Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, December 4, 2013

The Big Ten handed out its top individual awards. Not many shockers, but I?ll admit that I was a bit surprised that Ohio State?s Ryan Shazier lost out on Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors to Wisconsin?s Chris Borland.

Doug Lesmerises of notes that Borland finished third in the conference in tackles per game, averaging 9.3 per game for the 9-3 Badgers. He missed one game due to injury, and much of another, and had 102 total tackles in 11 games.

Shazier? He led the conference in tackles for the 12-0 Buckeyes with 122, averaging 10.2 per game. He led the conference in tackles for loss with 21, an average of 1.75 per game. Want more? Here you go. Shazier also won the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Week award three times, more than any player in the league. Borland won the award once.

So, why, again, did Borland win this award?

Penn State?s Christian Hackenberg was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa also was very good.

Greg Pickel of says Hackenberg arguably saved his best performance for last, leading State to a 34-21 victory over then No. 15 Wisconsin last Saturday by completing 21 of 30 passes for 339 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. The loss was killer for the Badgers, ending their BCS bowl hopes. (I still am stunned.) Hackenberg threw just 10 interceptions on the season, and set 10 Penn State freshman quarterback records, including four games with 300-yards or more passing.

I think he?s destined to be a No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Maybe, say, the next Andrew Luck? Sounds about right.

Mark Dantonio? Big Ten Coach of the Year? No shocker.

Michigan State has reached 11 wins in three of the past four seasons under Dantonio, who has led the Spartans to a 40-12 record since the start of the 2010 season. Still, I think the staff at Minnesota should have gotten the award. Incredible what the Gophers coach dealt with and still delivered eight wins. And, you could have made good cases for Ohio State?s Urban Meyer and Iowa?s Kirk Ferentz.

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! has a fine column on Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio. It?s an inspiring tale of a no-nonsense coach who slowly and steadily is building a power. Impressive stuff.


Turns out Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner had turf toe vs. Ohio State. That makes his performance vs. the Buckeyes all the more impressive.

Gardner threw for 451 yards and four TDs last Saturday, hitting 32 of 45 passes. And he was sacked three times. In the month of November, Gardner was sacked a total of 23 times in five games. Once the line gets buttoned up, Gardner will be even better.


Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune thinks Minnesota is headed to the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston.

Rand says if that seems like an unfair plight considering the Gophers have won two more games this season than a year ago, remember that Ohio State and Penn State, who would have been ahead of Minnesota in the bowl pecking order a year ago, were ineligible for the postseason so the Gophers landed in a better bowl than they normally would have. The school announced 3,163 tickets to last year's bowl game were sold through the university.

It will be interesting to see if they can top that mark this year if Houston is, indeed, the destination again. I wish Minnesota could get to the Gator Bowl. But, it probably won?t happen. Too bad.


Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times has a nice piece here on the Big Ten and its myriad good storylines.

I like the MSU angle as it aims for its first Rose Bowl since 1987. And it may get there win or lose on Saturday night in Indy.


Nebraska A.D. Shawn Eichorst conducted his monthly radio show. In it, he offered more support for Bo Pelini. Honestly, what did you expect?

?It was due to the great value of unfounded speculation and conjecture around our program,? Eichorst said. ?It?s important in my position to be patient and deliberate and consider the entire body of our coaches? work and the circumstances surrounding their work. But I understand that this is a special and unique place, and due to our history and great passion of our fans and supporters - particularly as it relates to our football program - it?s important.?


Good video here of Michigan State writers discussing if the Big Ten is rooting against the Spartans so Ohio State can get to the BCS title game. Don?t you love conspiracy theories?

And check out this video of MSU linebacker Max Bullough defending Big Ten football and saying the Spartans don?t want to back into the Rose Bowl. Good stuff.

"I want to go to Indianapolis and win the game and go to the Rose Bowl the right way," said Bullough. "To me the Big Ten championship ?? the Rose Bowl is the goal because to get there usually you have to win the Big Ten championship. That's what it is to me personally. The Rose Bowl in my mind isn't the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is the Rose Bowl because you won the Big Ten. That's how I look at it."

Gotta love Bullough?s passion. I?d want him on my team. But I want to remind Bullough that the ultimate goal isn?t the Rose Bowl-it?s the national championship game.


The Illinois defense in 2013? It wasn?t good. Nope. So, could Tim Beckman maybe, you know, alter his staff? It doesn?t sound like it.



My take: That?s what I was thinking.

My take: How good is this guy gonna be? Exactly.

My take: How is that for symmetry?

My take: It?s going to be a great matchup.

My take: I think this is exactly right.

My take: This is stunning.


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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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