'Tis the season to hand out awards in the movie industry. The Academy Awards is merely the last in a continuous stream of starlets to red carpet affairs where actors and actresses keep congratulating themselves.
Well, why should they have all the fun? Let's look back at the Big Ten 2011 season and recognize the Top 10 individual performances of the year. We will consider degree of difficulty here, so piling up stats against helpless opponents won't earn the top spots. Players who led their teams to victory get extra credit.
The envelopes, please:
1. Michigan's Denard Robinson vs. Ohio State: Not only was Robinson spectacular and unstoppable in this game, but he led his team to a much-needed win against the Buckeyes in the process. The eye-popping numbers for Shoelace: 14-of-17 passing for 167 yards, 26 rushes for 170 yards and five total touchdowns.
2. Wisconsin's Montee Ball vs. Illinois: The Big Ten's offensive player of the year put up amazing stats just about every week, but the hard-fought 28-17 win against Illinois might have been his best effort. Ball carried 38 times for a season-high 224 yards and added three touchdowns, as the Badgers climbed back from an early deficit.
3. Robinson vs. Notre Dame: No football player ever single-handedly does anything, much less win a game. But Robinson sure made it feel that way in the night win against the Irish. He compiled 446 total yards and five touchdowns, leading his team on a furious fourth-quarter comeback, tossing two touchdown passes in the final 1:12. The only reason this isn't higher is because Robinson stunk for most of the first three quarters and had three interceptions.
4. Illinois' A.J. Jenkins vs. Northwestern: Jenkins brutalized the Northwestern secondary in a 38-35 shootout. He broke a school record with 268 receiving yards on 12 catches and had three touchdowns, including a 50-yarder. The 268 receiving yards were the third-most ever in a Big Ten game.
5. Ball vs. Penn State: The showdown for the Leaders Division title quickly turned into a rout, and Ball was a big reason why. He rushed 25 times for 156 yards and four touchdowns against Penn State's normally stout defense, as Wisconsin punched its ticket to Indianapolis with a 45-7 victory.
6. Michigan State's Kirk Cousins vs. Wisconsin I: You remember the game-winning Hail Mary pass. But that was just the culmination of a terrific night for the senior, who went 22-of-31 for 290 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers in the crucial win against the Badgers.
7. Nebraska's Rex Burkhead vs. Iowa: Burkhead had better days scoring and ripping off long runs, but he never put the team on his back quite as much as he did in the first Heroes Game. The running back set a Huskers record with 38 carries for 160 yards and added a touchdown, and he sat out most of the fourth quarter before coming back in to take the final, record-breaking carry.
8. Wisconsin's Russell Wilson vs. Minnesota: The Gophers made a lot of quarterbacks look good, but Wilson was as close to perfect as you can get in a 42-13 blowout. He completed all 13 of his passes in the first half and finished 16-of-17 for 178 yards and four touchdowns. That makes for a pretty good passer rating.
9. Penn State's Gerald Hodges vs. Illinois: We can't let offensive guys own this whole list. The Nittany Lions' linebacker was all over the place in the snowy, 10-7 slugfest against the Illini. He finished with 19 tackles, a sack, two pass breakups and a forced fumble to keep his team in the game.
10. Purdue's Kawann Short vs. Ohio State: The big defensive tackle dominated the interior in the upset of the Buckeyes. Short sacked quarterback Braxton Miller three times, earning national defensive player of the week recognition.
Honorable mention: Iowa's James Vandenberg vs. Pittsburgh; Iowa's Marvin McNutt vs. Indiana; Illinois' Jonathan Brown vs. Arizona State; Ohio State's Braxton Miller vs. Michigan; Iowa's Marcus Coker vs. Minnesota; Ball vs. Nebraska and Purdue; Wilson vs. Nebraska and Michigan State II; Michigan State's William Gholston vs. Georgia; Nebraska's Taylor Martinez vs. Ohio State; Northwestern's Jeremy Ebert vs. Rice; Michigan's Fitz Toussaint vs. Illinois