The Big Ten's Best: The Big Ten Conference has an unparalleled history of athletes, performances, moments and traditions. The Big Ten’s Best finds the cream of the crop with a top-10 countdown for a wide array of topics.
No, there wasn’t a Heisman Trophy winner among Big Ten defensive backs during the 2000s, a la Michigan’s Charles Woodson the decade before. But the position was hardly light on talent. In fact, the 2000s saw a pair of conference stars win the Jim Thorpe award, handed out to the nation’s top defensive back, in Wisconsin’s Jamar Fletcher (2000) and Ohio State’s Malcolm Jenkins (2008). Watch a clip from Tuesday night’s show now and see the complete top 10 list in this post.
So you think the Big Ten is all about running the ball and defense, huh? Think again. As the sport has evolved and become a passing game recently, the Big Ten has done its part and produced some of the game’s top wide receivers. The 2000s is no exception. The decade featured some of the elite receivers in Big Ten annals, both from a talent and numbers perspective. Michigan State’s Charles Rogers and Michigan’s Braylon Edwards both won the Biletnikoff Award, while Purdue’s Taylor Stubblefield finished his career as the NCAA’s all-time leading receiver (325 catches). Watch a clip from Tuesday’s show now and see the entire top 10 list in this post.
When the casual college football fan thinks of the linebacker position, one program always stands out: Penn State. It’s called “Linebacker U,” after all. Jack Ham and others started the great tradition in the late 1960s, and it’s truly been a trend ever since. Perhaps no decade was more decorated for Penn State linebackers than the 2000s. You know the names: Sean Lee, Dan Connor and Paul Posluszny, among others. All three made the cut for BTN’s loaded list of top linebackers of the 2000s. Among the other recognized players, there’s the nation’s all-time leading tackler, a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and a guy who won three BCS bowls. Watch a clip from Tuesday’s show and see the entire list in this post.
From Archie Griffin to Eddie George to Ron Dayne to many others, the Big Ten always seems to boast its share of nationally acclaimed running backs. While no Big Ten back took home the Heisman Trophy during the 2000s, there were worthy candidates. For example, Mike Hart, who finished fifth in 2006, after rushing for 1,562 yards and 14 touchdowns, or Larry Johnson, who in 2002 became the first back to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season (2,087) and not bring home the trophy. Throughout the decade, Big Ten backfields had great talents, and that’s clear when one takes a look at our top 10 list. Watch a clip from Tuesday’s show and see the complete list in this post.
If Penn State is referred to as “Linebacker U,” Wisconsin might want to consider calling itself “Tight End U.” No, Wisconsin’s dominance at the position doesn’t date back as far as Penn State’s linebacking prowess, but the Badgers, of late, seem to produce very talented tight ends. Take the 2000s, for example. From Owen Daniels to Garrett Graham to Travis Beckum, among others, Wisconsin has boasted some of the Big Ten’s finest at the position. That said, it’s no surprise a trio of Badgers made the cut when it came to BTN’s top 10 tight ends of the 2000s. Watch a clip from Tuesday’s Big Ten’s Best show now and see the entire list in this post.
How great were Big Ten defensive linemen during the 2000s? Consider this: Eight of the 10 players on “The Big Ten’s Best: Defensive Linemen of the 2000s,” which debuted Tuesday night on BTN, were first-round NFL picks. The other two guys, for what it’s worth, also were drafted. Yes, NFL teams often draft on potential or impressive NFL Combine performances, but all of these defensive linemen, including Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh, were flat-out college stars.
On Tuesday night, “The Big Ten’s Best: Quarterbacks of the 2000s” debuted on BTN. The Big Ten, the conference that created the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust philosophy, isn’t best known for its quarterbacks. Still, the Big Ten has had more than its share of impressive quarterbacks, and the 2000s was no exception. During the most recent decade, the Big Ten produced a pair of Heisman winners (Troy Smith and the “adopted” Eric Crouch), a national champion (Craig Krenzel) and a trio of national runners-up (Smith, Crouch, Todd Boeckman).