BTN.com staff, October 11, 2012
We're officially halfway through the 2012 Big Ten football regular season. That means it's a good time to start debating such things as early Big Ten Player of the Year and Coach of the Year candidates. Today, we're going to focus on the latter.
Is it Urban Meyer? Bill O'Brien? Someone else? BTN.com's Tom Dienhart and Brent Yarina debate the topic in this post, plus we included a handful of fan tweets.
Tom: I have to go with Bill O'Brien, who already has overcome myriad obstacles in forging a 4-2 start. Honestly, I thought the Nittany Lions would win four or five games all season. Now, who knows? Penn State may win seven or eight games.
Brent: As hard as it is to downplay O'Brien's work, there's only one national contender in the Big Ten, and it's under the direction of a new coach. That's impressive, especially when you consider the coach, Urban Meyer, inherited a team that went 6-7 and had its struggles on offense a season ago.
Tom: Good point on Urban, but he hardly inherited a "broken" program or an empty cupboard.
Brent: I know this. But, as I said, Meyer inherited a program that went 6-7, and now it's 6-0. One year later. With a lot of the same players. And without much help from Jordan Hall, one of the handful of players he was most excited about.
Tom: OK, I get that. Look at what O'Brien has done, though. He has had to deal with the defections of some key personnel in the wake of those severe NCAA sanctions. Players like running back Silas Redd (USC), kicker/punter Anthony Fera (Texas) and wideout Justin Brown (Oklahoma), among others, bolted. No matter, O'Brien has kept his team focused and on track despite the depleted roster and no end-of-season bowl payoff.
Brent: Impressive, no doubt. And I'm not sure whether O'Brien's best work has been overcoming the loss of those talents or keeping everyone focused after the painful 0-2 start. The way Penn State dropped those games, on top of everything you mentioned, he could have lost this team.
Tom: O'Brien's next trick will be retaining his key players, who still can transfer with no restrictions as late as next August. Oh, and in case you were wondering: O'Brien and Meyer will face off Oct. 27 at Penn State.
Brent: Glad you mentioned the Ohio State-Penn State matchup in a couple weeks. I look forward to seeing Braxton face off against Penn State's Jordan Hill, Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti. A year ago, the Ohio State offense stood no chance. This year, with a passing game and Braxton on the loose, it figures to be a different story. This offense, after all, averages 38.5 points per game – compared to 24.5 last year.
Tom: Meyer's Buckeyes will be focused and out for revenge in a game that will be all about pride for two teams on NCAA probation. But OSU still harbors dreams of going unbeaten and perhaps winning the AP national title. Meyer has done a fine job installing his system and getting everyone to buy in. And, as you mentioned before, his offense is soaring despite not having Hall almost the entire season.
Brent: Yep. The other thing working in Ohio State's favor is that Braxton no longer is a true freshman. Everyone expected Ohio State to be much better this season, with or without Urban, but I'm not sure many predicted a possible perfect record and a top-five finish. That's the way things are looking.
Tom: It is. But while O'Brien and Meyer look like the early leaders for Big Ten Coach of the Year, I think we also should at least tip our hat to Minnesota's Jerry Kill and Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald. Each has done great work up to his point and still will be a factor in the chase to win this honor.
Brent: Exactly! A week ago, Fitzgerald would have been at the top of this discussion; same case for Kill two weeks ago.
Here's what fans had to say about the topic on Twitter: