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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

A Retrospective

2010 End-of-Year Awards: Big Ten

It’s a great problem for a conference to have, though Michigan State can only sit back and wonder what might have been. The Big Ten had three teams finish with matching 11-1 records, 7-1 in conference play, meaning that three’s a crowd — one team had to stay home from B.C.S. play. Thanks to each team’s starting position, one would imagine, Michigan State became the odd team out. Wisconsin and Ohio State, on the other hand, head to the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, respectively. The top-heavy nature of the conference belied a weak middle: five teams finished 7-5 or 6-6 overall. The two programs at the bottom of the conference — Minnesota and Indiana — opted for a coaching change.

Coach of the Year

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

With a healthy nod to offensive coordinator Don Treadwell, who took over for Dantonio when the latter suffered a heart attack following a win over Notre Dame. Yes, Dantonio missed a handful of games to start the conference season; nevertheless, he deserves recognition for taking a Michigan State team picked to finish the year in the Big Ten’s second division to 11 wins. Yes, the Spartans missed Ohio State. Don’t forget that one win came over Wisconsin, which finished the year as the conference champion thanks to the final B.C.S. rankings. It’s a cruel world; it’s extremely rare that a one-loss Big Ten team doesn’t earn a trip to Pasadena.

Assistant Coach of the Year

Bob Bostad, Wisconsin

Who is Bob Bostad? Only the finest offensive line coach in the country: he’s responsible for creating Wisconsin’s imposing run game, one that propelled the Badgers to an 11-1 finish. Bonus points also go to Paul Chryst, Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator; perhaps this award should be split between the pair. I’ll single out Bostad for two reasons: one, the Wisconsin front was the nation’s best; and two, I have a fondness for all things offensive line.

Offensive Player of the Year

QB Denard Robinson, Michigan

You can’t fault Robinson for Michigan’s embarrassing defense. You can wonder, however, just how statistically impressive Robinson would have been had he not missed all or parts of several games due to injuries. Even when not 100 percent for the entire season, Robinson set a new F.B.S. quarterback record with 1,643 yards rushing with 14 touchdowns; he added another 16 scores through the air. Keeping him healthy will be Michigan’s greatest charge next season: if the defense remains abysmal, the Wolverines will need Robinson to score, and score again, and again and again.

Defensive Player of the Year

DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue

There was a not more overlooked defensive player in the country. Not just the Big Ten: the country. Kerrigan is the result of combining strong athletic ability with unparalleled tenacity, giving him both the talent and the desire to dominate Big Ten offensive tackles all season. He led all conference defensive linemen in tackles with 69; led the entire country in tackles for loss with 26; and his 12.5 sacks dwarfed J.J. Watt’s seven, which ranked second in the conference. Watt is a terrific college football player, without question; Kerrigan is on a whole other level.

Newcomer of the Year

RB James White, Wisconsin

It turns out that Wisconsin’s best running back wasn’t John Clay, the Heisman contender, but true freshman James White. The Florida product started slow, carrying the ball only 23 times over his first three games, but was simply too good to keep off the field: White ended the regular season leading the Badgers in rushing (1,029 yards) and touchdowns (14). Over his last three games, White carried the ball 62 times for 459 yards and 5 scores.

Most Pleasant Surprise

Dan Persa’s play

Those who had seen Persa take limited snaps in 2009 saw the potential: he had the legs, and with time would certainly develop more polished passing skills. In 2010, as a first-year starter, Persa exceeded all expectations. Prior to tearing his Achilles in a win over Iowa, Persa was right alongside Robinson — in my mind — as the conference offensive player of the year. When his year came to an early close, Persa was leading the team in rushing by a sizable margin; he rushed for nine touchdowns, nearly half of his team’s total. He completed 73.5 percent of his passes, second-best in the country. If he make a return to full health in 2011, Northwestern will be a dark horse Rose Bowl candidate.

Biggest Disappointment

Iowa’s collapse

From 5-1 to 5-2, though that loss to Wisconsin could have gone either way. From 5-2 to 7-2, thanks a dominating win — by 31 points — over Michigan State and a closer victory over Indiana. Then the bottom dropped out for Iowa, losers of three straight to end the regular season. It’s a long way down from a potential Rose Bowl bid to the Insight Bowl, as the Hawkeyes can attest.

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  1. DMK says:

    Can’t wait for Wisconsin-TCU. We might learn something. Boise-Utah?: pointless.

  2. Rookierookie says:

    “it’s extremely rare that a one-loss Big Ten team doesn’t earn a trip to Pasadena.”

    Wisconsin Badgers of 2006 says hi.

    Paul: Nice job by you. The research associated with finding the answer was too daunting for such a short post. Hence the wishy-washy statement.

  3. Msulaxer27 says:

    Ah but that 1 loss UW team in 2006 was not conference champions. They did deserve a BCS bowl, but they did not deserve the trip to Pasadena.

    MSU is probably the 1st AQ conference champion to not make a BCS bowl.

  4. Here the Badgers come back again after 11 years. Hope they’ll do well in the game though the team is seen weak comparing to the TCU. Anyway, as fans, we wish them good luck!

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