The 2016 ballot for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame was released Tuesday so, naturally, three of us at the Big Ten blog decided to take a closer look at the most deserving players on the 81-person list.
There were 24 Big Ten players -- and one coach -- to choose from, and each of us was able to pick only one. The question: Which Big Ten player is most deserving of induction into the Hall of Fame?
Dan Murphy: Nebraska QB Eric Crouch
There's no reason any Heisman Trophy winner should have to wait for a seat in the Hall of Fame. Crouch, who won the sport's highest honor in 2001, set career records for touchdown (88) and total offensive yards (7,915) at a school where football records don't fall easily. For four years, he was a major part of the Cornhuskers' triple option attack at a time when that offense was near the peak of its influence on the college game. Fellow Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier got his overdue invitation to the Hall a few years ago. This time around it should be Crouch's turn.
Brian Bennett: Illinois LB Simeon Rice
What more could you ask for from a defensive player? Rice was a two-time All-American who still holds the Big Ten record for career sacks with 44.5. He had 16 during his junior season of 1994 and 12.5 as a senior before going on to a standout career as a defensive end in the NFL. He was one of the best pass rushers in his generation and deserves a spot in the Hall. As a bonus, Rice is a filmmaker now, so perhaps he could shoot a documentary about his enshrinement.
Josh Moyer: Illinois LB Dana Howard
I waffled between Howard and Rice -- who played together -- but, in the end, I felt Howard's production trumped Rice's talent. After all, it's difficult to find a more consistent player. Howard was a four-time All-Big Ten selection who earned first-team honors three times. He also recorded at least 100 tackles every season, twice earned first-team All-America honors and became the first Illinois player to win the Butkus and Lambert awards. Oh, and he was a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year who, on one All-Time Illini team, received a single first-place vote over Dick Butkus. (Now, I'm certainly not saying Howard is better than Butkus -- but the fact one expert did should speak volumes.) There are obviously a lot of talented players on the ballot this season, but if you compare Howard's accolades and numbers to linebackers already in the Hall of Fame, it sure becomes a head-scratcher as to why he's not in already.