Best of 2014: Tom Dienhart highlights his best of Big Ten football

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Best of 2014: Tom Dienhart highlights his best of Big Ten football

With the New Year just hours away, I’m taking a look back at the best of the 2014 Big Ten football season.

[ MORE: Top surprises | Top frosh | Top teams | Top years | Top moments ]

See it all below.

Best game: The Ohio State at Penn State game on Oct. 25 was filled with drama. The Nittany Lions kicked a field goal at the buzzer to tie the game at 17 after trailing 17-0. But the Buckeyes prevailed in two overtimes, thanks to Joey Bosa’s walk-off sack, to take a 31-24 decision.

Best player: Lots of good options, but Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon has to get the nod. He set a Big Ten single-season rushing standard, highlighted by a then-NCAA-record 408 yards vs. Nebraska, and led the Badgers to the Big Ten title game. Simply sensational.

Best play: There was no shortage of incredible highlights this season, but none topped Jordan Westerkamp’s silly behind-the-back sideline catch vs. Florida Atlantic. It came in Week 1, and we all immediately wondered if it would go down as the Big Ten’s play of the year. Turns out, it did!

Best upset: Northwestern arrived at Notre Dame with a 3-6 record, its bowl hopes on the line. And the Wildcats shocked the world with a 43-40 overtime win vs. the No. 18 Fighting Irish.

Best moment: With Minnesota winning 28-24 with less than two minutes to play and Nebraska driving for the potential go-ahead score, CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun ripped the ball out of De’Mornay Pierson-El’s hands near the goal line to preserve victory and set up the winner-take-all Big Ten West game at Wisconsin.

Best stat line: Melvin Gordon’s 408-yard rushing effort on 25 carries (16.3 yards per carry) vs. Nebraska was stunning and set a single-game FBS record. The mark stood for just one week. Still, Gordon’s classic work, which included four touchdowns, was done in just three quarters.

Best coaching job: Ohio State’s Urban Meyer. He did a masterful job all season, breaking in four new starters on the offensive line and working in redshirt freshman QB J.T. Barrett after Braxton Miller’s season-ending surgery late in the offseason and then Cardale Jones following Barrett’s season-ending broken ankle. Meyer also has seen the defense improve vs. the pass.

Best freshman: Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett. This is easy. He has been a revelation taking over for injured Braxton Miller, leading the Big Ten in passing efficiency and touchdown tosses.

Best alternate uniform: I said it earlier this season, and nothing has changed. Maryland’s “Star Spangled” alternate uniform, which included the song lyrics throughout, vs. West Virginia was great. Just look at this!

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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all times ET
Today
4:00 PMOhio St. at MinnesotaWatch
5:00 PMUMASS at Ohio St.Watch
7:00 PMPenn St. at RutgersWatch
8:00 PMMichigan St. at IllinoisWatch
8:00 PMMichigan at NorthwesternWatch
8:00 PMTrinity Western at MinnesotaWatch
Tomorrow
1:00 PMBall State at NorthwesternWatch
1:00 PMMinnesota at Penn St.Watch

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