One man’s All-Big Ten ballot

Before I begin, let me first stipulate that I do not swear by this.

I have said in this space before that I was far more qualified as a 12-year-old to have a Heisman Trophy ballot than I am at 30 and the same is true about my All-Big Ten football ballot. In those days I could sit on my couch and take in football games from noon until whenever I went to bed and watch every game that I found interesting, flipping channels at every commercial break. Now that I cover college football for a living, I spend 3 1/2 hours watching one game, then usually a combined 3 1/2 hours talking to the principals and writing, and sometimes several more hours driving back from said game. All of this means that as good of a handle as I believe I have on what’s going on with Indiana football, I have a worse handle on what’s going on in the rest of the Big Ten than I did when I was 12.

Regardless, I get a ballot and try to make sure those deserving of honors get their due, relying mostly on statistics to make my decisions.  I’m not going to act as if there are no arguments against my votes. I haven’t broken down game film to the extent that I can say unequivocally who the best four guards, the best four tackles and the best two centers are in the league, and if you think there’s a cornerback that should be rated higher because nobody dares throw his way, you might be right.

But this is my ballot, in the format in which were asked to fill it out with justifications for some of the picks. The team will be released this evening on a show at 7 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.



1. Braxton Miller, Ohio State

2. Matt McGloin, Penn State

Explanation: Postseason ban aside, Miller was the best player on the conference’s best team. He was responsible for 28 total touchdowns, 3,310 yards of total offense and of course, 12 wins as the man who spearheaded Urban Meyer’s offense. Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez obviously made a very strong case for the other spot, but McGloin was clearly the conference’s best passer with 24 touchdowns against just five interceptions and his metamorphosis was one of the biggest reasons the Nittany Lions were able to hold it together this season.

Running Backs

1. Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State

2. Montee Ball, Wisconsin

3. Venric Mark, Northwestern

4. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State

Explanation: Though Ball performed better against Indiana and in several other cases during the year, Bell had to carry his team as much as any other player in the conference. His season-ending performance against Minnesota won him the top spot, but both backs belong on the first team.

Wide Receiver

1. Allen Robinson, Penn State

2. Kenny Bell, Nebraska

3. Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin

4. Cody Latimer, Indiana

Explanation: Robinson was clearly the class of a generally weak group of wide receivers as the only one with more than 70 receptions and more than 1,000 yards. Latimer was plenty competitive with the rest of the group with 51 receptions for 805 yards and six touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder proved that he has the athleticism and physical tools to be counted among the best, and he found a level of consistency that he’d never had before this season.

Tight End

1. Kyle Carter, Penn State

2. Ted Bolser, Indiana

Explanation: The freshman Carter was clearly the most dominant player at the position even though he missed the last two games, so that was an easy pick. Bolser probably won’t get the second spot ahead of Michigan State’s Damon Sims, but Bolser had more receptions, just six fewer yards and one more touchdown. Sure, the Hoosiers threw the ball more than the Spartans did, so there was more to go around, but the Hoosiers also had more targets than Michigan State did, so there’s a degree to which that all balances out. It will likely be a close race, but Bolser gets the nod here.


1. Travis Frederick, Wisconsin

2. Will Matte, Indiana

Explanation: Penn State’s Matt Stankiewicz will probably get the nod ahead of Matte, but Matte deserves a significant bit of recognition for holding together an Indiana offensive line that included two sophomores and two true freshmen and still managed to block for a team that finished second in the Big Ten in total offense.


1. Spencer Long, Nebraska

2. John Urschel, Penn State

3. Ryan Groy, Wisconsin

4. Andrew Norwell, Ohio Stte


1. Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin

2. Taylor Lewan, Michigan

3. Jack Mewhart, Ohio State

4. Mike Farrell, Penn State


1.Brett Maher, Nebraska

2. Dan Conroy, Michigan State


Defensive Line

1. John Simon, Ohio State

2. Eric Martin, Nebraska

3. Kawann Short, Purdue

4. William Gholston, Michigan State

5. Deion Barnes, Penn State

6. Adam Replogle, Indiana

7. DL Willhite, Minnesota

8. Jordan Hill, Penn State

Explanation: Simon is easily the most dominant defensive end in the conference, and one of the league’s best defensive players. Even on a dismal defense, Replogle clearly deserved recognition. After three years of solid but unspectacular play, Replogle overpowered opposing offensive linemen this year for five sacks and 13.0 tackles for loss. Even in games when opponents could run all over the Hoosiers everywhere else on the field, he and Larry Black made sure they still couldn’t take the Hoosiers straight up the middle.


1. Michael Mauti, Penn State

2. Mike Taylor, Wisconsin

3. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State

4. Jake Ryan, Michigan

5. Max Bullough, Michigan State

6. Gerald Hodges, Penn State

Explanation: This is almost certainly the conference’s deepest position. Wisconsin’s Chris Borland is probably one of the league’s top 10 players and he didn’t make the list. Mauti, Taylor and Shazier all have arguments for defensive player of the year

Defensive Backs

1. Damion Stafford, Nebraska

2. Josh Johnson, Purdue

3. Micah Hyde, Iowa

4. Devin Smith, Wisconsin

5. Travis Howard, Ohio State

6. Michael Carter, Minnesota

7. Johnny Adams, Michigan State

8. Bradley Roby, Ohio State

Explanation: Admittedly, the defensive position in which I was least confident in my handle. Indiana’s Greg Heban got serious consideration, as he led the conference in tackles. He had a very strong season all in all, even as he continued to change positions. The last three weeks weren’t his fault, but he very much shared culpability in the 153 points the Hoosiers allowed as the last line of defense, and after that I couldn’t quite justify putting him on there.


1. Will Hagerup, Michigan

2. Cody Webster, Purdue

Offensive Player of the Year

1. Braxton Miller, Ohio State

2. Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State

3. Allen Robinson, Penn State

Explanation: Same as before for Miller. Actually considered putting Taylor Martinez on here even though he wasn’t in my top two quarterbacks. Bell carried his team, and Robinson was an even bigger reason than McGloin that Penn State was successful.

Defensive Player of the Year

1. Michael Mauti, Penn State

2. John Simon, Ohio State

3. Mike Taylor, Wisconsin

Explanation: Mauti gets points here for being inspirational, but also excellent. He recorded 96 tackles and three interceptions to help the Lions surrender fewer than 20 points a game. Ryan Shazier almost made this list as well for Ohio State.

Coach of the Year

1. Bill O’Brien, Penn State

2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State

3. Bo Pellini, Nebraska

Explanation: O’Brien is about to see some really bad years, and for many reasons, Penn State deserves that, but he not only held the group together, but also got them to play better offensive football than they have in some time. Meyer went 12-0 in his first year in the Big Ten, and Pelini quietly led the league’s best bowl-eligible team to 10 wins.

Freshman of the Year

1. Deion Barnes, Penn State

2. Joel Stave, Wisconsin

3. Jason Spriggs, Indiana

Explanation: Barnes posted six sacks and 10.0 tackles for loss and was one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the conference. Wisconsin was at its best when Stave was running the show, and Spriggs performed remarkably well as Indiana’s starting left tackle from day 1 of his career.


  1. I give you a lot of crap for how you run this board but you are truly one of my favorite people to read because of paragraphs like your first one.

    Humble, funny, and well-written.

  2. I suspect you have rated IU players higher than others for the same reasons you mention. You see them play more and give them a higher rating. I do not expect to see IU players except on HM ratings.

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