By now, it's pretty obvious who the last men standing are in our countdown of the Big Ten's top 25 players of 2011.
It's always a difficult exercise because there are many deserving players, and limiting ourselves to only 25 nominees means some excellent candidates got left out. So let's take a look at some of the toughest omissions.
First, here are the players who were on our preseason list who didn't survive the cut for the postseason honors and the reasons why:
Preseason No. 25: Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin: One of the hardest players to leave off the list, as Borland had an excellent season with 143 tackles and was one of the top linebackers in the league. We chose to go with his position mate, Mike Taylor, though Borland was probably No. 26 on our list.
Preseason No. 24: Michael Mauti, LB, Penn State: Mauti was well on his way to a strong season before he suffered another knee injury that forced him to miss most of the year.
Preseason No. 22: Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa: Prater's tackle and interception numbers dipped from his junior year, and Iowa's pass defense as a whole was disappointing.
Preseason No. 21: Nathan Scheelhaase, QB, Illinois: Scheelhaase got off to a good start in 2011, but he and the rest of the Illini offense were MIA for the second half of the season.
Preseason No. 19: Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue: Allen had a good season, with 79 tackles and three interceptions, and just missed our list.
Preseason No. 16: Derek Moye, WR, Penn State: Moye dealt with an injury midseason, but what really hurt him was poor quarterback play.
Preseason No. 3: Dan Persa, QB, Northwestern: Persa was still really good when he was in the lineup; he just wasn't in the lineup enough because of injury issues.
Preseason No. 1: Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska: Crick was a little quiet early in the season, and then he suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle in October.
Here are a few other guys who just missed the cut:
Michigan State CB Johnny Adams: I really liked the year Adams had, and he was on my initial top 25 list. Very difficult to leave him off.
Michigan State G Joel Foreman and Wisconsin OT Josh Oglesby: Two of the best offensive linemen in the league, but we already had a bunch of linemen on the list in a strong year for the big uglies in the Big Ten.
Nebraska P/K Brett Maher: Unfortunately, kickers and punters don't get a lot of love on lists like these.
Wisconsin S Aaron Henry: If we could have considered interview skills as part of the criteria, Henry would have been in the top 10.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Many of the underclassmen who finished just outside the top 25 will likely appear on our 2012 preseason list this summer. If you have players you feel strongly about who we didn't include in our top 25 -- and I'm betting you do -- drop me a line and tell me who and why. We'll discuss it in a future post.