I've had some time to digest this year's All-Big Ten teams and league awards, which, for the most part, accurately reflected the conference this fall. It's always interesting to see the differences in voting between the coaches and the media, as well as the team-by-team breakdown. The media and I saw eye-to-eye on all four awards selections.
Here are a few things that stood out to me.
The Big Surprise
Let me preface this by saying Penn State's Jared Odrick is an outstanding player, the best defensive tackle in the Big Ten and most likely a future star in the NFL. But I was extremely surprised to see the coaches select Odrick as both Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Lineman of the Year. I had a similar reaction to seeing the media pick Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor as preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
In what might have been the most competitive Defensive POY race ever, Odrick wasn't on the radar for most people. If the award would go to a Penn State player, linebacker Navorro Bowman appeared to be the No. 1 choice. Bowman was in the mix with linebacker Greg Jones, end Brandon Graham, end O'Brien Schofield, safety Kurt Coleman, linebacker Pat Angerer, end Adrian Clayborn and end Ryan Kerrigan.
Odrick is a great player who commands double teams on almost every play, but how do you ignore Graham, who had 25 tackles for loss on a bad defense? Or Jones, who makes every tackle on the field? Or Coleman, the top playmaker on the league's best defense? And if the coaches think interior line play is underappreciated, they should have voted Iowa defensive tackle Mitch King, not Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis, as Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. King was much more of a difference maker than Laurinaitis last fall.
Again, nothing against Odrick, but this pick was a head scratcher.
Other thoughts and notes
It's not a huge surprise, but Ohio State's lack of representation on the first-team All-Big Ten squads certainly stands out. The Buckeyes had only one player (Coleman) on the coaches' ballot and only two (Coleman and guard Justin Boren) on the media's. This certainly strengthens Jim Tressel's case for Coach of the Year, an award he has never won.
For the most part, the selections didn't penalize players who missed time because of injuries. Iowa left tackle Bryan Bulaga was a consensus first-team selection and Offensive Lineman of the Year despite missing three games (thyroid). Bulaga's teammate, tight end Tony Moeaki, also made All-Big Ten (first-team coaches, second-team media) despite missing time (ankle). Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker was a first-team pick by the coaches even though he missed the final four regular-season games. Northwestern cornerback Sherrick McManis, Iowa guard Dace Richardson and Penn State linebacker Sean Lee also earned all-conference honors despite sitting out games.
Both the coaches and the media identified the top eight defensive linemen in the league for the first and second teams. They also did a nice job with the defensive backs. The second-team linebacker selections were a little curious. I don't know how Ohio State's Brian Rolle or Indiana's Matt Mayberry get left out.
Iowa's Adam Robinson would have been a good pick for second-team running back, but I don't have a major problem with the selections.
Northwestern finally got some recognition this year with five All-Big Ten selections. The Wildcats won one more game last year (9-3) but had only one All-Big Ten player (defensive end Corey Wootton).
The coaches' voting was very close, as three positions (defensive back, center and wide receiver) ended up with ties.
Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark was the right choice for the first team. It was a very close call between Northwestern's Mike Kafka and Purdue's Joey Elliott for second team, but Kafka led his team to more wins.
Both the coaches and media got it right with Wisconsin's Chris Borland for Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Borland is the first defensive player to win the award since Purdue safety Stuart Schweigert in 2000.
The selections include 15 members of the first or second team from 2008, including seven first-team selections from last fall who are on this year's first team: Michigan punter Zoltan Mesko, Jones, Decker, Bowman, Clark and Odrick, and Wisconsin tight end Garrett Graham.
All-Big Ten selections by team (first or second team, coaches and media)
Michigan State: 4
Ohio State: 6
Penn State: 9