, Robinson adjusted, and this team became a completely different one. No longer did Shoelaces have to outscore every opponent as Michigan had a defense.
The Wolverines started the year 6-0, but lost 2 of 3 in the middle of the season. Most, including myself, thought it would be a repeat of last year and that the team would fall apart. However, Brady quickly righted the ship and the team won their last three games, including a win over Ohio State for the first time in seven years.
In the end, the team will be playing in a BCS bowl, and controversial or not, credit to Michigan for being a suitable enough team to put them into consideration. No one expected a BCS bowl out of this team, especially after last year.
Honorable mentions - Illinois, Penn State, Michigan State
Disappointing Team of the Year
When I wrote my season preview blog, I was admittedly in over my head. I was reading other people's previews and putting those into mine. I made a couple bold predictions and stuck by them this year, right or wrong.
The boldest of my predictions went to the Iowa Hawkeyes. It was admittedly too high expectations. However, this team was capable of such. Given how good their offense was with Marcus Coker and Marvin McNutt, it's a bit of a head scratcher as to why they weren't better than they were.
However, this team put back-to-back wins together just twice, only once in the B1G, and never had a flow the whole year. Their final six games were alternated wins and losses. However, they had the 2nd best running back and the best WR in the conference.
If you look at the schedule, the team should have been Iowa State and probably Minnesota. Right there, we're talking about an 8-3 team. If they beat one of MSU, Nebraska, or PSU, we're talking about a totally different team and maybe they take Michigan's spot in the BCS bowl.
But instead, we'll be left thinking what if.
Honorable Mentions - Illinois' 2nd half team, Nebraska, Ohio State
I'll be putting out a bowl projection blog for the B1G schools next week.