Dienhart: Handing out 2017 midseason Big Ten awards
Can you believe it? The season has passed the halfway point. We have seven weeks in the books, and each team has played half of its 12 games. So, let’s pause and hand out some midseason awards.
Offensive player of the year: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. The junior has flashed his versatility this season, impacting not just as a runner but also as a pass-catcher and kickoff return man. Heck, Barkley has even tossed a touchdown pass this season. He is the Heisman front-runner.
Others: Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett; Maryland WR D.J. Moore; Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor
Defensive player of the year: Michigan LB Devin Bush. He sets the pace for one of the Big Ten’s top defenses, ranking fourth in the league in tackles, first in sacks and seventh in TFLs. He’s a sideline-to-sideline terror.
Others: Iowa LB Josey Jewell; Ohio State DE Nick Bosa; Wisconsin LB Garret Dooley
Freshman of the year: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin. Meet the next superstar Badger back. The true freshman has been as good as advertised, as he paces the Big Ten in rushing with 986 yards and has had three 200-yard rushing games. Enjoy him while you can.
Others: Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins; Penn State DE Shaka Toney; Illinois DE Bobby Roundtree
Coach of the year: Jeff Brohm, Purdue. The fact he has the 3-3 Boilermakers positioned to make a bowl for the first time since 2012 is a miracle when you consider the disaster he inherited from a previous regime that won nine games in four years. It will be interesting to see what Brohm can do once he flips the roster in a few years.
Others: Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio; Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst; Penn State’s James Franklin
Best game: No. 4 Penn State 21, Iowa 19. Does it get any better than winning on the last play of a game? Nope. And that’s just what the Nittany Lions did when Trace McSorley hit Juwan Johnson with a seven-yard TD pass as the clock stuck zero.
Others: Maryland 51, No. 23 Texas 41; Michigan State 14, No. 7 Michigan 10; Michigan 27, Indiana 20 OT
Best games left: Penn State at Ohio State, Oct. 28. The world is counting the days before this tilt, which figures to be a de facto Big Ten East title game. The loser probably can kiss their playoff dreams good-bye. The Buckeyes are looking for revenge after dropping a wild 24-21 game in State College last season.
Others: Michigan at Penn State, Oct. 21; Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 25; Michigan at Wisconsin, Nov. 18
Best performance: Penn State’s Saquon Barkley was unreal in a win on Sept. 23 at Iowa, setting a school single-game record with 358 all-purpose yards (211 rushing yards, 94 receiving yards and 53 yards on returns). That’s 10th in Big Ten annals. It showed why he may be the Heisman front-runner.
Others: Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook at BYU (He hit 18-of-19 passes for 256 yards with four TDs in a 40-6 win); Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor, 249 yards rushing at Nebraska; Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett at Nebraska (325 yards passing with 5 TDs and 48 yards rushing with two TDs).
Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year: LB Devin Bush, Michigan
Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year: Jeff Brohm, Purdue
Thompson-Randel El Freshman of the Year: RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year: Nick Bosa, Ohio State
Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year: Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year: Nick Nelson, Wisconsin
Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year: Devin Bush, Michigan
Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year: D.J. Moore, Maryland
Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year: Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year: Quinn Nordin, Michigan
Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year: Ryan Anderson, Rutgers
Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year: J-Shun Harris, Indiana