Unfortunately for us, Ndamukong Suh and Ron Dayne never met on a college football field. If they had, the Richter scale would have had to be functioning correctly.
Alas, Suh and Dayne could only match up in our fictional Big Ten players tournament, which included stars from the past 15 seasons from the 12 current members of the conference. Suh, the former Nebraska defensive tackle, and Dayne, the record-setting former Wisconsin running back, reached the tournament championship last week. Voting took place the past three-plus days, and the verdict was convincing: Suh in a landslide. Arguably the most dominant defensive player in the past decade received a whopping 67 percent of the vote with about 8,500 votes cast.
Many have stated the obvious about Suh: he didn't play in the Big Ten. So why did we include him in the players tournament? We weren't going to exclude Nebraska and its fans from the fun, just like we didn't in last year's champions tournament, which also went the Huskers' way. If Big Ten fans had such a problem with Suh's inclusion, they should have rallied around Dayne in the voting, which they clearly didn't. Nebraska's fan base brings it like none other, but Big Red could have been toppled by the rest of the league's fans.
Here's more from those who voted:
AShap from Phoenix: Both are fantastic and deserving, but I voted Suh because his level of dominance versus competition was greater than Dayne's. Dayne was great and is an all-timer, but Suh's teams were undermanned and he still, sometimes single-handedly, kept that Nebraska D as top ten in the nation.
Tony from Merrimack, N.H.: I voted Suh over Dayne because as great as Dayne was, he never made me think "he's redefining what great football looks like." Suh did that from a position that usually doesn't get noticed, hence he's the #1 "Big Ten" player to me.
Brian from Milwaukee: One incredible fact about Ron Dayne that is often overlooked is that he ran for over 2000 yards his freshman year (including bowl game), and he didn't even start until the fifth game of the season. And this was back when the season was only 11 games long, plus the bowl game. He also broke 2000 yards again his senior year, when everybody and their brother was keying on him every single game. In between, he had two pretty outstanding seasons as well, and it all culminated in the Heisman Trophy. But two 2,000-yard seasons (if you include the bowl game, which you should...It makes no sense that the NCAA started counting bowl stats at some point but doesn't go back and count bowl stats before that point. Can someone explain the logic behind that?) is incredible. Dayne's all-time rushing record, which still stands whether you count bowls or not, was a little underplayed at the time because Ricky Williams had just broken the same record the season before, but Dayne is the most dominant college running back since Herschel Walker. His combination of size, speed and agility were amazing. Suh will no doubt win the poll since Nebraska fans clearly take these things seriously, and he was an outstanding college player, but my vote goes to Dayne.
Matt from Rockford, Ill.: Suh ate Heisman finalists for breakfast for two years. If even 15 percent of past heisman winners were defensive players Suh deservedly takes it home. I lost a degree of respect for the heisman trophy as a result of the voting that year. Anything with that heavy a bias lacks legitimacy. So to answer why did i vote for Suh over a Ron Dayne? If Suh would've won the heisman as a defensive lineman who would you be casting your vote for? I rest my case.
Geoff from Omaha: As a Nebraska fan (and Suh fan) it's hard for me to not vote for Suh. With that said, I voted for Ron Dayne. Nebraska has had many incredible running backs over the years, but none that have been as productive over four years. The shear brilliance that Ron Dayne performed on the field, week in and week out, over his entire career, notably the Rose Bowls, is just too much, in my mind, for Suh to overcome. Not only did Suh NOT play in the B1G, but he had a lackluster career before Pelini arrived in Lincoln. As incredible as Suh was, Dayne earned my vote.
Dan from Dallas: There is no doubt that Suh was a truly dominant player, but the reason he's leading this poll is more a testament to the Husker faithful and short-term memory than anything else. I mean, Ron Dayne ran for more yards than anyone (anyone!) in college football history. Ever. Let that sink in. Of the hundreds of thousands of people who have carried a football in the sport over the past 130 years, Ron Dayne topped them all. Suh was great, but he can't make such a strong argument for being the greatest at his position ever.
Thanks again to all who voted throughout the players tournament. Next March, it'll be back in some form or another.